The Role of the
It will now be clear that the role of the contemporary teacher has essentially to do with something which is exceptionally subtle and complex. The role of the teacher has always been basically psychological in character, but the dimensions that come to the view of the contemporary teacher are much more difficult to deal with. It may be said that the role of the teacher is not merely to promote the quest of the knowledge of man and the universe, and the sciences and arts and their interrelationships. It is not also merely to build bridges between the past and the future. These tasks are indeed important and they are entailed by the perennial objectives of education. But what is so new and so imperatively pressing is that the role of the contemporary teacher is getting increasingly focused on the theme of changing human nature and that too on an integral scale. In brief, what we are demanding from the contemporary teacher is to inspire a change in the impulses of the pupil’s growing personality so as to foster harmonious blending of knowledge, power, love and skills that are relevant to the promotion of peace, co-operation and integrality.
In order to bring out the implications of this role, we need to analyse those assumptions of the teaching-learning process which are directly related to deeper psychological dimensions and operations.
We shall refer to three most important assumptions. The first assumption is that the teaching must be relevant to the needs of the learner. The needs of the learner are varied and complex. There are needs that are felt and real needs which are not yet felt. There are needs of individual growth, and needs resulting from the social reality of which the learner is a part and in the context of which the learner will be called upon to work and produce results, so that the wheels of social progress are kept in motion.
There is also a process of the growth of needs, some of which develop spontaneously and harmoniously, while some others are induced, not infrequently, by artificial means resulting in temporary or permanent injury to both the learner and society.
How to deal with this complex domain of the learner’s needs is one of the first tasks of the teacher. No rules can be laid down or prescribed, for this domain demands of the teacher a good deal of observation of the learners, a sound and sympathetic knowledge of psychology, and practical insight and tact. The task is at once easy and difficult depending upon the natural or acquired capacity of the teacher to relate contents and methods of learning to the felt needs of the learner. Much will also depend upon the facility with which the teacher is able to consult learner in his growth, and to enthuse him to make the necessary effort to bridge the gulf between what is desired and what is desirable
The second assumption is that teaching should provide learning experience to the learner. Sometimes, the stress laid on learning experience is so exclusive that the role of teaching is reduced almost to a vanishing point. At the other extreme, the learning experience is conceived to be so overwhelmingly dependent upon teaching that the teaching-learning process is reduced to a process of spoon-feeding. These extreme positions, however, bring out the complexity and subtlety involved in the interaction between the teacher and the learner.
There is no doubt that the greater the preparedness and motivation of the learner, the greater will be the intensity of the learning experience. The minimum that is required of the learner is curiosity. But the teacher can play a major role in intensifying the initial curiosity and in developing in the learner a sense of wonder which is not only a great propeller of learning but also a constant flower and glow of learning.
It is true that sincere dedication on the part of the learner is the golden key to learning, but here, again, the teacher can play a major role in kindling the innermost spirit of the learner which is the unfailing source of sincere dedication.
It is also necessary to note that every learner has certain innate reflexes, impulses, drives and tendencies, and the teacher can uplift them and help the learner in transmuting reflexes into organized perceptions and acts of behaviour, innate impulses and drives into wise and skilful pursuits of ends and means, and innate tendencies into a harmonious and integrated personality. In fact, it is this process of transmutation that is the heart of the learning experience, and it is this experience that gives to the learner, the art of learning to learn and learning to be.
The third assumption of teaching is that it accelerates the learning process. Here, again, the role of the teacher is complex and difficult. In general terms, it can be said that the teacher is an accelerator of human progress. But in his day-to-day work, the teacher realizes that different students or different categories of students have different rates of progress and that it would be unwise to impose the same degree of acceleration on all the students uniformly. To vary the rhythm of progress in accordance with the requirements of the learner is one of the most delicate tasks of the teacher.
More than ever, the role of the contemporary teacher will be to uplift the knowledge and effort of the learner by suggestion, example and influence. His task will be not to impose but to suggest and inspire. He will respect the psychological combination of the tendencies of the learners, and he will endeavour to improve them not by hurting or crushing the force of these tendencies but by refining them, by recombining them and by training them to achieve their maximum possible excellence.
At the heart of his dealing with learners, the teacher will aim at leading them from near to far and from the known to the unknown, by providing them the required exercise of thought, imagination and experience. In so doing, the teacher will share his experiences with learners, and interweave his own development with their development.
