Talking to Priya Kikla – Wadi School, TGES at Rajkot
Tell us how you got interested in becoming a Math teacher?
During my degree course, I used to work as a teacher along with my studies. In short, I used to work, earn and pay for my education. But, teaching was not just my means to fund my education, it was and still is my passion. From grade 4 onwards, my Math teachers have been really good. So, I wanted to be like them. I wanted to give students to experience the kind of atmosphere I got from those teachers’ classes.
The reason you see me as a banker in my professional profile is because I worked as one when I was in Dubai. I had to shift to Dubai after getting married. Dubai doesn’t hold much scope for teachers, so I got into the banking sector.
When we came back and settled in India, I pursued my passion – teaching.I enjoy Math a lot. I enjoy all aspects of Mathematics – the logical part, the abstract part, the complexity – all of it in totality.
When in grade 8 you are introduced to Algebra, it is very abstract and a new world altogether. It used to excite me and I used to love solving those problems. Geometry sharpens your visualization power. So, per me, Math develops your personality a lot.
What is your approach (if any) while teaching Math?
My style is inquiry-based teaching. I query what the students understand when I introduce a new term. I steer them through their own answers to build and formulate the concept that is getting introduced.
For instance, point is a very abstract concept. The child needs to visualize a point to make it easier for us to teach them more about it. So, I use physical objects, which we call manipulators, so that children have something to base their visuals on. Once they visualize, we can build on the visual and explain. For instance, when several points come together it forms a line. I try to make the class interactive and fun so that the children understand the concept without stress.
How did you evolve this kind of methodology?
When I started off as a teacher, I joined Fountainhead School in Surat, Gujarat. They had very interesting concepts of how to begin, continue and end your classes. They taught us how to use manipulators (objects, ideas) to enhance and make the class interactive. They train us teachers on different topics, subjects etc. It was very interesting and I have adopted a lot of those techniques in my class.
Which classes do you currently teach?
Where is this school located?
This school is located in Rajkot.
Why do some children lose interest in Math?
I have come across around 3 different types of children:
1. The Audio Lovers – they listen and learn
2. The Visual Lovers – they see and learn
3. The Touch Lovers – they touch and learn
As a group when they come together, we must be sensitive that although in a group, they are a set of different types of individuals. Unfortunately, in our current system, they are catered to as a group, not as individuals. If you care for them as individuals, no child will lose focus. Focus is lost only when they mentally try and fail. But if we cater to their need and help them understand, they don’t lose focus, they just get more involved and motivated.
But how do you achieve this – catering to individual needs?
You can either make it happen within the classroom or when children move in between workstations where they get to explore each and every thing.
Alternatively, if you can filter out children you think cannot grasp concepts as quickly as the rest of the group. Then, you can, if time permits, form a smaller group and give such children a basic understanding using alternative methodologies so that they can get ahead with the rest of the group.
Is it true that girls in general are not interested in Math?
The way I see it, it is not about gender. Over the years I have associated with a wide range of children. I have also had the good fortune of tutoring children with special needs.
Per my observation, it is all about how motivated the child has got and in what space has the motivation been given to them. It has got nothing to do with gender. Both girls and boys come with the same amount of caliber to grasp concepts. What is important is the environment they thrive in.
What board is your school affiliated to?
This school is affiliated to the Cambridge International (CI) Board.
Have you been associated with other boards as well?
Yes. I have associated with CBSE and IB in the past.
How would you compare these boards?
I find IB and CI wonderful for Math. Again, mode of education differs not just by the board you are affiliated to. It depends on the school you are in as well. And, this is especially true for CI. The previous school that I was part of was also affiliated to the CI board. But their methodologies were still true to the CBSE board.
The beauty of IB is that they are always clear about what they want to achieve.
Over a period of time, I have seen CBSE trying to evolve and capture the methodologies adopted by CI and IB. But, somewhere they are still stuck on to the fact that the child has to mug up the entire portion, or rather, the teacher has to achieve this in class by hook or crook.
It is difficult to delve deep when it comes to CBSE because you have a fixed timeslot and an ocean of content to cover. To top it, the topics are not interconnected well. So, everything lies in bits and pieces.
In CI and IB, on the other hand, they take the vast portion and break into chunks for the children and it is sewn in a good flow. This way, children connect concepts and understand things in depth. This goes a long way in setting up a strong base.
How long have you been teaching?
I am a school teacher for the last 6 years now but have been teaching 2 years prior to that.
Your path into teaching seems to be unconventional?
I feel if I had taken the conventional path, I would have come into the profession with a rigid mindset. My unconventional background, has given me a lot of flexibility. I grasp changes gracefully and understand how to go about changes quite well. Coming from a corporate background gives me an edge in grasping technological know-how as well.
I can see a difference when I converse with other teachers. For me it is easy to connect with the theories that philosophers and psychologists have proven regarding children. Improvisation is within my reach and I know it has a lot to do with the background I come from.
Why would you leave a corporate job for teaching?
In an office environment you are stuck to a set pattern of tasks and you really don’t have the opportunity to learn new things. But in this profession, you get to learn so much every day. This is very refreshing for me.
Do you find teachers doing a lot of administration work?
I agree with that. I have seen many schools bestowing a lot of administrative work on teachers.
For example, I was working in a boarding school earlier. I was a house mistress as well, over there. Over a period of time, I realized that the house mistress’ work was to simply monitor everything that was going on and this broke down even to checking each and every child’s book, etc. This meant that I was hardly left with any time to plan out worksheets or anything for that matter.
Now, when you consider my current school, I get the time to connect with children, etc. but I don’t get the time to plan worksheets. We are expected to do a lot of activities and this becomes difficult as time runs out because of other administrative works given to us.
School managements tend to forget that we teachers are also entitled to a life outside school.
What would be an ideal Math department according to you?
An ideal Math department would be one where everybody connects and is transparent with each other. Teachers should be open about their students and the methodologies they adopt to teach concepts. An ideal Math department should be open to a collaborative working environment. Expectations, if any, should be clarified and agreed upon.
Everything should be reviewed on a quarterly basis so that we can understand what has been done and what is yet to be done. People should be transparent and supportive enough to pick up something for somebody in time of a need. People should be collaborative rather than working in silos.
As a teacher how do you think your work should be appraised?
Teaching is a year-long process and hence, everything that is done can be documented. Feedback from your peers should be taken. Now, teaching is not just within the classroom, so it is not just that which should be taken into consideration. For a fair appraisal, the way you plan, the way you use the manipulatives, etc. should come to light. The school should observe you outside the classroom. Feedback should be given on a regular basis.