Faizan: Let’s jump straight into the discussion. What is your concept of an ideal teacher?
Rameez: Ideal is something beyond perfection. A teacher cannot be perfect. Anyone who teaches well, understands our problems, tries to make clear the very goal of your life is a good teacher.
Owais: I agree but a teacher’s role has changed over the years. His role also changes with the subject he teaches.
Irfan: No, I don’t think the role of a teacher changes with diverse backgrounds. Rameez earlier said a teacher cannot be perfect. If a teacher actually lives according to what he teaches then he can be an ideal one.
Faizan: You mean the teacher should play the boss?
Irfan: No, I mean a teacher should not spoon feed you but teach you by being an example of what he teaches. His character should reflect the teaching.
Sabah: It is not about spoon feeding. An ideal teacher for me is the one who is a motivator. Take the example of Prophet Mohammad (SAW). He is an ideal teacher for everyone.
Faizan: What qualities do you people want in your teacher?
Rameez: He/she should be a friend, boss and mentor to me. If he is only a friend, we blur the line between a teacher and student.
Irfan: If you have a friend as a teacher then for me he is an ideal teacher. The best teachers I have had are my friends.
Sabah: It’s not necessary to have a friendly relation with a teacher because a student can take advantage of it. A teacher has to be a mentor.
Rameez: When we say a friend is an ideal teacher we’re diluting the student-teacher relationship. A student cannot always be into studies. So a teacher has to be very demanding to make him study.
Faizan: Do you think the role of the teacher has changed over the years?
Owais: In the past the only source of information was a teacher.But nowadays the sources of information are unlimited.
Rameez: The role of a teacher from the school level to the college level cannot be the same, it has to change.
Faizan: OK. Now I would like to know how you would like your teacher to teach you?
Irfan:For me it is more important to learn myself than be taught.
Sabah: I don’t think that’s possible.
Rameez: Talking to students is most important to understand their requirements. There shouldn’t be a dictation of terms but a cordial environment.
Faizan: This leads us to an important point, how should the communication between a teacher and student be?
Owais: In Kashmir unemployment leads to teaching being the last resort for many people and that is why we lack good teachers. This affects the communication between a teacher and a student.
Rameez: Aren’t we degrading the teacher by saying it is a last resort for them. We should talk about teachers who actually want to be teachers by choice, not those who are there by chance or luck.
Irfan: If you can’t talk to a teacher and he is not able to respond there will be no teaching at all. A teacher at the University asked us to see how he was at teaching and let him know after a week. I told him he wasn’t good, but then we developed mutual understanding because we communicated.
Faizan: Now time for a blunt question. Do you find your teachers boring?
Rameez: Depends from teacher to teacher.
Saba: If a teacher uses practical learning then he/she becomes very interesting otherwise....
Owais: Yes, that’s very important. I want to give an example. We had to study how an organisation works and our teacher sent us to Doda to look into the working of a school. We had to trek for six hours to reach that school and that was so interesting. We learnt by actually doing it.
Faizan: So with so much info and technology around, how can a teacher improvise?
Owais: Teachers have to change with time and use new methods.
Irfan: But is this technology helping? My history teacher in college didn’t have any technology but I understood whatever he taught because he knew his subject well.
Rameez: But there are other subjects where use of technology becomes very important. Education shouldn’t be limited to class rooms. We were taken to far off villages to design roads and canals. The teachers were with us but they didn’t help us. That exposed us to an actual working environment.
Saba: Today a student can Google search anything on his cell phone. Students believe they know more than a teacher. But technology can’t replace the teacher.
Faizan: Moving on, should there be a feedback for teachers?
Irfan: Yes, but our system eliminates the feedback entirely by making the system teacher centric.
Rameez: This is the only time I agree with Irfan.
Faizan: What changes would you people suggest to improve teaching?
Irfan: An effective teacher screening, interactive and participatory teaching.
Sabah: Online teaching.
Irfan: Evaluation at both ends.
Rameez: Stress on practical work and teacher accountability.
Irfan:Rameez, you can’t have accountability in Kashmir. I was penalised in school once for commenting about a teacher. They would write remarks on the diary which we had to get signed by our parents. I asked the teacher why I can’t comment about your performance. He kept me out of class for 3 days!
Faizan: OK, a final question. What would you do if you were made a teacher for a day?
Rameez: I would straight away go into the classroom, close the door and ask the students what they want from me.
Irfan: But you’ve closed the door. (giggles)
Saba: I would teach my students practically so that they retain the knowledge.
Owais: I will work with each student in a way that he/she understands.
Irfan: I would unlock the doors and take them out of the classroom and teach them from my personal experience.
Faizan: Thanks everybody for your participation and thoughts.