Prapulla B – IBDP Chemistry Educator – The Indian Public School, Coimbatore

Prapulla B is an IBDP chemistry HL & SL, a TOK teacher and a CAS advisor at The Indian Public School, Coimbatore which follows the International Baccalaureate Programme – PYP, IGCSE and the IBDP.

Prapulla talks to School Magazine in an exclusive interview:

Being a passionate teacher, I always affirm, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”- Albert Einstein.

My dream of becoming a teacher has grown through years since I was a student. Inspired by few of my great teachers, I often envisioned students who would come to class thriving for the information that I was prepared to provide them that day. And I always wanted to help students learn who struggled, and seeing the excitement in a student’s eyes when they finally understood the content.

Impact of Teachers
My English teacher, Ms.Chitra Govindraj and my sports coaches have played a great impact, they were a bit strict, but their principles and discipline have been a great inspiration. They have helped me gain confidence in public speaking, which helped me become a debater.

In sports, I was able to represent my state through the guidance of my sports coaches – every time I have lost the match, they were with me, boosting my confidence and motivating me to work hard.Through various activities, all my teachers have shaped me to become what I am today.

My First Job
This is my first teaching experience – while I was pursuing my Master’s degree in Chemistry I was offered this job through campus placements. Driven by my dreams, I took this and it has given me a lot of learning to life.

Practical applications of Science
Being an experimental science teacher, I encourage my students to learn through the sense perception which involves observation skills and makes their thinking more research oriented. This involves relating the concept to the daily life activities such as simple diffusion, Brownian movement, weak acid-base reactions etc.

By motivating students in the qualitative data collection in the every-day life activities promote practical skills in the students, which I follow in my classes.

Fear of STEM Subjects
Initially students find it bit difficult as STEM is an interdisciplinary approach of math into science, technology and engineering, but as they get through the applications of it, they enjoy studying robotics; and STEM is more than just a grouping of subject areas. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific underpinnings students need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce.

In class, it is a bit challenging when we cater to students of different goals and ambitions, but this movement goes far beyond preparing students for specific jobs. STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives. STEM isn’t a standalone class—it’s a way to intentionally incorporate different subjects across an existing curriculum.

On Coaching Centres today
In my opinion, I would define them as a business and an addiction of social status to parents rather to the child. Even without considering the child’s potential, parents enrol them at famous coaching centres available in their cities, which just run after the scores in MCQ papers and not focus on the reality of the current requirement of the generation.
They are not redefining the education system in India, but influencing the majority of the parents and misguiding them.

Contact Details
The Indian Public School, Coimbatore,
193 Sathy Road, SS Kulam Post, Kovilpalayam,
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641107
Phone: 91-422-236-6666, 91-422-669-0500

Neetu Sood – French Language Expert – Dimensions International College, Singapore

Ms.Neetu Sood, currently the French language teacher at Dimensions International College, Singapore has over 15 years of teaching experience and has been associated with institutions like Paramount International School, Bluebells International School, Genesis Global School. She is certified CIE teacher capable of teaching in CBSE, IGCSE, IB, MOE curriculums.

Ms.Sood has initiated and executed Exchange Programs to France and also conducted the French Festival “Fierté de la France” which gives an insight into the French culture. She has been the head examiner, CBSE. She is an IB examiner and has also been a leader for LFL program (Leadership for learning).

Ms.Sood talks to School magazine….

French Language
Languages may differ in various ways. They may have different sounds and dialects. French has a different syntax. For example, in English we say “there is a red apple” with the adjective ‘red’ coming before the noun ‘apple’, whereas in French, the sentence would be “il y a une pomme rouge” where the adjective ‘rouge’ comes after the noun ‘pomme’.
There’s an old saying that goes, “The best way to learn something is to teach it.” By teaching a foreign language, I am speeding up a virtuous cycle where I become better at what I am doing simply by doing it.

Importance of studying French language and literature in Indian schools
• French has secured its status as a top international language: French is spoken as a native language in more than two dozen countries on five continents. French is either the 11th or the 13th most common native language in the world, with 72 to 79 million native speakers and another 190 million secondary speakers. French is the second most commonly taught second language in the world (after English), making it a real possibility that speaking French will come in handy practically anywhere you travel. American companies with offices in France include IBM, Microsoft, Mattel, Dow Chemical, Sara Lee, Ford, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Motorola, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, and Hewlett Packard offer great career opportunities in India.French has a vast scope in the field of culture, including art, cuisine, dance, fashion and films.

• French is on the rise: The francophone population is increasing rapidly. France’s birth rate suggests that by 2025 French will surpass German to become the most-spoken language in Europe!

• Learning French opens up a great opportunities for studying in renowned French universities. The French embassy also offers various scholarships for Indian students.

Advantages of a foreign language teacher
a. I meet a host of different characters and personalities as my students. As young as they may or may not be, I learn a lot from my language learners. I’m gifted with the opportunity to interact with these unique, complex people on a daily basis.

b. When I teach a foreign language, it could very well prepare myself of multiple careers over my lifetime.The skill set I master as a foreign language teacher made me eminently capable of doing a wide host of other jobs like climbing the corporate ladder if I want or starting an organization or business of my own.

c. Have Better Pay and the Opportunity for Travel: Language teachers might generally be paid the same rates as other subject teachers (mathematics or science) in the home country. However, foreign governments are actually inviting teachers to come to their shores and help educate their people. In addition to premium pay, many offer free airfare, furnished housing, a settlement allowance, health insurance.

d. Experience the Emotional Rewards of Mentoring: At the end of the day, the absolute, most fulfilling reward of being a teacher has nothing to do with what you have gained, but with what you have given. And sure, I got rewarded with pay, stability and perhaps even chocolates, handmade cards and flowers on Teacher’s Day which is the most precious.

Challenges when learning French
a. Pronunciation and accents: The nasal ‘r’ in words such as ‘frère’ (brother) can really drive a foreign speaker crazy and a little accent over the ‘e’ could change the entire dynamic of how you say it!

b. Spelling: Entire chunks of words go unpronounced; letters are dropped in speaking, but still demand to make an appearance in the written version.

C. Gender: The use of gender (the masculine and feminine form of a word) is something English speakers don’t deal with in their language. It’s completely unfamiliar and quite confusing when it comes to adapting it into your daily speech.

Inspiration to become a French Teacher
Since my childhood I wanted to learn a foreign language as I use to get very excited when I use to hear foreigners talking in their native language. And my college (Bharati College, DU) started admissions for Diploma courses in French. So I got a chance to learn the language and gradually I fell in love with this language.
Also teaching is my passion since childhood. I would like to share with you that I use to act as a teacher while studying any of my subjects.

My knowledge being inculcated in students in shaping up their personality
Students look at the teachers as their role models. So more than just the academic enrichment teachers carry great responsibility to shape up the child’s future and personality. One must learn a foreign language as it gives awareness, opportunities, tolerance, confidence, memories, empowerment, insight, influence. Basically it gives students an all rounded development.

Advice for students
Learn the Way That Works Best for You: If you find that learning grammar is useful, learn that way. If grammar just frustrates you, try a more conversational approach.
Learn Together: Many people find that learning with others helps keep them on track. Consider learning along with your child, spouse, or friend.
Repetition is Key: You can repeat exercises, answer the same questions, listen to the same sound filesuntil you feel comfortable with them. In particular, listening and repeating many times is very good—this will help you improve your listening comprehension, speaking skills, and accent all at once.
Have Fun: Make your French learning interesting. Instead of just studying the language with books, try reading, watching TV/movies, listening to music—whatever interests you and keeps you motivated.

Ms Aileen and Ms Deepika- Mantra4Change

Give us a little background for Mantra4Change.
The genesis of Mantra4Change was in 2013. It was founded by Khushboo Awasthi and Santosh More. Mantra4Change is located at Bangalore currently.
At Mantra, we work with schools to help and deliver quality education to every child that they cater to. The way we go about doing this is via the Whole School Transformation process. We work with government schools and budget private schools in Bangalore too through Cluster Transformation. That is how our journey began.
To give you a brief background about Khushboo and Santosh – Santosh was the first to promote the Teach for India programme in 2009 and was previously employed with the Infosys. He left Infosys to pursue his passion for teaching and joined Teach for India fellowship.
Upon graduation from that fellowship, he worked with Janaagraha. Santosh always wanted to continue his passion towards education and that is when the idea of Mantra was conceived.
Khushboo has worked in various cottage setups and she also completed her Sociology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Mantra was formed jointly by Khushboo and Santosh.
When we started off, we were working with two schools, and today we are working with over 100 schools in 2 geographies.

What exactly is it that you do?
We work with all key stakeholders of schools, empowering them with the current task that they have at hand, given that they are educational functionaries in the government space. We focus on how to empower them and use the existing structure to be more effective. This is focused on finally leading to a delivery of quality education inside the classroom. There are two approaches to this:
1. The government space approach: We directly work with the government functionaries and leverage existing structures like the camps which is a cluster academic meet mandated by the department of education already. We help build the capacity of the cluster resource person and enable these spaces to reach out to the teachers in these government schools.
2. In the private school space, we look at the whole system as a single unit. We work closely with all the stakeholders, starting from the management to the HMs, coordinators, principals, teachers and the community. The idea of our program is to bring everyone in alignment towards a cause which ensures the best interest of the students.
When we say we are building capacity, we mean we conduct professional development sessions for the leadership team – system leaders, school leaders within the school, teacher leaders – or, even guiding the teachers in their professional journey. We, along with the instructional leaders or school leadership team, mentor teachers.
The key to Mantra’s work is that we don’t work with students alone. When we talk about improving education, we realise that to improve the education of every child, we need to synchronize the entire system so that every part of the system works in harmony. Every stakeholder needs to lessen the communication gap that they currently have with each other.


We also look at the professional gaps that exist in the education system in India, today. We try to create a sense of collaboration among the stakeholders and we help them work with each other while also building their own capacities steadily. So, whether we interact with students or other stakeholders, the aim is to ultimately improve the quality of education for each and every child.
Going with the lens of sustainability, we don’t directly jump into teaching. We build the capacity of all the stakeholders so that we can drive sustainability. Everything that we do is co-created. Any session that we conduct is co -created with all the stakeholders involved.
Speaking of sustainability, we are looking at structures and processes that can sustain irrespective of the people in it. The aim is that a person leaving the system should not affect the continuous improvement process of the school. It is about creating a larger ecosystem or a school environment, or ecosystem that promotes student outcomes. It is not dependent on an individual person but it is about individuals helping us set these processes/culture where even if we have 4 teachers leaving, we have 6 teachers guiding the change and keeping it going.

Can we have one or two examples that illustrate this?
I can share a school transformation project. This was a low budget private school. It is a 2 year intervention that we do in a budget private school. This is a school that has shared a 2 year journey with us. Most low budget private schools are run by the management themselves. The notion of distributed leadership and letting go of responsibilities is really hard for these schools. They are very sceptical of giving teachers the ownership to take decisions. Today, irrespective of whether the school leader is present or not, the parent-teacher meetings happen because it is led by the teaching body. Those are some changes that we see in terms of the school leaders’ mindset of saying that they are not solely responsible for leading improvement practices in the school; but, there is a larger team striving towards the same purpose. The school leaders having invested in building the capacities of these teacher leaders, they are the ones taking it forward. This is an example of how sustainable these efforts prove to be on the field. It is an example of one of our schools that has graduated, and the school runs without the day to day sightings that the school leader has to do on a regular basis.


