Aakanksha Jain – PGT Biology – G D Goenka Public School , Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh
What inspired you to become an educator?
When I was in high school, I started teaching my siblings. That is when it dawned on me that I am good at explaining concepts, etc. This thought and confidence kept growing with time. So, how I got inspired? It was all in an instant that I realised that I am good at this job and now I am an educator.
What motivated you to become a Biology Teacher?
Honestly, it is not just about being a biology teacher. When I was in school, I started experiencing some things. I think Biology is a subject that, as students, you get to experience the most. I had teachers like Shalli Nair Ma’am and Pranav Sir who have been a source of much inspiration. They used to keep their explanations very simple. They were the kind of teachers who could make us understand things by simply drawing out diagrams. I am greatly inspired by them. Most of my teaching methodologies also are inspired by theirs. Of course, nowadays we can facilitate students with technology as well, along with diagrams. Being highly impressed by such awesome teachers I chose Biology as my subject.
What are the highs and lows in your teaching career?
It has been only two and a half years so far because I have been teaching only from 2016.
When I joined DLF Public School, 2 years back, I got a 99.8% result, which was the highest in that school. I joined the school mid-year. But despite that, I was the one who made sure that the average result was greater than 96%. The next year I came to know that none of the students were taking any extra tuition classes and yet our results were top notch that year as well. That achievement was very heart warming and fulfilling.
Talking about lows, two years back I had a student who had an eye problem – she was partially blind. As a result, she was unable to attend classes. She was suffering from Glaucoma along with an auto immune disorder. Seeing her that way was depressing for me at times. But, I started encouraging her. Then, in the disability quota, she scored 86 marks in Biology. That was not exactly my low. But, during that time, I did experience a lot of intense heartfelt emotions and I would say that she added yet another dimension into my teaching career.
What made you happy and what things made you sad in your teaching career so far?
I feel happy when students achieve their targets. Disappointments are not many but sometimes when you are not given credit for a job that you have done with a lot of passion, you feel bad. I think that is human nature. Apart from that, I did not have had much disappointment in this field.
What significant contributions have you made in your career so far?
Talking about my achievements, I am very keen about keeping my learning a continuous process. I keep exploring new things. Upon completing my post-graduation, I started taking up students with special needs. I have had students who had dyslexia, etc. In that perspective, I began pursuing MA in Psychology. I am currently doing my MA Psychology from IGNOU so that I can do a lot more for such students. Along with that, I have also started some courses from UGC to understand school management etc.
I love testing my knowledge. That is the reason I have given a paper for CENTA-TPO. I cleared my cleared my CSIR-UGC-JRF with AIR 40, Gate- Lifesciences with AIR 850. I cleared grades so that I keep growing in the teaching field. In terms of achievements, I am a Microsoft Innovator, and I am among the youngest CBSE resource persons.
What about your failures so far?
Of course, I have faced a lot of failures too, because sometimes we are unable to cope up with all the demands of the ministry. Most of my failures are in the documentation work in co-curricular activities because nowadays these activities go in parallel with studies. But still, sometimes I feel academics should be given more importance. In that case, I am failing a lot.
Tell us about some of the activities that you often conduct in your class.
I teach using diagrams mainly because they give you a better understanding. Your brain easily grasps images. In Biology, we have many diagrams. For example, if we are talking about the classification chapter – about the diversities, there are different types of plants and animals. I also use flash cards. I also take time to have conversations in my class on topics like drug abuse, sex education, etc. In this way, students open up their thoughts that they have in mind.
How do you make sure that students are actively involved while you are taking class?
I achieve that by having initial discussions with my students on the day before I begin lecturing on a concept. That helps me gauge how much knowledge they have already. If I talk about biotechnology, genetic engineering and different fields, nowadays – I take examples from the Marvel movies. Those movies are popular, currently. Every student loves those movies. I usually relate these concepts to the Marvel movies.
I would ask them what kind of genetic engineering they would look towards doing if they wanted to make a super hero. So, then they begin to do research out of interest and fun because you have related the concept to something they are excited about. That, then, becomes a learning experience. Now the questions that they come up with are on the lines of ethical issues that they may face, etc. I think experimentation and innovation is a great way to better learning and understanding.
How do you individualize learning in a classroom filled with students who are comfortable with different learning styles and who have different needs?
Currently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing at a very fast pace. It helps impart good amount of knowledge to students. You can use it to conduct workshop for students. For example, in Class XI and XII, explaining complex concepts in the traditional method is difficult or you make use of multiple diagrams.
