Down in South Kashmir’s Shopian, a teacher has become viral on the virtual platform over his intriguing, innovative teaching. But the man whose classroom theatrics is already a talk of the town is on a mission to redefine the teaching methods, reports Saima Bhat
Some in his tribe might be inviting a bad press, but that hardly bothers a unique Shopian teacher who is already a viral thing on social media. Behind his virtual popularity is his innovative teaching method, he calls, rhyme-art-slogan methods.
Coming from Shopian’s Aglar village, Mohammad Yousuf Rather, 47, was an unsung hero until someone posted his video on Facebook and made him the talk of the town. Now when the madness behind the method is out, Rather says the motive was to make classroom sojourn for students a fun time exercise than a signature yawning session.
It all started when he was selected as a Rehbare Taleem (RT) teacher in 2004. Since then, he says, he always challenges himself to make his classes interesting—so that all of his students remain glued and understand every bit of teaching. He mainly focuses on the English language. “If the base is correct,” he argues, “then only a student can compete anywhere.”
The viral video shows him doing unusual antics with liners in the Kashmiri language to which his students reply, repeat in English: ‘Cow is walking. Crow is hopping.’ He teaches English grammar using the method.
But his mastery lies beyond English. His students are too quick to tell the difference between different angles. Ask them, and they will shout out: ‘Grandmother walks forming an acute angle, obese sister walks at obtuse angle and papa walks at a right angle and sleeps at straight angle.’
For imparting such an understanding in his students, the teacher says, presentation is a must. “When anybody teaches in a friendly manner giving real-life examples,” he says, “students learn quickly. I don’t think I do any different things, I just do things differently.” And it is very important, he stresses, for a teacher to impart teaching in a realistic manner.
Known as Gulfam among his peers, Rather quotes an instance of a girl enrolled in his school from a private institute. Within weeks, the girl quitted forcing him to seek an explanation for her mother. “She told me that government school students cannot compete with private school students besides telling that government students can’t qualify private school entrance tests after walking out of government-run schools.”
The mother’s response deeply disturbed Rather, who then decided to take the challenge head-on. After an intense brainstorming session, he concluded that he must focus on the English language—the main medium of education in the valley now. Language acts as a torch, he realized.
Now, Rather is a proud man as his assessment was bang on. Today, his students do qualify all tests and in a certain case, top them, too. “But everything aside,” he says, “my students are much better than other private school students.” Behind his belief is a solid argument. “Every year I monitor class 10 results and it delights me when I see all my students passing it in a first go when others struggle to clear it in two or three attempts.”
As a student, Rather was a first woel (class topper) deeply interested in science and maths. Despite hailing from an illiterate family, he says, he never let his passion for study to diminish. In Class 11, Rather chose Compound Arts without Math as his English-speaking classmates discouraged him from opting it. “Their weakness came in the way of my strength,” he says. “Being a poor-English speaker, I couldn’t defend myself.” To salt away his students from becoming a hurt-factor, the teacher is training them in English from the word go.
Behind his success, he says, is his simple lifestyle. Besides for this Humanities graduate of 1988 batch, ‘learning new things’ ability made State Institute of Education (SIE) select him as one of the lecturers to change Class 11 syllabus. For a primary government teacher, it was, perhaps, a big honour.
Later when he attended the session at SIE’s Bemina headquarters, Rather attracted crowd when he displayed his famous ‘calendar-ek jaaduye khail’ technique. By using this technique, his brainchild, one can find the exact day for any date of the millennium. The feat later got him a recommendation for 2011 ‘best teacher award’—he never got as some transfers in the department ensured dusting of his file.
Presently Rather is lone teacher in his school teaching 34 students. As per the Village Education Register, Rather’s village has only 45 children in the age group of 5 to 10 years. Out of these, 39 are enrolled in his primary school (out of which 5 students passed in this session) and only six are enrolled in private schools, says Rather. His own children have studied from same primary school.
“Families living jointly send their wards to a government school,” he says. “First child of a family, girl or a boy, is often admitted to private school. If the second child is a boy, then again, chances are 50-50. If it is a girl, then to a government school, and third tou hamara haq he hai (third child of family land in government schools, no doubt what). But I believe those thirds study more, and better.”
To swell rolls in government schools, Rather feels better infrastructure and school buses should be pressed into service. “These additions will woo children towards government schools. But for God’s sake, abolish this midday meal scheme as it has degraded our education system.”