Another program of Mantra, for example, is the active cluster engagement. Here’s where we worked with clusters of government schools. We started off with the Annekkal education block. Cluster is a small geographical unit which comprises of about anywhere between 10-15 schools, and when we enter the education cluster of Bommasandra in the Annekal block itself, we realise that some schools were doing much better than others. We are talking about schools just about a km or 2 away from each other. We realised a motivated school leader is very important to drive that kind of change as well. So, we started working with the cluster as a whole. When we got into each of these clusters we started creating spaces called Cluster Resource Centres which is a departmental mandated concept. In many places, it fails to take shape. So, our role over there is to recreate these spaces and bring them back into existence, and help our stakeholders understand the value of these collaborated spaces itself which they can use to conduct their meetings and workshops. If you have 10 schools in a cluster, teachers from all these schools come together in this shared space, discuss with each other the problems that they face at their respective schools. If one school is able to get a water purifier at their school, while others don’t – contacts can be shared using which other schools can also avail of this facility.
These clusters basically create collaborative spirit so that you can improve all of the schools within the cluster.
Another example is there is this space called Janatha Colony in Bommasandra, where we have one of the schools we were working with. The school had an issue with compound walls which was destroyed due to climatic conditions a few months ago. The schools came together and raised their concern within the community and the community aided the school. The school also had infrastructural facilities available. This is the kind of synergy that we are trying to create while we work with government schools as well. One of the most important concepts here is building school community partnerships. How can we get the community involved in the child’s education following the famous line which says that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? That is the kind of spirit that we are trying to create through our intervention with government schools in all of the clusters that we are working in.
Something that we hold very important across all our programs is we strongly believe in the agency of the stakeholders. All that they need is a little bit of guidance and support. They will have higher ownership, when they have plans that they have created and need execution. We are only catalysts in this entire process. The people leading the movement and bringing about a change are the stakeholders themselves.

How do you get invited to these schools?
Initially when we started in 2013, we had to reach out to these schools, and a lot of times we told what they had to do because we look at things holistically. Back then it was a struggle. Right now, most of the schools we work with are referrals from other schools. So the word of mouth is doing its rounds. We are reaching out to a few schools – yes. But, in terms of on-boarding schools, it is mostly through references and their connects, and the larger community finding about our work and wanting to know more about it, perhaps witnessing us visiting a few schools that we visit as part of the on boarding programs etc.
We give a lot of importance to the collaboration model not only among our stakeholders but also within the ecosystem of NGOs itself. When we work in the educational space, it makes no sense for us to work in silos. Mantra actively partners with a lot of grass root NGOs in and outside the city, across states and across the country. We try to engage with them at different levels, and even through these collaborations the work of Mantra spreads on its own. In fact, we have our blog, Facebook page, all other social media pages which are on a daily basis is being updated by different kinds of work that we are doing because there is a lot happening across these schools and in the clusters that we are working in. Besides this, through partnerships across the country, Mantra’s work is being replicated in some way or the other by our partner NGOs. So, in the perspective, Mantra’s work is in reality spread across the country even though we are located in Bangalore.

How big is the team at Mantra now?
We are a team of 65 as of this year. Every year we have about 10 new members joining our team on an average.

Does an inspired teacher in your team go in and make the change?
The team at Mantra is a mixed bag. We do have a majority of us coming from the Teach for India fellowship and also from Azim Premji University. So, they come with a mixed array of knowledge and expertise while many of them have worked in schools with teachers with the Teach for India fellowship. When they go to the schools as well, they go with that experience of what it looks like to have an engaging classroom. They are able to take those experiences and build the professional development of the teachers.
These are the two main phases where we recruit much of our teams from. But apart from that, Mantra also has other areas of work. I, for instance, work with the communications team. I do not come from a teaching background or from Azim Premji University for that matter. I have a journalism background. But, it is mainly the passion for education that drives all of us equally and that is the shared passion that all of us have at Mantra. So, even if we have these specific demographics, we are linked with the passion for quality education.

If someone is interested in making a change for the good, can they get in touch with Mantra?
Definitely! In fact we are always on the lookout for new and young people who are trying to make a difference in the education field. Mantra itself is an extremely young team – a majority of us are within the age group of 22 – 27 and our founders are also very young. They are about 35. We are also highly driven by the pool of mentors that we are given at Mantra. We have Mr Sanjay Purohit who is a strategic advisor for Scalechange network. He is a pioneer in the platform space and he is also the Executive VP of Infosys. We also have Mr SP Shibulal, the cofounder of Infosys, who is our chief patron. All of their hunger for creating a difference in the education space trickles down to each of us team members as well. The access that has been given to us to this pool of mentors also makes a huge difference in our day to day work as well.
Even if the team at Mantra is young, we are working at a leadership level creating a huge difference in every space. Speaking of mentors, I would also like to draw your attention to this particular program that we have here at Mantra called EduMentum. EduMentum is an education incubator for early stage start-ups for those who want to work in the space of school transformation or systemic education transformation. We have organizations coming in from across the country – Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, etc. We are spread across 16 states through EduMentum. These mentors are provided to each of these organisations. This also helps them in navigating their own operations with regard to systemic education transformation, building their organisation, creating a program design which is similar to what Mantra follows over here. It is also loaded with conceptual experiences from their geographies as well. This 3 year incubation program gives Mantra the opportunity to spread its work in these geographies. We have a lot of success stories coming in from different states wherein these organisations that have been part of EduMentum for the last two years have started signing Momentum of Understanding (MoUs) with the government, developing their own programs, etc. while also addressing very specific contextual issues that they have like anganvaadis, girls’ education, Kasturba Baalika Vidyalaya etc. They are really trying to adjust these contextual issues as well while working towards systemic education transformation.

Do the schools that approach you pay for any of this?
We do not demand fees from the schools because we do not really provide them with any financial resources. Mantra doesn’t believe in pooling money into the school or investing into the school to develop the school. We follow a process wherein we try to empower and enable the stakeholders itself to make the schools well-functioning and sustain continuous improvement. If we have to achieve that, making them independent is inevitable. We have to allow them to believe that they are the drivers of that school – the drivers of quality education and they have it in them to improve their schools. We are just a support system for them. So, when we say that be it networking with the right people or giving their children opportunities to participate in various programs, conducting exposure trips for their teachers so that they can go to different schools and witness their practices, etc. we do not fund them in any manner. We do not ask them for funds either. It happens in a very mutual manner.

Do you see projects starting off at a high note and then wither away with time?
What we do initially even before sitting with the program, we have a progression to the program. We have certain modules that we develop. But, before we begin our program we try and understand the school. That is the USP for the organization that we study these schools and the cluster completely for about a month. This can be very different from the demand of the school. That is where the alignment happens in the mission. They might want to prioritize and give us a plan on what comes first in the set of activities that we set out to do. We carry on a need assessment where we diagnose some of the needs in collaboration with the school completely. In this program the ownership of the school is as much as that shared by the team.

If a motivated teacher wants to approach you – what is the best way?
One way in which we work is by being in touch with the school leadership itself. Everything that Mantra does – if you go through our website, Facebook page etc. is an open source knowledge available to everybody. If they want to learn about what exactly we are doing in the schools, and how our interventions pan out in the schools or in the clusters – it is all available. Everything is available on social media. Mantra’s doors are always open for anybody who wants to reach out to us and want to collaborate with us at any capacity.
We also actively try seeking out activities wherein we can explore such collaboration. We have in some way or the other ended up collaborating with the people who have reached out to us. For example, INTACH is one such organisation. When they reached out to us to understand how we work, we realised that it was a huge opportunity for our children in government schools to learn more about the inherited city of Bangalore. Bangalore is currently called the cosmopolitan city/garden city/former garden city etc. But nobody really talks about the Tipu Summer Palace that we have over here. Or, nobody really talks about how Bangalore came to be and how it developed into what it is today.
When INTACH reached out to us, we decided to take them to our schools and introduce them to our children. That has been such a fruitful collaboration so far and we have always been finding new ways to keeping it going. All of these things finally fit the bill when we talk about whole school transformation and delivering quality education.

What is your background?
Aileen:
I did a Teach for India fellowship in the year 2013 in Mumbai, where I was working with an under-resourced school which motivated me to continue my education in this specific sector. I completed my education from Azim Premji University and then I started my internship at Mantra and that is how I got connected to the entire approach and how Mantra functions. I have been with the organization for two years now.
Deepika:
I come from a Journalism background and I never really visualized joining the social sector. I was well in tune to working with newspapers and writing stories. I started covering education when I was working with the Times of India for 2 years in 2016. That is when I really got interested in the field of education itself and school education to prioritize.
I realised that I could make a lot of difference working to improve communications for an NGO itself. Mantra happened to me while I was speaking to a few of my PR colleagues trying to understand what was there in the universe that I can join, etc. I joined Mantra last July and since then I have been working with the communications team here.

Contact:
Mantra Social Services
17th Cross Road,J P Nagar
Bengaluru, Karnataka
Website: http://www.mantra4change.com/

Dr. Pranav M. Joshirao – Chemistry Teacher – Mussoorie International School

Dr. Pranav M. Joshirao has been the Chemistry teacher for grades 7-12 at Mussoorie International School, a residential school for girls in Mussoorie, India, for over 1 year now. The school offers 3 curricula viz. CICSE (ICSE/ISC), CIE (IGCSE/AS & A levels) and IB DP.

The Inspiration to become a teacher
My mother used to work as a teacher. She proudly used to say that teaching is a noble profession. I was hugely influenced by her and growing up, I gradually developed a liking for teaching and was blessed to have excellent educators throughout my education. Some names that I vividly remember are – Joshi Sir (Social Sciences/Mathematics/Sciences tutor), Phadke Ma’am (Language teacher-Marathi), Gurnani Ma’am (Analytical Chemistry professor).
These teachers had a huge impact on me, not only for teaching, but the way they carried themselves, their socially responsible and virtuous behaviour were also registered at the back of my mind.

Innovations in teaching methodology
To put it simply, it was baptism by fire. My first job was as a chemistry & biology IB MYP teacher at Fairview International School, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. It was a melting pot of different cultures wherein students of different nationalities learned under one roof. It was here that I got a good platform to hone my teaching skills. I learnt how to tackle some basic problems like language barriers, cultural differences, etc. There were teachers from 7-8 different nationalities and it was a great learning experience having subordinates from so many different countries and getting to know their work ethics and work practices at close quarters.
It was a paradigm shift moment for me, wherein my teaching approach changed from a teacher centric one to a student centric one!! It was here that I realised the significance, utility and ease of use of different teaching & ICT tools which make learning an interesting and fun activity. Over the years, I have continued using these tools in my classes. Some of the tools I frequently use in a class are – Mind maps, PDCA cycle (Practical sessions/experiments), peer/self-assessments, kahoot quiz, 5W1H etc. The availability of Smart Boards in my current school also helps a lot while teaching.

