Teachers' Training - Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

In all processes of teaching and learning, the role of the teacher is indispensable. This is also true in regard to the value-oriented education. The teacher has three instruments: instruction, example and influence. Instruction consists of conversations, talks, lectures and various other forms of oral or written processes of transmission from the teacher to the pupil with or without the help of textbooks, reference books, supplementary books, workbooks, or other instructional material, including audio-visual material. Example is more important than instruction, and it consists not only of the external behaviour of the teacher but much more importantly of the personality and character of the teacher, as also richness of his knowledge and wisdom and skills of communication and the depth and manner of building up of relationship with pupils and others. Values are best transmitted when they have been greatly internalised in the teacher’s own personality. The pupil receives readily what he or she admires in the teacher, and the value of the atmosphere that is created by the teacher’s own intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual qualities is immeasurable. The teacher’s capacity to build bonds of trust with the pupils can be regarded as the one single factor responsible for effective and fruitful transmission of the right attitudes and right orientations which are fundamental bases of value-oriented education. Influence is even more important than example, provided that it does not proceed from status and position that the teacher occupies in his relationship with the pupil. Influence is a subtle vibration that emerges from the nearness that the pupil feels to his teacher in the form of a friend, philosopher and a guide. All these three instruments of the teacher have to be utilised and they have to be combined in varying degrees, depending upon the nature of the subject that the teacher, is teaching as also on the receptivity and enthusiasm of the pupil.

Instruction even though it should play a relatively a subordinate role in value-oriented education, is perhaps the most difficult instrument for the teacher to handle. A great care has to be taken by the teacher that instruction does not degenerate into a series of exhortations or into a process of preaching. A process of instruction can easily turn into a process of indoctrination, unless the teacher is extremely careful to encourage among students a process of exploration, a process of questioning and a process of an impartial quest of the knowledge and practice of values.

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Wise teachers acquire a capacity to instruct without instructing. Sometimes even a gesture is enough to give a meaningful lesson. Among Zen teachers, in particular, we find a remarkably developed art which consists of providing an impetus to psychological exploration leading to experience and illumination. If a philosophy is a process of intellectual “understanding”, Zen may be regarded as a process of experiential “over-standing”.  Zen masters maintain that the grasp of values is greatly promoted by creating in the mind of the pupil a state of freshness or a state of awakening. They aim at “new awareness”. In their method of instruction, they utilise an anecdote, a statement or a question, which stimulates a dialogue. They make use of riddles or witty remarks such as “when both hands are clapped a sound is produced: listen to the sound of one hand”. The objective is often to doubt and pushing it to its farthest limits.

In the Sufi methods of instruction, too, we find similar methods of instruction. The methods of teachers vary according to different people who are addressed. But they are, as pointed out by Seyyad Hossein Nasr, “Like the new day, which is the same as the day before, yet fresh and inspiring.” Sufism has raised considerable Arabic and Persian literature to the level of didactic literature, which is worth studying, particularly for those teachers who want to instruct and yet want to avoid indoctrination. One of the wise sayings of the Sufi teaching is: “Teachers talk about teaching. Real teachers study their pupils as well. Most of all, teachers should be studied.[1]

It would be interesting for an instructor in value-oriented education, to study the message that Moliere, the French dramatist, presents through his play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. There is a strong element of force in it and the message of the play is that one cannot become a gentleman merely by appointing a number of instructors and receiving their teachings in a manner that has no essential principles of sound teaching. The play ends with M. Jourdain, the principal character remaining unchanged. At the end of the play, he is even more foolish than ever! This play portrays Moliere, the author, as a teacher who does not sermonise, but he makes us laugh and involves us deeply into the message that he wants to deliver. When we have read the play, we feel instructed in the real art of instruction.


[1] Musa Qazim, quoted in Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi (E.P. Dutton, 1970), p.221

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Rousseau unfolded in his Emile a revolution in education, and he pleaded that the best way to instructing the pupil and developing him into a virtuous individual is to hold his hand and to encourage him to love nature and the outdoors, and develop habits of simplicity. He said: “Encourage the child’s liking for activity. Let him run and jump to his heart’s content. Let him learn by action rather than by books or even by teaching; let him do things himself; just give him materials and tools. The clever teacher will arrange problems and tasks and will let his pupil learn by hitting a thumb and stubbing his toe.” He added, “Pupil will need moral education; without it he will be dangerous and miserable. But don’t preach. If you want your pupil to learn justice and kindness, be yourself just and kind, and he will imitate you.[1]

Pestalozzi developed a subtle method of instruction, and his experiment with his pupils was guided by two principles: security and genuine affection. Describing the progress of his method of instruction, he wrote in a letter to a friend: “Imagine how it stirs my heart when along side the great intellectual progress I see love, profound goodwill, an interest developing with an equal rapidity in children who a few weeks ago were complete strangers.[2]


And what was the secret of his method of instruction? It was the winning the confidence of the pupil. As he had said: “My hands lay in theirs; my eyes rested on theirs. My tears flowed with theirs and smile accompanied theirs. … Their soup was my soup, their drink my drink. … If they were healthy, I stood in their midst, if they were ill I was at their side. In the evening I was the last to go to bed, in the morning I was the first to get up.[3]


We can multiply a number of examples where value-oriented education can be guided and aided by innovative methods of instruction, the inspiring force of which continues to flow when the teacher intertwines his own life with the life of his pupils. We have illuminating lessons in this regard in the writings of Montessori, Bertrand Russell and Paulo Freire, and others.


