Poonam Chauhan – TGT Science Amatir Kanya Gurukul Kurukshetra, Haryana
Schools, at its inception, believed in the holistic development of children. A place where miniature adults get to observe and grow in body, mind and soul. Somewhere in evolution, schools became all about academics, marks and rat race preparations. But teachers can make all the difference.
Ms. Poonam Chauhan (M.Sc B.Ed and qualified CTET) who teaches Science at Amatir Kanya Gurukul, from Class 3 up to Class 7,believes in the holistic development of the children entrusted to her.
“I work as a residential teacher at my current school, which is a gurukul. Over the years, I have observed that children are very equipped with academic knowledge. In fact, they are perhaps even ahead of us in that space. But, they lack in values. So, that is what we work towards.”
India is a country where we hold our culture high. Nowadays, when there is so much of importance for technology, somewhere we tend to overlook the importance of moral and traditional values. And with the increase in focus on technology, this trend will be on the rise. After a couple of decades or so, we shouldn’t be surprised if there are questions on the relevance of schools because information/knowledge is available all around you.
In that perspective, the only thing that people cannot learn from technology is the art of socializing, being empathetic etc. Hence, school is a great place to inculcate such values.”
So, do you believe that an ideal teacher should focus on inculcating values in children?
Yes, I do. In CBSE also I see an initiative towards working on value-based education. I believe those things should be taken very seriously.
What made you to want to become a Science teacher?
Science has always been of interest to me. My parents never compelled me to be anything in particular. So, whatever I have done, I have done for my own satisfaction. When I discovered my interest in this profession, I just delved into it and from the day I started working here, things felt really amazing.
I deal with students all the time. I understand them in the class and outside. It has really helped me to learn their psychology.
On a daily basis how do you prepare for your class?
I go through my lesson plans and put it into practice. Making lesson plans, I feel is a mechanical activity nowadays. I feel teachers should put in a little extra thought into the lesson plans.
It is very important to impart knowledge which you have learnt from your experience.I reflect on the issues I had faced as a child and give live examples when I teach in class.My students enjoy it.
What do you love most about being in the classroom when you teach Science?
I love being with children – it gives me a lot of energy. I can see this energy being transmitted to the children in my class as well. This is evident when they interact with me in class. I love it when they have zillions of questions, which means they have their thinking caps on.
I feel extremely good when I get retrospective and see how I impart knowledge on things I found difficult as a child, with ease. It makes me smile.
How do you get your students to get involved in Science as a subject?
Being a Science teacher, I get involved with all the elements. Also I don’t need to worry about acquiring materials as most of the things are available. I think it is more important to sync with nature. When I teach something, I prefer to take children outdoors and observe nature.
I use their feedback about the activity to conclude what exactly they are going to learn. That is when I start taking the topics. We are at an advantage to have green house plants and solar panels etc. in the campus. So, most of the things can be viewed in the campus itself.
What do you think is the purpose of these field trips?
For most of it, we have everything available in the campus itself. But if I want them to observe animals, for instance, I have to take them elsewhere.
The purpose is of course, the more children see and observe, the more they imbibe and the more inquisitive they get. The more questions they ask, the more they learn. Many concepts that we teach are very abstract. Observation is very important because it helps children relate to a lot of things during such classes.
Moreover, it gets mundane and monotonous to teach children within the four walls of the classroom everyday.
Do you perform experiments in front of the children too?
For instance, when I teach about the properties of air, I do activities to show how air occupies space etc. I have balloons and glass of water etc. in class. While this was going on, children themselves came up with the fact that air is under pressure when we blow through the straw etc. Another exercise which I recently did was about rain water harvesting.
What do you think – is the pressure to excel at academics driven by parents or the exam-based model that exists today?
I think it is more due to parents.In Haryana, there is focus on sports activities and all children are not extremely good at academics. But, parents want marks and they want them to excel in academics even if the child may be very good in sports.
Parents should realise that all children may not excel everywhere. They will be really good in one space, they may be good in some and average in another space and that is okay.
With the advent of technology in classrooms, is the digital medium taking a large part of primary education too?
Yes. Nowadays it is very common to install projectors etc. in class. It is good, to an extent; but, I believe, it should be used judiciously.
We should ponder if we want to teach everything using technology or go a little beyond that. I have observed some teachers being overtly dependant on technology to take classes.
Do you believe that software systems like Byju’s app have taken over the blackboard/teacher’s job?
To some extent, yes it has. Like I mentioned earlier, I have observed that some teachers are totally dependent on these apps and the projectors in the class. There is an obsession towards it. It has the voice overs etc.
I feel teachers should be the focal point of knowledge. Technology can be accessed outside the classroom as well. So, class time should be utilized for human bonding through teaching using alternative methods whenever possible. You can connect whatever you are teaching with you own life experiences. I feel only technology based learning gets very mechanical.
How important is manners and etiquette for children in their primary years?
It is very important. Dealing with primary school children is like handling plant saplings. If it is nurtured well, the plant will bear good fruit in time. However, if children are not taken care of well at that stage, they won’t thrive in a healthy manner. In my opinion, primary school is where you can shape great individuals for our country.
Another activity that I have taken over is theatre. I work as a theatre-in-charge as well. I have a team of 20-25 girls who have been performing plays for the last 4 years. Till date they have covered about 138-140 villages on various topics. These kinds of things I feel are very important. Generally schools perform such activities on annual days or such functions and they limit it to them.
We have covered various issues like child education, female foeticide, menstruation etc. Off late we have been working on a play called Dastak which is about the present scenario.
Since the children get to understand such topics at this age, they will definitely be confident and responsible. Our school is only for girls. So, when we are facing the audience and performing, some responses are absurd as well. Those are moments when my children learn to cope up with absurd comments as well. That also boosts their confidence levels in a different manner. Such activities can really sharpen children out to be good individuals.
What are the most significant challenges you see in your role today?
The significant challenge always has been and will be to inculcate children with respect for themselves and life around them.
Another thing I have noticed is the lack of ability to cope up with adverse situations. They tend to get impatient if things don’t go their way. I try to help them become strong in that space too.
What advice do you have for teachers who may be struggling to make their classes interactive and interesting?
Flexibility is one of the main characteristics that teachers need to possess/develop. They have to be flexible to understand what needs to be done, in the nick of time.
I also think it is highly important that teachers get absolutely truthful with children. If there is a lack of anything, they need to be open about it. It is okay for children to understand that there is lack of resources etc. We tend to try to make things look perfect and we also try to make children believe that they should be perfect, whether it comes to personalities or academics or anything for that matter.
It is important that they know that it is okay to make mistakes – the most important thing is to develop the habit of admitting mistakes and moving forward.
The teaching profession, in my opinion, is the utmost profession. As teachers, we should be conscious that we are shaping individuals and citizens and everything we do reflects on the personalities of the children who are put into our hands.
Hence, the decision to be a teacher by profession should be chosen only by one’s own choice and not for any other reason.