Reflecting upon the Mentor Teacher Program...

Reflecting upon the Mentor Teacher Program...

Posted on: Sun, 05/05/2024 - 13:10 By: admin


                                           Reflecting upon the Mentor Teacher Program...


Let’s locate its origin in the policy framework


The Report of the National Commission on Teachers (1983-85) recommended that strategies used for in-service education must be ‘imaginative, bold and varied”. It further states that “the most effective among them are the services organised through the school complex. The idea of school complex…put forward by the Kothari Commission…intends to link primary and secondary schools with a view to pulling resources and including the educational process.” The Commission mooted the idea of Teachers’ Centres that could function as “…a meeting place for teachers located in a school that has resources that it would like to share with others…it is a forum where workshops of very practical nature are organised for teachers of all faculties and of all levels; it pools in the talent of all teachers of various schools who act as resource personnel for centers’ workshops and it arranges book fairs.” What teachers need most “…is a change in the climate of schools, an atmosphere conducive to educational research and enquiry (NCERT, 2006)


Can we locate its root in the recommended policies in India? The Mentor Teacher program is about agency and autonomy. With agency and autonomy, one can only count the innovations it produced, and that needs to be carefully recorded, not just the attendance and whereabouts. All the programs that we could develop, because the MT program created an ecosystem. All of us, 250 at present, and around the same number of people who have returned to the school, have contributed tremendously to creating this ecosystem. And this ecosystem has created the positive results that have been reported by several media houses at national and international levels. It’s time to own it. It’s we, the mentor teachers, who have made it possible to ideate, design, and implement all the major curricular interventions in our schools, including the media fame, Business Blaster. It’s we, the mentor teachers, who have shaped the DBSE. Together, we have created hope and aspirations. We have set the standards. For the last eight years, we have been the key resource persons at SCERT, which has driven its training programs. Name a field of innovation, and see the role of the Mentors. We have been able to do all these things just because we were trusted and given autonomy. 


The program has created in-house academic leaders in the DoE. Otherwise, in most of the system, we have reduced teachers to a status where they are expected to act upon, not to think upon. The MT program has invested in teacher-leaders who can think upon the crucial questions related to teaching and learning. Otherwise, traditionally, teacher leadership was limited to activism for ensuring welfare measures, and traditionally organised unions continue to do so. What they do is crucial, but what MTs have developed is the need of the hour, as a Dutch teacher, Jelmer, has discussed in his book, "Flip the System." Teacher Leaders also have to own the responsibility for pedagogic and curricular change, and through this program, we have actually owned it. All of us face this question, "Madam/Sir, aap ye padha kar dikhao," and we do it. Once in school, we are always ready to demonstrate how innovation can be practised in the classroom.


On the question of class mein bachchon ko nahi padhate hain


It truly creates a dilemma. Teachers have been strongly framed with classroom work, and it seems unimaginable to see them in the role of mentoring, which requires research and innovations. In every good organisation, a small unit is created for research and development. Michael Fullan, in his book "The Culture of Change," argues that all leading organisations have systems to learn from their operations; they observe, document, and analyse their own functioning, and thus find innovative ways to become more efficient. Unfortunately, learning organisations such as schools have long been ignoring it; they don’t learn from their internal functioning. I see this MT program as a mechanism that is helping organisations learn from their internal functioning. And like if you want to study a procession, you have to come out of it, stand aside on an elevated surface then only you can see the stretch of the procession, expression of the people, and can listen to what they chant. As long as you are a part of it, you can’t see the procession in its totality. That’s how I see the MT program; temporarily, teachers come out of the procession and are standing on an elevated surface to see the procession of which they were a part. They gain invaluable ढूंढ लूंगाinsights, which not only have the potential to transform them personally but their insights also bring great inputs for the organisations. Let’s see what renowned physicist Prof. H.C Verma said in one of his recent interviews, when he was asked what he would do if he was made the education minister and given the free hand. He said 