[1] Will Durant: Rousseau and Revolution, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 10, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), p. 179

[2] Michael Hefford, Pestolozzi: His Thought And Its Relevant Today (London: Matheon, 1967), p.24

[3] Ibid., p.20

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Our stress in value-oriented education ought to fall on the awakening and nourishment of the normative thrust towards three overarching values of truth, beauty and goodness. These values are interdependent, although often they are pursued each in some exclusive fashion, and normally the value of goodness is so stressed that the values of truth and beauty receive only marginal attention. In order to correct this exclusiveness, we should organise methods of explorations of art, music and poetry, explorations of science and philosophy, and explorations of history, biographies, autobiographies and accounts of great events. Stories play a great role, provided that they relate to deep human interest. Passages of literature which transmit great thoughts and which uncover vast horizons of knowledge can also be utilised for purposes of value-oriented education.

To provide the atmosphere of joy, love and beauty which inspires the development of aesthetic sense is of infinite value. Aesthetic activities raise and purify conduct by instilling a distaste for the coarse desires and passions of the savage; they help in restraining both feeling and action by a striving after the decent, the beautiful, the fit and seemly, which received its highest expression in the manners of cultivated European society, the elaborate ceremonious life of the Confucian, and the careful behaviour and etiquette of Hinduism.

It is instructive to observe that even on a higher plane, the sense of virtue is very largely aesthetic. We can see largeness of this element if we study the ideas of the Greeks, who never got beyond the aesthetic sense of morality. There were four gradations in the Greek ethical thought – the euprepēs, that which is outwardly decorous, the dikaion, that which is in accordance with the law and custom; thirdly, the agathon, the good based partly on the just and the lawful, and reaching towards the purely beautiful; then final and supreme, the kalon, that which is purely beautiful, the supreme standard. It is also instructive to note that Aristotle in his moral system puts forward a classification of the parts of conduct by a purely aesthetic standards, the excess, defect and golden, in other words correct and beautiful and mean of qualities. And from this we can learn that the good must not be subordinated to the aesthetic sense, but it must at the same time be beautiful and delightful. Art and poetry, in their most energetic forms, provide a field in which pressing claims of the animal can be excluded and the emotions, working disinterestedly for the satisfaction of the heart and imagination can do the work of catharsis, emotional purification, of which Aristotle spoke. In value-oriented education, a great role should be assigned to art, poetry and music. We may remember that Plato in his Republic has dwelt with extraordinary emphasis on the importance of music in education. He points out that as is the music to which people is accustomed, so is the character of the people.

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Even in the pursuit of truth, art is a great help. For art is not an expression merely of form, skill or style; it emerges from a depth of experience, and it is accompanied by a vision that transcends appearances and seizes some aspect of truth that escapes the positive instruments of science or critical instruments of philosophy. Even spiritual truth can be seized through artistic experience and expressed through its creative expression. Indeed, spirituality is a wider thing than formal religion, and there is a profound view that it is in the service of spirituality that Art reaches its highest expression. In that sense, value-oriented education should aim at fostering not only the perception but even the experience of eternal truth, and here art must be given its legitimate place. The supreme utility of art in value-oriented education is underlined by Sri Aurobindo, “To suggest the strength and virile unconquerable force of the divine Nature in man and in the outside world, its energy, its calm, its powerful inspiration, its august enthusiasm, its wildness, greatness, attractiveness, to breathe that into man’s soul and gradually mould the finite into the image of the Infinite… is its loftiest function, its fullest consummation, its most perfect privilege.[1]


Among many methods and instruments of teaching-learning process in value-oriented education, an important role needs to be assigned to literature. Literature has many aspects and forms, but all of them are expressions of creativity and the distinguishing features are those of form of artistic quality and content of experience which penetrates appearance at a minimum deeper level from which adequate images of the experience begin to emerge. Basically, literature is a vehicle of creative experience in which a vision is captured and expressed in a form that is evocative of a sense of harmony and varying degrees of inner delight. Basically, again, literature is a vehicle of perception and not of prescription, and for that reason, in value-oriented education, which aims at exploration and which aims at avoiding indoctrination, literature offers itself as a powerful tool.

This does not, however, mean that literature is all delight and nothing else, that literature should not be or cannot be didactic. But what does follow is that literature does not degenerate into preaching, even when the experience expressed through literature imparts normative lessons of various kinds. In a sense, it may be contended that every experience that penetrates the world of things, humans and relationships carries with it some kind of a message or a lesson. There is a sense in saying that one can find books in brooks and sermons in stones, depending on the level at which brooks and stones are experienced. One touches fire and experiences the sensation of burning; it is impossible not to derive a lesson that one not ought to touch fire, if one wants to avoid sensation of burning. Didacticism and delight are not necessarily opposed to each other,, as is sometimes contended. Even nonsense verses impart to human intelligence a lesson in meaning, not directly but by implication. Even those who maintain that there is no meaning in the world or its experience can convey their theory only to the intelligence which can make a distinction between sense and nonsense.

