For the last sixteen years, Surender Singh, a primary teacher at a North Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) school in Adarsh Nagar has been dedicating an extra hour post-school so that his students can participate in national level competitions, pass state-level entrance examinations and get scholarships.
So far, he has helped close to 166 students from marginalised families clear the entrance test of Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas — exclusive resource-rich schools run by the Delhi government. In addition to that, 323 of his students (from class IV and V) have won merit scholarships from the MCD in the last ten years.
Surender’s unique teaching methods and exemplary efforts — that have also resulted in an overall increase in school attendance — have not gone unnoticed. He is among the 47 teachers from across the country, who has been selected for the National Teachers’ Award in 2020.
Confirming the news to The Better India, Ira Sehgal, Deputy Commissioner of MCD says, “We are very proud of Surender and his selfless efforts and certainly want other teachers to follow his example. We are experimenting with innovative ways to teach in all our North MCD schools.”
Surender’s teaching conditions are no different from other government school teachers who are overworked and underpaid, and sometimes have to wait for months to receive their salary. In addition to that, they have to teach their students in an environment where benches, stationery, books and basic classroom infrastructure is considered to be a luxury.
Even so, Surender has soldiered on and diligently done his job. In fact, he even declined a promotion that would have made him a Trained Graduate Teacher (TGT).
“The primary stage is extremely crucial for every student and teacher, and this is when they can be moulded. This stage sets the foundation for how well they learn in their later years, and if the foundation is strong, there is nothing that can stop them from achieving their goals. Of course, the resources in a government school are fewer than a private one but why should a child suffer?” Surender tells The Better India.
Teaching Methods That Stand Out
When asked about his teaching methods, Surender recalls an incident from a few years ago, when he heard a boy studying in Class 3, singing an unpleasant Hindi song. While other teachers would have reprimanded the boy, he tried to understand how the boy learnt and remembered the lyrics.
“He taught me how children can easily and quickly pick up songs and poems. So I started teaching math formulas, history lessons and complicated science chapters by breaking them into poems. It not only made the teaching interesting but also easier for students to remember,” informs Surender.
In order to promote a healthy classroom environment, he assured the students that no one will be judged for asking any questions and giving incorrect answers. The door of curiosity should always be open, he says.
Surender believes that learning from students is also a vital method to develop relations with them. For example, when one of his students asked him who invented the parachute when he was teaching them how to make one using paper, Surender did not shy away from confessing that he did not know. The next day, he got the information and thanked the student for enlightening him and the others.
“Louis-Sébastien Lenormand’s invention is still etched in my memory,” he mentions.
Surender maintains a file for each student to track their progress and work on their weaknesses accordingly. During the Parent-Teacher Meetings, Surender presents this to the parents and tells them how education is changing their child, “I assure them that their kids are bright and if they study well, they can build a good career. This simple assurance encourages them to send their kids to school regularly.”
He has also pinned a sheet of paper with parents’ contact details next to the board so that if the student is missing, he can quickly dial their numbers to find out the problem.
For over a decade, Surender has been striving hard for all-round development of students that belong to marginalised families without expecting anything in return. He is silently changing the perception of people towards government schools and is proving how the right teacher can bring about a huge difference in a child’s growth.
Edited by Gayatri Mishra