By Tarun Patel
Dear friends, after interviewing Dr. S Mohanraj and Dr. Atanu Bhattacharya, this week we have with us Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas.
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas, an ESL specialist, has been working online after VRS. She started with a teaching English site. She has been involved in projects with many online marketers. Webinars and web conferences appeal to her idea of distance learning and continuing education. Hence her latest projects have been related to gathering information about webinars, web meetings and web conferencing services.
As part of her online learning she has learnt to design websites and blogs that are fully optimized. She has mastered the WordPress platform and has her own authority sites. She also designs professional sites and blogs for others.
She continues to teach students and train teachers online and offline and answers their questions in a special forum created for this purpose.
Let us converse with Dr. Srinivas now…
Tarun Patel: Ma’am, How long have you been teaching English in India?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: I started teaching English to children studying in Class 1 in 1980. I also worked in the Central School and a college in Balasinor for a year each. I joined the H. M. Patel institute of English Training and Research as a resource person to train teachers in 1985. In 1997 I was part of the team to initiate the M. A. ELT course and designed the curriculum and syllabus in line with similar courses in the U. K. and the U. S. I taught the course and co-ordinated the M. A. ELT and later the M. Phil. ELT programme until 2005. I took voluntary retirement from the institute after over 20 years of service. I started my online venture after 2005 and now I offer webinar courses for teachers and students as well as bloggers through my website www.webspacebuddy.com.
Tarun Patel: Why did you decide to become an English language teacher?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: When I took up my first job as a teacher, I had no idea that I will spend the major part of my life as a teacher. But the wonderful experience with the first graders got me hooked and I discovered my love for teaching. I took professional training after that one year experience and continued to educate and train myself as a teacher.
Tarun Patel: Which writer / researcher has had the most influence over the way you understand learning and teaching?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: The H. M Patel Institute of English Training and Research, the place where I learnt everything about being a teacher, has a library full of ELT books available only in a few other places in India. I spent a lot of time in the library but more than the knowledge of all those books put together, the excellent teachers I had when I was doing B. Ed and M. Ed at the institute had a tremendous influence on me. I had great teachers who set a model for me by practising what they taught. They inspired me with rich knowledge, a practical orientation to teaching and learning and a genuine love for facilitating learning.
Tarun Patel: How did you find your first teaching job?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: The English Teaching School in Vallabh Vidyanagar advertised for teachers’ jobs. I had just got admission for my daughter in the same school. I applied for the post and attended the interview. Luckily I got the job. I shifted my daughter to Central School but continued to work at the English Teaching School. At the school, through interaction with the great Principal Mt. Dayabhai and the lovely children, I learnt the most important lesson of how to gently facilitate learning and lead students with love and affection. I can never forget the wonderful experience of that first job where I earned about Rs.450. That was more satisfying to me than all the others things I do now that get me hundred times more.
Tarun Patel: What are the major challenges for an English teacher while teaching in Gujarat / India?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: Indian students, especially the students of Gujarat are superbly disciplined and they want to do exactly what the teachers want them to do. The teachers, therefore, have to find ways of engaging the students in such activities that make them independent learners who continue to learn life-long. The biggest challenge is for the teachers to avoid the temptation of making the students rely on them entirely for their learning. The teachers have to allow the learners to outgrow their sphere of influence and become self reliant learners. The teachers have to make themselves not needed anymore and that I thing is the biggest challenge in teaching anywhere. This is especially difficult in Gujarat where the students love and respect the teachers much more than anywhere else in India.
Tarun Patel: What have you learned from being an English teacher?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: My life took a U turn when I became an English teacher. I had reached a dead end at the moment and but for this beautiful turning in my life I would have stopped learning. I owe a lot to those six year olds who filled my heart with new life and hope. They were my first teachers. Being an English teacher has been more than a mere job for me. My second life began as an English teacher and I have learnt all that I know now from my students at the various levels I taught and my teachers. What they have taught me has shaped my life and has changed my world view.
Tarun Patel: What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming an English teacher?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: Those who want to be teachers should question themselves and find out why they want to be in this profession. Unless they have a love for this profession they should not take it up. This profession is full of challenges, as any other profession is likely to be. But the most important part of being a teacher is to interact with the life of another individual and we can do a lot of harm unknowingly and none but the affected party may know it. We need to understand the responsibility that goes with the power that rests with teachers to influence a person’s life and handle it very carefully.
If you love your learners, if you love teaching, everything else will be taken care of automatically. If you do not have this love but take up the profession for other reasons, no amount of training will make you a good teacher. If you find you do not have the necessary love for the profession, please find other ways of fulfilling your needs. You will thank yourself for this decision for years to come.
Tarun Patel: What most interests you about ELT at the moment?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: The horizons of ELT are widening and teachers and learners from all over the world are coming together to learn from each other and grow together. Online projects related to ELT interest me because genuine communication, the most crucial aspect of learning a language, is involved in communicating with peers and experts worldwide.
Tarun Patel: How do you see the role of the EL teacher evolving over the next 5 – 10 years?
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: I expect more distance learning through webinars to take place more frequently in the future. Already webinars or web seminars or web conferencing is being used to train teachers for TOEFL and other competitive examinations. [You can get the news about teacher webinars at www.webinarreviews.org] This online training and collaboration is likely to increase manifold. I am particularly interested in our remote villages and tribal children getting the best teachers from every nook and corner of the world. All that our villages will need to learn from this world-wide expertise is a computer with internet connection plus the facility to receive audio-video input.
Tarun Patel: Please share some tips on becoming a ‘better’ English teacher.
Dr. Ranganayaki Srinivas: The world changes every second. Keep learning, keep your knowledge up-to-date, be a life long learner. Unless you continue to be a learner, you cannot be a real teacher. Do not take up any profession unless you really love it. Love not only the benefits that you can get through the profession, but love the whole of it with all its challenges and frustrations. You will earn as much as due to you through whatever means you choose. So there is no need to take up something you don’t love and do it half-heartedly. Get thoroughly involved in whatever you take up, at whatever level you get to teach, and learn from every moment of the experience. This will shape your life and the profession will mean more than a mere way to earn a living.
Tarun Patel: Thanks very much Ma’am for agreeing to appear on ELTWeekly.
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