The Teacher and the Learner Mindset

Ranjan Banerjee

Author: Ranjan Banerjee

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 22:15

In 2001, I had achieved considerable early success as a teacher and executive educator. I had also recently been blessed with a child, who was a year old at that time.

I conducted a workshop for sales managers of a leading consumer product company. Early on, it emerged that one of the participants was a little bit of a 'gallery player'. He would make comments at every opportunity, and in a way, he seemed to be testing the faculty's authority without explicitly challenging it. The audience (as audiences are wont to do) seemed to enjoy the side show.

Then came a round of introductions. I discovered that the 'difficult participant' had the same first name as my first born, and somehow that changed things. Everytime he made a point, I saw the face of my one year old. After that, it was easy to respond to him with affection, patience and concern for his well being.

The consequence was surprising. At the end of the first half a day, the 'sniper' became my biggest fan and the class' respect for me grew multi-fold.

The class taught me a fundamental lesson. As teachers, we can chose the assumptions we make about students. If we make positive assumptions and can hold them for an extended period of time, and reflect these assumptions in our in class behaviour, these assumptions will turn out to be self fulfilling.

Often, students do not offer the enthusiastic responses we want (or anticipate). Due to a combination of insecurity and ego, we can quickly fall into the trap of judging and labelling. An alternative approach is to approach the unanticipated reaction with curiosity (the mindset of a learner) and seek to understand it. The trick is to hold the positive assumption through this process of understanding.

In doing so, a teacher can transform the energy in the classroom and take his/her own respect to higher levels. It is, of course, equally true that if students can cultivate this same curiosity, and refrain from labeling faculty early, they will discover a similar benefit.

In summary, as teachers we should see teaching as an exercise in creative communication and transfer of meaning. At a fundamental level  we have to like and respect our students, to approach each class with a sense of service, and an openness to reactions that are not part of our script.

I close this reflection with a simple thought. If you are making positive assumptions about your students, you will smile more frequently and naturally in class. A smile broadcasts your assumptions, is naturally mimicked by the class, and the 'learning environment' is in good shape.

Teaching is a privilege. It gives us a right to serve, and to change lives. Assumptions are a choice. The right assumptions catalyse our ability to change lives.

 

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Comments

<p>I enjoyed your blog post about the importance of a positive mindset. Thanks Ranjan</p>

<p>I completely agree with your observations about class dynamics and the winning key to be positivism and love!</p>

First impression has a good effect on the perception we hold about a person. Sir the experience you shared can easily be extended beyond the class room. We should hold back before jumping to conclusion specially when dealing with people.

First of all, could not agree any more to the importance of 'Positive Assumptions'. Beyond classroom, I thing this is equally important in almost every interaction we have in the corporate world with our colleagues and seniors. With positive assumptions and a 'learner's' mindset when we ask a question, the intent is seek clarification and learn more. With negative assumptions, we are busy questioning the ability of the other person and the learning sphere of the mind is completely shut. This is my view from a student's perspective. Thanks for this invaluable reflection.

The curiosity to know more in conjunction with communicative approach is what drives a learner. However, these stipulations are to prevail within certain boundary conditions only. The outlook of the learner must be liberal, positive, respectful, responsive and persevering. This mindset facilitates laying of foundation for a procreative teaching that is humbly accepted with due reverence. As a learner, if you know what you don’t know, you are fully equipped to learn something new. This holds good every where, every time. In case, you don’t know what you know, its high time to make some introspection and clear this ignorance. This can be a decent premise to begin the learning process. The teacher-learner bond is pivotal in shaping a student’s journey in the education process. It is a passionate, perceptive and productive relationship. Learning increases manifold when there is a mutual trust and respect between the two entities. Another powerful tool available with teachers is the tool of expectations. This tool is even more effective when the expectations are positive. These positive expectations define the behavioural curve of the learners. Thus, it is incumbent to continuously observe the learners in order to effectively communicate what is required. In doing so, a teacher is creating a value within the learner. Once the relationship is strengthened, the learner fully understands what he/ she is supposed to deliver. The learner aides the teacher in the teaching process through his/ her open-mindedness, maturity and enthusiasm. Slowly, the process works like a closed loop feedback system and sets itself on the path of continuous improvement. Outcomes like these bring smiles on either side, and lives change for good. It is then, that the right to serve is put to best use by teachers and learners are privileged to obtain some valuable knowledge out of it.

As you have rightly said Sir Teaching is a privilege. It gives us a right to serve and change lives! In one’s life, teacher holds a prime position. As from the very beginning of life, teacher imparts the basic education and knowledge to a student. The student-teacher relationship is well explained. Yes its very well said that there are different types of students in a classroom. Some are argumentive, some are notorious, some creates nuisance to entertain class and some tests the teachers patience by asking unnecessary questions. In such situations teacher judges the student and makes assumptions about them. In such situations, it is important for a teacher to remember that teaching is noble profession. The students are learner. To make teaching profession an envoyable one, a teacher should understand the requirement of a student, then a teacher can deliver successfully. Finally, Teachers are our nation builders—the strength of every profession in our country grows out of the knowledge and skills that teachers help to instill in our children.

Very well written topic sir. Teaching is a unique experience, as you mentioned in your blog, it also needs right approach towards the students/participants. I can connect this to some of my knowledge sharing sessions, and training sessions as a faculty. The ability to deliver improves how I prepare and approach towards my participants during the presentation. The teaching profession is a knowledge multiplier to the society. The positive mindset adds to the ability of the teacher.

I absolutely agree - Teaching is a privilege. It gives us a right to serve, and to change lives. A great teacher will always ties to find positive in every student, a great teacher is a great learner himself and his openness to learn, to understand situation helps him to become wise and give a different prospective to his students. Teacher not only teaches a subject but teaches meaning of life, we often say medical profession is noble profession, however I say that teacher is the noblest profession because a doctor was a student at one point in time and he is the reflection of all teacher who taught him, however the teacher is a learner and he continues to learn. Serving with a smile and teaching with smile with no perjure is a blessing.

