Mohona Thakur, Campus Manager from ILS Law College Pune hosted an interview with her Professor for the FaculTea (tea with FaculTea) series started by us.
The first part is HERE.
Describe your teaching style. What according to you do you think makes you an effective teacher?
My teaching style is easy. I do not teach prescriptive grammar making grammar more complicated but use the inductive approach where students discover rules.
Examples are not drawn from traditional grammar books but from day to day reading as in newspapers. I prepare students not only for the exams, but also make them apply what they learn in the long run.
My classes are more interactive especially when we have communication sessions where there is literally a thought shower and the encouraging aspect is that I ensure that every student expresses his/her opinion on the topic debated, making students who earlier at school had never spoken, open up and make him/her realize that they have the ability to speak.
You must ask my students what makes me an effective teacher but from feed backs that I receive, students feel that I am approachable and that I am neither a tyrant nor a marshmallow.
They feel that I make learning fun and interesting; inspire and motivate them to be ethically upright.
How important a role do you think English as a language plays in a lawyers career?
Law is a communicative profession and to write well is to communicate well. If someone uses improper grammar, you begin to think, maybe the person isn’t as careful about his or her work, as he or she should be .
Some think that silly punctuation rules aren’t important, comprehension is a mundane exercise, tenses are teasers and grammar on the whole: boring.
Therefore among many examples, I tell them the cautionary tale of the itty-bitty comma that made a big difference in a Canadian court, popularly known as the world’s most expensive comma. (Ed: See HERE).
And, for better or worse, at the end of the law course, people judge you if you cannot use words like ‘hanged’ and ‘hung’ appropriately or use wrong prepositions like convicted ‘from’ instead of convicted ‘of‘, mess up with tenses, mismatch the subject and the verb and are not able to frame questions properly during interrogation.
Lawyers have a professional obligation to cultivate their writing skills. Apart from a strong legal acumen, corporate houses look for strong written and communication skills that could potentially save them from incurring massive legal costs in lawsuits.
How would you incorporate technology in your classroom?
I do not carry worn out note books but use an iPad to organize all my class notes. This has made it easier to update notes and keep track of the latest developments in linguistics through various applications that an iPad offers. The classrooms are WiFi enabled.
Apart from this it is difficult to use technology in the classroom all the time since not all classrooms are tech- ready. One has to set up tools in every classroom to use them.
What is your philosophy of education?
As an educator I want to wake up each morning knowing that I will be affecting lives and sleep well hoping that I have done it the right way.
My philosophy of education is just simple: Each student is special, talented and has potential. It is the teacher’s duty to awaken their potential, motivate and guide them to achieve — spur them & let them run at their own pace and never quit. They must know how to respect their classmates and be good human beings first.
What experience have you had with students from culturally diverse backgrounds?
I am truly blessed to have met students from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Some attend class for the sake of attendance but others make it a point to share a word, a poem, essay or their travelogues. I find ILS a beautifully woven tapestry.
How do you like today’s students? How were the students in your time? What’s the difference (good and bad)?
Today’s students are indeed very intelligent and more well informed with easy access to more information unlike the students back then but have too many distractions that keep them unfocused.
Students in my time had no Facebook to keep them glued for hours updating their statuses every minute, cellphones to keep messaging even in class during lectures.
I ask them whether they are traders checking on price of shares or stocks every second. Neither was smoking, drinking and partying very rampant. I feel that students should know where to draw the line.
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?
As a teacher I wear many hats.
I am a no-nonsense professor when I profess and need to maintain discipline and decorum in the classroom, a mother when I advise and a friend once I am out of the classroom.
The relationship ought to be healthy and balanced.
When students say that they want their teacher to be fair, what do you think they mean?
In the classroom a teacher should make every student feel that he/she is important and not play favorites. Sometimes, students feel that they don’t get what they deserve, especially when it comes to results of exam assessments.
But I try to encourage them to focus on the big picture and continue to work hard and stay positive.
How do you develop self esteem in your students?
Encourage – Connect – Praise – Inspire.
Connect with them and they will feel that they are being noticed. Tap their talent. Encourage them to pursue what they are good at and tell them that no one is stupid and they have to learn to love themselves. Inspire them with real life stories of how some have risen above in spite of their adversities and turned successful.
What do you most value in a student?
Honesty, down to earth attitude and willingness to help their classmates more than being toppers.
What do you think is wrong with public education today?
Education today has become learning by rote, regurgitating without comprehending or analyzing, in examinations held perhaps twice a year.
The assessment should be continuous. Education is too theory-based. Communication skills should be a subsidiary subject for all. This will enable them to articulate the knowledge that they have acquired, during interviews.
Students cannot be blamed if they are not found employable due to lack of soft skills. Compulsory value- based education should be introduced in the first year where they could be advised on moral and personal development.
Describe an outstanding teacher. What do you think makes this educator outstanding?
An outstanding teacher never stops learning to be a better teacher.
It makes a difference if a teacher can focus on how to distinguish between what does he/she want his/her students to learn as opposed to what he/she wants to teach. Unfortunately we have a conventional syllabus focusing on material but the logic of the course should follow the teacher’s sense of intellectual coherence.
One linguist who has inspired me is Professor Leo Van Lier whose lectures I have listened to. He saw language not as an object (a set of grammar rules, vocabulary), but as a form of human action.
In addition, he believed in form-focused teaching that could also be conducted in an action-based manner.