Two Shops: A Story about Educating Centennials (Part Two)
I ask the teachers who amongst them likes shopping, and they almost always all raise their hands, with the smiles and giggles back on their faces. I had spent a lot of time trying to think about what kind of jokes teachers in the towns and villages of India would find funny, and it occurred to me that shopping had to be one of the safest topics to joke about with teachers. I realized at that moment that stand-up comedians must indeed have a certain sense of empathy that is often underrated, since what I had to do was what they usually have to do in order to come up with a sequence that would make my audience laugh. I had to put myself into their shoes, observe their body language, their attire, the things they frowned upon, the things that got them excited, and the things they found funny, but then we will leave empathy for another time and page.
I ask them what they like shopping for, and they tell me about saris, dresses, suits, appliances, and the list goes on. I sneak in a line or two about a male teacher who once told me in a session, “I like shopping, but not with my wife!”, or about this other teacher who said, “Shopping for clothes is fun, but shopping for atta and daal isn’t!”. Thus, we get by… a few giggles here and a few chuckles there. The consensus though, is that most people, including teachers, like shopping.
I now ask the teachers to imagine two shops – one that has a huge variety of clothes, different sections and various levels to shop in, with several fashion styles and brands to choose from; and another where there are only two dresses – one red and one yellow. “Which shop would you like to enter?” There are very few teachers who point out that if they like what they see, then they might enter the second shop, while others might do this to avoid confusion. However, almost all teachers tell me that they would like to enter the shop that provides them with multiple options.
“So this is where we are right now”, I say. At this point in time, teachers are in a shop that has a variety of options, and we are just one of the many options available to students shopping for knowledge. When we were in school, knowledge could be attained from very few sources – mainly from teachers or from libraries, and most of us preferred teachers to libraries, or would have liked a combination of the two. Our teachers had the privilege of being one out of two dresses available in the shop of education. Today’s children are in a shop where there are several options available to them, and the teacher is but one of these options, much like a dress that is hung in a corner amongst a myriad others.
Children can gain knowledge from their phones, tablets, computers, video games, several channels on TV, and the list continues to grow. The quality of input available to today’s children is also spectacular. 3-D animation, professional videos, PPTs, models, e-lessons, and the list goes on. These methods cater to the various intelligences they might possess and learning styles they might prefer, and the teacher is no longer the sole fountain of knowledge that a thirsty student must drink from. This brings me to my next point, which is that the role of a teacher has today changed from being a ‘sage on the stage’ to a ‘guide on the side’… (to be continued)