In my opinion this piece must be read by every person, be it a teacher or a student. I am in complete agreement with every statement of reflection given in the post, sir. This I believe is why I have always felt the enthusiasm in all of the sessions where you had been the speaker. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was quoted as saying, “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, calibre and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honour for me.” This in my view is the aspect that separates a good teacher from a great one. Teachers, irrespective of place or type of knowledge, have the power to shape a person’s future. But apart from teaching alone this article speaks in volumes of another attribute. It is the act of assumption. Albeit assumption is an abstract action, it does hold significant influence on a person’s real action & behaviour. It is not only about the class where the person is either a teacher or a learner, but it is applicable to various aspects of one’s life. The “positive assumption” as pointed out has the power to compel a positive action from a person while eradicating the roots of inhibitions that he/she might be carrying. Many a times, we break relations, ties, or even act prematurely based on a false assumption. If only we controlled our assumptions and properly reflected on it before any of our actions, we not only might, but we will make the world a better place.

Dear Ranjan Sir, Having been a student for 17 years I can definitely vouch for the fact that it is much simpler and, more importantly, highly motivating to learn from academicians who have an optimistic and gracious approach to student interactions. This is buttressed by my personal experiences where I've always bonded better with teachers who put in genuine efforts in forming healthy interpersonal connections. An experience quite similar to yours about the 'difficult participant' is how my all time favourite teacher Mrs. Sucheta Sen Mam dealt with 'trouble-makers' in her classes (I can safely say I topped this list). I remember the times when rather than pulling me up in front of the class or publicly humiliating me, she would take me for a walk around the school corridor asking me questions about my then interests in dancing, oratory and sports. In not forming a negative bias about me, which not only would've affected her quality of class but could also have had the far reaching impact of making me averse to English as a subject, she approached the micro-issue with the mindset of a genuinely interested learner while seeking to understand the macro situation better. Over time and through our many ensuing conversations, I developed a deep rooted sense of affection and respect for her, not just as a my English teacher but also as a mentor. The end result of this was that I feel in love with the subject, managing to top school grades in it in the following years. In reading your insights about the two distinct and yet inter-related mindsets of Teacher and Learner, I therefore connect very acutely with your school of thought. Furthermore, I feel quite optimistic about learning from professors such as yourself who although having a plethora of experiences and learning, come across as being some of the most grounded individuals that I have had the privilege to be associated with. I've had many similar experiences with faculty in this campus as well and am quite certain that I will look back at this year with many fond memories while also taking away life lessons on how to be an empathetic and effective mentor. Once again, thank you sir for this reflection and constant guidance that you've blessed us with.

Many thanks for a wonderful piece! Anyone who would have read this blog can connect with the ‘sniper’ you met in that class, because all of us have either had a ‘sniper’ around us or have been one ourselves. However, we all would remember that there is always one particular teacher, in front of whom this ‘sniper’ and other students used to behave well. And such teachers were never the ones who are the strictest or the ones who intimidate students. These were often the ones who won our hearts with their teaching and persona. The ones who moulded these ‘snippers’ into successful adults. Those are the kind of teacher we all should strive to be for the next gen ’snipers’. Being a teacher is not just a responsibility but also a huge privilege. A teacher has the power and ability to what parents and family members often are not able to. They have the ability of change lives, which makes it all the more important for them to see teaching as a creative exercise and feel the warmth towards the students. The idea of making positive assumption given by you is a very noble way which can be the first step towards making a better learning world around and catalyst the ability to change lives.

Very righty said sir, “Teaching is a privilege”. With a positive mind set one can do wonders and can channelize the energy to catalyse the improvement. Teachers not only mentor students for a specific time but help in changing lives of many of them. We generally have a time slot of an hour, if carried in an effective and positive environment. It can not only help students learn valuable lessons but also saves 4200 minutes. Being judgemental often leads us to false assumptions. Every student has a different calibre, understanding the individual strengths and weakness of the students leads to better delivery. Your article has beautifully explained the bond between a student and teacher. Having a positive lens to look at this relationship is indeed the need of the hour. Looking forward for some solutions on how this can be inculcated in the existing and upcoming teaching generations.

I agree with the author on keeping an open mind & on understanding the students. Teaching traditionally, dictated by culture, is knowledge flow from teacher to student. Many a time teachers fail to see the importance of learning from the classroom & this inclination of the teacher increases as the years pass by. Each student has a unique view & understanding of the subject presented before them & by extension each classroom is unique. The learning appears in different shades for the students. It is the failure of the teacher if he has ensured that the entire class has accepted the view point of the teacher as the only solution rather than as only one of the solutions or view point. By this definition of success & failure, the teacher has to constantly review his viewpoint during each class & success will be measured on how far the teacher can stretch his mind. Many a time as teachers we tend to treat comments, doubts in the classroom as direct challenge to our ego, authority or be frustrated at being asked to repeat ourselves. I have donned the teaching hat to prepare the students for competitive examinations & many a time, I should say shamefully, I have fallen to either one of the above traps. We tend to forget that the authority that we have is what the students have given out of their free will so as to acquire knowledge. We tend to forget that the students look to teachers to lead them out of frustration & darkness & reach the light. Teaching is, as mentioned in the blog, a service & the teacher is a manager leading his team to knowledge & clarity.

I firmly believe in the notion that ‘learning never stops’ and one is student in his or her entire lifetime. The beauty of this concept is that the more we learn more we realize the limits of our knowledge. In a way, it humbles us and makes us a better human being. On the flip side of it, many a times we get overwhelmed by its vastness and in a sense protect ourselves by ignoring its existence. I agree with the author that our own biases are the biggest inhibitors towards achieving the objective of ‘learning’. When we impose our limiting beliefs on how we see the world, we are not receptive to the feedback the world may tender. The danger of this situation is while we falsely assume we know it all we thwart the correction opportunity presented by insulating ourselves from the external source. So it is imperative to have a learner’s mindset. The application of this ‘learner’s mindset’ is not just limited to teacher-student context, but it can be beautifully applied in life. In life, we all are students. Every day is a lesson. Here we have option to choose how we want to approach it. Either, we can look it from the lens of our limiting assumptions thus loosing out on the opportunity of exploring and growing or from more open and empathetic frame which would lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling life. The choice is ours to make!

