My present job as the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) officer, offered me not only a whole new opportunities for knowing various Tibetan schools- which I should be knowing earlier being a teacher though- but also a good opportunity to reflect myself as a teacher, which is one of the most important clause in the Teacher Professional development. Frankly speaking, as far as my photographic memory is concerned, I seldom reflect myself as a teacher which I now realize form a big blot on the face of my career as a teacher for all these years. And like me, there may be or may not be who had the same take on this either due to ignorance or lack of reading books related to pedagogy. I used to have the same traditional way of thinking when it comes to teacher professional development i.e. to merely wait for some external resource persons, which I now realize is out dated. Having now learnt and worked actually in this teacher professional development project myself, my eyes are kind of opened widely to the new developments that are taking place in countries like Sweden, Japan, Finland etc whose Education systems are exemplary. Not only myself, but all those who are related to the Education of children, particularly the teachers, should feel proud of practicing this new paradigm in our Tibetan schools.
This TPD, like I have already said above is not something teachers or the Department of Education has not thought of or done during the course of the evolution of Tibetan Education. It had been given top priority then but it was basically done in the form of, like I have said before, workshops most of the time. Some workshops are arranged and a couple of teachers attend these workshop over a period of time, drink as much wine of knowledge while in the workshop and then go back to their respective schools, where they share with other colleagues. As simple as that! And I must say that we are not the only one who follow this system, in fact there were many others sailing in the same boat with us until recently.
Like the new paradigm that is taking place around the globe in the field of Teacher professional development, the Department of Education, CTA with the fund from USAID through Tibet Fund put forward its baby step by having its first Education Advisory Committee meeting in June 2013 which strongly recommended this new paradigm in the Tibetan Education system. And this was further followed by a series of meetings and discussions like the 6th Tibetan General Conference on Education and the workshops for the school heads in January this year. And finally, Dr. Mati Bernabei, a Canadian Educator working along with the Department of Education through the USAID, Tibet Fund published a culturally relevant document titled: Teacher Professional Development Framework and Guidelines after undergoing lots of feedback sessions among educators, schools heads and teachers. This document, which carries huge resources for the teachers and educators was published by the Department of Education, CTA and had been distributed in all the 11 pilot schools in the first phase. With the formulation of this important document, the Department of Education hopes to see a new constructive change in the Education system among Tibetan schools.
What is Teacher Professional Development?
Teacher Professional Development is a program by which teachers take their personal initiative to develop their own profession by working collaboratively with their colleagues rather than depending solely on workshops. In this competitive world, each and every professional is having a rat race in developing and refining themselves in order to give better yield than the others. Teaching is one of the many professions, in fact a very important profession which deals with shaping the students’ future. More than the other professions, teachers whom the students look up as “knowledge giver” of course have to develop their profession. I retrospect Mr. Meganathan, a professor at NCERT, New Delhi echoing during one of the workshops I attended “Stop teaching like the way you have been taught when you were students!” Likewise John Dewey said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of their tomorrow”. Very true! Books have changed, times have changed and most importantly students have changed. So, in order to teach in a new way we need to grow more professionally. The knowledge we had when we did teachers’ training course is insufficient to cater to the needs of the new students. So, we need to read more books related to pedagogy and children, which were already fulfilled by this project through providing books for the Teachers’ Reading corner in all the 11 pilot schools. A lot of developments have been taking place everywhere in everything especially in the teaching. As such through teacher professional development programs like this, teachers without relying much on the outside resource persons, come together and do collaborative practices such as forming lesson study groups, peer mentoring, lesson observation, co-teaching etc apart from these they can have subject matter book discussion groups, where there is no room for outside resource person and where teachers take ownership of their own professional growth. Such programs have to done on a regular basis.
Why Teacher Professional Development and its benefit
It was proved through researches that the quality of an education in a school reflects the quality of TPD and the effectiveness of the school leaders. Better the TPD, better the quality of education in a school. Researchers have found that a good education for a student revolves around the teachers, school and the parents. Out of these three, it is the teacher who plays very important role in the kind of education he or she gives to the students. As such, teachers need to grow professionally rich every year by learning new things as John Cotton Dana puts, “Who dares to teach, must never cease to learn”. By taking part in TPD program such as collaborative practices, it will give the teacher a chance to learn new methods and strategies of teaching from one another which will eventually affect his/her teaching. A teacher with 20 years’ service for example, if he or she did not bring any change in the teaching, it is same as one year experience repeated 20 times! So, the kind of education a teacher gives to his/her student hugely depends on how much he or she has grown professionally. So, teacher professional development is indispensable for the improvement of education quality. Paradoxically, all the schools and the nation aspire for better education system.
Having realized the important role TPD takes place in giving a quality education, which everybody wants though, all the stake holders need to be mentally prepared for some small changes and without drawing any conclusion. Generally any change especially towards a productive result, is something that get on everyone’s nerve without realizing that gradually with the passage of time, especially when you really get the taste, it gets into your routine completely and you don’t feel it at all! Having worked as teacher for a long time, I have undergone the same phase whenever a new program comes. Through this TPD, we need to work collaboratively to make our teaching more effective and refine. Keeping aside all our personal liking or disliking and our own created walls, we need to work collaboratively once a week or a month on a) and prepare a lesson plan or b) demonstrate a lesson, or c) have post teaching discussion and feedback session or d) rewrite some previous lesson plans. As I have said earlier, it will be uncomfortable especially if you have not done this before but I bet everything will be so enjoyable and fun once you carry on. It is now almost 4 months since this program has been implemented in the 11 pilot schools; 6 TCV Schools, 3 Sambhota schools and 2 Tibetan Homes Foundation schools and the way the collaborative practices are going is highly commendable although there is no limit for success. So, it is important for each and every teacher to take serious part in such collaborative practices to develop professionally which ultimately affect the student’s education. And the schools heads need to give priority to this teacher professional development program and give support and guidance from time to time.
To sum up everything here, the teacher development programs which are being carried out in the schools in various degrees need to be treated with top priority by the teachers and the school heads keeping in mind the fact that the quality of education is directly proportional to the quality of teacher professional development and the effectiveness of the school heads. The collaborative work of two or more teachers is far better, effective and refined than that of a single teacher. Let us all be ready to incorporate this little indispensable change in our daily profession for the good of our future generation. Let us all sail together and drown together but let us not give up this positive endeavor we have already begun. I remember a quote from Robin Sharma which says, “Who will cry when you die”. While working whatever and wherever, we need to do it in such a way that everybody misses you and literally cry when you die or leave and that will be the most satisfaction part of your life. Together we can and will take this TPD to the height we all have been aspiring for.
Tenzin Dhargyal Tibet Education Project Specialist The Tibet Fund, Dharamsala