Challenges faced as a teacher
This may sound bold, but in my honest opinion the current generation wants quick results and spoon-fed answers. They have access to internet and all the possible information in the world. It is such an irony that a certain book “INSTANT notes on biochemistry” has more demand than a certain “Lehninger” reference book!!!
On the contrary, developing interest towards STEM subjects needs a lot of patience and perseverance to get answers to one’s queries. Now, in such scenario it becomes pertinent for a teacher to induce these learning attributes in kids. Although it is a daunting task, proper planning coupled with passionate teaching will help remove this fear towards STEM subjects.
I try to find new ways to ensure I overcome the common challenges that I am sure every teacher reader here will identify with like – attention span of small kids (grade 7-8), disinterest towards Sciences (just try to make it more interactive, activity based and relatable to daily activities) to name a few.

Exam-oriented curriculums
It hurts when the student asks “Is this particular topic important w.r.t its weightage in the exam paper? If yes, then I will study it, otherwise just leave it Sir!!” Curriculum being too exam oriented suppresses the reasoning capacity of a child. It does not nurture the innovative, creative thinking ability of the child.
Also, it is a wrong notion among the board authorities that revising syllabus means including the topics in earlier years. The things I learnt during my Bachelor’s degree are a part of grade 12 syllabus now. But this early inclusion does not have any use as the students are only overburdened with additional syllabus. The real revision of syllabus, according to me, is the inclusion of introductory chapters about new topics and fields of study which are trending in the scientific research community.

Impact of Coaching Centres
They are just catering to the increasing demand courtesy the ever increasing competition levels. To say that they are redefining the education system would be wrong. Whether a student gains knowledge from attending these centres is a debatable question. Learning in coaching centres is a quantitative approach and it may not necessarily bring about a qualitative difference in the understanding of the students towards a particular subject. Moreover, students attending these coaching centres are under immense stress, have additional homework/assignments to complete, and as a consequence they tend to ignore their health as well.
So to conclude, coaching centres are far from redefining the education system in India. Instead, they are having a detrimental effect on the well-being of the young students.

Contact Details:
Mussoorie International School, Srinagar Estate
Polo Ground,Mussoorie – 248179, Uttarakhand, India
Website: http://www.misindia.net/ Phone number: +91 135 2631160

Ahana Mitra – Biology Teacher – Salt Lake Point School, Kolkata

Ahana Mitra, the Biology teacher at Salt Lake Point School Kolkata for last 10 years (with a total experience of 17 years) currently teaches the students of classes 8 to 12. Established in 1976, Salt Lake Point Schoolis affiliated to ICSE and ISC (New Delhi).

Role and responsibilities
My role as a senior faculty does not keep me limited to classroom teaching, conduction of assessment,designing daily lesson plans and laboratory work; it also involves solving students’ issues, discipline issues and also conducting co-curricular activities like quizzes, holding science fair projects and exhibitions during school hours.

Teaching adolescents
We all have so many myths regarding the functioning of the human body, functioning and behaviour of other animals and organisms etc. When a student comes up with such myths, then explaining the biological principle governing the fact is a satisfying experience.
The adolescents too have so many queries regarding their own growth process – so many misconceptions to be cleared – and all this done in a subtle way goes a long way in shaping the students growth in a normal and healthy atmosphere.
Once when we were doing the digestive system with the students of class nine, a particular student asked that what if we overeat does our stomach really burst? So I just explained to the student that it is not going to burst but when the maximum food holding capacity of the stomach is exceeded, the food will start going the wrong way i.e. “antiperistalsis” will happen and it results in vomiting. Though I explained there are other causes of vomiting, the student was relieved to know that the stomach never bursts!
So there are so many common instances, like topics on ecology and environmental issues where I can give lots of concrete examples to make their learning of concepts permanent and memorable.
The one thing I like being in the classroom is the exchange /interaction of ideas that take place between the students and myself, the numerous queries that they have regarding the topics they are learning. High school science gives lot of scope for sharing of extra information because of their exposure to the electronic resources and their ability to be able to relate their previous knowledge of secondary lessons (less of detailing) to higher secondary lessons (extensive detailing).

Challenges faced by STEM teachers
The biggest challenges facing educators in STEM subjects is to strike a harmonious chord with the current teaching-learning system. Staying within the boundary of traditional teaching and still incorporating teamwork, creative thinking and reflection are important parts of learning as the outcome of the project.
To tackle this challenge, the best way is to merge the projects subject-wise topic-wise or use it as an extension of the learning programme for the topic in question, where in the students see a point in doing so, keeping in mind the evaluative part and the learning experience for future situations.

An Ideal Science Department
In an institution, a science department should not only be well-equipped but also ample scope should be there for the students to be able to try out the theoretical aspects practically. Though all won’t be within the scope of many schools, the basic
principles can be put to test and inference drawn. The department can also promote an indigenous corner which will support student’s innovations or collections.

Advice for Biology teachers
My suggestions for biology teachers who want to get their students interested will be to go for knowledge management. Many of us tend to over-teach or under-teach a topic. That makes things difficult for students. Let them learn according to their level or interest in a subtle way – give as many live examples as possible to support your topic, e.g. mitosis a type of cell division, its significance is for growth and repair —so let the examples be a lizard growing back its lost tail, fractured bones joining … and many more. We need to help them grow their observation power and curiosity, then only will they embrace this subject wholeheartedly.

Contact Details:
Salt Lake Point School
Cd-249 Salt Lake,
Kolkata – 700064
Email: saltlake.point.school@dadooindia.com
Website: www.saltlakepointschool.org

Dr.Manisha Mehta – M.Sc, Ph.D, Head of IB Diploma program – GD Goenka World School, Sohna

Dr.Manisha Mehta, an Alumni of IIT Roorkee and Panjab University, is an educator with over 20 years of experience in the field of education and research. She is currently working as Head of IB Diploma program at GD Goenka World School, Sohna. She has worked as a Head of School, an IB DP Coordinator, CIE Coordinator and as an educator for the IB diploma program at three different schools. She is also an IB DP examiner for Chemistry for many years.

Dr.Mehta shares her insights on the education system….

Exciting trends in Education
Education is becoming learner centric with most emphasis on skill development and context and not only on the content. Teachers are acting as a facilitators. They create a sense of inquisitiveness in the minds of the students; as a result students not only end up solving problems given by the teacher but create their own and solve them which teaches them problem solving skills useful throughout their life.
Theory of Knowledge is a unique feature of IBDP. It promotes critical thinking skills and helps connecting different subjects and at the same time helps students know about how knowledge acquisition is different in different subjects. Such subjects should be incorporated in other curricula too.

IB – Stimulating young minds
Yes, IB certainly motivates students better than other education systems. In the IB scheme of pedagogy, a positive milieu is created where students feel motivated and a sense of enquiry is generated in them. They further develop the zeal and creativity to solve real challenging problems. To cite an example, Our IBDP students organized an international GDGWS MUN in 2018, with over 300 delegates which resulted in development of camaraderie and organization skills among students. This also yielded generation of funds through sponsors. It may be noted that this was completely students driven exercise.

Mistakes in Motivating Students
1. Often educators’ spoon-feed stale ideas. They are biased and discourage new thoughts &ideas emanating from students. These educators don’t use modern aspects of learning.
2. Many educators do not connect the subject with real life examples which in turn encourages rote learning and does not ensure life-long learning.
3. Some educators fail to emotionally connect with students which keeps them isolated in the class & do not feel motivated enough to learn.
4. Teachers at times keep a dictatorial approach which interferes with student learning and is not conducive to a learning environment.

Problems faced by IB System in India
The major challenges facing IB education in India are:
a. The cost of IB education is prohibitively expensive making it out of reach for most middle & lower middle class families. As a result, IB misses out on good students from such economic strata.
b. The equivalence of IB Diploma &IB Course with 10+2 level of CBSE/ISCE/State Boards though done by AIU & IB, is still finding challenges. Many colleges in India for Undergraduate course have a very limited understanding about IB curriculum.
c. The Timelines of IB Diploma Education & that of other National Boards like CBSE/ISCE/State Boards, are different. The results are declared at different epochs of time making some IB students miss out on National admissions in a particular year.

The downside of the Digital Revolution
Using digital revolution, education for younger minds is losing steam in terms of community learning. Kids in Kindergarten learn the maximum through expressions, signs, connect with the teachers etc which in digital environment will lose its significance. In Middle & Senior School, the digital platforms & with the use of IT enabled platforms, students are resorting to “Cut, Copy & Paste” methodology which indirectly induces plagiarism and compromises academic honesty. In Indian scenario, academic honesty is missing at the conceptual level itself. This further kills creativity and thinking skills in students.
Schools are resorting to IT enabled teaching platforms using video lessons, tablets for all students, search engine based research on subjects etc. What is being missed out is the story telling methodology of the past which had a lasting impact on students because of the personal touch. Book reading skills are also soon withering which actually helped children enhance their memories.

Effectiveness of the education system in Finland
Teachers are revered in Finland. Not only is the profession extremely selective, but teachers in Finland are treated better, work fewer hours, and get paid more than in many other countries.
The Finnish education system encourages students to spend very little time on homework. They are given frequent breaks during classroom instructions to play with each other. This is lauded as a benefit for Finnish students’ physical and mental health. Learning happens in multidisciplinary projects that centre on complex phenomena and develop learners’ problem-solving and thinking skills.

The Goal
The challenge for us today is to prepare children for the future that is unfolding, bearing in mind the sustainability of the resources we live around with.We need to develop a learning attitude in them, so that they can adapt to change as the technology and science progress. A particular subject content or knowledge is bound to become obsolete with the passage of time but the skill sets we instil in children will remain with them and endure in the future. The problem solving skills, the reasoning skills, the interpretation skills, the creative skills, the social skills, self-management skills are definitely more important than the knowledge and content of subjects in sustaining a success in one’s life. Actually, the Math or Science or any other subject that one learns, to earn those degrees, are hardly put to use effectively. It is the emotional intelligence – developed through self-awareness, empathy, handling of relationships, self-motivation and resilience that helps children remain afloat all through the life, enabling them to lead a balanced and successful one, whereas the Intelligence Quotient may be just important for clearing an exam, wriggling out of a bad situation.

Contact Details:
G. D. Goenka World School
SOHNA GURGAON ROAD, SOHNA 122103
Office # +91-124-3315900
Website: www.gdgws.gdgoenka.com

Gayatri Perla – Science Teacher – Vijay International School – Praslin, Seychelles

Hailing from Hyderabad, Gayatri Perla is the current secondary science teacher of Vijay International School, Praslin, Seychelles. Having worked in India, Eritrea, Indonesia, China and Seychelles, Perla teaches combined sciences for year 7,8,9 and 10; Physics for As and A-levels and Mechanics 1 for A-level students and is also the School Council Coordinator. Vijay International School follows CIE curriculum with KS1, KS2, KS3, KS3 and KS5.

