Ms. Sonia Kedia – IB PYP Coordinator – Mumbai

Posted January 14, 2020 1:01 pm by

Over 2 decades into any field opens depths for the one journeying to explore and excavate new opportunities, possibilities and innovate ways of working.

22 years as an educator has led Ms. Sonia Kedia into many a paths and opened up opportunities to look beyond teaching. Passionate about curriculum planning, she does every bit she can to better the education world by keeping herself updated with reading and podcasts, and expanding her comfort zone by sharing ideas and collaborating with like-minded educators.

“I am born and brought up in Mumbai and did my schooling at Jamnabhai International School.

When in Grade 12 contemplating on how to take my studies and career forward, I decided that I should do something related to child development and child psychology.

My parents were very encouraging and started looking for colleges that would give me graduation in something dealing with child development. Affinity University, Santa Cruz, at that time, had a college that had a graduation course on child development.

Thus, the journey began. My interest lay in understanding teaching and what it is to deal with young minds that cannot express their dilemmas, ideas, etc.

I have been into this profession since then. Honestly, I can’t imagine myself in any other field.”

Can you share some of the valuable insights you would have gathered during your long tenure so far?

I remember when I was very young, our elders would just observe us and not interfere and interrupt in our activities.

In those days children were much carefree and so were the adults who dealt them. The adults were more relaxed and not so much at the edge. Now the whole thing of performance – performing well, excelling is something that eats people’s minds. Yes, we have ample talks making its rounds about grades not being important. But, on the flip side there is this urge for everyone’s child to be the best. This adults’ interventions soon begin to reflect on the child’s behaviour. 

Children, nowadays, deal with anxiety to perform well. This is true for something as simple as playing a guitar or singing a song, besides academics. I think, somewhere down the lane, the enjoyment of it all is taking a back seat.

Children are brought under tremendous pressure to perform well. Again, there are talks and we all nod to the theory that they shouldn’t compete with each other but should focus on becoming a better version of themselves. But, walking the talk is a different ball game altogether, isn’t it? 

What are your thoughts on the various boards? 

I have taught in ICSE schools for many years the shift to teaching in an International School has been interesting. IB is not a board, it is a philosophy – a framework. When they talk about international mindedness, they talk about a global framework that any school can adapt and flesh out into their own curriculum.

The good thing about IB’s philosophy is you gradually start thinking and acting globally. So, this gives us the leeway to plan and flesh out things that children want and are passionate about.

The Math, Science, Language and everything else falls in place once the child is happy. Free play is not just applicable for kindergarten. It applies across grades. Don’t we, as adults, gather more energy when we play and take some time out of our regular humdrum? So, then why do we tend to take that aspect away as soon as the child enters the secondary division? 

In the primary years we tend to feel that the child is tender, they need playtime and that too is a forceful thought. It shouldn’t be a forceful thought, in my opinion. Free play can be structured – one where there is an outcome and where the child can feel the wow factor of having achieved something.

The environment nurtured in schools should be one where the child feels safe to explore the thought that they have an opportunity to play, be heard and understood by the adults around the place. 

We, in our space, are working towards such an environment. I feel that a school should be a place where teachers, non-teaching staff and children are happy souls within that space. A space where we have some story-telling sessions, wherein life experiences are shared. Children tend to learn so much from real life experiences. That is the kind of communication educators should aim at achieving.

The school should not be a place which exerts pressure in extracting marks. All that will take its own course. 

Did you face any difficulty when you started with the curriculum planning?

Honestly, it is still very difficult. Today, I can have this conversation with you because I know that the two of us are not sitting and making up the curriculum for a particular school.

When it boils down to actually bringing it into a practice there are huge hurdles to be crossed – working hours, number of days at school, assessments to be covered, a blend of co-curricular activities. A math teacher will need 6 periods in a week. They wouldn’t want to forego their classes for a workshop, for instance, that may get organized. Such challenges will always be there.

On the contrary, if the same educator understands that by giving those 40 minutes of theirs, it may help another 300 hours that we are at school, then we can strike the balance. 

What is your opinion about CBSE and ICSE schools?

To be honest with you, no boards can be belittled or put down. Whatever they are all doing in their own space, is a fantastic job. It is up to the parents to decide what they are looking for their child.

We have all kinds of parents – all kinds of socio economic people in our city. Some parents are very clear in their mind that they want their child to be part of the CBSE/ICSE Board. They have their own reasoning and their own aspirations for their children. Some of them do not mind their children to become musicians or whatever it is they want to be. They are the ones who do not mind risking it to give their children the free will to explore and become what the children aspire to be. It is a fact that the minute the IB world comes into the picture, the fee structure spirals up. The infrastructure and the standard and practices that they have laid out are a mandate. 

