By Shafiqur Rehman
Thinking backward proved to be useful for me because this reflection on the past events of my learning journey helped me make sense of these events. I use ‘journey’ as a metaphor for the journey of learning and professional development. This long journey of teaching started at my home. Therefore, this narrative elaborates some incidents and turning points which contributed to my professional development and career selection.
I was born in the most beautiful small village at Chitral in 1981and went to school at the age of six years. I was good at studies and I always stood first position in school. Teachers and family members often encouraged me and motivated me for further achievement. Therefore, I suggest teachers, parents and other stakeholders of schools to encourage students on their success so that they can apply themselves to their studies. Once, when I got first position in my class, all the elders of the village congratulated my parents on my success. That celebration gave me courage and I became motivated to study with more commitment. When I was student of middle school, I used to teach primary grade students. The parents appreciated and encouraged me to teach their children voluntarily. When I reflect now, I feel that helping junior school fellows was an informal start of my professional journey as a teacher. Therefore, I believe that home and environment plays an important role in selection of career in one’s life as in my case the appreciation and encouragement of my family members and other elders motivated me to be a teacher. Retallick (2008) also says that becoming a teacher is not just an individual process but is also a social process.
In 1996, I passed my matric examination from a Public school where medium of instruction was Urdu and local language. When I did my matriculation, I got admission in Government College in Chitral town. The medium of instruction here was English, which created a challenge for me in comprehending the lessons. I became frustrated and I was thinking to quit the college. Fortunately, I was living in a hostel where the senior fellows were facilitating and coaching their junior fellows regarding academic matters. I also got support from senior colleagues and got first position in BSc in the district. During vacations I had the opportunity to stay in the Peshawar University hostel from where I was inspired by the students of the university and developed the wish to be there in the coming years. So I worked hard to get admission in the university. Thus the supportive environment of helping others and getting help from others, the presence of appreciations and inspirations and desire of being like others helped me to move towards my goal. Moreover, the target of getting admission in the University also motivated me to work hard for academic success.
Soon after writing my graduation examination, I started teaching in a private school. It was the turning point towards the journey of professional development as a classroom teacher. Although, I had no practical experience in teaching but I had some experience of helping others and also fourteen years learning experience. Here, too I got appreciation and encouragement from the students as well as management of the school due to my effective teaching and positive attitudes. Bashiruddin (1999) also points out, “Students grew fond of me and commented sometimes that I was ‘pleasant, knowledgeable, well dressed and soft spoken” (109). As a result I decided to choose teaching profession as a career for my future life. So my journey towards professional development was going on and there was one goal in my life, to become an effective and efficient teacher.
In 2000, I got admission in the University and I did my masters in Chemistry. In university, I got opportunity to interact with different people from different cultures, speaking different languages. In university, I not only learnt about the subject but also realized about my responsibilities and duties being a member of a family as well as community. One of my teachers in the university encouraged me to study more and advised me to be a teacher. His caring nature, pleasing personality and his scholarship made him to be my role model and I considered his suggestion seriously and opted for teaching as future career. Therefore, it was also another motivation and reinforcement to take teaching profession as a career. The learning is that teachers as role models can influence students to be like them as role model.
After doing my Masters in 2003, again I started teaching in a private higher secondary school in my own town. On the basis of my prior teaching experiences, I faced the classroom complexities with courage. Thus my journey towards professional development was continued and there were some crests and some troughs. At that time, I was not exposed to various teaching methods and techniques because I had no pre-service teaching course. I taught my students by imitating my teachers, who taught me in school, college and university and it was totally teacher-centered approach. Zillahuma (2008) said, “My class teaching was very traditional and conventional. I taught the way I had been taught and hardly ever thought my students as individuals who deserved to be treated differently” (p.57).
I also did my B.Ed and learnt about the teaching methods, techniques, planning lessons and also educational psychology. I realized that teaching is not an easy task; it needs commitment, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, contrary to my prior views of teaching as an easy task. As there were many challenges in the journey but I never lost my courage and continued my journey towards professional development. My experience reveals that one needs to have pre-service teacher trainings before entering into teaching profession because a trained teacher will be able to teach the students according to their needs and interests, otherwise teaching and learning will not be so effective. I also learnt that for effective teaching and learning process the teacher must know the psychology of students, curriculum, methods and techniques of teaching.
I translated my learning from B.Ed course to my own classroom and realized that students’ learning improved and they started taking interest in learning process. Bashiruddin (1999) points out, “the new techniques that I had recently learned in a workshop; I had decided to use them, because they worked well and students enjoyed them” (p.110). I started involving students in my classroom and introduced students-centered approach making teaching more interactive. Farrukhsho (2008) also said that it was during that time that I started to understand the significance of child-centered approach. I learnt about new strategies, i.e. group work, making my classes interesting and successful. I really enjoyed when my lesson was effective and each student was satisfied with their achievements due to the conceptual understanding of the topic. I was realizing that professional development was taking place because I was started teaching in different methods like lecture demonstration method, project method and other such methods which are more students-oriented. I believe that self-satisfaction in teaching profession is much more than other professions because here you have to deal with the soul of the individuals. The self-satisfaction, appreciation from students, management and from community gave me courage and vigor to remain in this profession throughout my life.
As teaching and learning is a dynamic process, because the needs and interests of the students are changing day by day due to the contemporary needs of the society. For this there should be professional development courses for the teachers, so that they remain up-to-date according to the time and needs. I believe without continuous professional development the teachers can not survive in the teaching profession. What is also important is that becoming a teacher means being a continuous, life long learner (Retallick, 2008). So for this there should be in-service teacher training programme inside or outside the school.
For further professional development I had a dream to go to Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) to enhance my pedagogic and leadership skills, which has been realized with my selection for M.Ed programme .There, I had exposed to different courses like Research, Educational leadership, School as a Learning Community and Curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment. I learnt about research, importance of research for policy makers and for practioners and the role and responsibilities of educational leaders to build School as a learning Community. My Journey towards professional development is going on; to remain on this journey it needs commitment and enthusiasm. As Retallick (2008) said, “It is always a journey, never a destination” (p.182). New demands, a changing curriculum mean that learning and development is never ending, it is ongoing process.
My journey with a focus on professional development started from my childhood which is still going on. I believe that becoming a teacher is not an isolated process, it is a social process. I became teacher due to self-satisfaction, appreciation of community, family members, and my students and due to the encouragement of teachers, management and colleagues. It is appropriate to say that I became a teacher not myself but by the people around me in my context. The environment, the opportunities, the personal success and satisfactions as teachers are the forces informed me choice of becoming a teacher.
(The writer is Lecturer in Chemistry at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Kuragh; Chitral.)