The teacher will not underrate the importance of the development of any particular aspect of personality, for all aspects are important, and even when one is not competent in regard to any particular aspect of the totality of personality, there should not be an attitude of negligence or derogation towards that domain. There is, for instance, a tendency among many to look down upon physical education and to advocate the training of the mind in preference to the training of the body. In a balanced view, however, the training of both the mind and the body is necessary. A healthy mind in a healthy body is the ancient advice of the wise. A good teacher will always encourage learners to participate in a methodical and well-designed programme of physical education. It is true that sometimes, physical education is looked upon as a mere pastime and a matter of recreation rather than as a discipline closely related to the perfection of human personality. A good teacher will therefore promote the right concept of physical education and will lay a special emphasis on it so that learners are encouraged to develop health, strength, agility, grace and beauty by means of disciplined practice of any preferred system of physical education. A good teacher respects the ideal of sportsmanship and encourages the qualities that are associated with sportsmanship, such as courage, hardihood, initiative, steadiness of will, quick decision and action, good humour, self-control, fair play, equal acceptance of victory or defeat, loyal acceptance of the decisions of the referee, and habit of team work.
Development of personality and, particularly, the process of change and integration of personality, cannot truly or adequately be effected without the pursuit of values. For as we have noted earlier, corresponding to each faculty or capacity of personality there are values, and children, right from early stages, manifest their urge towards values through admiration and aspiration.
Very often educators do not recognize these manifestations, and, in due course, for want of encouragement and recognition, they become diminished and even begin to be wiped out. It is therefore very important that educators observe children deeply and sympathetically, feel themselves vibrate with children’s aspirations and encourage them.
The most important quality that should be focused upon is sincerity; it is the one quality which, if rightly cultivated, will necessarily enable the child to realize whatever aim he comes to conceive and pursue in his life.
Around this central quality, we may conceive of certain groups of qualities that come into play at various stages of the psychological development of the child.
There is, for instance, the trinity of qualities of heroism, endurance and sacrifice, which are essential for the lasting victory of the good and the right.
There is also the trinity of cheerfulness, cooperation and gratitude, which are, we might say, the secret of all right relationships. Another trinity of qualities is that of purity, patience and perseverance, which is indispensable in surmounting any weakness or limitation of our nature.
Finally, we may note the trinity of calm, profundity and intensity, which open the doors to an ever-progressive search for perfection.
It is sometimes suggested that value-oriented education is relevant only to the primary and secondary stages, but not beyond. For, it is argued, that by the time children complete secondary education, they would have already formed their basic attitudes and traits of personality, and nothing more needs to be done specially in that direction at the higher levels of education. However, this argument misses the point that the important element in value-oriented development of personality is the development of the learner’s free will and of his free and rational acceptance of the value-system and directions of the growth of personality. This development can rightly be done only at the higher level of education, when the learner has developed a will of his own to some extent and when he has basic intellectual, moral and aesthetic sensibilities enabling him to examine the basic values and aims of life.
It is often asked if the role of the teacher includes anything more than teaching. At higher levels of education, it is universally recognized that the tasks of research and extension should also be included in the role of the teacher. At the school level, the task of extension is being gradually recognized, particularly with the realization of the close connection between education and development. In this context, the role of the teacher as community teacher must also be recognized. We might suggest that, while research as understood in the technical sense of the term, may not be included in the role of the school teacher, progressive updating of his knowledge and skill must be included.
The role of the teacher in the context of the goal of education for all, of life-long education and of the learning society needs to be emphasized. The teacher will reject the view that only a few should climb to the heights of knowledge, culture and development while the rest should remain forever on lower rungs of development.
Following the cry of the greatest leaders of mankind who have striven to regenerate the life of the earth, the teacher will help spread knowledge not merely for a few but for all, and he will emphasize the programmes of universalization of elementary education, of adult and continuing education, and indeed of the learning society.
Corresponding to the needs of multi-faceted development, the teacher will promote education in every sphere of developmental activity. He will also help in forging links between formal and non-formal education, and assist in a wide variety of educational programmes which can be made available to a growing number of students of all ages.
The most significant symbol of learning is the child; and the learning society will acknowledge the sovereignty of the child. It will hold the child in the centre of its attention, and will bestow upon it the supreme care that it needs. It will organize all activities in such a way that they become vehicles of the education of the child.
Just as the child always looks to the future, even so the learning society will constantly strive to build the paths of the future. Just as the child will grow increasingly into vigorous and dynamic youth, even so the learning society will continue to mature into unfading youth.
zTo actualize such a learning society is the responsibility of all thinking members of the society, but increasingly and progressively it may come to be regarded as the over-arching responsibility of the contemporary teacher.