Teachers and the Law

They inspire you, they entertain you, and you end up learning a ton even when you don’t know it

While growing up from a small kid to a young responsible child, one name that follows us throughout the way is “Teacher”. They not only follow us but also help us to walk through the difficulties we face while walking through the difficult road of life. Teachers play an extraordinary part in the lives of children for the formative years of their development. The importance of teachers is something that cannot be pen down on a piece of paper. Their influence puts a strong imprint on our lives that can stretch on long after the final bell rings, beyond the four walls of the school. The role of the teacher is complex, far beyond what people would assume as just someone who teaches what is mandated by law from the rule book of India.

 

Duties and Responsibilities of the Teachers

Today, the world of teaching has changed drastically. But the main essence in the teaching profession has remained the same; a teacher should be always the one who can be a good leader and an orator. There are newer pedagogies and better technologies that help a teacher work towards making classes entertaining and creative. Children are innovative thinkers who shouldn’t be shackled to rote learning. It is important for the teacher to facilitate this creative process of learning instead of simply being just another run-of-the-mill teacher. There are innovative methods of teaching that are available at hand and one should be curious enough to use them. The responsibilities and duties of teachers must parallel the needs and the creative minds of children. Some of the most common duties of teachers involve facilitation, enrichment, and mentoring. Teachers also have the added responsibility of understanding the ever-growing and the animated mind of a child. Teachers are expected to demonstrate interpersonal skills with children and their parents. Scroll down to know more about the responsibilities and duties of teachers towards students.

 

 
Let’s peep into some of the crucial roles of a teacher in our life…

Sometimes as a Mentor:
Teachers are like mentors to the students. A person, who provides information, guides and acts as a role model for his/her mentee. ‘Mentoring’, is one of the most important duties of a teacher, fostering and allowing the child to grow intellectually in his/her own space. The teacher should conquer her/himself in creating a comfortable zone for the student.

As a Role Model:
Teachers are an inherent part of a student’s life. A teacher has to be a role model at all times. This obviously includes, exhibiting the right behaviour in class, poised body language and also in terms of the content being taught. As a role model, a teacher must respect others and correct student’s behaviour when necessary.

A teacher is someone who also works effectively as a Facilitator:

  • Evaluate the students to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Find out if the students are willingto learn and estimate their individual learning styles.
  • Managing the classroom and device strategies will help incorporate the different styles of learning.
  • The process must be evaluated through revision of student assessments and at the end, a final assessment will show if the students have achieved their goal.
  • Responsibilities
  • Organize and plan lessons. Where one student can feel free to interact with the teacher and also can evaluate his/her skills
  • A teacher must prepare her/himself before coming to the class as the students and must keep resources ready for the classroom.
  • Study the subject matter and keep yourself abreast with current issues to discuss in class.
  • Be present for parent teacher meetings, and communicate with the families of the students openly and honestly.
  • Attend seminars and classes on professional development pertaining to the field of teaching.
  • Be cheerful and always make sure your students are too! The key to a successful classroom environment is based on the teacher’s attitude and persona.
  • Being a teacher is hard work. It is important to be the best at what you do, because as teachers, you shape the lives of students and influence them. Always remember that what you do will have an effect on the children around you. To be a teacher, you must love the profession. Keep in mind the roles and responsibilities of being and teacher and don’t let your students down.

                            Life is its own education, with formal schooling playing only a small fraction. However, that does not undermine the role of the teacher. Those who sit in the class room have a good bit of influence of shaping the minds of the future.

Teachers are like the pot makers, they mould the soft mind of the child and shape the youth of today to be the pillars of the society for tomorrow.

 

Teachers are someone who is just like our third parent, being firm but fair. Blessed with enough patience to handle our small creepy activities but also unable to be able to back down. Teachers need to be someone that children respect enough to listen to and to not fear that they can go with, for their problems, should the situation come up.

 

Also, teachers are mediators, able to hash out and make those who are having an argument have some kind of common ground. Anyone can really just punish the two parties and be done with it, but there will be no lessons that will be learned from that. If a teacher is able to figure out what has happened and help develop understanding, then the youth will be far better off.

 

The best teachers are far more than just reciting dry facts and assigning huge piles of homework. They are those who help shape the children to be the best that they can be and it takes a special person to do that.

 

What are the legal rightsthat bound the world of a Teacher in India??

 

Well, we hear often enough about the high expectations we have of teachers and the difficulties they face in terms of working conditions, compensation and resources available to do their job. We also hear about teachers’ strikes and the associated demands made by unionised teacher groups. While government teachers do have some form of recourse to speak up for their rights, teachers in the private sector are usually not adequately informed nor have access to means of demanding redressal of grievances. This article outlines some of the rights and legal provisions available to teachers. While the wide variation across teaching contexts and situations makes it difficult for any uniform application of legal or professional policies, teachers can take the first step to change by staying informed.

