Evelyn Mascurine, Retired Primary School Teacher at Holy Name High School, Mumbai
1. Key challenges that students face
In schools in India, I would say the most significant challenges that students face are communication and language issues, social distinctions (based on community, religion and income levels), as well bullying.
2. The most important qualities a teacher needs in abundance
The way I see it, the most important quality a teacher needs is to be an example in relation to punctuality, fairness, a progressive attitude (nothing is too difficult to attempt and achieve) and a loving and caring attitude to students. Being an example also relates to personal grooming and dress code.
3. How parents can proactively help their children succeed in school
My advice to parents would be:
- Spend more quality time with your children on a regular basis.
- Ensure a peaceful and caring environment at home.
- Keep your children busy and occupied; and don’t refrain from giving them small chores to be done in the house.
- Maintain a watchful eye on your children and the company they keep.
4. A specific success story
In primary school, I noticed two students with notable capabilities in science and with high numeration skills; far above their standard average. I fed their aptitude with quizzes and material from the school library. I also roped in the librarian to help locate for them relevant books. At the end of the week, I would ask them to take the platform and share the insight they had gained with the rest of the class. They did a wonderful job! I then informed the Principal and invited him to one of their sharing sessions, and he was quite impressed. I also informed the parents of these students about their special gift.
5. Recommended changes in teaching content and approach
I would like the curriculum at primary school level to be more project and activity-based, rather than text-based. For example, for geography, students could be encouraged to make models and charts depicting the seasons. Civics could have a project devoted to water and its uses. Mathematics could include an activity focused on counting using the calendar. In fact, many related topics across different subjects can be covered through a single activity. For example, poems on the seasons correlate geography with literature! Also, children should be encouraged to research deeper and leverage IT skills better.
Apart from the standard curriculum, teachers also need to get children to be helpful at all times. They should be taught to put their hands to any kind of work. Dignity of labour is vital and should be instilled in them.
6. Maintaining discipline in the classroom
You know, at the beginning of the primary school year, when the new class would come in, I would get them seated and tell them that I wanted a class of 'little ladies' and 'little gentlemen'. I would then elaborate on the qualities I expected of ladies and gentlemen:
Good manners – the use of ‘please, thank you, excuse me, I beg your pardon, may I be excused’. Greeting teachers and the Principal. Walking in and out of class in silence. The use of bad language – not tolerated. No getting physical – hands are meant to clap and to work; not to strike another! Hands are also meant to be raised in class if they wanted to be heard.