I personally am an ICSE product. I find no fault in that programme. We need to strike a balance.

People say a whole lot of things like; in IB spellings are not considered important or multiplication tables are not important etc. It is true that we may not use these things the way it is taught. But, it is we who should strike a balance as educators. That is why we are there or else Google has everything.

Schools need to give the child ample of opportunities to develop skills that are needed in real life situations to name a few like: communication skills, research skills, working in collaboration, leadership and so on.

Nowadays, home schooling has become a huge thing. People are turning to home schooling considering the flexibility and the environment it creates to help children develop skills in their own space and pace.

However, the learning at school is different and more effective from when you learn in isolation in a home environment.

Different minds – different opinions!

How would you describe an ideal teacher?

To talk about an ideal teacher would call for discussion about the pay structure that is on the cards. The kind of pay structure that is offered to teachers today is quite well known. Professionally speaking are we getting paid well as educators?

Yes, there is passion at work; there is compassion and an urge to leave a mark and bring about a change. But, at the end of the day, stepping out of one’s comfort zone is to earn money and make a living. We carry the expectation of being global educators and maintain international standards.

We need to start paying our teachers well. I am not saying that money should be the sole motivator. But, somewhere it does help. Teachers today are more like mentors. They keep studying to teach.

Children today are very smart owing to the exposure they get today. Sometimes the questions that they come up with calls for a ‘Sorry, I will need to get back to you regarding that’. Last year we were doing an exhibition and a child walks into my office and tells me that he wanted to develop an app to which I was taken aback! And, he assured me that all that I needed to give him was my permission. He did such a fantastic job. I learned Canva from him. He designed the invite so beautifully using the app!

So, my point is:

  1. We need to be very open-minded and need to know that we are all lifelong learners as teachers ourselves. We don’t have room for the thought that we know it all. That mind-set and attitude just doesn’t work anymore. 
  • We need to be a very good listener, mentor and facilitator.
  • We need to win the hearts of these little humans that are before us. Once you have done that you can make them do absolutely anything, wholeheartedly, because they then trust in you.
  • Mutual respect is something we can teach them only by demonstrating it through our actions and deeds. We need to see them as human beings and not as 5/6/7 year olds. 

I remember when I was a child, we were not exposed to a lot of things. For example, if something happened in the family, we were kept a little away. But in today’s nuclear families, the little ones know exactly what is happening at home. They know the ups and the downs. Young parents are of the opinion that the child should know everything. We need to be sensitive about these changes and need to be forthcoming to be moving with time and not being stuck upon keeping things as it used to be in the past.

What are your reflections on teacher trainings on the job?

You need to empower teachers. This whole thing of having this thought that if a teacher is empowered she might just take position or grow within the institution, I feel, should be foregone. As leaders, for example, if I am the HOD then it is my job to empower the staff working under me. They should be given ample opportunities. Leaders must be able to tap into the interest of teachers.

To quote an example, in my pervious organisation we hire people from outside to MC events in the school. Once a teacher came up and said that she could do it and she was confident that she could do a better job than the external MCs because she knew the culture of the school and each teacher by their names. She debated the need to spend the money and hire some external person.

To get this point across to the management and convince them was a task, indeed. Eventually, I was successful. Also, at the end of the programme, everybody gave us a feedback that they could connect very well and the gathering really liked the way she spoke. So, when teachers and staff members come up to us with ideas, we must encourage them. Staff development must not be just another tick in the box. 

There will be teachers who voice that they would be sitting through the mandatory training programmes knowing everything that is going to be said to them. So, yes we need to understand this and tailor make these programmes according to the need of the staff members at hand.

There may be a few who find themselves technologically challenged. There can be basic requirements that a school demands. Such teachers should be given that kind of an exposure wherein they are trained how to use Excel/Micro soft word  and help them get sorted in that front. If we put these strugglers through some advanced technological course, it is going to be frustrating for them. So, the professional developments should be built around the needs of the teachers. That way they will see value in it and it will help the institution and the teachers. The outcome gets satisfying and the teachers remain motivated. 

Also, for instance, if a teacher is excellent at creative writing, we should consider making that person lead a workshop on creative writing.  We can get these things done, whereby it increases collaboration, motivation and empowers individuals in the process. Such interactions and initiatives can nurture healthy relationships. People within the walls of your school must feel valued without having to feel judged. 

We need happy adults to rear the best happy children.

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