 

In October 2008, a teacher with work experience of nine years was offered a salary of Rs. 3,000/- per month by a city school, an amount that is probably less than what she would have spent on conveyance had she accepted the job. How can legal pillars of India judge the capability of a Teacher’s job with such a narrow perspective?

 

Let’s take anotherinstance when a school teacher was subjected to disciplinary action by the school management, for raising her voice at a student who was misbehaving in the class.Interestingly, there are about 38 Supreme Court judgments reported in Judis (Judgment Information Centre) on issues relating to teachers from January to August 2008. In All India Reporter, another database for court judgments, in 2007, about 21 Supreme Court judgments on teachers’ issues have been reported. Similarly, in the year 2006 it was 16, in 2005, 21, in 2004, 20 and so on. A miniscule number, one may say, compared to the total number of cases decided and reported every year. However, these cases only reinforce the growing discontent among the declining number of professionals taking to teaching.

 

No wonder, then, as noted by Mohammad Akhtar Siddiqui, Chairperson, National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), in a recent media report, “There’s a shortage of three lakh teachers at the elementary level in India”. The situation at the higher education level is no better. The reasons, he believes are that “we give our teachers authority and responsibility but not autonomy to experiment and innovate”.

Under these circumstances, with the ever increasing demands/expectations from students/parents/management and the society on the one hand and an unequal rather mismatched reward mechanism in terms of status and economic compensation on the other, is it not apt for teachers to, at the least, be cognizant of their rights that go hand in hand with their responsibilities, if not fight for them?

 

In fact, the government at various levels, some NGOs and many organisations such as the Jan Shiksha Adhiniyam are working jointly and/or independently towards ensuring the enjoyment of rights by teachers. Yet, unless the efforts at individual institution level are strengthened, a perceivable change cannot be brought about.

 

It is imperative that teachers are made aware of their basic rights even as a host of responsibilities are thrust on them. Some of these rights are listed below:

 

  1. Teachers cannot be deputed for non-teaching tasks except with explicit orders of Government so as to provide them with more time to focus on improving the quality of education.
  2. Teachers have the right for their professional development.
  3. Teachers, though governed by the rules of the organisation they work for, have full freedom to enjoy their fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression bestowed on them by the Constitution of India.
  4. Dress codes such as sari cannot be forced upon women teachers. As long as they are decently dressed, it should suffice.
  5. Minimum salary, as prescribed by the board to which the educational institute is affiliated to, has to be paid to the teacher.
  6. Teachers cannot be subjected to racial/gender discrimination at the work place.
  7. Teachers cannot be forced to practice, advocate a certain religion.
  8. Teachers have a right to form unions/associations and put forth their requirements before the authorities concerned.
  9. Teachers have a right to security of tenure (subject to contractual conditions).
  10. Teachers have a right against sexual harassment at their work place.
  11. Teachers have a right to human rights education.
  12. Teachers have right to privacy, or to keep one’s image and likeness from being exploited without permission or contractual compensation.
  13. Teachers have a right to publicity/use of one’s identity.
  14. Teachers have a right to attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously and the right to the integrity of the work (i.e. it cannot be distorted or otherwise mutilated).

 

It is pertinent to note that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) framed recommendations, back in 1966, on improving the status of teachers in India by equipping them with adequate knowledge of their rights and responsibilities.

 

While it may be not be justified to say that the spirit and letter of the ILO recommendations have not been incorporated by the National Policy of Education, 1986, yet there is indisputably a lot more left to be done in terms of actual practice and implementation. This is evident from the fact that even today, according to a recent study; at least 50 per cent of the Indian teachers do not have access to information pertaining to their rights, leave alone demanding/putting forth their ideas.

Amidst this, at another, very theoretical level, some purists profess that responsibilities of a teacher alone need constant scrutiny and more stress, citing Abraham Lincoln’s (the sixteenth President of the United States) famous letter to the headmaster of his son’s school extracted below, which is certainly as relevant today as it was then:

 

“…teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found… In school, teach him it is far more honourable to fall than to cheat… Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through… Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. This is a big order but see what you can do…”

 

However, are these responsibilities, by being a tall order in themselves, not an adequate reason for a teacher to be provided with proportionate rights? In the contemporary context, it is perhaps superfluous to emphasise that the responsibilities of a teacher without parallel and proportionate rights are akin to a coin with just one side, an unthinkable proposition, to say the least, in common parlance and definitely a perceptible wrong liable to penal action in legal parlance.

 

Well that’s not the end of a teacher’s life and their autobiography. A teachers’ role in our life is far beyond the lines where we can draw a rough sketch of their duties and skills that somewhere and somehow remains immortal in our life throughout the days we survive.

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