Mr. Gopinath Vuchuru – Mathematics Faculty – Jain International Residential School
Please tell us how you got interested in education as a career.
I see this as a God-gifted opportunity. I am currently working at Jain International Residential School. Here I teach Mathematics to IB and CBSE students.
I don’t like many methodologies which generally people follow. Here, we don’t just depend on text books. We have an application-oriented methodology. For example, when I intend to teach geometry, I take the students outside, and we adopt an application-oriented teaching method.
It is great that you take students outside the classrooms and adopt an application-oriented methodology. How are you able to achieve this?
I am working in a residential school and so we get a lot of time and opportunity to adopt this methodology. I have also observed that students in our school take more interest in learning because of the methodology we adopt.
Completing the syllabus is not at all an issue here because whenever we call students, they come to attend classes. Our main aim is to see how much the students have understood.
Most teachers talk about the lack of time, the guidelines given by the board the school is affiliated to, etc. How is it that you get to do it whilst they struggle?
We complete our portions before December itself for CBSE students. We use the material prepared for the students from an examination point of view, and they follow that.
Our average grade is more than 8.5 and this year also we got very good results in terms of CBSE examinations.
Is it possible to adopt an application-based teaching methodology, interact and spend more time with the students because it is a residential school?
Yes. We spend more time with the students to generate interest in studies.
Do you think it is possible to adopt this methodology in a day school, with all the timelines and pressure in place?
No, I think that is difficult to achieve because besides teaching we have our internal assessment extended scheme and many other things. Therefore, students spend more time with teachers. The time we get in a day school won’t be sufficient to cover the designed curriculum in an elaborate manner.
Please give me a brief description about your background.
I completed my M.Sc. from National Institute of Technology, Warangal, and I graduated from Sri Venkateswara College, Tirupati.
What was the driving force for you to take up Math as a subject?
Honestly, I have liked Math right from my school days. I wanted to become a software engineer and I had got an opportunity as well.
But then, I was inspired by one of my professors – Professor G. Radhakrishna Acharya, also known as Prof GRK. He once told me that a teacher is like a lamp that holds the power to enlighten many a lives. Prof. GRK has always been a role model for me ever since I met him. And that is how I chose to be in the teaching profession.
For how many years have you been teaching now?
I have been teaching for 10 years now.
Have you been working in Jain International all these years?
No, it has been a year now in Jain International.
At Jain International, do students have the option of joining either CBSE or IB?
And, you have experience teaching under both boards?
Yes, I have experience in both. Earlier I had experience only as a CBSE teacher. Last year, I had worked in an ICSE and ISC residential school at Chikmagalur, for a year.
Which board, according to you, is best for Math?
I enjoy teaching IB a lot because if you compare this to the other boards, a lot of things are different. I see how interested the students are because of the application oriented studies.
When it comes to CBSE, if you complete studying a bunch of papers you can write your examination and get good marks. That is how CBSE functions. But in IB, to answer a question, a child must really understand the concept. It is highly research oriented studies that bring in a lot of clarity on the subject and concepts among children.
You feel that a student who does Math under the IB Board will be better Math students in comparison with their CBSE counterparts?
Honestly, the way they teach Math in the Indian curriculum is not good. In our Indian system we give more importance for competitive examinations. But, IB doesn’t teach keeping in mind only examinations.
IB students will be able to handle questions that are out of the box as well. They tend to become very independent compared to their CBSE peers. CBSE students only study from an examination point of view.
Also, being part of IB is better if students are looking at foreign opportunities.
As a teacher, do you feel IB seems to be demanding more effort from teachers?
I had started my career as a Math teacher at a CBSE school. I can handle CBSE, IB, IGCSE, etc. Personally I feel IB is the most interesting. But I love teaching Math no matter which board I have to associate with.
For boards other than CBSE/ICSE, owing to constant change in syllabus, teachers are always in the process of learning new things. Whereas, in CBSE, at times, you feel you aren’t learning anything new. Do you share the same sentiment?
Yes. For instance, this year the syllabus changed again for IBDP. They are introducing ‘Application & Interpretation’, and ‘Analysis & Approach’. Those are two new papers. This is different from what they used to have.