While reading your blog Dr. Banerjee, I kept recalling numerous occasions where I was confronted by the so called “Gallery Players”. I have been a trainer for some time and this used to happen when I took a class on Electronic Navigation systems, every class would have at least one candidate who would think they knew the subject better (my age made them feel I was handicapped in technology). At first this would irritate me but then I put myself in their shoes and dealing with them became ever so easy. What I realized was that, teacher’s knowledge alone would not keep the student interested in the class, we do need to somehow establish and communicate the fact that the learning is for his/her benefit. Once in a while to acknowledge any new idea learnt from the students goes a long way to establish the concept of mutual learning – SHOWCASING THE LEARNER MINDEST IN A TEACHER. Turning over a Gallery Player into an interested student is a feeling which can only be felt and not described, it feels like an adrenaline shot to your mind and re-enforces your belief in the role you have chosen. Lastly it’s our choice as teachers to respond or react to a student’s queries. Till the time we respond and not react, I do believe we will be able to achieve the teaching and learning goal.

I would like to mention quote from Swami Vivekananda “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man” This is followed by a common saying Knowledge increases by sharing. I have a huge inclination towards learning and by learning I mean both bookish and non-bookish. My job also allows me travel a lot and conduct lot of training sessions for my team and I do it very passionately. In my sessions also I have seen those so called “gallery player” and my response has always been to be positive and responsive. Learning is a continuous process and it never ends or stops. The most important thing for a good teacher is to create an aura which can take the energy in the classroom to the next level. We all have come across one such teacher during our school days whose class we used to wait for the whole week. We used to use them as mentors and take guidance on all possible subjects. You have very aptly described as to how we as trainers and teachers should be open to constructive criticism. Over a period my work tenure, I have observed that there has to be a mutual respect between teacher and student. Reactions received during such training sessions have helped me develop my skills as a trainer and helps me anticipate reactions. Rather than questioning the ability of the learner, thereby restricts the learning sphere of both teacher and learner. More interactive the session, better is the learning ability. Even the learner has to make some effort in constructive communication which helps others in the classroom to benefit. I have been a keen observer of body language, this helps in adjusting my communication as per individual needs. I like to prepare myself on the audience I am going to address.

I can recall very clearly what my grandmother used to tell us as kids, you have no control on what others think of you, so you better not think of those things. What you can control is what you think of yourself and about others. She also used to emphasize that this is not easy, we normally tend to make some impression or assumption of a person which may or may not be true. Many times it is not. This impression or assumption affects our behavior with others and is not helpful. This article makes perfect sense when we are in teacher’s role or even learner’s role. I fully agree that as teachers we should see teaching as sincere effort of interaction with learners and transfer of knowledge / skills. As a teacher basically we have to respect the students appreciate their level of understanding & involvement, to approach each class with a purpose to bring in some positive change, and an openness to unexpected reactions from the students. This is equally true for learner, positive assumption about the teacher can open the thinking process of learner, if one assumes or labels teacher with certain negative trait, it is going to be challenging to learn anything from that teacher. There are 4 great qualities of a “Teacher” explained by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, I will try to explain 1 quality here which resembles in meaning to what you have said here: Teacher loves teaching As a teacher I must be passionate about teaching (this is true for any other profession by the way!!), then only you can give your best. If you are in teaching profession just because you want to do something for living or you did not get other things to do, then chances are that you will not be able to deliver to your full potential. If you love teaching you end up in putting your mind & heart into it, you do different experiments to get best out of you and in a way you evolve better & better Other qualities are: Teacher encourages questions from Students, Teacher puts students ahead and Teacher creates pressure on students to explore Own capabilities.

Dear Sir, I respect your thoughts on teaching and do agree with your point on making the right assumptions. In my organization, I got few opportunities to conduct some training sessions. I realized that no matter how passionate you are to teach and share your learnings with the attendees, you could only feel satisfied if you could develop a bond with them. Positive and right assumptions only help to boost your positive energy and let you continue in the right flow irrespective of any disruptions which could arise in the session. There will always be some awkward questions you might not be able to answer and no harm in honestly acknowledging it rather than just defending your own thought process. Hence it is important to have an open and learner mind-set while teaching. In the current age where technology is changing year after year, the new breed which comes out would always be far superior to grasp and adapt to new technological changes. The only thing they would need is to fine tune and channel their thoughts in a positive direction. Though technologically they could have superior edge, they would always value the rich experience their seniors have gained and would love to absorb the same. It is also responsibility of a student to respect the faculty and make positive assumptions. Some students do jump to conclusion and label the faculty early only to realize later on to their delight that faculty is improving and these students don’t mind taking a credit for it for feedback they gave :) Overall if both faculty and students could maintain the positive healthy environment in the class, it would really augur well for both of them. Though I used to think initially that is the student who needs it more from the teacher than the other way round, in recent times with the calibre of the faculty and the innovation and evolution in education system, both weigh equally nowadays.

“If we make positive assumptions and can hold them for an extended period of time, and reflect these assumptions in our in class behaviour, these assumptions will turn out to be self-fulfilling.” What a beautiful thought! While the fact that the student’s first name was the same as that of your child could have been the trigger for treating his mild indiscretions with greater patience, the conclusion that a compassionate approach is what it takes to effect a turnaround, is wisdom we can all gain from. Utter and absolute respect for the teacher is the bedrock on which the student-teacher relationship was built upon in the ancient traditions of our land. However modern culture has completely transformed the centuries old custom of acceptance of absolute authority of the teacher. The new dynamics where a student challenges the authority of the teacher makes it even more important for a teacher to have the patience of a Zen today. The philosophy plays out not just in the context of a student-teacher association but in all relationships in general. We all tend to have biases that lead to a gradual hardening of the stance and eventually are reasons for most misunderstandings and conflict. It is mutual respect and compassion that builds bridges between strangers, work colleagues, cultures, faiths, nations and the world at large. We can only hope for a better world when we give the other a patient listening, a sympathetic ear. You also spoke about making positive assumptions about your students and how a smile can be infectious with the positivity it radiates. The thought, like the premise at the heart of this blog has the power to bring about positive change in a sceptical world struggling to overcome mistrust and conflict.

