FaculTea with Prof. Sheetal Kapoor of Army Law School, Mohali: Teaching via Movies and Chronic Optimism

Army Law School, Mohali’s Campus Manager, Shreya Vajpei ran after her College Professor, Sheetal Kapoor for the FaculTea (tea with faculty).

Madam is an Assistant Professor at Army Institute of Law, Mohali and deals with English and History.

She looks for innovative ways of pedagogy. She has introduced films, group discussions, oration etc. in her teaching process.

Lawctopus’ is publishing FaculTeas not for the literary or creative merit, but to capture what, why and how the legal faculty in India today thinks.

Hello Madam. Tell us something about yourself?

I have done my MPhil and Masters in English from the prestigious Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University.

I am currently pursuing my Doctoral Research in Film Studies with special emphasis on Hindi Cinema. Apart from this, I also did an NFAI and FTII certified Film Course.

I have a teaching experience of around six years during which I have had the opportunity of interacting not only with the student community but also with the best in this profession.

It has been a thoroughly enriching experience and has gone on to chisel my own personality.

Describe your childhood in brief? Your sources of inspiration i.e. your driving forces?

Having been born and brought up in ‘City Beautiful’- Chandigarh, my childhood was spent in the care and guidance of my parents. I remember my mother spending quality time with me inculcating good values.

I also remember my father doing the same by way of interesting stories of brave girls who took every challenge of life head-on.  They have always been my source of inspiration.

I also have fond memories of my school- Sacred Heart Convent where we had the chance of exploring a plethora of opportunities and honing our talents and also turning naughty at times!

What made you choose this career line? Any particular people who inspired you to enter the revered teaching profession?

One of the main reasons why I chose this career is that teaching is a noble profession, as I have already mentioned.

When you share such knowledge with your pupils, there are several new dimensions added further to it, thus enriching you and also enlightening you.

Honestly, teaching was never my natural calling. My family has been my greatest source of inspiration for taking this up as a career choice and after having been six years into it, I do feel that I have made the right decision.

How was your college life like? What bent you towards Humanities?

My college life again was very fruitful and an elevating experience. I did my Higher Secondary in Humanities and wanted to pursue the same in college when a sudden shift in interest made me choose Business Administration instead and I did BBA (Bachelors of Business Administration).

Juggling with Mathematics and Accounts was not easy for me. I far too much missed my favorite authors and poets who had introduced me to a whole new world of stirring and ennobling ideas, with the result that I did not pursue it at the Masters level.

But I must admit that  constantly practising Maths and Accounts did sharpen my mental faculties, even though we managed to bunk a few lectures at times for our favourite ‘chaat-bhalla- papdi’ corner!

We also managed to make frequent trips to Sukhna Lake to capture the migratory birds in our cameras and then off to CCD for a cup of coffee.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What incidents do you perceive as your failures?

My strengths include my chronic optimism which keeps me hopeful even in the most trying of circumstances and my ability to take up initiatives, endeavoring to meet new challenges.

Completion of projects within the stipulated time makes me ignore my health which is not a good thing to do in the long run and this, I believe, is one of my weaknesses.

Similarly, I expect results to show up immediately and therefore get impatient forgetting that patience is always rewarding. This is another weakness of mine that I feel needs to be worked upon. There are no specific instances that I would regard as my failures, for each time I only realized ‘I had just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

What strategies did you use to be successful in college?

Being honest and working hard were the only strategies (if they could be called one) that I ever employed to be successful.

Was the college that you attended like Army Institute of Law? How was it different?

My College was different from the present one where I teach (Army Institute of Law), to the effect that it was a multi-disciplinary organization with different blocs for different streams and the students were constantly competing with each other which also brought out the best in them.

There were different fests organized by different departments like that of Psychology. Since the subject interests me, we often found ourselves in the midst of erudite personalities, gaining from their knowledge.

Moreover, the campus was bigger and even if we bunked a few classes to attend seminars in other departments, or strolling in the gardens, basking in the sun, we were never caught.

What do you like best about teaching at Army Institute of Law?

Most of the students at the Army Institute of Law are wards of army personnel.

Having lived their lives all across the country and sometimes in the most difficult terrains and the most trying of circumstances, some of them have developed a level of understanding and maturity that other are blessed with much later in life.

Interacting with such mature minds is a pleasurable and a delightful experience.

What is the best thing about being an Assistant Professor? And what’s the worst?

The Best thing about being a Professor is the constant amplification of one’s knowledge bank that comes with the dissemination and discussion of ideas with the student community and the satisfaction you attain when you are able to convince everybody with the notion that the ‘word is more powerful than the sword.’

Describe your teaching style. How do you define good teaching?

It has been my personal life objective to infuse creative and innovative techniques into this noble profession of teaching making it fun oriented and lasting.

Therefore I believe in engaging the students’ attention by teaching them with audio/visual aids and also by showing them relevant films since I believe films are a powerful medium of communication and teaching as well.

According to me, good teaching is possible if there is dedication of the teacher to her/his subject. Moreover, involvement of the students through discussions to enable a better understanding among all students is imperative.

To bring out the best in all the students, developing their complete personalities is also what should characterize effective teaching.

What are your current research interests? Have you involved your students in your research?

As mentioned earlier my current research interests focus primarily on film studies.

I believe films are a potent medium for the edification of the masses while at the same time shattering some of the most stifling of stereotypes, particularly of women.

I do attempt to involve my students in this endeavor of mine by screening films and having discussions on them.

How do you like today’s students? How were the students in your time? What’s the difference (good and bad)?

Students are very tech-savvy and inquisitive. Belonging to a relatively younger lot of teachers, I would not be able bring out a comparison.

Some more years of experience would better enable me bring out the comparison.

Do you think students should behave with the professors like friends, or is it necessary to maintain a disciplined environment to create a good classroom environment?

A healthy camaraderie between the teacher and the pupil is essential for a better understanding. But at the same time there should be mutual respect and reverence to facilitate learning.

What is the worst part of being a professor?

The worst part about being a Professor is that since the job carries with it immense responsibility, there are huge expectations from you. Even a minute error somewhere will not make people validate the notion, ‘to err is human’.

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