Talking to Rahul Vadehra – Chemistry teacher
How did you start your teaching career?
I started teaching when I was preparing for my MBA; I had no idea that I would become a PGT Chemistry. I needed financial support for my MBA studies; hence I began taking tutorial classes. During that time, I started teaching class 11th and 12th, and then I realized that I can do better in teaching as a part of my contribution towards society. During my childhood, I had faced a lot of difficulties in dealing with the subjects – Physics and Chemistry. But teaching helped me realize that this field required me, hence I decided to switch to teaching. Teaching is an ongoing process. I don’t believe in the concept of teacher and student. I believe that there are two types of entity- one is a student and other is a senior student. I consider myself as a student because I keep learning things from students as well. In the last 12 years, I evaluated my teaching in many areas.
I understood one thing that there is a change in the psychology of the children. Their social life has changed, priorities have changed and social media has come into existence. One cannot disengage kids from video games and social media, but one can find an alternative way to educate them about the use of such technologies for self development. These were the issues that I had faced as a teacher, but I have been working on the same.
Challenges of teaching profession
Besides, there are certain drawbacks in the job. For eg., correcting notebooks of the students, but student and teacher ratio is not appropriate in India. If there are 160 students in four sections, then how will it be possible to correct books of 160 students every week? These factors make me unable to give my 100 % to every child, which I actually want to give. If we improve student-teacher ratio, it will definitely help in improving teaching and learning process.
On quality of a teacher
The number of teachers in the country is less. With respect to the population there are less number of schools. The government should pay heed to this. I think in India people believe that becoming a teacher is an easy task. If nothing else works, then by simply doing B.Ed one can become a teacher. In my opinion, girls are often asked to pursue a teaching career in India. Why force girls to take up teaching when they are not interested? I have noticed that the number of male staff is less in comparison to female staff. In my career, I have noticed one female teacher resigning the school to join somewhere else owing to many reasons. For eg., husband’s job transfer. A teacher has to take things seriously and not play with a child’s career. Despite of girls being independent of their career choices, I am sorry to say that there is rigidity still prevailing in India, at least in villages. We are a country with 70 % of villages. Overall the system has to change. Teachers like Sonam Wang- Chuk have done an incredible job in Ladakh.
Now-a-days, teachers have no passion for their job. They go to school in the morning and come back in the afternoon, complete their syllabus, earn their salary and that’s it. I believe that’s not teaching. There are private colleges that provide B.Ed degree; however, I am skeptical about its content. I think the quality of the teacher also needs to improve somewhere. Besides, the government should begin new schools, new opportunities, workshops, seminars and teaching exchange programs. Although these things are on paper, in practicality the efficiency of doing these is very less.
Methodologies adopted to teach Chemistry
As a chemistry teacher, my classroom strategy varies with the topics I discuss. I always co-relate to teaching and learning with the experiences of daily life. I support real life examples to explain chemistry elements, so that students can understand the constructive and destructive use of the chemistry equation. I also take care of each and every student, like there are slow and fast learners, I segregate them and apply my method of teaching with them. I generally avoid giving photocopy of notes, as I believe that students remember more as they write more. Diagrams and pictography influences child’s memory more than the written material in the textbook. These are certain strategies that I apply. I, sometimes, make models to explain the reaction of chemicals, their physical and chemical properties and how they are related to their structure. I think different subject teachers can use different strategies according to the requirement of the subjects.
Being a teacher, I have become calm, peaceful, focused and stopped complaining about things, because when I teach 40 students in my class, I see them studying together and spend time together irrespective of any kind of discrimination; it helps me to be a better person. Students are such a great lesson to us. I am peaceful and that is my achievement.
However, it is very tough to maintain the equilibrium between assertiveness and friendliness with the students. One should always maintain a follow up and ignore nothing. I learnt it in my career that if I follow up, then children take me seriously and take my work seriously. They become more disciplined. One also needs to understand the child’s needs.
In this 21st century, a 12th grade student may know more than me about the outside world. Due to web series and TV series, students understand psychology, philosophy and other things better than us. I have to maintain certain things in an appropriate way without hurting their ego.
At the adolescent stage, students are very aggressive. I keep a follow up and try to understand them. In order to maintain a certain amount of discipline, I give them a deadline to submit their work. This is how I maintain equilibrium between assertiveness and friendliness with the students.
These days, teachers are doing a lot of activities to maintain the energy in the class. I play some videos, show students diagrams, use colourful chalks, and share relatable experiences from sports and films. I engage them with daily life experiences. Sometimes I take the students to the ground and explain them about the importance of environment and nature. In the chemistry lab too, I do follow a similar method to maintain the level of energy.
Syllabus of chemistry
In terms of coping with the vast content in chemistry textbook, I think the chemistry books were last revised in 2005. This year certain changes took place, but I believe that there is a lot of work to do. There should be more numerical and application based things into the textbooks as well as the relativity of certain topics with real life. Eg: Molarity and Molality are concentration terms which are often used in the medical profession, but not written anywhere in the book. I think these changes should be made in NCERT which is mostly read by students. There have to be practical books as well, e.g., where do we use sulphur? Which country has the ability to produce maximum sulphur? What is the application of sulphur? This kind of content should be included in NCERT to help the child learn better. Reasons like these make the textbook ineffective and hence, science students pursue different streams after 12th grade. This is why I believe we are lacking.
I do keep myself updated with the developments in the field of chemistry teaching. I search on Google about nanotechnology, quantum navigation and other aspects of chemistry. I attend seminars in IIT Delhi, I talk to my seniors, I go for board checking, I visit as an external to other schools to conduct practical examinations. I meet and discuss with people of my field and update myself as much as possible. I read lots of books. Teaching gives me so much of energy that I become younger and younger with the passage of time.
Talking about forming instructions, depending upon the situation, teachers can personalize instructions according to the student’s ability in the class. Sometimes one needs to ignore certain things and sometimes segregate students like slow learners and fast learners and maintain the teaching speed accordingly without affecting either of them.
About significant changes in the curriculum in future
It depends upon the content of the subject that one is dealing with in the class. I think when a child is in 11th or 12th grade it is the responsibility of the management, teachers and parents to tell them what happens in under graduation. Usually, this does not happen. Also, when a child passes to another class, he / she tends to forget what they had learnt in the previous class. They need to carry extra or basic information about that subject in order to understand the subject in the next class in a much better way. There has to be consistent development. A graphical data about the student’s development should be collected from the previous teachers, so that the teachers of the next class understand them better. I believe a lot of things have to be changed in this area.
Your views on teaching as a career
My philosophy of teaching is influenced by people like Gautam Buddha. My philosophy of teaching is about life and not about making money. When one drinks water one needs to feel that the water is consumed by the body. When you breathe one need to feel that the oxygen is absorbed into your blood. When you walk one should feel the gravity. My philosophy is totally about life. What if the students are not able to crack exams? Should we let them commit suicide or stay depressed? No, we can’t. I believe that we should tell students about the importance of life. We should tell them that there are so many things one can do in life. I spend a lot of time with students dealing with such issues. Gandhiji, Buddha and Kabir have influenced me a lot and I have read about them a lot. I admire them and use their philosophy and my experiences to share it with the students.