“The right assumptions catalyse our ability to change lives” A very deep and meaningful sentence by Professor Ranjan Banerjee. It was an enriching experience, learning from him at SPJIMR campus. Teacher is the one who shows you path ahead in life and motivates you to follow it with the courage and determination. Teacher and student both chose each other before they embark on their journey of knowledge. While a student learns from the teacher, a teacher gains wisdom when he teaches to his student by reflecting upon his knowledge and experience. As the saying goes, if a student gets a good teacher he can sail all the oceans and fathom entire sky and if a teacher can get right students he will change the outlook of the world. Swami Vivekananda had once said, “If I can only get 100 students like me, I will change the outlook of India.” Both, student and teacher work their best to find best of each other. Once they find each other they establish a bond among themselves and then the perpetual process of learning begins. According to “Sanatan Dharma Scriptures” these three are main Gurus– Mother, Father and Teacher. The time we spend with our Mother and Father since our birth we develop a bond; this bond gives us courage to ask any question from them which they will answer right. As we grow old, we are exposed to the outer world and there we find a Teacher. We develop a bond with each other so that we can ask the questions from them same as we once asked with our parents. As professor Dr Ranjan Banerjee wrote in the blog, he developed the bond with “the difficult participant” during his lecture with his infectious smile and magnanimous gestures by replying to his every question. This process of exchanging knowledge, cultivated a bond between them which I think both will always nurture within them.

The article talks about how positivity and an optimistic perspective can help deal with complex situations in a smooth manner, especially when you are leading a group of people. Had the teacher let her emotions or ego come in the way of her teaching - it would not only affect her personal morale, but also defeat her objective of doing a fine job at training the participants – which was the main reason for her being there. Additionally, we can conclude that the vibe and energy that we impart when dealing with a group of individuals, plays a significant role in how the rest of the interaction will pan out to be. Had the teacher gotten passive aggressive with the 'difficult participant' as she calls him at the beginning, the class would not conclude the way it did. A good leader/teacher is one who keeps his aim to solely bring out the best performance in his addressees, irrespective of the reaction that he gets from them or the approach that he needs to take to achieve that. Positive assumptions that we make will in most cases result in self-fulfillment. On the other hand – judging & labeling situations and individuals only makes it harder for us to deal with them. The article also tells us how the correct way to deal with immaturity is to be patient. When we realize that reactions and outlook of a stubborn person will not change, it is best to change our approach to deal with them and the situation. Once we master the art of this – dealing with even the most difficult type of people becomes effortless.

Beautifully explained in this blog in every aspect of life we like something and there is a dislike part also but many times all that depends on the assumptions we make. If a person looks like someone we like or love we generally likes him just because of his/her looks but if someone is looking like someone we do not like it creates a hatred point of view towards him which turn our thinking to the point why. Is the person really bad or we are assuming it, getting in the shoes of other person and then thinking what is write and what is wrong makes us a better decision taker. When we are teaching it’s better to teach with a learning attitude and assume the students as our child because children ask a lot of question but we never judge them because they are innocent so is the students because as a teacher if we would not resolve their queries they would feel incomplete and if there is something that we also don’t know makes us realize that we are still in leaning phase and we need to grow in order to grow our students. I have myself teached and many times a situation arises where my ego clashes with my attitude but in order to overcome that part we have to accept that leaning is a part of teaching and we always learn something new when we teach because the upcoming generation is far intelligent than us just a right guidance is needed to them which is a responsibility of a teacher. As it is said “with greater power comes greater responsibilities “. As our attitude changes, more towards leaning than only teaching and we started to understand our students the respect we deserve automatically increases and makes us a better person. Plus making positive assumptions make us feel comfortable in every situation of life.

At the onset I would like to thank Ranjan sir for sharing his thoughts in his blog “The Teacher and the Learner Mindset.” I could completely relate to what you have written in your blog about the “gallery player or sniper” as I have seen such kind of personalities in the two post graduate diplomas I completed after my graduation. Many a times they either needed some attention or were really curious minds. As a batch mate such personality types , it would really irritate me as they would break the chain of thought of the professor and the pace or rhythm of the class would go for a toss. The thoughts that a teacher goes through while teaching or the opinion he or she forms about a class or a student is something you have highlighted in our blog and suggested a more humane approach which I really respect. I had a good fortune to conduct a Film Scheduling and Planning workshop for students at the reputed Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute , Kolkata and found a particular student dozing off in my class , I taunted the student in a humorous way and the class moved ahead. Flash forward one year later , I am studying in SPJIMR dozing off in a lecture and the professor says nothing. Immediately after class I went to the teacher and apologized. Knowing how it feels to be on either sides of the table , I really appreciate the way Ranjan sir has written this blog and communicated the idea of being more humane or positive towards students and not making any impressions about them in a jiffy.

It has been rightly said that “learning” is a lifelong process. It is a journey and not a destination. All of us long for knowledge – be it academic or otherwise but what we forget to carry along is right attitude or mind set. A learner mind set has the potential to open up new horizons for self. Learning stimulates growth. Someone who has stopped learning has limited their ability of intellectual growth. Teaching is a noble profession and a privilege. However, sometimes teachers become so engrossed in the process that they become oblivious to the fact that the same mind set applies to them as well. My parents have both been associated as professors in the Education Department of Delhi Administration. Over the years, many students have come over to thank them for their success. One would wonder what made them likeable. The answer lies in experience from the class each of them spoke about. Most of them admired their approach in the class. What I learned is that it is not the students but our fore thoughts that are difficult to manage. The worst thing one can do is to start a class with pre-determined assumptions. By virtue of mind set any teacher can transform the atmosphere of the class and command the respect of the students. I believe that teachers bear a very strong ability to change the lives of students. But the way in which teaching is imparted is very important. The way they conduct themselves inside the classroom will be mimicked by the students. A positive environment makes learning easier and fulfilling. A key takeaway from this read for me is that even teachers are students and it is very important to carry the learner mind set throughout our lives.

