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Teacher's Parliament

held at Greenwoods Public School, Bekal, Kasaragod

In democracy, all legislative measures are decided,discussed, debated and approved by the parliament. Similarly, in this context,teachers’ parliament is designed to involve teachers in fruitful discussion on all important matters concerning education. Here we involve all teachers indecision-making and policy matters that concern all major and vital academic issues such as: student discipline, holistic education, timeous completion ofthe curriculum, value based education, organisation of core-curricularactivities, scientific assessment tools, counseling and guidance, parentaleducation, and so on. In most cases, discussion concerning the above saidmatters is taken on by high-power committees at administrative and managementlevels. From here instructions are subsequently given to teachers for implementation. What this system does not, however, acknowledge is that teachers are the primary instruments to both create and execute all manner of discussion on academic ideology. This is because they are the ones who interact with the children. Teachers know the students, and through their students they know what parental expectations are. Since this is the reality of education, we have decided to involve all teachers in fruitful and productive discussion on all matter of educational importance. The teachers’ parliament is a mechanism to listen to the voice of the teacher as a means of continuously expanding and bettering the state of education within Greenwoods Public School.


Mr.Eswar Prasad opened the session by questioning the efficacy of maintaining extracurricular activities during academic term time. Mr. Prasad’s address was concerned with how to manage the shortness of time provided for the academicsyllabus, whilst coping with the pressure of external activities. Mr. Prasad’sappeal was answered by Mrs. Vaishali who stressed that achild’s education cannot be circumscribed by academic concerns alone: “Every child has potential; for some students that potential lies in their academicsfor others it lies externally. Our job is to cultivate that potential and giveit the opportunity to become manifest. Children need to be exposed to amultiplicity of activities from Arts, Drama and Dance to Mathematics and Science, in order to provide them with the chance to express their talents.”Mr.Ramachandran supplemented these sentiments by observing that we operate in aheterogeneous society and, as a result, there can be no monolithic approach to how we treat our children’s education.The principal stressed thatthe school’sacademic calendar caters for a holistic and multifaceted approach to educationby providing separate periods for craft, art, and music, over and above theperiods allocated to class-time. This lead to a discussion on the school’s Zeroperiod initiative, wherein an hour is provided every day for students to pursuetheir creative interests. Mr. Ramachandranimplored that Zero period is afundamental endeavour in creative catharsis: “Adults are not the only peoplewith stress in their lives, everybody has stress. Our stresses are of adifferent nature, but our students feel stress as well. Zero period is a chanceto have an hour in the day that engenders a productive, stress-freeenvironment.”

            Ms.Mubeena raised the next point ofenquiry by asking the assembly how it is that Greenwoods should best managemulti-religious moral classes in a harmonious way. In answer Mr. Ramachandranproposed that there should be an entire restructuring of the manner in which moral education is implemented at schools. The principal stressed that this process of restructuring should begin at Greenwoods but must have a broader significance for education in general. He compounded this observation by noting that morals are not educated, they are imparted by the behaviour and conduct of all teachers, irrespective of their subjects: “Morals are imparted in every lesson; they are in Drama, as they are in Geography, as they are in Mathematics.” Values are accordingly always a part of any curriculum. They cannot be taught but must be adopted through reciprocal implementation between the child, the school and the household. The principal noted in this manner that the responsibility is on the educator to be the manifestation of the change that he would like to see within his or her own classroom. In this way it should be through our behaviour that we best educate values.

            

The next destination of the assembly included a serious discussion of the Tenth and Plus Two class curriculums,paying special attention to the implementation of physical education and computers. Ms.Raksha questioned whether making physical education compulsory until grade 10 was an effective strategy in preparing children for their future. After a circuitous discussion on the topic it was concluded that thesesubjects have been provided for in the curriculum of the ISC board of New Delhi in consequenceof extensive empirical studies on the performances of students. It was assertedin these investigations that students have many variant skills in multipledisciplines and, in order to cater to this, physical education has been included to provide students who are less adept in other disciplines an opportunity to exhibit their talents. This lead into the next thread of enquiryin which a member of the assembly questioned why it is that students within Commerce and Science faculties have an option not to take Mathematics.Mathematics, Mr. Mazood asserted, should be a necessary prerequisite of scholarship in these fields for all students. This question was met with an appeal by Mrs.Vaishali in which she emphasised that a child’s interests, along with his or her talents, cannot be prescribed by mandatory academic syllabuses. She went on to observe that children have multiple talents and so our approach to their education must necessarily be multidimensional and multifaceted. 

