Smart People Make Smart Classes

Smart Classrooms are technology enhanced classrooms that foster opportunities for teaching and learning by integrating learning technology, such as computers, specialised software, audience response technology, assistive listening devices, networking, and audio/visual capabilities.

Smart Classrooms or Smart Teachers? 
Question: Do “Smart Classrooms” by themselves improve learning, or are there other ways to improve learning ?
Smart Classroom - image courtesy Indiamart.Com
As people make a place, so a classroom is what the teacher and student want it to be. No amount of technology and what we call IT solutions, will ever be able to replace smart teachers. The best of classrooms need the best of teachers to make learning fun and also ensure quality delivery. All the hardware and software will soon be out-dated and you will be the scapegoat for the marketeer who will continue to sell you the illusion of smarter classrooms!

Teachers make the world of a child better, as beyond just learning, many students imbibe the values and mannerisms of their gurus. Technology maybe the tool, however the teacher alone is the effective delivery agent for quality learning in the classroom.

We often hear people say 'money alone cannot make the difference', any amount or money spent on teaching aides and infra-structure will never be able to replace a good teacher in the classroom. The challenge lies alone in finding the best teachers and taking good care of their need for resources, comfort and well being. 
The challenge lies in finding the best teachers and taking good care of their need for resources, comfort and well being. 
In the ancient times the 'guru' or the smart teacher was supreme and the 'shisha' or student would do all to win the favour of the guru, go any length to give 'Gurudakshina'. Wikipedia refers to Gurudakshina as the tradition of repaying one's teacher or guru after a period of study or the completion of formal education, or to spiritual guide. This tradition is one of acknowledgment, respect, and thanks. It is a form of reciprocity and exchange between student and teacher. The repayment is not exclusively monetary and may be a special task the teacher wants the student to accomplish. This system was based on the philosophy that the 'guru' or the smart teacher is the real catalyst for learning and he alone could make the real difference. Here it was not the smart class but the smart teacher who brought about the transformation, the teachers' role in the life of the student is indeed paramount, and thus the 'gurudakshina' philosophy laid emphasis on the fact the the teacher must be very well looked after.

Image Courtesy: Blogs.msdn.com
Innovative teachers do not rely on technology and are not excessively dependent on the smart classroom. Smart teacher is one who is innovative and makes learning fun in the simplest of locations.

Many years ago, when I had the opportunity of being part of a Train-the-Trainer workshop, our group was put up in a very basic lodging away from the nearest village or town, in the Australian outback and this is where I had the privilege of experiencing how it is the smart teacher alone and not the smart classroom that makes effective learning a reality. We had no classroom or training area, no power, no tools, no powerpoint presentations and even no chalk and blackboard! We however had one of the smartest trainers to lead us for the five day training period. I personally transformed into a trainer and was able to conduct and help deliver over one hundred training workshops and empower thousands of youth leaders and teachers all over the world. Thank you to my 'guru' whom I have not mentioned here in name, am sure my thanks will reach her always.

When we look at the needs of the modern world, it is good teachers who make the difference.  Most schools in India are funded and run by the government. However, the public education system faces serious challenges including a lack of adequate infrastructure, insufficient funding, a shortage of staff and scarce facilities. In 2012, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) found that, in rural India, the number of children in the age group of 6-14 years attending private schools was 28% only. James Tooley in his study states 'The schools studied were found to be providing good quality education in the English medium, at costs which were affordable to the poorest of families. These schools were run with minimum resources and teachers were hired on contract.' Despite the fact that the teachers were paid much lower salaries compared to government school teachers, these schools delivered better as the people had to perform. 
No amount of technology and what we call IT solutions, will ever be able to replace smart teachers.
The need of the hour is smart teachers, with the poor skill building environment the challenge is more of finding the smart teachers and not of smart classes. The smart classes will also need smart teachers to deliver! The low wages paid to the teachers as well as teaching not really being the preferred profession make smart teachers almost hard to find. As a school management professional, I work for helping schools deliver affordable quality education, and the key for our success lies in the schools valuing the human resource at a premium and keep over 60% of their operation cost for salaries alone. As we go down to lower fee paying schools, this cost may even go up to 75%. An good school needs the smart teacher and their technology is that of mind and heart and not of brick and mortar tools.
Example of a school operating budget

Good teachers are hard to get as teaching beyond being a sought after profession is also an underpaid one. Add to this the woes of poor training and learning environment and the woeful lack of innovative programmes for training teachers, you will find out that the way to make a good school is by having smart teachers and not merely having smart classes. People make a place, teachers make a schools and students are the blossom of a garden to learning. The school experience is the key for the personal and social development of a young person, we need an environment with a heart and a soul and not simply a brick and mortar campus.

Smart people make smart choices, and smart schools have to go beyond smart classrooms! The reality is that effective teaching goes much beyond developing subject matter expertise. From my experiences in education sector great teachers share two common characteristics: an extraordinary sense of humility; and, a strong commitment to continual improvement, based upon a fundamental motivation to inspire student success.

The author of the article Sandeep Dutt is the Chairman of The Fabindia Schools and takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on sd@ebd.in for comments if any. Follow us on Facebook www.Facebook.com/EbdEdu and our Twitter handle is @brewknowledge.

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