Breaking a stereotype

All is not as bad as it appears to be



Stereotypes, as per Merriam Webster dictionary, are something that conform to a fixed or general pattern; for example a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group which represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. Stereotypes are somewhat a shared property, in the sense, that everyone has one or the other type of stereotype. For example the West thinks of the East as the ‘other’ while as the East too looks contemptuously to the West, almost always. Like any common man, I suffer from stereotyping things, people, notions etc. Although, some of the stereotypes have remained with me or changed slightly, yet some change all of a sudden or simply vanish without my knowledge of their doing so.
Last month the newly recruited teachers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir were directed to undergo a 30-day long Induction Course (I forbid myself to use the word ‘training’ on the advice of a learned colleague who argues against its usage saying it entails we are the ‘horses’ in the ‘circus’ of state education system). A course of 30 days duration was highly unwelcome to most of the people supposed to undergo the ‘ordeals’ and I was no exception. Perhaps, I had ampler reasons than many others to be annoyed with it for I was just about to submit my PhD thesis. The course meant a delay. And as they say; what can’t be cured must be endured, I began to engage myself with what was taught there, discussing it with parents, friends, peers etc. The first few days were just boring except few small intervals when I would be interested. I, and most of the inductees, were hell bent on complaining about existing school system, lack of staff in schools, misuse of funds, the non-cooperativeness of senior staff etc. The Resource teachers who spoke on many themes, however, were wise enough to let us spew the anger out. Gradually, we began to listen to the topics discussed there. There, surely, were great things on offer. Our interest surged. The classroom situation began to get participatory. Now the resource teacher would just introduce the topic, deliberate a bit about it and then allow us to widen the theme, apply it to various other things and relate it to life outside the classroom- inductively making us aware of the recommendations of NCF 2005. There were times when the inductees contributed more to the knowledge than the resource teachers. However, this did not belittle their importance in the classroom all these days. On the contrary, their image grew in our respective opinions. There were serious discussions as to why we can’t have our own State Curriculum Framework. People had been wrongly saying that DIET had no resource, vision and capacity to undertake such a tedious task. There were 300 plus teachers in the induction course. Apart from this, there were other courses going on like RMSA, Hard Spots in Teaching at Elementary Level. Teachers of all ages are engaged on a regular basis, as we saw. In the past 30 days we had teachers who we thought were just joking. But at the end it seemed they were among the very best. Their philosophical sayings were the force that turned our attention from mundane to the real- i.e. quality education, morals, ethics etc.
There were teachers who knew how the system could be made to excel. They were living examples and it was very interesting to see they were of our age only. They had a goal which they were pursuing with zeal and vision and had succeeded in many ways in getting that done. Many had worked first as ReTs and they had proven that if a teacher wills strongly enough, a child could be moulded into something very precious. Once in these days, we had a team of specially-abled people. They were brilliant in many respects than the so called normal. A boy who was deaf could write anything when asked to. A girl who was blind read from Braille and read it fast and correct. Their teacher- a known figure- who runs an NGO Helpline was astute while delivering a series of lectures. His lectures brought tears in the eyes of all but more importantly it sent them thinking. I was no exception. Almost all the inductees vowed that they shall never discriminate while teaching. Inclusive education, as it is called, was deemed as the new norm.
It brings us to the heart of the story that everything is not bad, unwanted and ill-timed. It is our stereotype that coerces us to think like that. Instead, these opportunities give everyone a chance to take hold of the good points, alleviate their bad ones, if any, and excel in the field. I can’t but thank all those teachers, fellow inductees and administrators for having provided me an opportunity to get a knowhow of the system. These thirty days have simply put me at a greater advantage to teach my students effectively than I was before. I am eager to get back to my school and teach my students.

(Tanveer Habib, pursuing his Ph.D, is from Anantnag and teaches in a Middle School)

Lastupdate on : Thu, 17 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 17 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 18 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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