Becoming a teacher
I was inspired by my teachers, always took them as my role models. However, I never seriously thought of being a teacher. I was more into taking home tuitions while I was studying, this has become a very strong reason for me to be a teacher, as I could break most complicated concepts into simpler pieces that would make it easier to understand for my students. Now, I enjoy being a teacher because I get to learn a lot from my students, whilst teaching Physics or any subject for that matter!

Teaching and curriculum in Seychelles
In our school we focus mainly on learning by doing and student centred teaching. We also focus on building skills of our students and on enjoying a lesson than on assessments. Teaching is more of interactive based and thought provoking. In other schools here in Seychelles, they have Seychelles curriculum which enables students who are not interested in CIE to get into technical schools.

The fear of Physics
1. Students find Physics as a concept very interesting however, when it comes to analysing a problem and relating with a physics concept to solve it makes it challenging for them.
2. Physics requires abstract and critical thinking skills and most of us are not trained to think critically, and therefore we find it difficult to learn Physics.
3. If the teacher is able to make the abstract things into bits and pieces that is easily understood then Physics wouldn’t be a fearful subject. But, to make this happen, a teacher should be creative in her/his teaching style.
4. A universal belief that Physics is tough or challenging to learn is also another reason of fear towards Physics.

Physics in real life
I connect Physics concepts with day to day life situations, human behaviour, psychology and spirituality. For example: A charged body can be either positive or negative or neutral. A positively charged body will exert its field pointing outward, while a negatively charged body would point inward. This is quiet similar to a positive attitude person, who would be ready to give. Be it- a smile, a compliment, time, money, energy etc… while a negative attitude person would always want to take, be it- compliments, help in any form, need of success, care, love, attention, money etc. So, how electric field is present around a positively charged body or a negatively charged body; similarly there is an aura that is present around a person with positive or negative attitude. Oppositely charged bodies attract and like charged bodies repel, similar to a relationship wherein one person is ready to give (positive attitude) in some ways and the other person is ready take (negative attitude) or vice-versa.

Physics – for boys or girls?
Physics is for everyone. In fact each one of us are living Physics every second irrespective of our profession- like a farmer knows how much force he has to apply to uproot his crop, an athlete knows how much speed he has to reach to beat the opponent who is running ahead of him, a home maker knows that the rate of evaporation is dependent on surface area and the list goes on. However, as per psychology or spirituality- girls represent feminine energy which is depicted as creativity. Creativity is mostly related with arts and music. So, most girls tend to like art, music etc. While boys represent masculine energy and thus automatically has inner logical, reasoning and critical thinking. These things make it easier for boys to go deeper into Physics. But, in reality each one of us has both feminine and masculine energies in us irrespective of our gender. Therefore, it is easier for each one of us to understand anything, provided we train and believe ourselves that we can do what we want to do. We can do anything and everything.

Working in Seychelles
While searching for job openings in Africa, I ended up knowing the vacancy in the school I am currently working in. However, there is a website called www.tes.com which posts teaching vacancies.

Contact Details:
Vijay International School
Praslin
Seychelles
+248.4236116
http://www.visp-sey.com/home.html

Jokin Arul Raj – Computer Science Teacher – Good Shepherd International School (GSIS), Ooty

Jokin Arul Raja, the Computer science teacher at Good Shepherd International School (GSIS), Ooty, Tamil Nadu handles IGCSE and ICSE curriculum and is also a buddy teacher for a class. Raja shares his experiences and thoughts with us…

Teachers who left a lasting impression
My Principal Mr.Kasirajan and my English teacher Ms.Carola made a great impact in my learning. I had trouble in learning English as a subject. They took efforts to analyse and understand the area where I faced difficulties. They did a lot of follow up to improve my skills and marks. It is their effort and the courage that they gave me that brought a hike of 92 percentage in my board examination from the regular marks I used to get.

Project based learning method
Classroom assignments or Project based learning is a learner-centred method allowing learners to collaborate with their fellow mates and help them develop the skills such as time management, critical thinking, problem solving and communication. It also helps the teacher to assess learners as well as the effectiveness of their own teaching. Students apply the same in their day-to-day life. To be brief, it makes the students practice what they learn.

Challenges of a teacher
Being a teacher is not that simple as he has to address the different needs of different learners in the same classroom. Teachers are responsible to meet the long term goal of students. They have to discover the full potential of each learner to transform their social, emotional, cognitive levels. In order to address these challenges, teachers have to move from traditional teaching methods to recent trending methods such as PBL, Peer Tutoring, Flipped learning, E-learning, Collaborative learning, etc. Also, many non-profit organisations like New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Council of International Schools (CIS) and British Council are coming up with various learning strategies.

Calculators in classrooms
According to International curriculum, usage of calculators by the students in classroom is allowed only after/if the students are completely strong enough to do the mathematical calculations by their own. It saves time and enables the learners to work out more problems. But at the same time our Indian curriculum does not encourage this practice as students have to prepare themselves for many competitive exams where they are not allowed access to any gadgets.

Computer Science in everyday life
Is it possible to live without computers in this 21st century? The scope of computer science is vast such as Education, Traffic control, Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), scientific research, Medicine, Communication… etc. Each and every one needs these everyday. Computer have developed the lifestyle of mankind.

Future of computer science education
Education for all. It is a common statement in India. In the same way, I would say digital literacy for all to open the eyes of all people to see the positive and negative sides of digital world. Common man also should know how to access computers like operating ATM, and CDM. Awareness should be made about cyber security, cyber-crime, cyber ethics and laws. All schools should have well equipped labs to teach computer science, robotics. Teachers are to be provided with in-service training to update them on how to teach Machine Learning, Data Visualization, Cyber Security, Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence. Only then will the future generation will be more innovative than the present.

Contact details:
Good Shepherd International School,
Good Shepherd Knowledge Village,
M.Palada, Ootacamund – 643 004
Tamil Nadu, India
+91 423 2550 371
+91 423 2550 386

Rajalakshmi Pillai – IBDP and MYP Math teacher – Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Thailand

Rajalakshmi Pillai, with 21 years of teaching experience, is the current MYP and IBDP mathematics teacher at Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Thailand.

PTIS is an IB accredited residential as well as a day school in Chiang Mai, Thailand that offers all the four IB programs – PYP, MYP, DP, and CP.

3 Core Components of the IB Program
The IB program looks at developing the students holistically and has three core components- EE, CAS, and TOK apart from the subjects that the students opt for. The EE prepares the students in terms of research and essay writing, CAS develops the social responsibility towards the community & self while TOK develops critical thinking and reflection skills. The skills developed while doing these three core components are transferable to all aspects of life.

Teaching Mathematics and more…
I like teaching any topic as long as I can help the students relate it to real life and show them the practical application of the same. I love the fact that when students problem-solve, they end up “discovering” the formulae or applications. They, then, develop a sense of ownership and thus retain the concept for a longer period of time as there is conceptual understanding. This prevents them from rote learning and they are more enthusiastic about learning Mathematics as a subject. I also find opportunities for them to “visualize” like relating arithmetic sequences to linear equations and plotting them on a graph or using spread-sheets to show how rich they can be if they invest money in compound interest and so on.
The serendipity of teaching on the basis of concepts and not on the basis of topics is that you cover a wide range of topics and can inter-relate them, making Mathematics more relatable and enjoyable.

Developing International-Mindedness
As a Mathematics teacher, we get many opportunities to appreciate the international-mindedness in class, especially if you are in an international set up. The use of a comma in place of decimals in some cultures, the way multiplication is carried out differs from culture to culture. These can be given as activities to students to help them figure out the methodology as this will make them understand that there are many approaches to solving the same problems and its okay to use any of the methods.

Tackling the fear of STEM subjects
Students fear or not fear STEM subjects based on how as teachers and adults in the community approach it. We have to remember that children are like clay and we mould them based on our opinions. When we, as adults, voice our harsh opinions regarding their intelligence and abilities on the basis of their performance on these subjects, students fear that kind of public failure and hence start hating the pressure associated with taking these subjects rather than the subjects themselves. As a community, if we stop these harsh judgments, children will not fear failure and will try to learn from their failures and succeed.

Education in Thailand versus India
My current school has a good number of students who do the CP program as well as the DP program. And all are treated at par. However, in the Indian Education system, we are still not very open to the CP program and its philosophies. These prejudices are transferred from the adults in the community to the students as anything related to vocational training is not considered very important. There is a constant mad rush for either being an engineer or a doctor or an MBA. There has to be a change in the outlook and how we approach different branches and be open that all students are different. But I am happy to see these trends changing with the current crop of students.

Working as a teacher abroad
The market is an open place for anyone who is open-minded and eager to learn. You have to be willing to learn and re-learn and not be closed about developing professionally. This means you have to constantly upgrade yourself and put in efforts to join courses and professionally upskill yourself. Also at the same time, you should have international-mindedness and be open to other cultures and enjoy the journey as you move from country to country.

For more information on Prem Tinsulanonda International School, please visit https://ptis.ac.th/

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.

Contact :
Email id: jain.1702aakanksha@gmail.com
linkedin.com/in/aakanksha-jain-38756655

Dr. N. Rathankar Rao – Faculty in Physics – Asia Pacific World School, Bangalore

Equipped with two postgraduate degrees (one in physics and other in bioinformatics) and a doctoral degree in computational physics, Dr. N. Rathankar Rao is the Physics and ICT teacher at Asia Pacific World School, Bangalore teaching 9th – 12th grades (O, A and AS levels of IGCSE curriculum).

IGCSE

IGCSE is a balanced curriculum and offers flexibility in learning. When a student is in 9th grade, he/she doesn’t know as to what depth he has to study the core subjects to attempt his final exam. The transition from 8th to 9th grade is a quantum jump, since he has to study all the subjects in a much higher level with applications using mathematics. IGCSE gives the flexibility of choosing the core or extended form in his studies and accordingly he can tailor make his courses in future. The national and state boards do not offer this freedom to a student in India.
Learning in IGCSE is more of practical orientation, rather than exploring knowledge through books. The experiments in IGCSE curriculum focuses on design of experiments, rather than just making the students learn what is present in their lab manual. Thus, IGCSE students can solve any problem practically as compared to their state /CBSE counterparts.

Teaching Style
I teach my students only based on experiments. My classes are always handled in the lab, rather than in a classroom. This has two advantages: (a) it prevents the echoes in the classroom intervening my class, thereby reducing noise levels (b) in a lab, since i am teaching between experimental setups, I can take up experimental kits on the fly to show a demonstration of a given concept.
We plan syllabus coverage, keeping in mind our holidays and time taken to teach a concept, but we forget, that teaching is an art and not a science. There are schools, who use microteaching methods, but students are made to learn only what is required. Learning should not have any boundaries. A teacher should only be a facilitator for learning and not an USB stick to transfer the syllabus to him.

Teaching under IGCSE versus other boards
Every concept in an IGCSE classroom is being taught using experiments, which is different from the regular chalk and talk in a classroom teaching. Apart from this, student interaction in these classes is friendlier than in a CBSE classes. Discussions in these classes are not just restricted to syllabus, but application of the taught concepts to various field of science and technology are also explored.