The blog has been beautifully written as it captured my attention. I really enjoyed the story that is being weaved, leading to a strong message towards the end. It has always been a pleasure to listen to your inspirational and motivating words, and this read was no different. I have rarely encountered such unconventional teachers like you for whom all the students are alike. This blog made me recall some of my instances of being a student which I would like to share. My student life began much before my schooling, with my mother. As you write in your blog that the coinciding names made you remain positive, I believe my mother could also do that because she was teaching her daughter. This however was not the case after my schooling began. The first few years were smooth where the teachers loved all. As I moved to higher classes, the teachers turned different, they had few favourite students which they ensured to make explicit and many unwanted students which they explicitly implied. This, even though noticeable, was never a concern for me because I was among the ‘few’, not ‘many’. The story didn’t continue to be the same, there came a turn in this VUCA world. The turn that took me aback, the turn with a dead end. It was that one teacher who had an unwanted student in her Physics class. The student who had never had a teacher like this was stunned by this situation, she started hating the teacher and the subject. It was during that time that I realised why some students just do not want to listen to the teachers, why they make harsh comments on them. These ‘many’ who face this ‘unwanted-ness’ develop a notion towards every teacher and find their escape in making those comments. The ‘few’ students find it difficult to handle such a teacher and begin to doubt themselves. I was among the ‘few’ and the Physics teacher had made me believe that I was up to no good. This instance of Class 9 had an adverse impact on me as I began to be depressed. I made my best effort to ditch that one class for two years and resorted to making comments on that teacher. As I was about to lose all my confidence and give up, there came a teacher to wake me up from my worst nightmare. The teacher who does not only make you learn her subject, but who makes an effort to ensure you learn life. The teacher whom you can always look up to, who makes an effort to understand your point of view, who evolves with the students, and who has neither ‘few’ nor ‘many’. She once said, “I do not compare, it’s not right to compare. Every child is different.” when my mother was complaining to her about my brother, comparing him to me. She had a completely different outlook towards life, beyond the convention of academics and marks. I continue to remember the two teachers for both of them impacted my life. Your blog made me recall both of them as I understood how assumptions can impact a student-teacher relationship. I myself aspire to become a teacher and continue to learn. Some teachers like you help me learn what is to be done while some teach me what is not to be done.

Thank you sir, for writing a blog on this topic. I agree with the point you made about the positive assumption for teachers, however, I would like to add that the same attitude needs to be reciprocated by the student as well. The sniper act comes into play when the student does not trust his teacher. And with age, this becomes prominent in us. We start believing that we know enough and the other guy cannot add on anything new. In that situation, the positive assumption about the teacher can play a very important role for the student. In Ramayana, after the war when Ravana was on his deathbed, Lord Rama asked Lakshman to go to Ravana and ask for life lessons because Rama believed that lessons which a well-learned brahmin like Ravana can give, no one else can. Lakshman visited Ravana and asked him to give life lessons but Ravana didn’t utter a word. Lakshman got angry and went back to Rama to tell that Ravana is arrogant and not ready to talk. After listening to Lakshman, Rama asked a simple question “Lakshman where were you standing?”. Lakshman told that he was standing near Ravana head. Rama then told Lakshman that whenever one wants to learn something from a person, one should never stand near his head, but near his feet. The negative assumption of Lakshman about Ravana prevented him earlier from respecting him but later when he realized the fact, he accepted it. The positive assumption in the first place would have saved all the trouble. Maya Angelou said, “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. It becomes very important for student also to create an environment where a teacher can come and perform to his ability. A smile on the face of a student also works the same way as the smile on a teacher. But if we broaden the application from student and teacher to rest of the world. The positive assumption approach can act as an elixir for happiness. Our brain behaves in a certain manner, learning from the past it makes some assumptions which cut short the process of making a conclusion. When vapors rise out of milk, our mind makes an assumption that it is hot and we need not touch it. It works well for certain things but when it comes to uncertain things like human behavior, it becomes a problem. The human behavior changes and if we haven’t experienced that in our past we can’t make an assumption for that. This ultimately leads to closing of many possibilities. Training brain for forming positive assumptions in a negative situation is even difficult because we rarely had experienced that earlier. Thus, in our life, we can save stress and anger by just making positive assumptions. It will not cause any harm if someone crosses your car in a rash way if you can relate to something like,” may be he has to reach someplace important and was in a hurry”. This will only create an acceptance in your mind about the incident and you can live in peace.

This is really a great article Sir! I can completely relate your example to many such incidences which I have been part of. I never knew the other side of the story, never cared to ask about it to any of the teachers I met. When I heard about this term ‘gallery player’, my mind went back to engineering days where we often find more than one such player. The moment students find some weakness in the teacher, they target all their weapons on this weakness, leaving the teacher wounded. And what we never understood was the effect of such comments on the receiver. All the teacher could do was smile, finish her teaching and then leave. Sitting in the crowd and appreciating such gallery players was an easy job. But now when I think of it, I wonder what would have happened if teachers targeted on weaknesses of students as a retaliation. But they will never do it not because we take them for granted but because they know the repercussions. But then I believe that I have changed as a student. This has less to do with me being older now. My work experience taught me this. I know how it feels when you are being unheard and mocked, obviously in a casual way. I remember me talking to my seniors about the error I spotted in the software. I was pretty sure that it could be changed. But all I could get from my senior was “These young people are very energetic and vibrant. All of them think that they can change the world”. And they chuckled and said that they will look into this matter. I was confused that how could someone do that. They knew it was an error and they were still ignoring it. I felt bad and went home early that day. Next day I resume my work on that project ignoring what had happened. After working on it for several months, I realized that the business implication of such a small change could have costed a lot to the company. So my seniors knew what they were doing but their way of telling it was different. This incident made me think of all such comments which were made to the teachers and their responses to them. I couldn’t agree more that the attitude they carried towards students was nothing but positive. Sir you talked about the learner’s mindset for teachers. I would like to add that even students should follow it. Many a times when we are supposed to meet a new teacher in a class, all we do before coming to class is know him/her from someone. What we should know is the description of teacher made by someone is his/her perception and it may not be true at all. We should be in a position to judge the teacher for ourselves only after we have had enough experience of their teaching. Not all are mature enough to do this and hence students should be made aware of this behavior at some level or the other. Otherwise like the sales person in the above example, we will face many such people in the upcoming future.