   The next point of discussion regarded suggested counseling sessions for parents. These sessions are designed to aid parents of different community sections in the task of managing their children in the household in respect of their studies, their character formation, and in helping their children adapt to the behavioural changes that occur during adolescence. The sessions are centered on ascertaining and subsequently aiding the parent’s role in these situations. Several sessions havebeen conducted already and the next is scheduled to occur on the 9th of November.

            The assembly concerns subsequently progressed to questions of discipline. Mr. George Kirkinis a visiting foreign faculty from UKasked the collective for advice on what were the best techniques for maintaining discipline in the classroom. Mr. Kirkinis observed that foreigners who are not permitted to physically discipline their students need recourse to other methods of behavioural management, but that this task was difficult within a disciplinary context that tends towards physical methods of classroom regulation.Mr. Kirkinis noted that Western teachers, being unable to resort tothe physical discipline that many students have come to know and adhere to, arestruggling in especially ill-disciplined classes. This harkened back to anearlier appeal made by Mrs. Vaishali in which she emphasised the superfluity ofphysical discipline: “I believe that my students are human beings. They are not our insubordinates and so they should not be physically disciplined. Ourcommand of the classroom should come from respect, and not from fear. Thisrespect has become synonymous with fear in our children’s generation, and this is a mistake. Every single one of us has a child within them I am sure. It is our responsibility to foster and nurture the children around us; you need to make an effort to speak to them, to understand them, because these children areour children.” Mr.Ramachandran followed this by noting that no teacheris allowed to practice corporal punishment, and that other methods of discipline must be implemented. According to the guidance provided bythe Rightto Education Act in the Indian Constitution, no teacher is permitted to eitherphysically or mentally harass any of his or her students. Problematic children must therefore be provided with necessary counseling, and not with punishment. Because of this, the Bachelor of Education verses all teachers in child psychology and student counseling.Mr. Ramachandran accordingly emphasised the avuncular role that all teachers should play, not just within the classroom but throughout all of their interactions: “Make yourself loveable, because if you make yourself loveable you make yourself approachable. Every teacher is hisor her student’s counselor.”


                                  



        From questions of discipline the dialogue progressed to issues of neatness in the classroom. It was observedthat it is the collective responsibility of the teachers and the students to maintain the classroom. It is, however, primarily incumbent on the teacher to be the manifestation of the behaviour that he or she wishes to see in the classroom. It is therefore the teacher’s initiative to change the dispositionof his or her surroundings, through his or her behaviour. In this manner moralsand values are adopted by example. This invoked a constant refrain through out the address: it is a teacher’s job to be a change-maker. The teacher in this way has to be innovative by having both attitude and aptitude. Mr.Ramachandran qualified this sentiment by his concluding imploration:  “We are an institution that is charged with the responsibility of molding the resources of India’s future. Identify the change that you want to see in this institution and within the classroom, and internalise that change within your own behaviour.”

The First Annual Teachers’ Parliament acknowledged that our students are the determinant of the future, and that it is the teacher’s role to mold them and cultivate their potential to be effective, moral leaders of India’s tomorrow. Teacher-student relations are fundamental for the progression of any society, and as society evolves so too should our teaching ideologies and methodologies adapt. The Teacher’s Parliament is therefore born from an understanding that the collective minds of teachers are the most effective instrument for self-betterment within any educational institution. Without the presence of a constant desire for change-making innovation, a school runs the risk of suffering educational stagnation. The Teachers’ Parliament is imperative in this regard because it is a platform for teachers to voice their opinions, to push their ideologies, and to listen and learn from their colleagues. It is aninnovative system of reciprocal education that acknowledges that as teachers,we are first and foremost learners. The Teacher’s Parliament may thus be understood as a mechanism for talking, listening, educating and, most importantly,learning and growing.