Introduction Some fifteen years ago, a Hindi lady teacher in a Government-aided private school in Chennai was murdered in the classroom, right in the morning hours by a student who wanted to take revenge on the teacher for "being very strict". The incident received national attention. Since the boy was only a minor, he was sent to a reform home.
The incident was a chilling reminder of the new set of problems teachers face. There were big debates on the need for trained counselors to be appointed in all schools. When the dust died down, the entire episode was totally forgotten and a few private schools do have trained counselors, who work mostly on a few days of the week and do the counseling for certain maladjusted children. Yet, the need is now more acute and all teachers need to be trained on the basics of counseling techniques, as it were.
In the main, the most relevant and imperative training programs for teachers are a) Psychology-related training programs b) Domain-related training programs c) Training related to different careers d) Training of an inter-disciplinary nature and e) Training to impart right values.
Psychology-related training programs The most appropriate training programs for both school and college teachers are Communication Skills and Presentation Skills. For instance, there are issues related to the body language of teachers. There are some teachers who have what is called the halo effect. This simply means that he or she likes a particular student for whatever reason and goes on pampering that particular student or some students. This might lead to serious issues like jealousy and even hatred of the particular student by others in the class. Only a good program on Communication Skills, with enough inputs on self-awareness as well, will do the trick. Normally, trained behavioral experts conduct this program for two days. The one on Presentation Skills would take the teacher through the nuances of PowerPoint presentations as these presentations are becoming part and parcel of a teacher's job, even in schools. In all arts and science colleges, this should become a norm and the teachers should use Powerpoint presentations in a big way. This is important for two reasons. The first reason is that such presentations can be easily saved and used at any point in time.
The second reason is that it increases the competence of the teacher to really condense the entire subject matter in a few bullet points and make that easily understandable by the students. In fact, this is the only major method followed in most branded B-schools across the country. Here, knowledge is limitless. It keeps on changing every single day. For example, if one were to study the global economic impact of COVID-19, the student or the teacher has to necessarily collect a good amount of data from various sources and then correlate the data to some collective whole. Even this is an attitude and mindset change. The aforesaid two training programs should also be combined with ones on elf-awareness and change management and for this, there are too many modules, perfected by the industry experts. In particular, it is reported that Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School and the Sboa Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Chennai, offer these kinds of programs. Quite obviously, these two schools regularly report toppers in the public examinations. This apart, there is an urgent need to train all teachers in the basics of counseling. Schools could also sponsor just one teacher to do a relevant course through distance education from some recognized university, as this would enable the school to have one in-house resource at any point in time.
Domain-related training programs The easiest method is to regularly sponsor both senior school teachers and college teachers to the International Conferences conducted by many Universities. In Chennai, the deemed universities compete with each other to organize such conferences and the Sathyabama University, in particular, is a leader in this respect. In 2019, it had organized two International Conferences. The first International Conference on Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation Management on the 1`2&14th of September 2019. The second International Conference on Recent Advances in Communication, Energy&Sciences was organized between the 13th and 15th of November, 2019.
Just imagine a situation when a senior teacher of social sciences attended the first international conference. He or she would come back with substantial knowledge of Intellectual Property Rights. The imperative need is to impart the basics of such knowledge to the plus one students. It could happen that the student may even develop a good aptitude for such a course and career and follow it up very seriously. Regarding the second international conference, it will be relevant for any teacher of physics, who should be charged with the responsibility of sharing all the knowledge with students and other relevant teachers. In engineering and even arts and science colleges, it is extremely essential that we start imparting such knowledge and the teachers with the relevant domain knowledge gathered through interactions with both industry experts and the leading academicians, can help a great deal.
Training related to different careers Attending career fairs conducted in the metro cities can help a great deal. There is one incorrect perception among several hundreds of teachers that it is fine to leave everything to the placement department and relax. This is a short-sighted view. The individual teacher has to act like a friend, philosopher, and guide. He or she needs to be more oriented towards advising the individual student on different careers, based on his or her latent talent. Such inputs will obviously be beyond the reach of the placement officers, whose main natural obsession is to attract any industry to the campus, through hook or crook. This is perfectly fine for the college, but the students do not sometimes get the kind of jobs that match their innate potential.
In today's conditions, with the great unemployment scenario anywhere in the world. it might seem a utopian idea to enable the teacher to act as a friend, philosopher, and guide. This is a myth. Once the drugs or vaccine is invented and COVID becomes history, the need for the individual to express himself or herself will start emerging again. There are too many good courses in a variety of disciplines within India, and many abroad as well. The students need to be exposed to all possibilities. Even in November 202o or in early 2021, the career fairs will happen. The teachers need to be sponsored to attend such career fairs and come back with all the knowledge and then impart the same to all students, be that in schools or colleges.
Training of an inter-disciplinary nature Mahatma Gandhi's ideas on most economic and social issues could and should interest students in both economics and sociology. If any teacher in a good college is able to do serious research on such thoughts and conduct a training program for other teachers in the local colleges, that should be encouraged. Seminars, Conferences, and Workshops can also be organized on such topics. The recent advances in Biotechnology are relevant not only for the teachers of this discipline but for teachers of bioinformatics and chemistry, for example. The list is endless. Every single opportunity should be utilized to train teachers of schools and colleges on such knowledge, which is always inter-disciplinary in nature.
Training to impart right values It is not merely moral instruction. Tamil teachers in the prestigious St. Joseph's College at Tiruchirapalli regularly draw references to moral values that can be distilled from epics such as Silapthikaram, Ramayanam, Mahabharatham, and so on, and even physics and chemistry teachers often do so. They just do not speak only about the Bible or Jesus Christ. The teachers are always taught to talk about moral values. It is the pride of Tamil Nadu and tops the list among non-Chennai arts and science colleges for its academic rigor and excellence. I personally know about this college, as an old student of this college. The training comes as part of the ecosystem in the college. Such practices should be taught to all teachers, pan-India, and this is an urgent necessity.
Conclusion Some possibilities of training, based on real-world reports and events in academic settings, as also observations made by experts, have been discussed above in some detail. Perhaps the UGC and the Universities need to have a fresh look on the nitty-gritty and evolve suitable training packages at every level.