Teachers' Day 2020: ‘We may evolve as hybrid learners’, says Nitin Joshi, Director at BRIMS

Many students are worried about their future. What message would you like to give students in these trying times?

It is a trying time and it is an opportunity for every one of us to respond to the unanticipated change. We had been talking about VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world in the past, which is now in front of us. Student community and society at large need to start anticipating the changes which all of us need to face after the lockdown is over. Future will be challenging and students need to prepare their mindset to overcome the challenges. Human behavior is the outcome of the thoughts which we sow in our mind. I remember what Albert Einstein observed, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” This indicates that students will have to improve their thinking levels and develop good habits of exploring their potential by self awareness. During this time if they develop this wonderful habit of being proactive I am sure they would make themselves ready to face the new world situations. Students should start setting their destiny which could be their dream role in a good organization, should explore and understand their aspirations. They need to thank technology which is keeping them connected with the world so that they can start identifying the opportunity sectors. I am very clear that worrying does not help in any situation and it is better to stop worrying and respond by being relevant. 

What would you tell teachers who are worried about teaching in current situation?

Message for teachers cannot be different. Teachers are first learners, they then share their knowledge with their students. Teachers will also have to change their thinking gears, adapt and embrace technology. I personally feel that it is only because of information technology teachers are in the system even if they are not physically present in the institutes, colleges or schools. Teachers need to learn to use various technology tools and adapt those available for online teaching and learning. They will have to learn to be more prepared as compared to the past. Entire world is observing them and hence their responsibility towards their profession has also increased. Teachers cannot just pretend to be good teachers in the online system they will have to prove that they are the pillars of the society and they are responsible as they have the ability of responding with their abilities in the current situation. Our teachers will have to bring in a big change and they should set the benchmark for adaptability. Teachers also should stop worrying and get into action mode of learning and show to the world that teachers are fast learners.

Do you think online education will change the traditional teaching system post COVID?

I have been conducting my sessions online and every session of mine is helping me learn new things for engaging the students constructively. There are few challenges in terms of bandwidth available at the students' end or disturbances at home, or students are unable to create a learning environment for themselves. I feel it will take some more time till the time technology matures enough and students and teachers start getting the feel of a classroom. The natural law of personal touch is still missing in the current model. Due to a large number of students in one class, teachers are unable to see all of them or connect with them the way they used to in traditional mode of learning. But there are few things which are now possible. Like, for example,guest speakers need not travel for sessions and seminars can be delivered from remote locations. We will have more opportunity to expose students to industry experts who were finding it difficult to find time for travelling, etc. Even as teachers we are now confident about webinars and its response, and post COVID it seems to be the way of life. With the current situation it appears that online education is going to stay along with our traditional approach. We may evolve as hybrid learners, which is a blend of both.

One change you think the Indian government needs to make in our existing education system.

Ourgovernment has already come up with NEP (New Education Policy) and I hope that it is implemented. According to my understanding, the education system is one which helps learners explore-evaluate-excel. This is possible with a learning environment. Many Indians who have gone abroad are successful because of the opportunity of learning and exploring their full potential. Our education system should have the ability to help students bounce back in case the student finds the right environment. Students need to be motivated instead of being judged. Extraordinary students will anyhow survive and find their ways, but in our country our education system should help the ordinary to strive to become extraordinary. If we want to make significant quantum changes we need to work on our basic paradigms. Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world. The power of paradigm shift is the essential power of quantum change whether that shift is an instantaneous or slow and deliberate process. 

On teachers’ day, who do you consider your teacher or guru? A small tribute or a special message for the said person?

I have been extremely lucky to have parents as my teachers in stage one. A lot of learnings in terms of some basic habit development happens at home and my parents have helped me nurture those good habits. In school, I had some very good teachers who pulled me out of my comfort zone and helped me explore my potential. At the post-graduate level, I had a set of experienced teachers who created a right learning environment for me to get inspired. In the management education I have worked in Principal L N Welingkar and I learnt a lot from Dr. Uday Salunkhe sir, who is currently the group director. From him I picked up some wonderful abilities of decision-making, working on people’s strength, investing on self-development and to stay hungry for growth. I will always remember when he had told me not to be complacent about self achievement. In Dr. V N Bedekar Institute of Management I have Dr Guru Prasad Murthy who is the founder director of Dr V N BRIMS and has also served as Director JBIMS Mumbai. He is a great management guru and I keep learning a lot from him. Our VPM’s Chairman, Dr Vijay Bedekar, is another leader and a teacher who helps me learn a lot of things from a very holistic perspective. I have learnt from our chairman how to give freedom to work and still have a system to check the deadlines and that is worth appreciating.

What kind of qualities do students look for in teachers?

Today, students have excellent technology in hand. Earlier, information was the most important treasure which teachers had and they used to share it with students. Now, the scenario has changed and information is available in abundance. Expectation of the students has shifted from mere information to more meaningful information. At post-graduate level students expect teachers to demonstrate their knowledge. This means that teachers are expected to apply their knowledge and prepare themselves. I also feel that there is a set of teachers in every institute who are constantly upgrading themselves and aligning themselves with changing times. It could be the conceptual knowledge, being relevant in the topic, using technology or their connection with the industry along with research work. Students respect teachers those who deserve and students at post graduate level develop their own perceptions.      

What personality traits do teachers need, to be successful?

Read, write and recite is something every teacher needs to learn. Teachers need to understand that our most important financial asset is our own capacity to earn. If we don’t continually invest in improving our own production capability, we severely limit our options. Teachers need to focus on research publication in reputed journals, creating new knowledge for the coming generation, simplifying the information available to students to learn. Our regulators AICTE and Mumbai University are also working on developing Universal Human Values amongst our students and teachers need to develop in these areas as well. A teacher should be a lifelong learner with excellent student engagement techniques and good understanding of how students learn. They need to think that, emotionally I would be validated from within. I would be inner directed. My sense of worth would not be a function of being liked or treated well. Along with being a great communicator teacher should shift from pure teaching to facilitation. Teachers should not judge students and should create equal opportunity for learners all the time. Teachers also need to focus on what motivates students to learn better and how can they help students identify their drive to learn. Being a good listener is more important at postgraduate level and connect with the student as a mentor. Students should feel that the teacher is a learner and moves with time and appreciates them instead of being a fault-finder. Teachers at post-graduate levels should develop lifelong connection with the students and create a community learning system.

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