Sunday, 29 July 2018

What is it that makes Change-maker Teachers different from others ?

"Change-makers," a much-bandied term that covers a whole gamut of possibilities might in the teaching profession at least refer to teachers who despite all the unlearning they might be forced through, bring about a transformation that is evident. While most people might wonder what makes a teacher truly transformational and a driver of change, others might take umbrage at the way these teachers are more often than not surrounded by students! What makes teachers true changemakers is their readiness to unlearn obsolete routines, and embrace new ones. Changemaker teachers share through example or otherwise their best practices, they demonstrate a curiosity to learn new things and thus are not rigid subject experts. It is this honest desire to learn, to accept mistakes when pointed out by their students and colleagues, a readiness to redefine, accommodate, revisit, and entrench new and more effective strategies that make teachers truly transformational.
It is an unfortunate fact that most teachers would like to force their own teaching styles, patterns and routines on to others. The fact, however, is that each teacher has an important need to be himself or herself, to have breathing space, to feel comfortable. The freedom to experiment with teaching pedagogies, the freedom to explore more effective means for bringing about a transformation of attitudes in the learners can only happen when there is an environment for experimenting and the freedom to test outcomes. Change-maker teachers keep sharing their best practices whether it is having a court session in class to see whether or not Griffin could be blamed for the death of Mr Wicksteed in Well's The Invisible Man, or it might as well be having a mock stock exchange session for Business Studies. A successful and well-established changemaker teacher keeps sharing her successful strategies with a great deal of excitement, whether it is enactments of poems, incidents, emotions, or, for that effect how showing a video with a similar theme was able to help students understand complex issues. One of the teachers I know shared video links that were most effective in setting the context for the partition of India and Pakistan. It was only after the videos had been shared in class that the students started reading Khushwant Singh's Novel, "Train to Pakistan." It is surprising how transformational teachers are the products of the work environment and culture of the place they work in.
While no do doubt one might assume that Change-makers might have the required genes to be transformational, the fact is that they still need mentors to guide them on. A wonderful school head once taught her teachers to unlearn old things and to learn new things. She took forward the idea of crew sitting, even when there was opposition, she did a lot of buddy teaching, (even when a particular grade students were a bit too energetic) she even took pains to collect resource material which she shared with her teachers. The way she handled her students and her teachers brought about a change, a transformation in everyone. Mentoring is, therefore one of the key traits of Change-maker teachers. Trusted mentors are in themselves Change-makers and they bring about transformation in the truest sense. This is in keeping with the fact that Change-maker teachers are also mentors to other colleagues and their students.
The readiness to learn from others and the readiness to act as models before others assumes lack of inhibitions especially in allowing others to observe one's self in class and outside class and in the same sense also, be ready to observe other teachers. Change-maker teachers are thus, uninhibited in nature which, therefore, leads to a readiness to learn and teach. Transformational teachers are in a sense accessible, approachable and not intimidating in any case. This does not, however, suggest that popularity drives Changemaker teachers!
Change-maker teachers boost student engagement and they do this through a multitude of strategies. They have an emotional connect with their students, they promote curiosity, they encourage divergent thinking, they will never give their opinions at the outset, they encourage students to come up with their own solutions to the problem. They make sure that students take ownership and pride in their answers. Change-maker teachers make students celebrate learning.
It is clear that Change-maker teachers are ready to experiment, test boundaries, and ready to take risks. They are not CONTROL FREAKS and are ready to relinquish control over the class having the confidence that they can steer the lesson to the desired learning target. Change-maker teachers have tremendous knowledge of the subject and they are mature enough to let students explore options. They know when students are straying off course and have the tact to edge them back to the desired goal. They have total control of the class and yet they show as if they don't, allowing students to explore possibilities. Change-maker teachers are a curious lot, they defy expected norms, they don't stick to patterns and are often viewed with suspicion by those who stick to expected practices and teaching patterns. Change-maker teachers are often rebels, they rise above systems, and deliver results that often defy logic. Transformational teachers are a creative lot, they keep changing pedagogical practices, often defying accepted patterns. They are the odd ones, those that connect to their learners and convince them to think differently, out of the box, to be creative and original. Change-maker teachers appreciate mistakes and they use the same to drive an understanding of concepts. They are drivers of transformation through a learning of mistakes. They know that mistakes are an important aspect of learning and they encourage learners to try to solve problems even if they make mistakes. They teach their students that it is good to make mistakes as long as mistakes are an excuse for making corrections. The process of learning has to cater to failure and mistakes as a means to reach the accepted learning targets.

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