A REPORT ON THE SECOND REGIONAL WORKSHOP FOR TEACHERS.

 Second regional workshop for school teachers, Facilitating Constructive Pedagogy and Harmonious Interpersonal Relations in the class room: A General Semantic Approach

29-30 July, 2011

Venue: Tejas Vidyalaya, Baroda

The second regional workshop for school teachers on ‘Facilitating Constructive Pedagogy and Harmonious Interpersonal Relations in the class room: A General Semantic Approach ‘ was jointly organized by Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences and Tejas Vidyalaya, Baroda on 29-30 July, 2011. The host institution, Tejas Vidyalaya provided excellent facilities. The coordinators, Seema Nayar and Michelle Ganeshani personally ensured that every aspect of the event is organized with great care. Around 30 teachers from different schools of Baroda participated actively in various activities organized during the workshop like discussion and paper presentation. This time, there were teachers representing all major schools in Baroda .

Inauguration of the Workshop

In the inaugural ceremony Ms. Michelle Ganeshani, Vice Principal, Tejas Vidyalaya welcomed all the guests and participants. She informed the participant about Uday Education Trust, the educational institutes run by the trust, the ideology of the trust and Tejas Vidyalaya. While introducing the Centre and its activities, Professor Prafulla Kar, the Director of Balvant Parekh Centre also discussed the basic philosophy of General Semantics. He enlightened the audience about the initiator of the theory of General Semantics, Alfred J. Korzybki, the contribution of Mr. Balvant Parekh in setting up the centre at Baroda , various activities taken up by the centre and how he himself got involved in this center for General Semantics and other Human studies.  He threw light on the term Constrictive Pedagogy and how best communication between teacher and student can encourage the students to be creative as well as constructive. He stressed on developing harmonious relationship in the classroom. Ms. Seema Nayar, Principal Tejas Vidyalaya, the local coordinator presented a vote of thanks. The following concept note was circulated.

General Semantics can aptly be described as an applied philosophy that analyzes and evaluates how human experiences get filtered through and mediated by sensory organs, nervous system, and linguistic constructions. A General Semanticist understands the shortcomings implicit in the processes of cognition, knowledge acquisition and dissemination and ponders on corrective mechanisms. Hence in pedagogy the uses of a general semantics worldview are valuable. General Semantics is an efficient methodology in training individuals to view their environments in a more informed and sensitive way. The claim of General Semantics that by applying its methods, disagreement will be reduced, some psychological disorders can be overcome, and reasoning will be improved has great significance in a classroom situation.

The Principal and Vice-Principals of Tejas Vidyalaya

One can use the principles and practices of General Semantics in facilitating a constructive teaching/learning process. Instead of passively learning, students will become active and independent time-binders and imbibe the strategies of ‘creatical (Critical and Creative) acquisition of knowledge.’ Time-binding, according to Korzybski, the founder of General Semantics is the unique human ability to transfer knowledge and skills from one generation to another at an exponential rate. Education complements conscious time-binding.

A major defect in contemporary education is that instead of finding out individual interests and talents of students and nurturing them, pattern-conformity and forced homogenization through several tactics are achieved. Disciplining amounts to promoting tameness and uncritical acceptance. The Workshop will inquire how General Semantics can be used to facilitate the creation of a student community which is innovative, independent and compassionate without unleashing anarchy in the classroom. The danger that many educationists perceive in the total lack of supervision and absence of regulations in the school is that the rule of the jungle would prevail. There could be an environment conducive to the harmonious cooperation of students and teachers in the classroom without implementing a Fascist model of control and surveillance. General Semantics can suggest ways to improve the relationships among students and between teachers and learners through its time-tested strategies of awareness into human nature(s) and tolerance to diversity. Instead of forced homogenization, one can think of an alternative: accepting heterogeneity and promoting a culture of mutual respect. This atmosphere will promote good practices that ensure meaningful student-teacher relationships.