Changing the syllabus, I think, is a good thing. Otherwise, people get monotonous and redundant. Teaching becomes kind of a routine. I think it is a very good opportunity to energize teachers with changes in the syllabus. It helps them keep themselves upgraded and curious about their subject.
What are the parameters you have for rating your own work? Do you rate yourself on the basis of a child receiving 100/100?
Honestly, we teachers expect only good grades from the students. I will be very happy if weak students get good marks.
Good students always get good grades – that is a given. But, if a weak student gets good grades because of my efforts as a teacher, it makes me very happy. It is very fulfilling when an underperforming student starts to perform well.
What kind of strategies do you follow to motivate weak students to do better?
In the classroom I treat all children equally. I divide students into three grades – A, B and C grade. I know the students who fall under the C grade group. I don’t take extra classes for them. Instead, I help them overcome their fear of Math.
Why do you think some students are weak in Math? Is it an inherent thing?
Honestly, that has to do usually with the elementary education. At the elementary level, if either they were not taught well or given proper care, they end up becoming weak in some subjects. Or, if we look at the student’s point of view, it can also be that they inherently dislike Mathematics.
What are some of those high moments you have had as a teacher in the last 10 years?
That is a very good question. There have been so many students of mine who got through IIT JEE. They completed their graduation from IIT Chennai. I also have a student who completed graduation from IIT Kharagpur.
My happiest moment as a teacher is whenever I hear that my students are doing really well.
What were some of the low moments you have had in your teaching career?
That is a tough one. Honestly, I am very happy with my career. One situation that was very hurting was when I was working in Coimbatore, all students of grade 12 cleared their exams except for one student who failed in Mathematics. That was my unhappiest moment. Besides that, I am very happy with what I am doing.
Do you have no regrets for taking up teaching and not being in the IT career, which you desired?
No, honestly no. And to reinforce that, whenever I meet IT people, they envy the position I am in. They tell me about the pressures they handle all the time and they claim that even on the pay front they don’t make much more than what I do. So, no, I do not have any regrets. I am really happy.
Do you find any difference in the way schools are managed?
I have worked in 4-5 schools in my 10 year tenure. I am very happy at Jain International because of the respect I get from students and the management. They are extremely systematic in whatever they do.
Other schools that I have worked at lacked a systematic approach in the way they conducted themselves.
What do you mean by systematic?
By systematic I mean, if you are happy it means the school is functioning systematically. If you are unhappy, it is a true indication that there is something inherently wrong with the system in which the school functions.
What are the things that a school can do to make a teacher frustrated and unhappy?
Teachers need to have clarity on basic things like which class they need to teach, and a set timetable, most importantly. They need to have clarity on the teaching methodology that the school runs on. These things may seem small but they go a long way.
At the end of the day, a teacher’s job is to teach and these basic things enable teachers to teach with peace and ease. Suppose I enter the school and the management asks me to take Class A today. Then tomorrow they come and ask me to handle Class B. If this is often repeated, the flow is lost. One cannot function haphazardly all the time. It is extremely important for schools to have a system in place for the betterment of the students, the teachers and everybody else that is part of the school.In residential schools, it is not just that we teach children. We also take care of them during after-school hours. We have a mentor system here at Jain International. Each teacher will have a set of children under them and we are responsible for those children. We make sure that we are in constant touch with the parents of those children to ensure that communication is on. We update them about happy moments and challenges, if any.
I don’t think so many things can run well if we didn’t have a system in place. I give a lot of credit to our CEO, Mr. Ganesh Sharma, for the smooth running of the school.
In a residential school you have more responsibility than in a day school. Does is feel overburdening sometimes?
Not exactly. Residential schools, in comparison to day schools, come with a lot more responsibilities. But, to think of it, nowadays day school teachers also take on added responsibilities such as taking up tuitions, extra classes, etc. So, in that perspective workload is kind of same. In residential schools, I feel our job is more secure and smooth.
What are your future career plans?
Honestly, I haven’t completed my B.Ed. I have to do that. I aim at becoming a Principal in a good school. That is my goal.