Ms. Asha Thomas Fenn is a veteran in the education industry and brings along with her, 30 years of fruitful and engaging academia-industry exposure in India and Dubai. Through her years of service, she has handled several positions and responsibilities of an academician, trainer, motivational speaker, educational consultant and corporate relations manager. Ms. Fenn also has the distinction of nurturing and mentoring young civil servants at the Government Civil Service Academy in Tiruvananthapuram, as their academiccoordinator.
In this interview with ‘The Teacher’, Ms. Fenn speaks about importance of value education in schools, communication skills and grooming.
1. In the current schooling system, values education is a challenge. What is your view on this?
A child is exposed to all the necessary values in his or her formative years at home. When admitted to school, the school becomes an extended platform to continue the same. However, today the sad scenario is that education is being highly commercialised in some schools and such schools hardly give time, or rather take corrective measures when compared to the olden times.
The priorities of education have changed too. I am of the opinion that since all knowledge-oriented information is readily available for students, the core duty of teachers is to make sure that they are touching the hearts of the children they are associated with. The school has to make sure that their students are known for their values more than any other competency, as the only thing that matters in this fast-paced world, is whether a person is grounded or not. If this is ensured, then a person can indeed be a performer in life, in all the right ways.
2. Casual dressing is an 'in-thing' among youngsters. What would you advice teachers and students regarding grooming?
Dressing casually is a general tendency among students. But I am of the strong opinion that this situation will never arise, provided the teacher is well-groomed in all respects, in the very critical eye of the students. The hardcore reality is that some teachers do dress very casually, giving room for students to criticise them or follow the same. Students are very aware of who they can deceive, using excuses. To me, a class is the replica of the school, and sometimes even of the class teacher, in many respects. So, if students turn up casually dressed, check the system.
3. Colleges put in great efforts to teach and improve communication skills. Do you think that these should be taught at the school level as well?
Communication skills is one area where the maximum importance has to be given at school, starting from the students of very young age. Teachers need to initiate conversations with them, preferably only in English, or to a great extent in English. It is a sheer waste of time if we try to make them fluent in English only when they are in college. They tend to face bigger problems in diction, pronunciation, etc. and so on, if learning the language begins at this stage. Whatever any person is, is just because of their schooling. A well-baked cake is the result of mixing the right ingredients of the right measure. And the taste matters. In college, only the icing is possible, but baking is what matters much more than the icing.
4. We are witnessing children becoming more career-oriented at the school level. What is your view on this?
I don't think that children are becoming career-oriented; it is the parents who decide on their own, about what their children have to pursue in future. Unless parents decide to change, we cannot do much about this situation. Parents tend to push their children to choose the career which they want them to pursue, without realising the children’s potential or interests.
5. You have played the roles of a teacher, a principal and a mentor. Which of these roles have you cherished the most?
All these three roles have their own significance. To be a student mentor, one has to be in the shoes of both the teacher and the principal. I am privileged to be a passionate mentor since God has given me the best opportunities and platforms to learn to be one. One has to have a divine call to be associated with students, as being a teacher is the noblest profession in the world.