“I came to USM as a teacher, but I am going back as a mentor” was the statement reiterated by 22 teachers at the end of four days training at Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) Indore from April 27 to 30, 2018. This was not only the experience of the teachers from St. Mary’s Senior Secondary School Bhopal and Holy Cross Co. Ed. School, New Lambakheda, Bhopal, but also the experience of almost all teachers who participated in the teachers’ training at USM. In their personal report presented at the conclusion of the training the teachers have mentioned how and why transformation took place in them.
Result of the Training
First and foremost the teachers could see and experience the qualities of a mentor being reflected in the team that facilitated the training. They could see a role model of mentoring by the USM community. They learned from the movie, “Gandhi” that a mentor has to be a role model; there should not be any gap between what he/she speaks and does. At the end of the training the teachers carry in their minds and hearts what Gandhiji said: “My life is my message.” One of the resolutions taken by the teachers as a result of the training is to become a role model for their students, particularly in the practice of human and ethical values. Other important learnings of the teachers from the training are the following.
· A mentor should have his/her vision, goals and policies so that he/she will be able to stand differently from the crowd.
· A mentor should focus equally on the development of character and competence of the mentees because competence in the absence of character is highly dangerous.
· As a mentor a teacher has to be continuous learner not only in his/her subject but also the developments and changes taking place in the society and the world.
· As a mentor a teacher has to enable students to make right choices in life.
· Pluralism is the heritage of India and a unique gift of God to India. Pluralism is more than tolerance; it is acceptance, appreciation and celebration of differences. To be an effective mentor a teacher has to be one who practises and promotes pluralism.
· Spirituality based on the practice of human and moral values is common to all religions and it units people belonging to different religions and nationalities. On the other hand religiosity based on ritualism, legalism and dogmatism divides people and makes people selfish, egoistic, and arrogant and even fundamentalists. To be a mentor a teacher has to become a “spiritual person”.
· Mahatma Gandhi, especially his principles of non-violence and pluralism, are relevant to the present world marred by conflicts, hatred, revenge and violence. Gandhiji is a role model for a mentor.
· Education should enable students to respond to what is happening in the society because indifference is a great sin. To be an effective mentor a teacher should be aware of what is happening in the society through reading newspaper, magazines and books.
· A mentor has to believe that everything is possible through hard work and determination.
· Use of movies with appropriate commentary, followed by discussion on the insights and learning and how the learning could be applied to life, is an excellent method of teaching and learning for an effective mentor.
· “I have realized that the real God is love and humanity is the religion and where there is forgiveness there is God”
· “I have realized that I have the power to create a Chandra Gupta because teaching is not a profession but a mission to create great human beings”.
· “I cannot demand a better world if I do not make any contribution from my part.”
· “If I change the world will change”.
· “The training made me more confident and more dedicated towards my duties and responsibilities as a mentor. It taught me to focus more on the solutions and alternatives than on the problems”.
Influence of USM Community
“If the training were conducted in the school would it have the same effect as it is conducted at USM?” The answer was a firm “no”. The atmosphere of USM makes a difference was the unanimous view of the participants. “We learnt from the USM community as much as we learnt from the sessions” was the response of most of the participants. “USM family is an excellent example for a pluralistic society because in USM persons belonging to different religions live together, eat together, pray together and work together with a common vision” said Mrs. Nishi Minocha while sharing her personal experience. “In USM there is no one big or small and no officers or workers; all are partners in a common mission,” said Ms. Poonam Minocha.
Another aspect of USM community that touched the participants is the inter-religious prayer for peace conducted every day in the morning and afternoon. The prayer for peace consists of common songs, reading from different religious scriptures and silence. “The walls of USM decorated with motivational quotes and the photos of great personalities create an ambience of learning and inspiration”.
The following are few samples of the personal resolutions taken by the participants of teachers’ training.
· Along with teaching subjects I will make the students aware of the challenges faced by the Indian society.
· As a mentor I will motivate my students to have a big dream, a dream of making a significant and unique contribution to humanity so that they would be able to leave a legacy.
· I will not allow myself to be bound by religiosity.
· I will follow consciously the five paths of personal transformation, which is the hallmark of USM and motivate my students to practise them.
· I will be more sensitive and compassionate to my students.
· I will be more listening to the students and motivate them to think differently.
· I will teach the students how to resolve conflicts through dialogue.
· I have decided to read books, especially biographies and motivate my students to read books.
· I will create in myself “never give up” attitude, no matter how difficult are the situations in life.
Contents and Methodology
The content and methodology of the training evolved taking into account the feedback from the participants and on the basis of the evaluation done by the USM team. The contents of the training are planned in view of motivating the teachers to go beyond the role of instructors and become mentors, who accompany the students in their holistic development, particularly character building. The contents consists of 1) input sessions like Education for Social Change, Pluralistic Spirituality, the Heritage of India and Possibility Thinking 2) watching three movies and discussing on the insights and learning from them and 3) group works for preparing action plan.
Through the movie, Iqbal the skills and approach needed for a teacher to become a mentor are explained. How a teacher can become a role model is shown through the movie, “Gandhi”. The movie, Dharam brings out the need for a teacher becoming a spiritual person rather than a religious person in order to become a mentor. Each day starts with inter-religious prayer for peace and concluded with the presentation of a brief written evaluation by each participant. On the last day of the training all participants present their written personal report and the action plan for the school is also presented.
The quality of a school depends mainly on the quality of the teachers and not on the infrastructure, although the latter is an important requirement. The purpose of education is not to prepare a student for a lucrative job, but to equip a person to stand on his own feet through character building, increasing strength of mind and expanding intellect as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda. Hence education has to be holistic, focusing on the development of intellect, skills and values and teacher is mentor or facilitator in the integral development of students.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 14th May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 20)