In an attempt to understand what makes a good teacher, colleagues at the Honey Bee Network were asked what attributes made a teacher effective. The following list is a compilation of views expressed by our colleagues
- Who considers both positive and negative sides of students
- Who engages with parents of students as well when needed
- Who understands the limitations of a student and works on the positives (teach the weakest student and benchmark his understanding of the subject and not just feel happy if only majority has understood the subject)
- Who gauges the level of different students and accordingly changes his style and delivery
- Who understands students’ mind/psychology and can modify him/herself accordingly
- Who can convey his confidence (effective Communication/ ability to transfer the knowledge) to students
- Who is willing to help and guide students beyond classrooms and schools
- Who considers all students equal – does not discriminate on any ground other than merit when needed
- Who understands that thinking, knowledge, education and learning are all linked and which to focus more on and when
- Who has a practical style of teaching (and encourages experiments)
- Who has knowledge (of subject and off subject) and is willing to learn himself and show that he learns
- Who encourages lateral learning among students as well
- Who follows what he preaches, can demonstrate ethical conduct and share values in addition to imparting knowledge
- Who can be an example in himself/herself by actions and not by words
- Who shares interesting anecdotes and experiences to inspire and motivate students and provide them values
- Who uses graphics/sketches, drawings and other multimedia tools as a teaching method
- Who encourages case study based teaching
- Who does not stick to just the syllabus and classroom but opens extra mural learning opportunities
- Patience in teacher is very vital, does not lose patience when can the same doubt arises in the mind of students many times
- Strong introduction and conclusion, helps in proper wrapping up of the context of the class, not just the content
- Who encourages asking questions in the class
- Teachers who gives freedom to his students to decide the chronology of chapters and topics
- Teachers who inspire students to bring out the teacher in them
- Teacher who gives extra time to individual student interested in digging deeper into a particular topic
- Teacher who teaches sometimes in natural surroundings, uses extra mural means to engage with real life related events, situations, challenges
- Teacher who would even allow students from other classes to sit and learn in his class
- Teaches how to learn and assimilate knowledge, not just remember it
- Teaches how to breakdown problems into sub-units, and then build comprehensive understanding of the subject
- Who is punctual and has efficient class control ability
Not all the opinions expressed may be necessarily true. However, if such teachers have to be honoured, a way must be evolved to find them.
Classes in natural surroundings at least in natural sciences and taxonomy classes where you identify basic characteristics of families and genres
Breaking into modules and allows rearrangement thereof so that one can decide the chronology of parts as per one’s own understanding. In case of technical subjects, one can design their own machines or theories once their fundamentals are cleared. Students should be sometimes allowed to teach the class first and then teacher might add to it later because he/she is at the same level. At times, a teacher might teach at his own level of understanding which is higher than his/her students. It also helps to bring in a better understanding and newer developments and contemporary vocabulary which help in articulation in the language of the current generation.
When I was in 10th Standard, Ms Sunita Patel was my Social Science Teacher. She is my biggest inspiration so far, a fantastic teacher and a great friend. She isn’t a normal teacher. She really understands the students and has a brilliant caring nature. She is the most selfless person I have ever met. Being a single mother, no matter what has happened in her life she is always putting other people first. She is incredibly strong and if I were in her position I’m not sure if I’d be able to be strong at all. She has her own beliefs; she’s never tried to force them onto anyone else. She believes very strongly in women’s rights or women’s empowerment and has created many opportunities for her students. She gives everyone a chance even the really badly-behaved kids who many people would just expel. Sometimes, a person’s quality or a trait may be the reason of an inspiration, but sometimes the entire life of a person can be an inspiration. I am glad that I have been bestowed with such inspiring people. She’s the only one who has put seed of self confidence in me.
Attribute: My teacher, strength & compassion together.
Prof: T Jayaraman. Prof TJ (as we all use to call him) made an impression on me since I met him on the day of my interview for TISS. The inspiring thing about him was that he had diverse knowledge of various subjects and the way of perception he had. Even though I was not under him for my thesis, I frequently took advice from him regarding various things. He helped me develop a diverse perception about science and social sciences.
