Teaching pupils who know more than you

As part of student counselling at a Belagavi school, the students of classes 8, 9 and 10 were given a questionnaire to fill out. Apart from other surprises, what caught the eye were a few students who replied under the ‘Areas of interest’ column as Cryptocurrency, Dogecoins and NFTs.

If you thought they had just mentioned something fancy, you’d be in for more surprise because, on inquiry, it was found that they had deep knowledge about what they had written. What’s more, they also knew what needed to be done to make a career with it.

While many experts may frown at the disinterest of this generation towards reading and deep learning, there are many who take to it naturally. In an INTACH Heritage Quiz this month for school students, it was magical to see that they all knew about authors and books, could identify quotes from books and also knew almost all people from the images shown to them.

Again, when asked corollary questions to the correct answer they gave, they could tell more about it, proving that it was not readymade information from general knowledge books.

It goes to show that teachers today are teaching students for whom the school is not the only medium of learning. As digital natives, children are adept at surfing the net and know about multiple apps, websites and platforms from where they gain immense knowledge.

Since their peers are equally involved in the pursuit of knowledge, students generally share a lot among themselves. Professors in technical institutes express their frustration when plenty of smart students in mathematics class complete a problem even before they have started teaching it. Computer teachers in school dread those kids who know more about computers and art teachers are in awe of the work their students manage to do.

However, as teenagers or twenty-somethings, these students still need to be taught and trained, coached and handheld. Nick Bollettieri may not be able to beat his protégés Andre Agassi or Serena Williams on the court today, but that does not undermine his importance in shaping their careers. So teachers do have a major role.

Preparing to guide them

For one, these students may know the core part of a particular domain but they still need to learn. Teachers cannot feel inferior before them nor can they dominate and shoo down these students. It is important to understand that teaching implies continuous learning, even if it’s from your own students.

Ensure they learn the process of planning, application, development and also working with teams. Learning becomes a symbiotic process when the whole class is encouraged to share what they know. The teacher then turns into a guide or a mentor who shows the direction ahead.

Teachers need to keep themselves abreast of the latest knowledge and technological advances. One cannot write off smart students just because you know less than them. Children can sense it when a teacher faces them underprepared. They begin asking questions and when you don’t have convincing answers, they can lose interest in the class.

Taking up advanced online classes, reading the genres that they do, discussing on teacher forums and understanding what is needed helps pave way for a strong student-teacher relationship.

Engaging them all

Schools are not meant merely for the dissemination of knowledge: they are places to learn other crucial skills like teamwork, communication, emotional intelligence, problem-solving and decision-making. A student who appears to be a know-it-all may still need to learn all these skills.

Moreover, there would always be a mix of students in a class apart from the smart ones—those in the middle of the spectrum and also those who are at the bottom. A teacher is expected to teach ‘all’ of them at a differential pace.

Teachers also benefit from acknowledging the smart kids in class but not allowing them to overwhelm the discussion. Address them separately, preferably after class hours. Engage them in advanced activities, like writing down or elaborating on what they already know. Give them additional reading while you take your regular class ahead.

Teachers know for themselves that a smart class is a joy to teach because students bring a lot of energy. However, students respect and cherish teachers who bring value and show various facets of what they already know.

(The author is a Belagavi-based


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *