Apart from conventional teachers we have some unorthodox ones amid us now who must get recognition and appreciation
We have different categories of teachers, depending upon the stages in our lives and the vocations we pursue. So, we have school teachers, lecturers, professors, research guides, trainers, instructors, tutors, coaches, mentors and so on. However, we have another set of teachers who don’t qualify in the strict sense, yet impart valuable lessons. The most important among them are parents. The foundations of intellectual, emotional and ethical grooming in a child are laid at home by the parents. In a joint family even grandparents play a positive roles as guides.
Again, at workplaces, bosses, seniors, corporate leaders are another set of educators. Equipped with knowledge, skills, expertise and experience, they often act as advisors, counsellors or mentors and help their juniors and colleagues progress in their careers.
Then, we have religious and spiritual gurus who preach from the scriptures and holy texts and offer guidance to their disciples and others on how to lead life well. However, apart from these obvious ones, we have some unorthodox and unconventional teachers amid us now who must get recognition and appreciation.
Children: In the digital age, it is important to be familiar with new age systems, processes and apps. Be it the smartphone, internet, video-conferencing/chatting, video games and other modern gadgets, we need to learn their operations to use them. These learnings help in vital activities like money transfer, booking tickets, ordering food or non-food items, or viewing streaming channels, all of which are now increasingly done online. In adaptation to new learnings, age being a factor, children have a distinct edge. They quickly adapt and learn. Their aptitude, familiarity and knowledge of the digital and online platforms are now much in demand at home, all the more during the lockdown. As digital tutors, they offer lessons to their grandparents, parents and senior citizens to make them digital savvy. Indeed, without their hand-holding, many of the older generation find themselves handicapped in adjusting to the virtual space.
Social media: We have been used to learning the dos and don’ts from the traditional set of teachers, professional or otherwise. Now WhatsApp, Facebook and so on are potent learning platforms where we get free advice on topics ranging from money, health, nutrition, fitness, to culinary arts, home décor, farming to even immunity boosting during the pandemic. The medium being popular, all these tips and learnings are widely read, shared and followed. The social media platform, as a teacher, is helping us to learn and share information. The only caveat is the tips or instructions need to be followed by us with fact-checks, particularly in the matter of health.
Siri and Alexa: Digital Voice Assistants like Siri and Alexa are the new teachers in the digital sphere. Like a friend, kids can unhesitatingly ask anything they want to know from Siri and Alexa. Not surprising, devices with Digital Voice Assistants are being installed even in remote tribal areas to infuse fun and excitement in learning and improve school enrolments. In smart classrooms, the Digital Voice Assistants act as the teacher. In the future, such devices and AI-assisted humanoid robots, as smart, interesting and trendy teachers, are likely to gain more popularity among children and schools.
Nature: Mother Nature has always been part of our existence. But we have forgotten to look at nature as a “healer” and “teacher” up until recently. Now, with the adverse effects of climate change ravaging us, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are realising the hard way the critical importance of nature as our sustainer, healer and teacher. In the collective confinement, we found to our great relief how nature is our constant friend and can lift our hearts and give us so much joy. It would indeed have been much tougher to deal with the pandemic, hadn’t nature been around us.
Nature teaches us the rhythms and cycles of life, selfless giving, continuous growth and generation, and the essence of sustainability, harmony and oneness. It also teaches us to consume wisely and responsibly. Now in close communion with nature, thankfully, we have discovered a friend, philosopher and guide.
Pandemic: Life itself is a teacher and we always knew that. But now, a catastrophe unleashed by the Coronavirus is teaching us novel lessons in life. Starting from coping with crippled businesses, loss of livelihood to handling enforced loneliness, an emotional see-saw, topsy-turvy routines, we are learning unique lessons and reinventing ourselves. The crisis has taught us to appreciate nature, create new networks, leverage the virtual world, look for new engagements, explore new hobbies, pursue passions, experiment with new ways and ideas, act collectively for the common good, and, last but not the least, to have a better world view and perspective. Welcome to all these unconventional teachers.
(The writer is former General Manager, Bank of India, Learning and Development and an author)