In her introductory lecture ‘General Semantics : Understanding the Basic Principles’  on the first day Bini B.S. provided insight into the Basic Principles and terminology of General Semantics. She emphasized on practical implications of various theories of General Semantics. She explained the concepts like ‘Time Binding, Thinking Creatically, Extensional devices and the aphorism Map is not territory’ and how these theories cab be useful in the teaching-learning  process.  She explained the background of the theory of General Semantics, and how Alfred Korzybski developed this theory after witnessing the destruction of World War – I as a soldier.  The aim was to build healthy society, help in avoiding traps built in language and common sense assumptions.  She explains that language, thoughts and action of a person can be often cleverly controlled by others and awareness of language can help not to be led by the nose and blindly controlled by others.

 

A section of the audience

While speaking on maturity she stressed on the ability to control certain emotions, reactions and responses that can be destructive. She accentuated the importance of delayed reaction in different situations. On second day Bini B.S. spoke about ‘General Semantics and its Communicational, Cultural and Ethical Impacts on Pedagogy and Interpersonal Relation ship’. She discussed complex interconnection of relationship between language, thought and behavior.  A good General Semantics practitioner is a good observer of himself and others. It enhances the capacity to adjust and understand oneself better and develop Creatical thinking. Education should never be restrictive, it has to be progressive.  She explained that all the branches of knowledge are interconnected. Isolated island of knowledge is not possible, so a teacher needs to have knowledge of related topics that can create interest in learning. She also discussed some flawed notions about value education and emphasized that nothing should be imposed on children. Instead make them capable of making discreet and intelligent choices in life which are not selfish and destructive to oneself and others. Children should be trained to respect diversity and forced homogenization should not be the aim of schools.

Deepa Mishra’s lecture on ‘An Analysis of Manhood of Humanity: The Science and Art of Human Engineering’ threw light on basic concepts of reality and identity through an analysis of Korzybski’s text. While talking about reality she explained that actual reality can’t be caught through language or words because they carry different meanings for different people. She gave idea that each and every person’s reality depends on their past experiences and perceptions.  Everybody must be careful about using and interpreting words.  Giving example of lightning she explained how different people thought differently about it and gave different reactions. She talked about how definitions create conditions and brings rigidity.  She explained the concept of time binding and why human beings are known as time binders. She talked about familiar assumptions and that the engineering of human society is difficult and complicated matter.  While talking about identity she said that identity is not fixed, it is always in a state of flux; it keeps on changing and has to be understood contextually. ‘Aristotelian Pedagogy and Beyond’ was the topic of Deepa Mishra’s lecture on second day. She explained the difference between the Aristotelian theories and theories of General Semantics. Her main argument was that General Semantics, through its non-Aristotelian, non-Newtonian and  non-Euclidean method  has the potential to revolutionize our ways of engaging with ourselves, others and the world at large.

Deepa Mishra

One the first day the movie based on novel by E. R. Braithwaite ‘To Sir with Love’ was screened. The movie covers different aspects of teacher-student relationships.  It also deals with racial and socio-economic problems prevalent in the society. Because of the disturbed background of the students the classroom becomes difficult to handle. A young, inexperienced and reluctant teacher Mark Thackery joins the school. Reluctant because teaching job is not his first choice. He handles these most undisciplined adolescents and teaches them to respect not only others but themselves too. He treats them as mature adults and gives meaning to their lives. By the end of one year he changes the lives of the students and that gives him feeling of satisfaction. Though he gets another job in the end he decides to continue as a teacher. All the participants enjoyed the movie and agreed that often they also face such situations in the classrooms.

Discussion during workshop

A session in progress

Participants presented their papers on different topics like Relationship between Educator and students, Discipline, creative teaching, nurturing values, etc. The topics were based on the reading material provided to them. Many participants agreed that they heard the term ‘General Semantics’ for the first time but after attending this workshop they wanted to know more about this theory.  These presentations and discussions covered different areas of teaching – learning process: A General Semantic Approach. The teachers shared their classroom experiences. The practical problems and aspects related to classroom situation were discussed. All teachers presented papers and actively participated in the discussion. They agreed that the workshop has been a great help to them to handle practical classroom situation and such workshops should be organized every year and more and more teachers should participate.  

Seema Nayar speaks during the valedictory

 A Report by Sadhana Desai, Baroda High School, Alkapuri