The learner versus judger mindset is a concept that I continuously think about after it was introduced in one of our classes. Upon looking back, I realized that there was one specific instance (during my interactions with another teacher) where I unknowingly adopted the learner approach, which in turn worked to my immense advantage. I, therefore, wanted to share a student’s perspective on the challenges faced in the classroom while trying to become a better learner. In my 11th grade, I was sent to a coaching class in order to get focused training on cracking engineering entrance examinations. There was only one instructor, who single-handedly dealt with physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Most students who came into the coaching institute were from decent schools in the locality, plus there was a selection process for getting into the Institute. This meant that everybody in the institute had a decent historical academic record. Now, once classes commenced at the institute, a lot of students (including myself) started experiencing problems. Firstly, the questions and concepts that we were asked to deal with in the institute were far more difficult than what was prescribed to us in school. A lot of questions were so difficult that we had no idea were to start. Secondly, the instructor questioned us on every possible juncture and he would invite a lot of class room discussions while trying to explain new concepts. If nobody put up their hand to initiate a discussion, our teacher would start making random picks. Now all this new methodology was very new to the style of teaching we were exposed to in the past and naturally there were a lot of discontentment among the students. A few of them even tried to quit the institute. However, at some point or the other, all of us started understanding the nature of our teacher’s arguments and questions and we started to prepare so as to tackle his questions. When I look back in retrospect after knowing about the learner vs judger mindset, I understand that most students in that class gradually graduated from a judger to a learner mindset over a period of time. The teacher’s idea was to initially expose all of us to our lack of understanding, which he hoped will help us gear up on our preparations. In the initial phase, all students repelled him since he was questioning our understanding of the subject and our existing thought process while tackling problems. But later, all students evolved understand his teaching methods and became aware of the positive impact it had. I think for any teacher who tries to challenge the student’s way of thinking, there will be a default defense mechanism that will make the student repel the teacher’s ideas. But the student also has to take the responsibility of overcoming this judger mindset in order to extract useful learnings from the teacher. Real learning takes place when both the teacher and the student has an understanding of each other’s thought process.

Taking note from your article, I think, from a higher perspective, a valuable student teacher relationship is the product of the capacity of emotional intelligence of teachers as well as the students. There are strongly resonating assumptions of emotional intelligence in the practice of teaching and learning: Understanding accurately, the temperament of each other, and the ability to rationally control emotions of one's self. A productive learning environment is that which not only addresses a clear objective of the lessons, but also appeals to the expectation of both the parties. A teacher who is able to achieve effective engagement throughout the lesson more or less successfully fulfills these criteria. Also, I believe that great teachers, apart from teaching lessons, also share their own learning experiences and the general 'hows' of learning. It not only benefits the students, but also creates a firm connect between him and the students. From my fresh learning experience, I can vouch for the fact that optimistic and welcoming teachers are welcomed by learners universally. Also, in the present world of game changing technological innovations being implemented everyday, classroom teaching, more specifically teaching through human interaction is taking a backseat. It is easy for every student to possess the best learning tools and techniques at all times. With such a development, each lesson has the potential to become the most interesting lesson in the world for the students. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly harder for the teacher to ensure that the computer does not take over. To be relevant, the need of the hour for teachers is to accommodate technology in their teaching as efficiently as possible. Good teachers need to 'empower' themselves by utilising technologies that can assist them in their teaching, and become great. They need to devise their teachings to ensure that it is not a barrier to their instructions. Our institute is adapting this ideology very effectively. Sharing information on social media like Google classroom and Facebook Workplace is a great step towards dynamic communication among us. Incorporation of technology directly into the course plan is another step towards this development. As you have mentioned creative communication in your article, technology can go a long way in doing so. Students can be given higher freehold of their own learning through audio podcasts that they can use to gain additional knowledge of a subject, or to clarify their doubts about the same.

I would like to thank you sir, for writing an interesting blog on how to form positive assumptions and maintain it to obtain favorable outcomes. You have always managed to grab my attention in class and this read was no different. Sir, I completely agree to the fact that as teachers it is imperative that we hold positive assumptions about our students. It helps us as teachers to view the students through a lens that will facilitate us to treat them as learners. We would then understand their queries better and provide them with the necessary solutions without judging them. It also helps a teacher to understand where the student is coming from, her issues and what she is trying to enunciate. It creates a healthy conversation between both the parties through which both can reap benefits. Forcing the mind to form positive assumptions about students and to maintain it also helps a teacher to treat each and every student equally. This avoids any kind of discrepancies which in turn builds an emotional connect between both the parties over time. This not only helps the teacher to build trust, but also enhances and develops his credibility as rightly pointed out by you, sir. Since teaching and learning are complementary to each other, it is important that we as students should also form and maintain positive assumptions about our teachers. It is true that at times we tend to challenge the authority of our teachers. We tend to play the role of the ‘sniper’ in order to attract attention of the class or the teacher for that matter. On the contrary, if we refrain ourselves from doing that we can help the teacher justify his true potential and serve us in the best possible manner. Yes, we would be having doubts and a lot of queries. But there is a huge gap between being inquisitive and being arrogant, and maintaining that respect which the teacher deserves can make the difference. This entire discussion resonates from a concept called, ‘Judger vs Learner’ theory which we were taught a few days back. It is all about viewing the other person through a lens which helps us to understand him better. This in turn helps us to change our approach slightly in order to grasp the maximum amount of learning from that person. I also believe that these concepts of ‘Judger vs Learner’ theory and positive assumptions work on an individual basis. When I say, ‘I will not be afraid to lose before I win”, I mean to say that I am not judging myself to be inferior to anyone else. Rather I am trusting myself and forming positive assumptions about myself to help me justify my true potential. It helps me to believe in myself which acts as a source of motivation. This can lead to better performance over time.

