Ruminations – Lessons I Learned From My Students


“I never teach my pupils; I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

Being nascent to the domain of educational blogging I decided to begin by sharing a couple of practices and skills that I imbibed because of my students. This piece bequeaths my gratitude to the young minds that have played an important role in shaping me as to who I am today. 

My journey to be at one with the epigraph was quite eventful. I began my teaching career ‘forcefully’ by giving tuitions while pursuing my Master’s.   

Yes, ‘forcefully’ as my neighbour couldn’t find a teacher for her daughter in the vicinity. I couldn’t but oblige to her persuasive skills. Thus, I began my career as a teacher, by teaching English to a student of grade 9. No sooner did I start coaching her I understood that it’s not going to be a cakewalk. Somehow, we sailed through two years. It was the time of her ICSE result. The veracity of the situation was such that I was more apprehensive than her. I was never so anxious when my results were declared. That day I understood the kind of responsibility a teacher shoulders.

Magically she scored the highest in English in her school. I raised my collar thinking that I was the person behind her achievement. I was on cloud nine and decided that if I do anything in life that is going to be teaching, teaching and only teaching. (How heartily I laugh now remembering those days. However, I don’t regret my ‘silly’ decision now.) For a long time, I was under the illusion of being a good teacher; little did I know that I did nothing. My student was a genius and I was fortunate. However, not only me the farce of me being an exceptional teacher spread far and wide. People came thronging in, to request me to teach their kids. I continued taking tuitions, I learned to be more responsible.

After that, there was no looking back. I knew that I had found my ‘ikigai.’I went with the flow that life offered me with.

I would like to share an incident that I encountered while taking a Life Skill lesson in class VIII. The topic under discussion was: Examination Phobia. (Students were encouraged to voice their opinions during these sessions. A teacher was a mere facilitator guiding the students to find solutions.) Ritu, a chirpy student commented: “During regular teaching teachers teach us to make ‘dal chawal’ however during the exam we are expected to prepare biriyani.” This raw statement pinched me hard. It stayed with me long after the session ended. It haunted me for a few days. I knew I needed to find a solution for this conundrum. Since the format of the question paper was not always under my purview; I thought let me teach them to ‘cook biriyani.’ 

 I started working harder, designing elaborate and visually appealing PPT’s, giving extra worksheets, using mind maps, playing animated games online, etc. I did everything, that as a teacher I could lay my hands upon. My classes became interesting andI could see the learning happening. Their mid-term results reflected the same. I felt it was a crowning accomplishment. However, I was confused when I corrected their final exam papers. They didn’t perform well when the same lessons were evaluated. After contemplating for some time, I figured out that despite all the hard work that I did their learning was temporary. Even though my methodology was entertaining, it oversimplified the concepts. The students didn’t need to work hard to absorb the principals. What I gave them was predigested food which was easier to swallow but lacked nutritional value.

I needed to tweak my methodology for the next year.

At that time, I did not know that ‘next year’ would bring in more new challenges. My health was at stake for some reason. I couldn’t talk unremittingly for an extended time and I couldn’t dedicate much energy to concoct my lessons, yet I did not want to stop teaching. I was also aware ofthe responsibility I was shouldering. Out of the pandemonium of thoughts that originated in my head while thinking about a rational solution, I could envision a feeble ray of hope. What if I ask my students for help? 

I did and yes, it worked. I flipped all my lessons. Luckily, I taught higher grades, so the plan worked. I was amazed by the kind of response that I got from the classes I taught. My class became more engaging. My students never ceased to amaze me by the way they read, researched and presented different concepts to the class. My job was only to give them the direction. At last, I could create an environment where theylearned by themselves. Their learning was not a product of my teaching but the product of the activity of the students themselves. They learned with pleasure, thus they never forgot.

“It takes a big heart to shape little minds.” Teachers should always remember that a self-empowered teacher can create wonders with just the blackboard, chalks, coloured pens, and chart paper. What you need is to candidly examine your failures and successes and innovate your best method. No method is right or wrong as long as it makes students’ learning joyful and enriching. 


*Disclaimer: Ideas present in this article is solely based on the writer’s personal experiences and practices. It is not validated by any data or research.

-Moumita Choudhury-

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