[1] Sir Aurobindo: National Value of Art, Centenary Edition, Volume 17, p.250

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Why have some of the greatest literary masters expressed themselves through poetry, or drama or fiction or through biographical or autobiographical pen-portraits? Is it simply as an outburst of creative delight? Are they not aware that their creations carry a meaning or evocative lesson which can contribute to the enrichment of the normative thrust towards truth, beauty or goodness? And do we turn to literature only for delight and refuse to receive from it an experience or lesson that would add to our understanding and experience of truth, beauty or goodness? All good and great literature, we may contend, has something to teach, and we must make proper use of it in exploring normative values. Why have people written tragedies, and why have people turned to tragedies and read them or witnessed them on stage? Surely, as Aristotle points out, there is a process of purification of emotions, catharsis, when one witnesses a tragedy. In India, it is called chitta-shuddhi, purification of the stuff of consciousness and its currents in nerves and inner recesses of our emotional, rational and aesthetic being. When one witnesses dramas of Sophocles or of Shakespeare, one feels grateful to them as one feel grateful to great teachers who held out to us a message and inspiration to live more truly, more nobly and more beautifully. One witnesses Othello strangulating Desdemona, and one feels the emotion of jealousy evaporating from our consciousness, -- an experience that cannot be equalled even by hundred preachings that counsel us to conquer that deplorable instinct that has been destructive of happiness in the world. When one witnesses King Lear, one feel disillusioned about possessiveness and attachments. Indecisiveness of Hamlet, leading to series of murders and tragedies, when witnessed or studied in depth, purges us of that weakening element of doubt which often leads us to the question that Hamlet raised in his famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be”. One reads or witnesses Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plotting and executing the murder of Duncan, and this liberates us from that excessive and misguided ambition that opens the door to complete ruination, not only of the object of the ambition but of all that is precious in life.

Poetry is one of the most powerful instruments of value-oriented education. Great poets are also great teachers of humanity, and we should bring the study of the poets as a part of the methods promoting value-oriented education. To read Wordsworth is to find in Nature an invisible Presence, an omnipresent Spirit that can bring home to us the lesson of pantheism much more vividly than the exposition of pantheism that one reads in Ethics of Spinoza. We may read Shelley, and we begin to feel spiritual realities much more radiantly than what we find in ordinary accounts of occultism and religion. We may read Bryon and we experience the truth of a high spiritual and intellectual beauty, which has a hold on the subtle beauty of sensible things, and we feel uplifted by the music of his poetry, its delicacies and imaginative opulence and enthusiasm. We read Keats and we feel delighted with his art in word and rhythm; but more than anything else, we begin to worship with him the images of divine beauty and we feel inspired to see Truth through that beauty. A close study of Keats imparts a vivid experience of sensuous beauty, intellectual beauty and ideal beauty, and in this experience we begin to philosophise in the way that Plato inspires us philosophise through his poetic prose in his supreme work, The Republic.

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

English poetry can be studied to rise from one level to the higher or from one level to a deeper level or from one level to a new level, and we find liberated into multiplicity of experiences, multiplicity of moods and multiplicity of colours of life that impart to us a rainbow experience of life evoking in us some kind of integration in our own personality, and the experience of learning to be.

Literature has many aspects and many forms, and each of them contributes centrally to the enrichment of the depth of experience and message for normative pursuit of life. Apart from poetry and drama, there are fables, parables and allegories; there are ballads and sagas and novels and epics and satires and various kinds of non-fictional prose and biographical literature.

Fortunately, English literature has given a very important place to children, different kinds of children’s literature have appeared and flourished. Earlier Robinson Crusoe or Gulliver’s Travels were not meant for children but were seized upon by the young. After Rousseau discovered the child, and a number of gifted authors lent their genius to the nourishment of children’s imaginations and their character. The list of these authors is long, but Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, which delighted all and instructed all in many ways without aiming to instruct, opened the Golden Age of English children’s literature. And when we come to contemporary times, there is such a profusion of children’s literature that one may find it difficult to arrive at a balanced judgement of the direction and drift of this literature. Indeed, the old moral tale has been replaced by subtle form of didactic literature preaching racial, class and international understanding. The standard adventure stories still continue to appear, and we have now also science fiction, although yet nothing comparable to Jules Verne. There is boom in biographical series, popularised histories, junior encyclopaedias, beginner’s books, teenage novels, and historical novels.

Much more can be argued in favour of literature as a vehicle for value-oriented education. As a matter of fact, with the increasing recognition of values in education, it will be increasingly recognised that not textbook teaching but freestyle swimming in the realm of literature is the most potent instrument to awaken and foster the normative thrust among students of all ages towards the great values of truth, beauty and goodness.

Good Teacher and Good Pupil

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