What a wonderful article sir!! I find this article useful for not only teachers and students but for everyone who bases their judgment and decisions on basis of perceptions. Fortunately or unfortunately most of the people have already made their image of the person before they even have the opportunity to interact with him/her. One study from lifestyle magazine Allure said that about 64% of the people have already made their decision on the basis of the appearance of a person. I would also like to share one incident from my work life that how perception biases can play spoilsport at workplace too. There was a book review competition in my company and every interested employee needed to go to human resource to get a book from a list issued for review. Coincidently It was only my first week at the organization and I came to know of the competition quite late so I went on the last day of the deadline to take the book. I remember that there was only one book left there that was Inferno by Dan Brown. I asked the human resource manager to issue me same but since the way I speak (If not required, I love to speak in my Awadhi Hindi tone), she made a judgment that I would not be able to do it. By hindsight bias, She told me that I can even take more than one week of time to read the book but still would not be able to do it. What happened was another story, when I won the competition and she came specially to congratulate me. What I meant to say here is that whether someone is a teacher, student, executive or a manager, he should not take a decision on the basis of perception biases. When the student was labeled “difficult”, Anchoring bias would have made a person to stick with initial information and fail to adjust with subsequent information. And as can be seen from the example that how if the decision would have been made with the bias, teaching effectively would have remained a problem. Generally what happens in certain hierarchical organizations that a manager is being given a report by earlier manager on the behaviour aspects of the individuals who will be reporting, a manager have a choice to anchor his decisions about the employees based on the sheet given or give a try to different employees without any perception bias because soon If a person go with anchoring bias, he/she may fall in trap of confirmation bias where person will be trying to take decisions at office on the basis of perception. This will result in a workplace with no harmony and extremely dissatisfied employees. So Perception biases whether it is anchoring, confirmation, availability or hindsight stops a person from perfecting his role as a mentor, leader, and manager.

What a wonderful article sir!! I find this article useful for not only teachers and students but for everyone who bases their judgment and decisions on basis of perceptions. Fortunately or unfortunately most of the people have already made their image of the person before they even have the opportunity to interact with him/her. One study from lifestyle magazine Allure said that about 64% of the people have already made their decision on the basis of the appearance of a person. I would also like to share one incident from my work life that how perception biases can play spoilsport at workplace too. There was a book review competition in my company and every interested employee needed to go to human resource to get a book from a list issued for review. Coincidently It was only my first week at the organization and I came to know of the competition quite late so I went on the last day of the deadline to take the book. I remember that there was only one book left there that was Inferno by Dan Brown. I asked the human resource manager to issue me same but since the way I speak (If not required, I love to speak in my Awadhi Hindi tone), she made a judgment that I would not be able to do it. By hindsight bias, She told me that I can even take more than one week of time to read the book but still would not be able to do it. What happened was another story, when I won the competition and she came specially to congratulate me. What I meant to say here is that whether someone is a teacher, student, executive or a manager, he should not take a decision on the basis of perception biases. When the student was labeled “difficult”, Anchoring bias would have made a person to stick with initial information and fail to adjust with subsequent information. And as can be seen from the example that how if the decision would have been made with the bias, teaching effectively would have remained a problem. Generally what happens in certain hierarchical organizations that a manager is being given a report by earlier manager on the behaviour aspects of the individuals who will be reporting, a manager have a choice to anchor his decisions about the employees based on the sheet given or give a try to different employees without any perception bias because soon If a person go with anchoring bias, he/she may fall in trap of confirmation bias where person will be trying to take decisions at office on the basis of perception. This will result in a workplace with no harmony and extremely dissatisfied employees. So Perception biases whether it is anchoring, confirmation, availability or hindsight stops a person from perfecting his role as a mentor, leader, and manager. Thus I totally agree with Dr.Ranjan Banerjee’s message of positivity that how positive assumptions and perceptions can make a class, true learning hub because If we show positivity, the same gets reflected from the audience.

What a refreshing and enlightening read. The incident described is close to my heart since I myself had (though very brief period) the experience of working as a teacher, before I joined my present job. While I was reading the blog memories from those days came alive, and I could smile. I remembered that how discussions in faculty common room regarding the toppers aka bright students or someone whom a teacher referred to “troublemaker” left an impression of the said student, and somehow when I went to that class, that thought lingered on.mes however after interacting with the student I found some contradictory views and my opinion based on my personal experience with the student. That often lead to re think how wrong was pre conceived notions on someone. This blog reinstalled that very thought. The impact of the piece has been more compelling as it has been expressed in a very simple and straight from the heart. The fact that just by knowing that the student’s name was same as that of your child, how it made you to interact with him in a complete different manner and the shift in this attitude was also reciprocated so well by him. Being a teacher not only allows us to impart lessons and share knowledge to the students but it is a two way traffic and at more times and never, it lets us learn quite a few things. It is an exciting and self fulfilling experience. So many stories to share with others, like this one which itself is a learning experience. Finally, the part where you mentioned about the positive assumption and smiling part, I remembered the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson saying- “Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself”’

It's a great feeling to know the soul of a teacher who says teaching is a privilege ! Those students are really blessed in their life who got the opportunity to get a teacher like you. A determined, positive minded thought. For me, Teacher is a builder of back bone of the nation. A Teacher creates tomorrow's hope. Teacher like you whose love, perseverance and sacrifice shows the right path to thousands of people like me. It's the Teacher who helps to mould the character and personalities of students to make them perfect in future life. Your momentary pause in the class room reminds me many of my teachers who too probably paused many times with patience just save me from getting leveled. Sir, continue to keep the enlighten thought and helps to blossom many students like us.