One of the best teachers I met was during my time in Bangladesh. The teacher, Mr Swapan Kumar Mondol, taught me chemistry and much more. From what I remember, he looked like Deven Verma and had a slow manner of speaking.
Fear takes various forms in different stages of our lives. At 7, it is the darkness, at 10 it is your mother, at 25 it is your boss, perhaps, for men, at thirty it is your wife, but at sixteen math and chemistry truly deeply and madly haunt your life! Organic chemistry is especially notorious. I never liked most of my teachers. At that age, humility is not too important an attribute to have. I always thought I could do their job better. So, I always trusted the book for my understanding. Chemistry seemed different. Inorganic was exciting lots of new stuff to learn, a bit daunting but manageable. I broke some sweat when hybridisation was introduced. Humility, however, came knocking when organic chemistry arrived. The book was no longer my friend. It spoke to me in a different language.
With organic chemistry came a different teacher. Mondol sir’s slow and calm voice helped in easing some nerves. He would mostly talk. He would write some equations and explain again. I don’t know if he ever did something extraordinary. But then, as the classes went by he would draw more; make some blocks write something there, make another block randomly somewhere. He would keep filling the board with blocks. And then, as we read about processes, these boxes had arrows. The boxes were never the same as my book. They weren’t pretty but they were all unique. I observed how his hands moved quicker when he was drawing on the board in contrast to his slowness about everything else. I started emulating the blocks rather unconsciously. And then as the tests arrived, I would remember “catalysts for Cannizzaro reaction??? Ah yes Mondol sir drew something in a yellow triangle!!”
I extended these boxes into other subjects; I loved scribbling stuff on blank papers. It helped me memorise things faster. But I continued the practice years after school was over. Two years later I was staring at Lehninger’s Biochemistry with awe rather than fear. Ten years later, I came back after a walk into my room looking at the beautiful mess of papers containing many of these boxes lying on my bed knowing well that the model wasn’t working and I had no clue how to get it to run. I was just glad that I laid all the nuts and bolts on the ground. If the motorcycle was to be made it would be from these nuts and bolts. Everything was right there!
Attribute: Ability to teach students how to simplify, teaching them how to learn, how to rearrange bits of information to make sense.
I think teaching in schools is linear. Maybe mind doesn’t work that way, perhaps it is possible that dismantling and rearranging structures leads to faster learning, leads to breaking the mould of traditional sequential learning techniques
This might help in creative aspects too. Inspiration doesn’t come in a sequence. For example poets don’t always start the poem from the beginning. It is usually some lines somewhere in the middle and then the poem gets weaved around them.
I was really inspired by one of the Professors from University of Westminster, during my Master’s programme in Delhi University. He came to give us a lecture on the Tibet issue, so like any other seminar we were expecting a normal talk followed by a discussion session on the political paradigm of the area. But, as he started speaking most of us were engrossed in his talk, he not only talked about the political paradigm but also about the underlying cases of Human Rights. I was inspired by his indomitable spirit to fight for the sake of rights of others, even if it meant to put your own life in danger.
Since that day, I try to follow up with most of his writings and want to be a prolific writer like him, so that through my writings I can also fight for the causes I feel for.
Attribute: Ability to read students mind and carry on the discussion forward in that temperament, in the scenario it becomes easier for the student to grasp and understand the subject matter easily.
Teacher: Dr Kairanjeet Kaur
“The ABCs of life are attitude, behaviour and communication skills.” I still remember this line from her class. She used to teach Communication skills in the first year of engineering. Her way of teaching and the charismatic personality still resonates in my mind even after 7 years of passing out. I remember, once she made us play a game to understand the term “grapevine”, which I can never forget. She was also a psychologist by profession and used to point me out often when I used to wander away dreaming in my own world. When I started working in villages and talking to people, I realised how important a role effective communication plays in our life. The art of conveying a message simply and clearly can make a huge difference. This is something I’m still learning and I will always remember Dr Kaur for her classes.