So, what I have started doing from last year is I have some contacts in the University. I have started making things experimental for those children in Class XI to Class XII who have basic knowledge of DNA, etc. They can do these experiments at school and they are given certificates on completion so that there is a reward they can look forward to.
This way, when they read their text books, it will make better sense to them. Using AI and watching such videos that are teaching aids can render a better understanding to concepts. When children experiment themselves, they understand better. Technology, I think, is like a third eye to learning. With both your eyes you can learn and understand well. But with the third eye they get to experience and observe more. That way their depth of knowledge gets deeper. They see things in different ways and learn to see them from different angles. This also accelerates their speed of learning things.
What pedagogical changes do you see on the horizon, in your discipline?
I basically follow the Bloom’s taxonomy starting from the Remembering base stage to the Analysing process. Now, I think that has to go directly from remembering to analysis, I have started using one of the evaluation processes. In my method, I have started involving their existing knowledge. After the remembering stage, I wouldn’t jump to the valuation process. At that stage, I feel synthesizing of the information should be given importance.
What was the most challenging phase of your career and how did you approach it?
The most challenging was teaching 17 year olds when I was 22 years old and instilling my mark because students that age may not tend to take you seriously. Teaching them, taking them seriously and making them understand that they can derive valuable information from me – that was the biggest challenge I had to overcome. This was when I had just started my career.
The second hurdle was when I just began my career I had differently-abled children to teach. I had ADHD students and coping with them, determining the nature of their learning disability and working around it were huge challenges. I also needed to understand how to channel information for them, understanding from their institution how best to break down concepts for them -all of this was very challenging. The experience was very new for me.
What are your effective behavioural strategies for your students?
I go for an individualized approach. They all have different issues – some have parental issues, or issues from extended family/surrounding environments. So, the individualist approach helps us bind with students at an individual level. We can help them relax in their work, timing, etc. This way we can understand if they require any kind of counselling too. For me, the target is to complete and then gather knowledge of that subject. That should not be tied down to notebooks or text books alone.
I usually give them activities and explain activities inside or outside the school. I like boosting their observation skills.
Do you think that workplace politics unintentionally harms students as well?
Yes, of course. What happens basically is that some teachers target some students. For a teacher a single student can fetch them good marks. Everybody is running behind seeing their names behind good marks that children will score. It is all about the 99s and 100s. So, when practices/comments like it is okay to not do this work for that teacher or she doesn’t know how to teach, etc. are very damaging.
These things impact students because they are just blooming and they can’t recognize the futility behind all this. Children get moulded the way we all aim at moulding them. This is true whether they are at home, at school, in the class, or wherever they are.
So, yes we should choose whether we need to be a good influence on them or otherwise.
What changes would you suggest in terms of teaching biology?
I think instead of giving them only what is there in the books, they should gain experience from seeing specimens. We should have a proper curriculum of visiting different museums, to take a look at different specimens, etc.
This activity should be part of the curriculum and not just an optional activity because when it is optional things are taken for granted.
Other than the depending on the course from a book, such visits works wonders in instilling concepts because there is nothing that can beat the visuals it creates in your mind. Learning by Doing is a very effective methodology. I think when they do they learn more. I think more 3D models should be acquired by schools. There should be models to channelize education for such needs. When I was doing my graduation, such things used to be there. Nowadays, honestly, the presence of such teaching aids has drastically gone down.
So, what is the definition of teaching?
Teaching doesn’t involve only a methodology or just seeing and listening of certain facts. It involves the understanding and imbibing basic knowledge. Teaching is about listening to students when they speak. There can be a lot in their speech that can be impacted/influenced/corrected by a teacher. Teaching is about providing resources that can aid individuals to live a better life and help them in years to come. It is about giving a child different perspectives of life.
Learning is not bound by a class or a subject. Learning is way beyond that. Learning should be a constant in every field in every body’s lives. It is an experience. Being a role model is a great way to promote learning.
How has the learning process in your teaching career been so far?
It has been quite fluctuating. There are high and low points. It is a very good experience to learn from colleagues and the management too about how documentation, work and pedagogy should be followed. There are some things that have altered in education field if we compare it to the last decade. The national curriculum that we are following now has changed from what we had learned in our times. The approach that CBSE has initiated for the teachers in terms of workshops, etc. is very good. By making children learn through different approaches, we also get to learn.
There are capacity building programmes built by NCERT-CBSE for the teachers. These are workshops that deal with how to conduct yourself in a classroom, how to deal with the subjects, etc. It gives you insights on how to have different approaches, etc. I am a resource person in these workshops.
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