I can relate to this. The way you beautifully put the idea into words is remarkable. I have learned 3 things so far: 1) Relatable things are very easy to understand and easy to remember while contradictory views are hard pills to swallow. 2) The teachers who go out of their way by ditching the traditional methods and using out of the box techniques to make learners understand things better, make a deeper impression on the minds of learners which stays for a lifetime. 3) Teachers who come down to the level of class to make them understand things better have a special place in the hearts of students. The common traits seen above are Positive attitude, Open Mind and Flexible methods. The above article mentions about the role of positive attitude and how due to a combination of insecurity and ego, anyone can quickly fall into the trap of judging and labelling (Open mind can tackle this problem). The point I want to add to the above one is that you cannot teach people unless they are ready to learn, so I have seen the good teachers making the playing field ready i.e. making people ready to learn and then the process becomes smoother, else you can expect more “snipers” in the crowd. I believe snipers are complex beings, they are more than just the rebels which they appear on the surface. These snipers have a sense of insecurity, which can be arising because of the 2 reasons: 1) We want to stand out from the universe instead of seeing our connectedness to everything and everyone else. Our society is a system — when we disconnect from it, we start seeing everyone as a competitor or an enemy. This cause of insecurity can be tackled with positivity the way you did. However, 2 ) If the sniper already considers himself/herself superior, in the process he is trying to establish who is the “Alpha” of the class. Positivity won't work in this case, the root cause of insecurity needs to be tackled here. This leaves me with questions like: Does the teacher need to establish his/her credibility in this case or his/her experience is enough to tackle this? If a student doesn’t have the ability to unlearn the wrong things, in what ways a teacher can help him? When you lose humility, you lose the ability to learn. How to bring back the humility of a learner who has lost it? How to prevent our belief system from passing a judgement in order to understand the other side better?

Heartfelt Greetings, Sir. Sitting with you in a lecture on “Learning to Learn”, I realized how beautiful can learning be if one simply opens up to all the experiences he comes across. How much one can learn by dropping its prejudices blocking the mind from accepting varied perceptions. You haven’t only spoken it to us, Sir, we have seen you walk the talk. One thing we all commonly appreciate in people is their humility, which comes with a sense of gratitude and service to another. Here, with your article I can very well relate to the mindset of coming with a sense of offering. While conducting the workshop there isn’t an arrogance of having a managerial level audience but a gratitude for it. There was a reason why I could relate to the ‘sniper’ incident. I, too, was having a tough time tolerating a batchmate and after learning from you, I realized this person’s name is common with a good friend of mine. Thus, I did something similar. Now, every time something came up, I imagined my friend. Humorously, the same thing started looking innocent and childish. In the paragraph on ‘responses’ we again learnt how we can drop our defensive thought mechanism and openly receive every challenge as a new opportunity to learn. I don’t believe any subject is uninteresting. Besides, the learner’s willingness, the role of the imparter is equally important. A famous quote from the Ancient times says, “As within, So without” which has a much deeper meaning than its literal understanding. Our thoughts have frequency and these frequencies foster the life around us. The outside world is a complete reflection of our inner world. So, if one can generate the desired frequencies inside himself, the vibes are bound to carry and spread the inner beauty outside. If the teacher wants, no student can ever find a subject boring. It is true, when the happiness is from inside, it is explicit outside. The long desire of every human is to be blissful, as this bliss is contagious - one person is enough to spread the mirth. And what a beautiful opportunity the teacher has to alter so many lives! There’s so much to learn if one simply drops its prejudices and humbly opens up to every experience. Thank you for sharing your life’s learnings with us, Sir. I’d be obliged to know more about how a person can teach and be a student simultaneously.

A great abstract Sir.. I completely subscribe to your views expressed in the blog. I could relate and draw parallel to this in our day to day life. It is easy for us to get carried away by the first impression we have on someone and stereotype them as we have been taught from childhood that first impression lasts long. While this is true, it also has another hidden dimension to it which opens up to the question whether judging a person based on the first meeting or interaction is the right thing to do. People tend to react to situations and may unknowingly find themselves falling prey to being judged and stereotyped which may not be their true self or character. I too had a similar experience on my first day in college when I got bumped by a classmate. I was in a cafeteria that time enjoying hot pakodas which fell off from plate due to the impact. He seemed to be in rush and did not bother to check on me. This incident impacted me and I always kept a distance from him. After few days, I came to know that he had an emergency call on that day and he was rushing to a hospital to check on his relative admitted over there. I realized that he was running high on his emotions and might have behaved in that manner unconsciously. Later, in one of the group activities, I could identify his true nature and believe me, he was a completely different person I had earlier thought of. We shared same line of thoughts and he is now one of my best friends. Looking back, I feel I could have easily lost a great friendship due to the initial bias I had on him which was purely situational and out of his control. I could have reached out to him earlier and changed my assumption had I not been judgmental of his behavior. I personally believe that rather than forming opinions about the person, one should try to put them in other’s situation and ask what might have led to that kind of behavior. Giving benefit of doubt to that person instead of being judgmental would help in bringing more clarity. The blog beautifully brings out the impact teachers have on a student by making a positive assumption and sustaining it for a longer period. I believe teaching profession is very challenging as they have to deal with students with distinct characters every year. As a human, they are prone to forming opinions about students quickly and in the process, few students are left out and feel disconnected with the teacher. Having a positive frame of mind and understanding the students would help create a great learning atmosphere which would be more impactful and richer.

Sir, Taking a cue from where you concluded saying “Teaching is a privilege” may I add to it by saying that so is Learning! It was early this year in the month of February when I first actually got associated with SPJIMR. That is approximately the time when I began my course here. Till that time, I was away from any kind of “studies” or “classroom” environment for the last 20 odd years. The apprehension was overwhelming. I had absolutely no idea as to what Management classes or professors were like, leave alone knowing what they were like at SPJIMR! I also had no idea about what kind of a mindset I was supposed to carry when I first came here. Eight months into the course and almost 3 Contacts behind me, I am still overwhelmed, however not with anxiety now, but with appreciation, high regard and at times admiration for the people whom I happened to meet here at the institute premises in the last few months. To my surprise, Learning has come back to me with a lot less difficulty than that what I had imagined! Be it the faculty members or my batch mates and my new found friends of the PGEMP course, each one of them has had an impact on me already! I would like to quote you here again by saying that as the “creative communication” and “transfer of meaning” happened in the last few contacts, a totally new and a wonderful world began to unfold in front of my eyes. My “Learner Mindset” got triggered automatically and despite all the rigorous classes, group work, assignments and sleepless nights, I found myself having a good time! This was maybe because I felt that I was being given a chance to grow up once again! This “Learning” episode at SPJIMR has made me realize the fact that I have not stopped growing and that surely has done the trick! It is one huge privilege for me and I am ever so grateful that I got a chance to experience it here at this prestigious institute. My salute and best regards to you and all the “Teachers and Learners” at SPJIMR!

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