“ मैं पहले तो ढूंढ लूंगा कौन से ऐसे शिक्षक हैं जिनको शिक्षा की ठीक समझ है। फिर मैं उन्हें उनकी जॉब से छुट्टी दिलाऊंगा। उनका एक ही काम होगा - दूसरे टीचर्स को अपने साथ इन्टर्न  बना कर रखना और उनको ट्रेन अप करना । क्योंकि यह एक विलुप्त होती हुई प्रजाति है। यह शिक्षक जो शिक्षा को समझते हैं, प्रेजेंटेशन करना जानते हैं, विद्यार्थियों के साथ संवाद स्थापित कर सकते हैं, और उनका सम्मान दे सकते हैं। विद्यार्थियों को भी सम्मान दे सकते हैं और उनके अनुसार अपनी डिलीवरी करके विद्यार्थियों के अंदर की जो आंतरिक शक्तियां हैं, उसको बाहर निकाल सकते हैं। वह थॉट, यह फार्मूला याद कर लो, वह फार्मूला याद कर लो, यह शिक्षा थोड़ी न है , उनकी जो आंतरिक शक्तियां हैं, उसको बाहर निकलना। इसके लिए उन्हें समझना होगा कि उन बच्चों की आंतरिक शक्ति क्या है, उसके दिल में उतरना पड़ेगा। बड़ा विषय है! तो ऐसे रिसोर्स पर्सन, मैं एक अच्छा टीचर हो सकता हूं, लेकिन एक रिसोर्स पर्सन जो बाकी टीचर्स को ट्रेन कर सकें, एक बिल्कुल विलुप्त होती हुई प्रजाति है। एंडेंजर्ड स्पीशीज है, टीचर खुद ही एंडेंजर्ड स्पीशीज है। रिसोर्स पर्सन तो उससे भी ज्यादा! तो पहला  काम होगा कि मैं उन्हें ढूंढ लूंगा, फिर उन्हें कहूंगा कि वह पढ़ाना छोड़ें और अपने जैसे रिसोर्स पर्सन बनायें । और ऐसे रिसोर्स पर्सन की सेना बनाऊंगा , इसके आधार पर टीचर के अंदर शिक्षा की एक समझ विकसित  होगी, और फिर उसको आधार बनाकर करिकुलम और बाकी काम किया जा सकता है।” (2:41 to 2:52


(I will first search for those teachers who truly understand education. Then, I will provide them with leave from their jobs. Their sole responsibility will be to mentor other teachers by making them interns and training them. Because this is a dying breed, those teachers who understand education, can present, establish dialogue with students, and respect them. They can also respect the students and bring out their inner strengths through their delivery tailored to the students. Remember this formula or that formula is not education, it's about bringing out their inner strengths. For this, they need to understand what inner strength those children possess, it has to resonate with their hearts. It's a big subject! I can be a good teacher, but a resource person who can train other teachers is a completely endangered species. Endangered species, the teachers themselves are an endangered species. The resource person even more so! So the first task would be to find them, then ask them to stop teaching and create more resource persons like themselves. And I'll create an army of such resource persons, based on which an understanding of education within the teacher will develop, and then based on that, curriculum and other work can be done.)


Though Prof. Verma didn’t use the term 'mentor teacher,' isn’t he referring to the same concept? And as mentor teachers, aren’t we working on the same concept that Prof. Verma is advocating?


One of the important verticals of the MT program has been the personal growth of the Mentor teachers; however, once you are in public life, there is no sharp division, particularly teachers' personal growth is not personal; it’s always public. I have discussed it in one of my articles recently. For a moment, let’s accept that it leads to some personal growth. What’s the problem with it? We are 0.0038 percent (250/65000) of the total teaching staff of the department. It is not even one percent. It is believed that for good practice, a certain percentage, ideally two percent of staff, should always be engaged in Research and Innovation. A study suggests that a teacher impacts the lives of almost 10,000 students in their career. Even if we say that the program has led to the personal and professional growth of a mentor teacher, imagine its impact, 500 x 10,000 = 5,000,000. We 500 MTs will create a direct impact in the lives of 5 million children, quite a big number, isn’t it? That’s the bare minimum impact of this program; I am discounting upon the impact we are already creating in developing an ecosystem.


