MADURAI: "More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which teaching is given," said Bertrand Russel.
Thennavan appears to be living by Russel’s words. The headmaster of Government Middle School in Kondapethan has been relentlessly teaching students at their doorsteps ever since the COVID-19 took over almost everything in our lives, including academics.
The endeavour has earned him positive responses both from students and parents. In the wake of the virus outbreak, educational institutions across the State shut their doors on March 24. After some time, the School Education Department, understanding the need, came up with solutions, one was for the students to take lessons from Kalvi TV channel.
Meanwhile, teachers in schools also started taking online classes. But the digital divide proved real and wide at the time of crisis. Thennavan started going to the houses of students to teach them. He has 26 years of experience in teaching and received 27 awards, including the Best Teacher Award from the State government.
Speaking to Express, he said there are 200 students studying in the school. Of them, very few have smartphones. Most of their parents are laundry workers. They go to the city for their work. “Not only during the lockdown, but also on holidays, I used to visit the students and their parents,” he said.
Thennavan continued, “I interact with my pupils regularly to help them prepare themselves to get through the pandemic, clarify their doubts, and make sure they also study the subjects as most of them hail from economically deprived families.
My co-teachers and I assemble all students, make them sit at a place with adequate physical distancing between one another, and ask them to wear masks. Parents eagerly send their wards to the class.” To not let the gap between the school and its students widen, they started conducting debates and storytelling sessions to interact more with the children. “We even started a ‘street library’ to make them read books to recall letters and sentences,” he added.
Recently, Thennavan and his team have distributed sports accessories like cricket bat, tennikoit, volleyball, skipping rope, with the aim of keeping them physically fit. The volunteers also, from time to time, give ‘millet malt’ to the students. The teachers take classes to the children on alternate days, and also give them assignments and homework. “This makes the parents and students happy as they feel like being in an actual classroom-like environment,” Thennavan beamed.