Walk the Talk

Dr. John Abraham has over 2 decades of teaching experience and has also held the responsibility of academic supervisor and house master. He has received several awards and accolades including the coveted Best Teacher Award. He is currently the Principal of Comorin International School.
In this candid interview, Dr. John Abraham speaks of the major changes in education today, importance of teacher training and teacher development programmes and speaks of the importance of teaching values to children.

1.You are the recipient of many awards and recognition. What got you into teaching?

Getting into teaching was not by choice, but an accident. I wrote my civil service exams, but I couldn’t make it. I tried the Army Office exams and I couldn’t make it there either. I think fate and destiny had something else scripted for me.

I registered myself as a research scholar in Mysore and this got me interested in teaching. By the year 2006, I had taken my career in teaching seriously and I wanted to grow in this field. I have been very passionate ever since, and have received good responses too.
2.‘To motivate the weak, to address the average and challenge the gifted’ is the teaching vision of your school. Please elaborate.
For most schools, the end results are important. The teaching is mostly rushed and the syllabus is not completed. In this process, the weak students are left out. The schools have become a place for recreation and they are just the centres for examinations. Schools are also restricting themselves and advertising themselves to promote a particular talent. For example, one school is famous for sports, one for performing arts, one for fashion, etc.
Thus, our teaching vision is inclusive of everything. We motivate the weak, address the average and challenge the gifted.
3.What according to you are the major changes in the education today?
Education today is not within the classroom as it was earlier. It is a sad state today, where there is no dedication in teachers. There is no commitment, and the quality is missing. These days, skills in teachers are missing and they are not giving their 100%. Only marks are given importance, and knowledge and development are completely ignored.
The teachers should understand that they mould the students. They are potters and the students are clay. Only when the potter is good will the clay turn out be shaped or structured correctly.
4.In this era where scoring well in exams is the most important thing, how important are extra-curricular activities?
Extra-curricular activities are very important. They help in the all-round development, which in turn will help the child excel in academics. It is also the exposure that matters. If restricted to only books and studying, children become bookworms.
I am good at painting, I am a good cricketer and I act well too. This is all because of the encouragement I received in school.
5.A model of having continuous teacher training and teacher development programmes are important for teachers. What is your view on this?
Teacher training and teacher development programmes are very important. It helps empower the teachers. As it cannot just be ‘come, teach and go’, it is important for teachers to know the teaching trends. Quoting an example from the days where I worked as an academic auditor for schools, I noticed that teachers were not well-informed about computers and weren’t tech savvy. Such development and training programmes will help teachers be informed.
Apart from this, the teachers should be taught to not just handle the subject, but to find solutions to problems independently. In our school, I train my teachers to make time tables, to conduct exams and tests without depending on the presence of the principal or the HOD.
6.Technology has entered the classrooms in the form of smart boards, eBooks, tabs, etc. With this advent of technology, how do you view the future of education?
Technology is very important, but it cannot replace a teacher. It is the teachers’ job to teach values to children. Information is available today with the click of a mouse. But, creating interest, personal connect, providing motivation and adding values into life, cannot be given by technology. Using technology in classrooms is fine, but the teachers should know how to handle it.
In this technologically equipped world, it is also very important for schools to invest more on books, get reference books for the library and motivate the teachers to use more of these. Saying this, our school is very tech friendly. Each classroom has WiFi connection for the teachers, a computer and a projector. Teachers prepare their own presentations. This will help them be well-prepared with the content, for the class. This way, they will not have to depend on ‘pre-made’ or ‘ready-made’ content.   
7.What can teachers do to make the class interesting?
  1. Before taking a class, the teachers have to plan well and be prepared.
  2. Teachers should go to the children’s level to teach and make them understand the concepts better and attract their attention.
  3. They should also ‘walk the talk’ to earn respect. They should be ‘firm’ but not ‘strict’, in what they do and in the decisions they take.
  4. They should lead from the front and set an example.
  5. Teachers should spend most of their time in the classrooms, with the children. 
8.What according to you is important for a principal-teacher relationship?
The principal-teacher relationship is very important. Trust in one another, respect, freedom to work and transparency are the important factors. It is advisable for the principal to do things that teachers do, as the principal is what he/she is today, because he/she was once a teacher. It is also the principal’s duty to take the vision down the line to the teachers, and the teachers’ responsibility to implement it. 
9.What according to you are the major things that children need to be taught in schools today, apart from academics?
Schools should impart the following –
  1. Values – It is very important to teach values to children at a school level. Children have to learn to be humble. They should never hesitate to bow down to teachers and their gurus. The best example for this can be seen in temples of our country. The door or entrance to the temples are built in such a way that the people entering need to bend their head, to avoid hitting it.
  2. All round development.
  3. Tolerance and acceptance for others’ ideas.
  4. How to be presentable in the society.
  5. Respect for roots – Children should be taught to love the school they studied in.
  6. Connect with the family, respect for elders and love for parents.
10.What is your message for the teaching community?
If you are a teacher, it is very important to be committed to the core. Be accountable. In the process, learn. Because stagnation will not help in development.