An Ideal Physics Department
An ideal physics department is one, in which:
• Teachers are given enough freedom to teach their syllabus using interactive methods AND are not focussed on completing their syllabus alone
• Concepts are taught using experiments rather than on the blackboard
• Teaching-Learning process is made effective by sharing each other thoughts in the department.
• Encouragement for research activity is given emphasis
• Promoting physics teachers to work along with the placement cell, so as to know the industry demand and how physics teaching can be tuned to this demand
• Treating physics teachers (especially humanities department) at par with the faculties in the other engineering departments like computer science or electronics. This is a discrimination seen in many engineering colleges and humanities are always looked as downtrodden faculties, since they have only a M.Sc or a Ph.D degree and not an M.Tech degree
• Allowing a Physics teacher to teach physics and not compelling him to teach other subjects, which he is not comfortable with. In many schools, a teacher is considered as a subject specialist and also as a human resource, who can engage any subject for an hour, whatever is the subject.

Professional development of teachers
I always believe in the quote, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards”. In order to move forward, one should be updated. Today information is available to a student through many sources, with internet being the major source. A student doesn’t rely only on the textbooks for knowledge. I teach the basic coding of HTML for Grade 6 and a few of my student’s already are aware of the strengths of CSS and embedding of flash in their web pages. Hence professional upgradation from technology point of view is very essential for teachers.

Jaskaran Singh – PGT Mathematics – G D Goenka Public School ,New Delhi

What got you interested to make a career in education?
Honestly, I have always been passionate about Mathematics as a subject. Having said that, I never wanted to be a Math teacher at all. It is just by fortune that I turned out to be one. When in school and college, my friends who had issues with Math used to come to me for help and I used to clear their queries. I also started taking tuition. That is how I got interested in teaching and now I am a teacher.

Where did you pursue your studies?
I completed my Masters in Mathematics from Poland.

By that time had you made up your mind about taking up teaching as a profession?
Yes. While I was doing my graduation, I landed a very good offer from A K Vidyamandir. I used to prepare students for IIT JEE exams, over there. This was when I was doing my graduation.
Initially, I was a trainee teacher for two years over there. Then, I started taking classes for IIT JEE students for 3 years. After that, I got back to Delhi. I have an institute which is preparing students for IIT and Medical Examinations. For two years I was with that particular group.

I assume, after that you got into a regular school – am I correct?
Actually, A K Vidyamandir was a regular school. It had two ventures – the school and the institute for preparation for IIT JEE and Medical Examinations. I used to teach in the school during morning hours. In the afternoons, after 4, I was part of the coaching center. I was part of both ventures.

Is there any difference when teaching Math for IIT preparation and teaching Math for regular classes?
Yes! There is a huge difference. The concepts you are teaching in Class X Boards are basic minute concepts. Whereas, for IIT JEE you get questions which is a mix of all concepts. So, you have to get into the depth of concepts.
For example, we teach trigonometry in Class X – a lot to do with triangles. We don’t expect a very high degree conceptual question in Class X. On the contrary, when you teach for IIT JEE preparation, you need to start from the origins of the trigonometry concept. In regular board exams, the syllabus is set in such a way that we teach the concept of trigonometry first before venturing into the concept of similar triangles. The difference is huge.
Moreover, the level of questions in board exams and the level of questions that come for IIT JEE are oceans apart. For board exams the questions are very surfaced while for IIT JEE the questions are very concept based.
The, perhaps, 50 questions that you teach students in regular classes is what they can expect for board exams too. But, that is not the case for IIT JEE exams.

So, teachers preparing students for IIT JEE and similar exams, would be much more demanding, right?
Yes. That is why they tend to earn more money as well. In Kota, there are teachers who earn up to 2 crores per year preparing students for IIT JEE and similar exams. Some institutes give more than 1 crore to a Math teacher. That is the kind of demand. If you are a good Math teacher with a strong command over the subject, you have to teach only one topic for the entire year. For instance, if you are teaching relation functions, you only teach that the whole year round. So, for a good Math teacher, the job opportunities are open and this kind of institutes offer a good pay package as well.

What are the other challenges of the job?
Speaking of challenges, if you are teaching a batch of 20 students, at least a minimum of 4 students should crack the IIT exams. If that doesn’t happen, you lose your job. That is the catch!
Institutes want to showcase how many IIT rankers they have produced. That is their advertisement for more students to join. If a Math teacher cannot get children to secure high ranks, then their job is at stake because the most difficult to crack in these competitive exams is Math.

Did you feel satisfied while doing that job, keeping aside the money part of it all?
Honestly, I didn’t venture much into IIT teaching. I came back to the regular Boards. I am from Delhi and to get into hard core IIT teaching, Kota is the best place to be at. I had some family issues and so couldn’t go and be at Kota. But, the ease at which I teach, I was equally comfortable with both. Apart from my school teaching, I take tuitions and likewise, teach for IIT JEE preparations.
Most of my students do not prioritise on IIT because they know how tough it can get. So, we plan accordingly. This year, one of my students has gone for BITS. After IIT you can try Delhi Technical University exams, BITS, etc. All these are for B Tech studies.
See, Math alone cannot be a saver for IIT JEE. You have to be a pro at all the subjects – Math, Physics, and Chemistry. It takes a team to get a student clear IIT. It cannot be a single teacher’s effort.

Does that mean that a regular school that prepares children for board exams cannot see a child through their IIT exams?
It is very difficult these days. In Delhi, children can get distracted by a lot of things around them which is a waste of time.
In Kota, they don’t have much to explore in the environment. So, they focus on studies a lot more than children in Delhi. Most of the students who want to prepare for IIT, they get the school to give them attendance for the entire year, sit at home and study religiously and go for their IIT exams and give their board exams too. It is difficult for a regular school going student to go give the IIT exams and come out with flying colours.

How is your experience teaching at the current school you are at?
I enjoy my teaching. When I was a student, I was once told by my teacher that a teacher should be a magician – whatever you say your students must listen to it very carefully. That is when you turn out to be a good teacher.
Unable to hold the attention of your students is an indication that you do not know how to teach. So being a teacher, it is up to us to make the class interesting. Do whatever it takes to be the magician in class.

What do you do to be able to stand up to being a magician?
You will need to start at a level that is below the level of students so that every student in the class feels they know something. So, if you are teaching a concept, you should start from basic level 0. This will encourage participation from every student to be engaged with the concept, and then once you have all of them attentive you can take them to the higher levels of the concept. I know that some of them may drop off in terms of attention span at some point. But, there are steps that need to be taken for weak students and for the strong ones as well.

Which Board is the school you are at affiliated to?
CBSE – Central Board of Secondary Education.

Have you taught in schools catering to other boards as well?
I have ample experience in CBSE and then teaching for competitive exams.

Is the curriculum designed for other boards like IGCSE, IB etc different?
Yes, it is better. I agree. I also got an opportunity to teach at a school catering to the IB board, but I didn’t go. But in future I may go to teach the IB curriculum. I am interested in that. The depth of knowledge and concept at IB Board is brilliant.

Do you anticipate learning curves when you cross over to teaching at the IB Board from CBSE?
I am looking forward to it because if you don’t learn anything from a change then it is useless.

How many years of school teaching experience do you have?
6 years.

Are the school authorities ready to accommodate the way of thinking of young and motivated people like you?
I am aware that the senior most people of the school are not very much for the ways in which we teach.

What is their way of looking at things?
Earlier, people used to teach without the aid of technology. So, their argument is without the use of technology also we have been able to secure good marks in the past. Hence, for them, the relevance of using technology is immaterial.
According to me, in their era there were no gadgets like mobile phones etc. Now that students have these phones anyway, we can map studies into technology so that students use these apps and it will help them. 20 years ago, nobody used technology for teaching, right? But, now eliminating technology from any field is unthinkable. In the IB mode, you can’t even step into the class without technology. Every class has to be delivered in presentation mode so that each student understands exactly what we are trying to say.
It is a lot different today as compared to the older times, when it was just chalk and board.

In today’s times, will it be difficult for students to connect to what the teacher says, without use of technology?
Well, that is debatable. You can help build the connection, if you possess knowledge to that degree. And, you should have the ability to present it to students from level zero. That can also be done to help students connect.

What are some of those technologies that were useful aids for your classes?
If you can source a video regarding a particular topic that you are teaching, you can always use that.
I find Byju’s app to be a very good app for explaining concepts. They have good videos. Having said that, apart from those videos, they have not aided the videos with explanations. So, it is a great tool for you to use in the classroom, because you can explain as the video progresses. Frankly, I don’t think it makes complete sense for children using the app themselves, without information on a topic.

How about Khan Academy videos?
I think Khan Academy uses the best tools in their videos. After the US, the best tools I have seen being implemented in videos are by Khan Academy.

Do you actually play the videos in class or do you ask your students to refer to those videos?
In my current school, I am not permitted to do any such thing. But, in my previous school, I had the freedom to implement these things.

What is your philosophy on home works?
I cannot do much with the current system that my current school runs on because it is running on auto pilot mode, more or less.
In the previous school, I used give 5 pre-class questions and 5 post-class questions to students. I feel that activity does wonders to make children understand the concept better because they come to class having an idea about the concept. This ensures easier grasping of the concept and renders deeper understanding of the concept. Nowadays, attendance is also a big issue in schools.

What is the most frustrating part of your job?
The first frustration is the Delhi traffic – it takes a good 45 minutes for me to reach school and then the parking is another pain point. These are the most frustrating and pain points of my work life. Once I enter the school, I am fine. I will start figuring things out.
Then, there are seniors who do nothing much and just sit around – that is an added frustration. But, the fact is that most of the best schools in Delhi functions like this. So, we gulp it as a reality.

Do you have the opportunity in your career to take a break, learn something new, feel refreshed and come back recharged?
See, that is another thing. In the IB system, there are workshops held for teachers, and teachers get to make their classes even more interesting. But, unfortunately, not many schools have that. When things run on auto pilot, there is hardly any break.

When you keep doing the same thing, monotony and frustration can set in, isn’t it?
I am coming to that. If you know one or two methods to teach, keep switching methods. That can be an achievement for you. And, you can apply many more methods to keep yourself charged and innovative.
If I am taking a class of 40 students, they will be going to different division centres for their classes. So, I set papers in different formats. That is another learning curve for the students as well. Also, when I correct the papers I get to know the thinking of students from different angles. So, it is learning for me as well.

In the years ahead, what are your future plans?
In Dec or Jan, I want to appear for the National Eligibility Test (NET) exam. So, I will be preparing for NET, and once I clear that, most probably I will go for my Ph D.

What does clearing the NET exam help you accomplish?
If you clear your NET exam, you are qualified to do PhD from recognized universities of India. Most probably, I may opt for doing my PhD from the US. Clearing NET exam is great if you want to do your PhD in the US as well. In India, I don’t think it is going to be extremely good in terms of work when it comes to teaching.

Do you see yourself in the teaching career itself?
Yes, I see that after 5-7 years. I see myself in higher positions in the field of Mathematics itself. I am not aiming for any administrative positions.

