The Indian education system endows a great deal of respect on teachers. Do not question them. Do not defy them. Accept whatever they say as if it is the Holy Grail. They are given the status of God. They can do no wrong. After being subjected to such a mindset, which became especially difficult to handle in high school, it felt like a breath of fresh air to interact with some professors in JGU who at least attempt to depart from such an attitude.
One of my professors in the first semester always said “You are not supposed to behave like sponges anymore so don’t just absorb whatever I say Analyze everything. Then question it.” He did not want us to ever agree or disagree to any concept or ideology unless we had sound logic to back up our stand. This is an antithesis to how my school teachers approached teaching. With them, any kind of discussion inevitably ended with “Stop disturbing me with frivolous questions” or “Stop arguing with me”. Creative questioning was seen as a threat rather than a sign of a sharp mind.
Naturally, it was a happy surprise attending the first few classes here of professors who advocated the more open kind of teaching. They forced us to actually think. By think I do not mean recall, but formulate an informed opinion of why a certain thing happened, as opposed to simply when and where it happened. When was the last time a teacher had us do that in order to arrive at an answer? “Read. Memorize. Reproduce. Repeat” was a mantra that most teachers in my school supported and suggested us to follow, if we wanted to make it to our dream colleges with sky-high cut offs.
I have been fortunate enough to be taught by some amazing faculty members. Even though a particular topic might have been as interesting as a dismal bowl of mess food, we are expected to debate and maybe counter what the professor says and not merely jot it down, thus resulting in the development of critical thinking skills. The professors really engage us here.
In both my semesters, English was taught in an engaging manner. “What did the author mean….?” is a common question but the difference between the ways in which it is dealt within my school (and in most other colleges) and here in college is glaring. For me, the best thing about reading a story or poem is coming up with my own interpretations of what the author/poet meant in a particular line or verse. In school, we were told that there is just one acceptable answer, which we have to stick to. Luckily, both the English professors in my first year would leave it open to the depths of our imagination. They encouraged us to be creative and not worry about the “correct” answer.
For me, to have been assigned certain professors who did not look down upon out-of-the-box thinking and felt the need to widen our parochial minds was a much-needed change. It has made the courses fun and changed my outlook towards studying. Here’s to hoping this continues and my professors next year also push me to learn new things and help me break away from the traditional “school” way of doing things. Here’s to not being a sponge anymore.JGU