Friday, 19 August, 2022

Are Our Teachers Really Averse to Learning?

Masum Billah

One might wonder why I have just raised this particular question or suspect whether our teachers harbour the desire in their hearts to learn. I have every valid reason to raise such type of question as a common belief runs through the society that the current day teachers show their extreme aversion to learning. I must say this is one kind of underestimating our teachers. Ample proofs I am having in my hand that our teachers with some possible exceptions still are keen to learn. During the COVID-19 situation, I used to conduct webinars almost every week focusing on different areas of education, language, educational problems, teachers’ welfare and students’ welfare. It witnessed positive responses from many teachers and their presence and opinion have really convinced me that our teachers still have the eagerness to learn, develop their professionalism and widen their horizon of knowledge even in non-formal ways. I must see it as a positive sign in the arena of education.

I like to cite here some recent events that really made me sanguine about the situation of teachers. Just after the pandemic, the English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB) started arranging a face-to-face program for teachers in different schools across the country. The first of its kind was held in Sirajganj on June 03 on ‘Importance of Four Language Skills’. We were afraid that whether teachers would come as there was no monetary benefit for them. Interestingly, we found 56 teachers, including some who attended the program even from the other bank of the Jamuna River crossing the unrest waves. They listened to us, talked and participated actively, and not a single time they talked about the limitations teachers face every day. Their questions and the future promise made us happy. On June 17, we arranged another face-to-face program at Matlab Upazila in Chandpur and the title of the discussion was ‘Student Engagement’. More than 40 teachers attended the program and some of them expressed their desire to learn. On July 22, we had another program focusing on ‘Importance of Teacher Motivation in the Classroom’ at Mofiz Uddin Khan High School, Gazipur, where more than 50 teachers were present. Here, I really found that quite a good number of teachers participated in the session actively without raising any unnecessary points that usually happen in such training programs.

Effective learning takes place only in a safe classroom and a motivated teacher knows how to ensure a safe environment for the learners. Creating a classroom safe that is organised and characterised by mutual respect makes it a lot easier to teach effectively. The more smiles we offer to students, the more we will receive. Learning should not always be so serious, nor do we. Sometimes, when a situation becomes so serious, we need to laugh together to make the environment light. If we use interactive approaches such as small groups and cooperative learning, it makes students feel safe and free to ask questions and contribute to discussions.

Research shows that when teachers build relationships with students by getting to know them and allowing them to know the teachers, students learn more. Through knowledge of their backgrounds and interests, a teacher will be better equipped to connect class content to students’ lives. A teacher will enjoy teaching more as well. Engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus and motivates them to engage in higher-level critical thinking. Active learning is an instructional approach in which students actively participate in the learning process, as opposed to sitting quietly and listening. Another research has shown that if students do not consider a learning activity worthy of their time and effort, they might not engage in a satisfactory way, or may even disengage entirely in response.

When students work effectively with others, their engagement may be amplified as a result, mostly due to experiencing a sense of connection to others during the activities. In those workshops, teachers showed their eagerness to learn, though it is true that not a hundred per cent of teachers showed an equal degree of eagerness to learn. Those who feel shy to participate in the work arranged in any workshop, seminar or symposium do not know how to break the silence, how to break the ice. As they do not know, similar things happen in their own classrooms. It also says that they cannot engage a maximum number of learners in their classroom. In the workshop, these points are also discussed to make them understand how to ensure a maximum number of students’ engagement.

Attending workshops, sharing their ideas with each other, developing new ideas and learning new techniques are the best ways to develop the teachers’ professionalism. It not only widens their subject knowledge but also elevates their confidence and strengthens their network of profession, friends and educators. But in our teaching-learning culture, particularly at the primary and secondary level, it is thought that teaching means only delivering lectures in classrooms, checking scripts and giving homework, conducting examinations and awarding marks. A perception is also there that attending one or two training sessions in life is enough for professional development. In the true sense of the term, teachers need mental nourishment that cannot be satisfied only with a handsome salary, pomp and grandeur or by earning huge extra money through private tuition. It needs something more than that. And professional gatherings (workshop, seminar, and symposium) serve all the purposes cited above without spending much time, energy and money but ensures continuous professional development. And to attain these goals, the English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB) arranges various types of academic and co-curricular programs such as webinars, meetings, face-to-face workshops and seminars, and its fruit has started reaching out to the teachers across the country irrespective of their affiliation to primary, secondary, madrassah or tertiary level. Such types of programs go on around the year. Just join there and enrich your academic aspects and enlarge the network. And thus enjoy teaching as a profession truly.


The writer is the Country Director-

Volunteers Association for Bangladesh (VAB) and President- English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB).

 Email: [email protected]