What about schools outside of the country?
There was a test that was recently held in India by the UAE Ministry of Education. I have cleared that too. Among about 200 teachers, I secured 1st position in that test. I had the opportunity to go to Dubai as well.

What advice would you give to young people looking to be a Math teacher?
If they really want to become a teacher, they should be very clear about all their concepts, because knowing the content and imparting it are two different things.
They should know how to deliver the knowledge in class. You should be in sync with the students so that you can deliver content in such a way that the students understand exactly what you are trying to say. You need to query students if they got anything out of your classes. That is the level of understanding and vibe you need to maintain with your students.

Suppose you are in a class, and for some reason you cannot relate to your students. What would you do?
I was coming to that point. If you are unable to connect with students on a particular topic, leave it for then. Take up an easier topic; connect with your students – this way the time, effort and class don’t get wasted. That is how you calmly resolve that scenario.

Contact:
Email id- jaskaransinghmaths@gmail.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaskaran-singh-7510a0115/

Vinod Arora – HOD Mathematics, The Shri Ram School, Gurugram

How did you decide on making a career in education?
I started my career in around 2000. It has been almost 19 years now. In my family there have been many teachers and I got inspired by them. One of my cousins is a Math teacher who was my main motivation. I have done my graduation and post-graduation, computer courses and PGDST – Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Statistics. Until now I haven’t used much of what I have learned in my post-graduation; but now I want to use it for education industry. This is a statistical testing course that I intend to take up.

Talking about my teaching career, I started with small schools in Faridabad, close to Gurgaon. I am from Faridabad. In 2005, I joined my first regular school – Amity International School, Delhi. After 5 years of working with the CBSE curriculum – synchro-classes (those are classes where children are trained for IIT entrance exams alongside the CBSE curriculum) I switched to IB in 2011 when I joined GD Goenka Global School in Gurgaon.

That was my first IB school and I must tell you I was nervous, IB being entirely different from CBSE. I worked very hard,for around 6 months,to understand the IB system. Once I understood the system, I enjoyed the IB curriculum.
In 2014, I became an IB examiner. I am an examiner of Paper II and internal assessment exploration. I was there from 2011-2016. After that I joined The Shri Ram School, Gurugram. Ever since 2011, I have been with IB, and it has been an entirely different experience.

When you switched from CBSE to IB as a Math teacher what were your concerns?
Talking about any curriculum, be it CBSE, IB or A Level, the content is same everywhere. The chapters and topics are the same, of course. The only difference is in the assessment.
Like in IB, they use technology. You are permitted to use calculators for some papers and for some you aren’t. When I say calculators, it is graphical display calculator (GDC); not the normal one that we know of.
Prior to IB, I had this habit of solving all problems mentally. At that time, when I started, I used to solve questions without using GDC. When you use technology, you take less time to arrive at the answers. So, initially I used to write all over the board to explain a 2 marker, 3 marker and 4 marker. That was the transition time when I had to get comfortable with the use of technology and understood the need of the curriculum to set in the way it is and then I started enjoying being in IB.

When we are in the teaching profession, we get summer breaks. I feel personally that whether I get 30, 45, 50 or 60 days, I end up upgrading myself 70% of the time. I take the time to learn new things. I spent almost 60 days to learn the whole system. This gave me the benefit and made me adjust within 6 months to imbibe and enjoy the new curriculum.

For how many years were you associated with CBSE?
I started with CBSE and was associated with it for almost 10 years, considering all the small-time schools also that I was a part of before joining a regular school in 2005.

For how many years have you been associated with IB now?
Almost 9 years now. I started my IB journey in 2011.

What would your advice be to a young person who would like to shape his/her career as a Math teacher?
In CBSE they only have one level of Math. They have a methodology in place. Everybody needs to opt for Math – whether you are a Commerce student, Science student or a Humanitarian student. Whereas, in IB, there are different levels of Math and students opt for Math as per their University age. If a person enters IB, they have to decide which level of Math he wants to teach.

Along with the content, there are so many other things the teacher needs to cater to in IB. You need to have a theoretical approach. When I say theoretical approach, there is something called extended essay wherein normally children write it out in 4000 words. But, if they write in Math using mathematical symbols and signs, it goes down in word count. So, technically if a person gets into an IB school without any other background, he/she may struggle with extended essay or exploration aspects and he/she will get less time to focus on the content.

You need to strengthen your teaching part. It is best to spend 2-3 years in CBSE/ICSE so that he/she is aware of all the teaching techniques. When I came to IB, I understood that I have to train students to take an examination. The weightage is 80% and general assessment carries 20%.

At the end, we have to work to excel at the 80% part because it forms your crux. That is why I feel you should be very strong in your teaching methodology before you head into an IB set up. Assessment can be understood at any point of time because like I told you in the beginning, the syllabus is more or less the same, everywhere.

What is a good preparation for somebody who wants to become a Math teacher?
First of all the person who aspires to teach should know the various teaching methods in depth. When you are teaching, you are bound to get bored with the same curriculum you deal with, within about 2 years.
What I do is I like to show something new each time. I try to get something wherein I can incorporate technology. I sometimes make some handouts. I always explore different ways to teach new concepts.

If a person aspires to become a teacher, he/she needs to have the patience to explore the whole world. That is an inherently important aspect to have from their college days itself. If during graduation days itself the aim is to be a teacher, then, right from that time they should explore various ways of teaching, communicating etc.
For example, I teach a topic called optimization, in which there is a question around a company that wants to make an optimized cylinder, where the height should be equal to the diameter. There is a very formal proof for this. I taught this concept 2-3 years ago in a direct format. After doing it that way it occurred to me that I could have used it to make students sensitive towards the environment, the consumer’s pocket etc. So, I had to think differently.

Nowadays, when I teach this, I ask students to look for cylinders around their premises or in the market, which suits this style. And, we have found so many of them. Also, when you set students on an exploration mode they come back with a lot of observations and inferences. Math is the backbone of everything. So, you can create interest in it through various methods.

I believe that a person aspiring to be a teacher should start grooming himself/herself from graduation onwards. They need to look for every opportunity in and around his space where he can incorporate Mathematics.
I am not of the opinion that Math is a true science but it is a true social science. That is because you can do a lot of good for the society if you are good in Math. Earlier it was just statistics that was used to provide data using which we could analyse and perform better for the future. But, if you take the example of the calculus, you can think about the system wherein we can save lakes and the environment. We can incorporate Math in any topic. I always look for opportunities to find something different in almost every chapter.

As the HOD, how would you work towards improving the Math department of an old school which is not doing very well?
To improve a school’s level of Mathematics, we need to create an interest in Math among the students.
The students have to be involved in every type of activity that we do in class. It is not just that we have to make some project or something, but rather than teaching on the blackboard, we have to incorporate creative methods of teaching so as to invoke participation among the children.

What I feel is at a very basic level IV, V, VI and VII standards; we need to give challenging questions to the students at least once in a week so that students can try to work on it. This question should have the power of generating a discussion in the class – one which is not initiated by the teacher. If the students are involved at a good level, then definitely the Math level will be on the rise, for sure.
In my school, I always tell my teachers that we need to work on basics and move from challenging path and then identify students who are very shy.

See, practically the first month is about settling down in the class. Every other time there can be a jumble up in the timetable, teachers sometimes get new students. So, I give them a month to know each of their students. After that they have to work with each of them based on their individual levels, such that each of their levels increases.
The other part is to tell and convince children that their competition is with themselves so that they get better each time no matter how others are doing. A child who is at 50% needs to target at raising his/her own percentage. That is their achievement. They don’t have to compare their marks with anyone else. There is no need for a 70% student to compete and outdo a student who is doing a 90%. That is how I try getting students involved – taking the fear factor away and releasing them off peer pressure.

I suggest that children to be taken to the basketball ground etc., when being taught about measurements, etc. Students should be asked to measure different things, they should check for the area of the inner circle etc. These are the ways in which students are made to get involved and how their interest can be captured.
This is how things are conducted in our school and this is how I would advise other school teachers too. The more activities they come up with the easier it gets to pull up the level of Mathematics.

What aspects of a teacher make you understand that they are bright?
See, whatever ideas I suggest, the execution finally rests on the shoulders of the teacher. There is a difference between people who do it willingly and who do it just because I told them to. There is a difference in energy level, zeal, effectiveness and output in both. We can see that clearly.

There are people who are willing to do anything as soon as you suggest something. In fact they will give their inputs as well. There are people always in the department who are willing to do anything anytime and they also find ideas when I ask for their time to incorporate something. They squeeze out time to incorporate it and make things happen. I want to see that kind of willingness. We are there in the school from 8 to 3 or 3:30. One must be willing to work effectively during those hours.
If a teacher intends to grow in the organisation, they need to be willing to work after work hours as well or over the weekend also. They need to source some ideas to improve teaching or make teaching interesting.

Is teaching an exhausting career?
Normally, when I discuss I say that in our industry the raw material has a mind. In any other industries, the raw material doesn’t have a mind of its own.

The advantage is that we get on-the-spot reflections. I am like a family to my students and that attitude fetches me a reflection at the end of my class. This is not just my case; there are so many others who bear testimony to this. And it is all taken positively.

If children ask for time to get adjusted to a concept, we try to facilitate it and try our best to improve the level of each student because like I mentioned earlier, we never promote competitions among students, the competition is with oneself.

What are your future plans?
When I entered IB, like I said, I worked hard for 6 months before I started enjoying this curriculum. I want to continue with teaching. I am not keen on administrative levels like being the Principal or the Vice Principal because I am at home with teaching. I love the exploration we do and the process of finding new ideas. I am very happy as a teacher because I am in touch with the students and I learn immensely from them.

Having said that,I propose to work on something from a data analyst’s space in the interest of analysing the education in the state in various manners. To give you minor examples, sometimes you see schools getting ranked in the newspapers. I want to understand the basis of ranking schools. I see some schools ranked as number 1 in some states and then ranked as 10 in some others. I want to analyse and come to a consensus on this.

Another thing is – sometimes there are two judges judging a competition, and they give marks to, say, 10 participants who are part of the competition. Now, the ranking as per both judges will be different. That means, when two people give marks to the same person, they judge differently. The judges are not in sync with each other. So, how can we decide whom to call to judge competitions? It should be people who are not much variant from each other in their marking. These are minor examples.

When I come across various scenarios like these, I have this urge to do my own data analysis. This is true for results, admission criteria, etc. I would like to analyse all this with the help of statistical tools.
I have begun working on it and hopefully I will achieve this in a couple of years’ time. This is another area I would like to explore. It will help me give my best inputs for what kind of curriculum suits certain children, etc.

Would all schools who offer IB work at the same level?
When I say similar, every school showcases good infrastructure, facilities; the difference is in the teaching part. That is the game changer.

Technically, what I feel is that there is a crisis with respect to a few teachers all the time. The practicality of conducting a syllabus rests on the shoulders of a teacher. A person sometimes comes into the industry assuming that it is an 8-3 job and relaxation after that and that summer vacation is all about enjoyment etc.
But it is only teachers who think out of the box and begin enjoying the profession plus it becomes effective for the children. That way the organisation treads forward positively. When I talk about the teaching faculty in various schools, there is a gap because the school provides all the facilities. If the teacher doesn’t see things positively, then nothing is of any use. The zeal of the school takes a downward plunge.

