‘The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.’
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
An educationist and author, began a workshop for the teachers at KC High with the above lines from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. This particular line from the poem stood out for me because of how it analogised a simple but profound truth.
Back when I started teaching, I would try hard to complete my lessons both as per the school’s expectations and mine. This involved a mad rush to ensure that lesson plans were in order, worksheets and activities were in order, students were put hard at work and then,class was over. One day, when I took back the lesson and skim read the answers,it hit me! I hadn’t been teaching them, I had been conducting a drill practice!
As Gibran explains, our understanding comes from the experiences we have in life especially when you teach a language. Then how could I share my understanding with my learners? They were almost three decades younger than me and lived in a very different world from the one I grew up in.
I used to ponder about this, even before the workshop. But it was during the workshop that I found the words to express what I had been feeling – I could speak of my understanding but could not give it to them.
I had read in a book on teaching that teaching the 3Rs alone is not enough anymore. A third, and more important R , Relevance, had to be added to ensure learning was happening.
So, I started using current literature, songs and pod casts, sites and icons to lure my learners into the web of learning that I wanted to ensnare them in! Well, that was what I believed I was doing when I started out. But slowly my understanding of their world grew. I started to enjoy literature that the current generation enjoys, movies that they enjoy, sports they watch, the songs they listen to and the roasts they indulge in- from Trump to Modi. I soaked them all in.
And with this new understanding, my classes were not drill exercises anymore. They became meeting places for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of learning. There was a mutual ground of respect, from them for my generation and my experiences, and from me for their generation and their experiences. As a teacher, I had extended my hand to them and they, in turn, were ready to take it.
I end with another line from Gibran – ‘If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”