Attribute: I think this can be understood more in terms of Qualitative information, because as we pass out from the college and enter the professional world, we often forget the teachings in class. It is only when we encounter different projects and people, we start learning and reflecting.
So maybe, a measurable attribute can be improved communication skills over a period of 10 years (in this case), but I think a lot of other factors will also play a role in that.
But, one always remembers a good teacher and the lessons learnt in class. For instance, I remember that she used to focus a lot on ‘listening skills’ in effective communication. I was not a very good listener, but I think over the years that thing has improved and is still improving. Though a lot of other factors have gone into that as well, but the way in which a teacher communicates plays an important role. Having the lessons from the class in mind even after so many years is also an important attribute I think.
Two Inspiring Teachers I recently met- by Siddarth Bhatia
Mr Ravi during 34th Shodhyatra in Sikkim
I met him during the recently concluded Shodhyatra and during discussions it came out that his soft spoken software engineer has a hidden talent of teaching school children science through projects and “learning by doing”. He works for Cognizant in Pune, but he volunteers to teach in various government schools, especially in the remote parts of the country. I learned that he recently visited Andhra Pradesh where he teaches school children for a week before coming for Shodhyatra in Sikkim.
It was quite inspiring to talk to him and listen to his methods of teaching. He has developed a kit and some of the experiments he showed were very simple to understand the effects of gravity and to locate the centre of gravity. Like one of our innovators Arjunbhai Patel, who has made a platform for birds to feed, Ravi too has developed a platform for the birds to drink water. He also has his YouTube channel where he has uploaded his videos.
Mr K B Jinan during ICCIG III
During ICCIG 3, we had a presentation by Mr K B Jinan in the panel: Civic Innovation in Education which was very inspiring and at the same time intriguing. The session kept everybody up on their heels and the question answer that followed was very interesting.
When one digs deep into his profile and reads his blog, it becomes clear that the person speaks from years of experience being with the children. He calls himself a “victim of modern education” which alienated him from the authentic way of being. The time spent with the tribal communities and children guided him in his search/research to be authentic and natural again.
The exploration led him to what can be called a holistic search/ research covering cognition, children, indigenous knowledge, aesthetic sense, creativity, culture, biology, psychology, politics, philosophy, schooling, modernity etc. but without placing them in to compartments. More importantly it was an attempt to reclaim authentic way of knowing.
There are two distinct phases to his explorations:
1. How to teach Children?
2. How children learn?
This made the crucial difference to the search as the first question involves psychological conditioning and the second question centres around biology and natural propensity. Based on these findings he has been doing workshops, retreats, courses for parents, teachers, children, college students doing design, architecture, management etc.
The details can be seen at
Mr J. B. Patel is referred to as the encyclopaedia of small enterprise. I learnt the subject of Business Opportunity Identification – one of the important elements for the start-ups. He knew almost everything about start-ups or small enterprise projects in various sectors. He wrote a manual on detail project report (DPR) that is referred as the bible for start-ups (Marketing, Technical, Financial and Exit plan). He was my guide in my academic project (start up) and my project report was highly appreciated by the jury for the work. He mentored me in two of my start-up projects after my post graduation.
He has inspired me to work hard and to be the best I can. He taught me the nitty-gritty of running a start-up like negotiation, fetching information of the competitors and many other aspects. It was an honour to work with him and learn so many aspects of start ups. He has motivated me and instilled the confidence that I initially lacked while initiating start ups. I still discuss with him, every time I have some new idea related to start-ups.
One teacher that inspired me as a kid was my 3rd and 4th std class teacher in school (Mount Carmel Girls’ High School) Mrs. Shobhna Badani for the sole reason of giving us freedom of thought. She taught us how to think and evolve and not what to think, which not many teachers gave us since we were expected to do things as told or get punished if done otherwise. She was the only one who let us be even if we made mistakes. She usually gave a patient feedback later.