Sometimes, I observe deeply because I have worked as an HOD in my previous school as well. I have overheard teachers commenting about the need of such detailing, the need for some training programmes the school facilitates for them, etc.

When you are sitting through a training, for instance, it can be that out of 100 points that are being said, only 10 points may appear new for an experienced person. It is about looking at it either that you got to learn 10 new things or cribbing that 90 things were things you already knew.
If teachers are of the same healthy mindset in all schools, they all can be ranked equally.

Can a school’s administration point of view make a difference to creating the right environment for good teachers to thrive in?
I have worked with three big groups and many small groups. What I have seen is that in the present school, they follow the protocol. That is one of the best aspects.

For instance, if there is a complaint from the student’s side, it needs to go to the teacher first. If the teacher cannot solve, the HOD should be notified, after which the coordinator can be involved, and likewise there should be an escalation process upwards.

Sometimes, parents are highly impatient. If something happens they directly mail the coordinator or the Principal. Imagine a complaint going to a Principal. He is a person in charge of the whole school. It will take him three days to get to the teacher’s level, which is a wastage of time.

What I feel is that if the school administration gets something that needs attention, it is important not to skip levels. The school should also respond politely to the parents assuring them that the situation will be considered and making them aware of the escalation process, if they would require it.
This protocol should be strictly adhered to. A school should promote an environment conducive for children to study and for teachers to work peacefully too. That balance is absolutely necessary.

Generally when it comes to teaching, do you feel most schools lack this protocol structure?
This varies from person to person. When you go up the ladder the power is held by one person. If that person also adheres to this protocol, then it is a direct message for everybody to follow the protocol.
Some leaders don’t want to be bothered about these as long as the children are safe and matters are sorted. There are others who feel they should know it all.
School managements would generally aim at the system to run smoothly. Parents should feel relaxed; students should enjoy coming to school and teachers should feel free to do their work at peace.

Contact: vinod.arora@tsrs.org

Ranjeet kumar Yadav – IBDP Physics Teacher – Oberoi International School, Mumbai

How did you get into the education career?
I hail from a family full of teachers. My uncle, my father, my cousin, etc. all are teachers. In my family I have teachers ranging from professors to secondary-school teachers. My wife and sister are also teachers. So, I have a whole big background there. Having said that, this background was not the sole motivator behind my becoming a teacher.
I studied in a government school. I was born and brought up in Mumbai. My father was a government school teacher, which was Hindi medium –the vernacular medium we had back then. Till grade 10, I studied in Vernacular medium and I always wanted to become a mechanical engineer and make fighter planes for India. When I heard that India bought these planes from Russia, I kept wondering why we don’t make the fighter planes ourselves.
My dreams and enthusiasm took a back seat when I got to college. I had a tough time in college because I did my schooling in Vernacular medium. English medium in college took a toll on me and it felt like my world was crashing down. I couldn’t understand a word they taught because till date the only words I knew in English were whatever was taught as English as a subject alone. I had an extremely tough time and needless to say, I didn’t do very well in Grade 12. From the 84% I secured in Grade 10, my exam results tapered down to 57% in Grade 12.
I didn’t try for Engineering and I went for my further studies to a degree college. That is where I decided that there was, perhaps, a lot I could do to help students like me, who come from national medium – who may have big dreams and suddenly they get hit by reality of a language barrier pulling them down. The fact that I fell from an above average student in Class 10 to an average student in Class 12, told me that many people will need some hand holding to pursue their dreams. I felt they needed people who could tell them that it may take a while but they will get around it.
I could say that with conviction because eventually that is what happened to me. I went for my BSc, MSc, etc. and reverted to scoring Distinction level marks again. The difference was that in my graduation days I got teachers who were very supportive. They kept chanting that I may take a little more time, but I sure would get there. That is when I realised that the support they gave me was something which was far bigger than I ever imagined doing. That is how I decided that I want to pursue teaching a profession.
From the very beginning, I was very clear that I don’t really need to teach geniuses, because they can do well with minimal or no support. They just need direction. According to me, teaching is a necessity for those who struggle. It is required for either those who are heading in the wrong direction or the less confident ones, etc.
That is how teaching happened for me.

Where did you graduate from?
I did it in Mumbai University. Like I mentioned earlier, in grade 10, I was in vernacular medium and in the year 1995 to score an 84% in Grade 10 was extremely difficult, which I did.
Of course, nowadays it has all changed. I cannot understand how people score 100% in a language paper. If you ask me, even as a student, I would think that impossible even if my teacher would have taken an exam in language. Even they wouldn’t aim for a full 100 marks in language. But nowadays I see children scoring 100 in languages. Somehow, I feel, the scoring system has become unrealistic.

What happened after you cleared your MSc?
My first job was when I was doing my MSc. One of my friends, named Joy Jacob, was working in some school and wanted to resign owing to a better offer at hand. The school’s condition was such that if one needed to leave, one had to provide a teacher for the school, before one left. In 2nd year MSc, we are supposed to go for lab classes and it was okay if you weren’t present in class for all lectures. You just had to maintain your attendance at an optimum level.
So, when my friend asked if I could step in for a few months, I agreed. I didn’t mind trying. It was another beginning and at the back of my mind the fact that I was a vernacular medium student once upon a time still played at the back of my head. By the time I cleared my BSc, I could converse in English. But standing in front of a class and talking is a different ball game altogether.
So, that is how I landed my first opportunity. I was expected to teach Science for Grade 7 to Grade 10. This school was one of those schools who don’t really have the philosophy of educating people. They look at it as a business, to come up with a school in a slum and function it just for the fees. My first hands-on experience was with such a school.
That is how my journey began. Then, I completed my MSc and after that came what I consider my first break. I got to teach in my own alma mater, in Bhavan’s College,Andheri, Mumbai. I was taken in by my own HOD on a clock on basis.
At that time there was this clock on basis wherein your pay depends on the number of hours that you teach. But, that was of least priority for me. My excitement was that I was going to teach in my own college. For me, that was a big thing. It was like a dream come true to be promoted from classroom to staff room and being seated with your own teachers.
Having said that, the charm of the dream kept fading away because you get Rs 85 per hour and that too after three months and then sustainability becomes an issue. Then, I understood that this situation could not go for long because it did not support me as a professional.
That is when I started looking for other opportunities and realised that if I wanted to be in the teaching field, I had to either do my NET, SET or I had to go for B Ed.
Now, for NET, SET the problem was that it was littered with the quota system and a lot other formalities. So, I opted to do my B Ed. With MSc, B Ed, you can teach up to grade 12. Likewise, my teaching career took shape in a Podar School that I joined, and after that, I have worked in a number of schools.

Looking back, was the B Ed course actually useful for you?
Frankly speaking, nobody ever saw how much I scored. I scored a first class in B Ed and a Distinction in my MSc. One thing I realized was that all these certificates and mark sheets etc. is just your first step.
The start of your career life can perhaps be decided by your mark sheet, but how high you jump or how far you go has nothing to do with your mark sheet. In that perspective, B Ed and all is just a pass for starting your career. It helps to get you into a good organization.
Once I got placed in a good organisation, wherever I went after that, I don’t recall anybody ever asking me my mark sheet. The institution admin section takes a copy and keeps it as part of their paper work – that’s all. I don’t even see people reading it.
So, my belief in marks is quite less. I talk to my students and tell them that their marks are not a true reflection of who they are. It doesn’t hurt to do well, no doubt. But that is neither the end of everything nor is it going to fetch you everything.
One of my students recently adorned the role of a Physiotherapist. I remember she was very poor in studies when she was in Grade 7, which was around 7-8 years back. I used to tell her that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are very dedicated and as long as you are dedicated, life will bring to you its goodness.
I am very happy that this has come to work. My philosophy now has become Let Us Learn for Learning. Marks may get you the admission. But it doesn’t matter much.
In the 16 years of my teaching career, I have seen students going to top most colleges and filling up seats. I have also seen students going to ordinary colleges, and turning out to be really good and leading a good life. It is not about the college or the teacher. It is all about you. You make or break yourself.
Admission is something you may secure on the basis of your marks. It ends there.

Has your dad been your inspiration?
It sounds obvious. But, actually my father wasn’t really my inspiration. I respect my father a lot for a lot of things but I was not inspired to teach because of him.
See, my father had 6 children to raise and he used to work in 2 schools, which means he was working day in and day out. He used to work for a day school and night school to earn enough to keep his family going. He himself was the 14th child of his parents. He had 14 siblings. I am not sure if you understand, we hail from the North and the system there is you earn money and your money is spent towards a lot of obligations you need to fulfil.
So, I don’t see him as an inspiration. My father didn’t get to spend much time with us. Poor fellow couldn’t even teach me at times. In fact, initially I had an aversion to the profession because I have seen my dad struggle so much to make ends meet. I felt it was not worth it.
When I went to Degree College and struggled a lot, I felt that my life was over. It was some of my degree teachers, and before that another teacher in my 5th grade, who had assured me that life will go well.
There are two teachers that changed my life. One was Mr Mishra. I was in grade 5 and I was known as the child of a teacher. But, I was so weak in studies that I couldn’t write 2/3 correctly if it was told out verbally. If teachers said that verbally, I would literally write 2 and then I would write the word upon in Hindi.
Mr Mishra once asked me if I was Mr Yadav’s son. In fact I used to pass many of my exams because I was known to be the child of a teacher. But, Mr Mishra didn’t do that – he offered to give me tuitions.
I told him that I need to ask permission from my parents. He advised me not to ask them but to inform them that Mr Mishra would give me tuitions. Even today when I think of that man, I bow down because had he not been the one to teach me in Grade 5, I would have perhaps begun working as a rickshaw puller or something like that, because I would have never cleared Grade 10.
Then, another teacher I am indebted to is my Physics HOD in Degree College. Until I reached my degree college I had this air that Math and Physics are superior subjects and I felt I wouldn’t be able to handle it really well. Then, I came across my HOD. What a lady she was! She was not just an amazing Physics or Math teacher, she is an amazing human being.
She has been a huge source of inspiration for me. It is from her that I understood how to teach. From her I realised that I don’t have to make fighter planes for India to win wars. You need to make these amazing people for India, for India to be at its best.
My actual motivation set in from thereon.

What effective roles can teachers play in the classrooms today?
See, since 2011 I was part of the IB curriculum. After I started my IB venture, I felt like I was cheating my students until then.
Even before my IB venture, I was convinced that I was doing a great job. But, what happens in those classes? I would go to my class and teach everything! I would solve every problem in the text book. I would bombard children with every information possible, every short cut one can use, etc. I used to give away everything I knew.
But now I understand that that is not how it should be done because in the traditional method, I am only teaching you what I have learnt. That wouldn’t complete the whole picture. I forget that you are learning too. I forget that there are chances that your learning can be superior to mine. In reality, children know as much as adults do.
In IB, we give students what we know and then we also give them the opportunity to explore beyond that. They may have an idea which can be superior to mine. It is like exposing them to a number of things and then giving tasks all the way through. These tasks and activities should be done in such a way that my job becomes easier. For example, if I ask you explore around Ohm’s Law, you would get the definition anyway.
So, in short, my role is to ask students to listen a bit, reflect and think a lot. I think my role has matured from merely giving lectures to being a facilitator for children to explore beyond class room teaching.