Each of us is setting the standards in a true sense! Once in school, a teacher has no choice but to think, likhna-padhna achcha kam hai! Inke jaisa padhana sikhna hoga! That’s what we want to convey. We don’t have positional authority, and fortunately, it doesn’t work also. What works is the non-positional authority where the presence of a person becomes a catalyst in inspiring someone to become a better teacher, and the MT program is doing it efficiently. Dr. B.P Pandey, the head of the Mentor teacher program is the classic example of the non-positional leadership.


It’s also a significant investment in the future leadership of the organisation: Each organisation prepares a cadre of leaders equipped with its ethics and values, often nurtured from within the system. Through investment in the capacity building of the MTs, the organisation has created a pool of potential future leaders. The results are already visible; from curriculum formation to teacher training, and from school administration to SCERT, we can see a significant number of MTs assuming leadership roles and proactively driving change. The advantage they bring lies in their intimate familiarity with the system; regardless of their current roles, they possess classroom teaching experience and continue to provide academic support to teachers by actively engaging with schools.


Previously, for tasks requiring expertise, we relied heavily on external experts, often from Teacher Training Institutes, Universities, NGOs, and similar organisations. While valuable, these experts frequently lacked direct classroom experience. Only a teacher involved in curriculum development truly understands the practical challenges. For instance, while experts may advocate group teaching methods, a teacher could highlight the logistical difficulties of implementing such methods in overcrowded classrooms. Teachers at the forefront offer invaluable insights that bridge the gap between classroom realities and policy design, enriching programs with contextual relevance.


Mentor teachers serve as the genuine voice of educators, playing a pivotal role in policy design and implementation. Unlike many external experts, mentors are deeply embedded in the system and face the consequences of their decisions daily. They are accountable to teachers, principals, students, and parents, responding to queries and defending policies they help shape. This accountability distinguishes them from other experts and ensures policies are grounded in practicality.


Their contribution to policy formation exemplifies accountability; mentors cannot evade responsibility for the policies they influence. In contrast, many external experts operate without such direct accountability, resulting in the persistence of gaps between educational policies and practices. Mentors, as stakeholders, not only contribute to policy development but also implement these policies in classrooms, ensuring their practicality and effectiveness. This program addresses the perennial question of who should participate in policy formulation. The answer lies in the cadre of Mentor teachers, embodying the expertise and experience necessary to bridge the gap between policy design and classroom realities.


How the future looks, let's once again look at the policy!


“National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in Para 15.11 aims to flourish a knowledge system by establishing a large pool of outstanding professionals, who would be willing to provide short-and-long-term professional support to school teachers. Working towards the attainment of the goals set by NEP 2020, NCTE has been assigned to develop and design the modalities for National Mission for Mentoring (NMM). Mentoring is a process for the informal/formal transmission of knowledge and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development. Mentoring gives rise to a collaborative agency for stakeholders where the community fosters the spirit of learning, reflection and sharing toward capacity building. The NMM portal encourages community engagement through forums, organizes mentoring events, and prioritizes user security. It aims to create a supportive environment, enhancing mentorship experiences and contributing to individual and collective growth.”( Overview, NMM website)


This program finds very strong recommendations in past policy frameworks and in the form of the National Mentoring Mission, as recommended in the NEP, we already see its all-India expansion. The future of educational reform lies in non-positional leadership, and the Mentor-Teacher program shows a path in this direction. For mentors, it has been a transforming journey; teachers have traditionally been reduced to what Foucault (1975) said: “He is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.” The Mentor-Teacher program has elevated teachers and made them the subject in communication. This brings professional honour, which is a fundamental requirement for all major reforms in education.