You feel more fulfilled now, right?
Totally!
When I joined IB, my HOD asked me if I could handle practical (lab classes). I agreed, of course! I mean, I have already handled practical classes for Grade 10 – 12. So, I didn’t really understand why she asked. With my experience, she should have already gathered that I can do the job, right? But, I was blown when I saw their practical class’ criteria.
The criteria says that teachers should not tell students the procedure or process, the instrument, table, method – nothing. We shouldn’t give away any information. Students need to figure that out. We should just help them and guide them.
I was dumbstruck because that kind of methodology was alien to me – it didn’t make any sense to me back then. I was a conventional student and a teacher until then. For me, practical classes meant my teacher would come and tell me the procedure, about the tables and how to take readings. For example, when in the Physics laboratory, since we knew it by heart that G=9.8, we would calculate backwards and manipulate the data.
From IB, I learned that we already know that G=9.8. We don’t want to prove that again. We want students to do their experiment and tell us why they perhaps did get G as 12. They are encouraged to think, reflect and tell us why and how we arrive at g=12. That is when it struck me that I, as a student or even as a teacher for that matter, never sat and thought as to why would my result go wrong.
I never did a conclusion and analysis. I felt guilty that I had taught so many batches of students till date and I never exposed them to this kind of knowledge. As a teacher, I felt that was a crime and I am glad I don’t commit that crime anymore.

There is quite a revolution taking place now in the education sector.
Exactly, thanks to IB! There is so much freedom to think and literally, the curriculum offers freedom to think, unlike in the traditional boards which dictate how much you should know and how much you need to understand. When traditional boards set boundaries, IB has something called extended essay.
Extended essay is basically a research project, wherein the student takes up any topic and conducts a research on it. How amazing is that!
Every child across the globe must get to do such things. Children are so amazing, I tell you! The first time I did this, I was of the mind-set that this is too much. We all have a Bell curve right about categorizing children under different heads. To my surprise I realised that all children managed to do it. And, this is not just true for one of the batches. Batches after batches I see that children manage. They never do as bad as I thought they would.

Are we bound to enter into a divide when it comes to national and international curriculum?
See, every curriculum undergoes periodic reviews. A few years down the line, I feel all curriculums will become more or less the same. I see that even the State Board has made a lot of changes. They have watered down their expectations. They used to have hard core content earlier. Now, they have also included projects. Their criteria and foundation is not very detailed yet but they are definitely picking up.
I am sure, in time, different educational boards across the world will observe the world around them. All these boards consist of learned people and they would be learning and reasoning out things. Other boards are catching up – the faster they do it the better it will be. Eventually, it will all get there.

If someone who follows the national curriculum wants to switch to IB, what do you think he should keep in mind?
Of course it can’t be an overnight change. There are so many aspects to be estimated. First of all, the appreciation and the mind-set from the management, teacher body and parent body are extremely important. In the IB curriculum, the middle school doesn’t have exams.
In traditional boards, you have a huge exam in your 10th because after that you go to college. But, in the IB curriculum they don’t have that concept. It is very difficult to convince Indian parents that it is fine not to have exams. There are a lot of fronts which need to be worked on before making the leap.
Even when I got into IB, I was very reluctant on many accounts. I also had mind-sets about so many things. But then, with time, I have turned out to be a hard core believer in the IB philosophy.
If schools plan to switch over, they must start with a time frame in mind, and proper planning is required. They have to train the teachers. They have to bring in bits and pieces of the strategy in the current scenario so that small things get changed. They can use these changes as a test to see how teachers adapt around that. If they are positive towards that, then other changes can be brought about.
There are orientation programs to be conducted as well to make people aware how people across the world are educating their children versus how we are doing it.
But yes, trying to change things overnight is a recipe for disaster.

Is Oberoi International School that you were working at affiliated to the IB curriculum only?
It is only affiliated to the IB curriculum now. It has Primary Year Programme (PYP), Middle Year Programme (MYP) and Diploma Course for 11th and 12th (IBDP).

Are you currently working over there?
Not really. I have put down my papers. I have got an offer from China. Soon, I will be joining an IB school in China.

How long were you part of Oberoi International School?
I worked with Oberoi for 2 years. Before that I was in Dubai for a year. I was working as the Secondary Head there. My mother fell ill and I had to come back and be here and so joined Oberoi as a Physics teacher.
Before that I was Physics teacher at another school here in Mumbai itself. That was my first IB school. Prior to that, I was teaching State Boards and other national boards.
In 2011, when I joined the IB curriculum, I learned about IB, all thanks to my mentor Ms Lalitha Venkat, my HOD at that school. She was a very learned person who was very level headed and calm.
Then, I wanted to try out international syllabus internationally and so flew to Dubai. That happened to be quite an experience. I was in Dubai in an international arena. But I ended up in a school which catered to the ICSE syllabus.
To think of it, it was quite funny that I travelled all the way to teach ICSE. I was teaching international syllabus within India and teaching Indian syllabus in an international set up.

Most teachers from India go and teach in Indian schools there, right?
Yes, that is right. Over there, the third official language can be considered to be Malayalam, after Arabic and English. There is a huge Indian crowd there and as a result there are a large number of Indian schools.

Over there, you were in a leadership role. How did you like it?
Well! Frankly speaking, it was not such a great experience for various reasons.
I am from the North and that school was filled with people from the South. So, it was kind of disoriented. I had some real good friends – all from South India. But, there were also many people who kind of made a rift between people from the North and the South.
These were the people who would talk in front of me in Malayalam and I would understand nothing. I could make out that they wanted to say something which I needed to understand. I felt awkward in such situations.
There were people who used to intervene at such occasions too. There were unnecessary, irritating situations such as these. Gratefully, when I got a reason, I said good bye and packed my bags.

Can you tell me about the China venture that you are looking forward to?
The medium of reception is English. The student body, I hear, is either Chinese or expats. AIC, the school I am going to be part of, is an IB affiliated school and it is a residential school.
I will be teaching Physics to Classes 11 and 12, and perhaps 10th too. I will need to pick up the Chinese language in time but I am not supposed to be teaching in Chinese.

I think outside the classroom, more communication is possible right?
Most of the people know that English ability is quite limited in that country. Especially if you go to the market etc., it may get difficult if you do not know Chinese.
The teaching community consists mostly of expats who have been staying there and managing. I think I might as well make some friends in China.

Contact: yadavranjeet@yahoo.co.in

Talking to Rahul Vadehra – Chemistry teacher

How did you start your teaching career?
I started teaching when I was preparing for my MBA; I had no idea that I would become a PGT Chemistry. I needed financial support for my MBA studies; hence I began taking tutorial classes. During that time, I started teaching class 11th and 12th, and then I realized that I can do better in teaching as a part of my contribution towards society. During my childhood, I had faced a lot of difficulties in dealing with the subjects – Physics and Chemistry. But teaching helped me realize that this field required me, hence I decided to switch to teaching. Teaching is an ongoing process. I don’t believe in the concept of teacher and student. I believe that there are two types of entity- one is a student and other is a senior student. I consider myself as a student because I keep learning things from students as well. In the last 12 years, I evaluated my teaching in many areas.
I understood one thing that there is a change in the psychology of the children. Their social life has changed, priorities have changed and social media has come into existence. One cannot disengage kids from video games and social media, but one can find an alternative way to educate them about the use of such technologies for self development. These were the issues that I had faced as a teacher, but I have been working on the same.

Challenges of teaching profession
Besides, there are certain drawbacks in the job. For eg., correcting notebooks of the students, but student and teacher ratio is not appropriate in India. If there are 160 students in four sections, then how will it be possible to correct books of 160 students every week? These factors make me unable to give my 100 % to every child, which I actually want to give. If we improve student-teacher ratio, it will definitely help in improving teaching and learning process.

On quality of a teacher
The number of teachers in the country is less. With respect to the population there are less number of schools. The government should pay heed to this. I think in India people believe that becoming a teacher is an easy task. If nothing else works, then by simply doing B.Ed one can become a teacher. In my opinion, girls are often asked to pursue a teaching career in India. Why force girls to take up teaching when they are not interested? I have noticed that the number of male staff is less in comparison to female staff. In my career, I have noticed one female teacher resigning the school to join somewhere else owing to many reasons. For eg., husband’s job transfer. A teacher has to take things seriously and not play with a child’s career. Despite of girls being independent of their career choices, I am sorry to say that there is rigidity still prevailing in India, at least in villages. We are a country with 70 % of villages. Overall the system has to change. Teachers like Sonam Wang- Chuk have done an incredible job in Ladakh.
Now-a-days, teachers have no passion for their job. They go to school in the morning and come back in the afternoon, complete their syllabus, earn their salary and that’s it. I believe that’s not teaching. There are private colleges that provide B.Ed degree; however, I am skeptical about its content. I think the quality of the teacher also needs to improve somewhere. Besides, the government should begin new schools, new opportunities, workshops, seminars and teaching exchange programs. Although these things are on paper, in practicality the efficiency of doing these is very less.

Methodologies adopted to teach Chemistry
As a chemistry teacher, my classroom strategy varies with the topics I discuss. I always co-relate to teaching and learning with the experiences of daily life. I support real life examples to explain chemistry elements, so that students can understand the constructive and destructive use of the chemistry equation. I also take care of each and every student, like there are slow and fast learners, I segregate them and apply my method of teaching with them. I generally avoid giving photocopy of notes, as I believe that students remember more as they write more. Diagrams and pictography influences child’s memory more than the written material in the textbook. These are certain strategies that I apply. I, sometimes, make models to explain the reaction of chemicals, their physical and chemical properties and how they are related to their structure. I think different subject teachers can use different strategies according to the requirement of the subjects.
Being a teacher, I have become calm, peaceful, focused and stopped complaining about things, because when I teach 40 students in my class, I see them studying together and spend time together irrespective of any kind of discrimination; it helps me to be a better person. Students are such a great lesson to us. I am peaceful and that is my achievement.
However, it is very tough to maintain the equilibrium between assertiveness and friendliness with the students. One should always maintain a follow up and ignore nothing. I learnt it in my career that if I follow up, then children take me seriously and take my work seriously. They become more disciplined. One also needs to understand the child’s needs.
In this 21st century, a 12th grade student may know more than me about the outside world. Due to web series and TV series, students understand psychology, philosophy and other things better than us. I have to maintain certain things in an appropriate way without hurting their ego.
At the adolescent stage, students are very aggressive. I keep a follow up and try to understand them. In order to maintain a certain amount of discipline, I give them a deadline to submit their work. This is how I maintain equilibrium between assertiveness and friendliness with the students.
These days, teachers are doing a lot of activities to maintain the energy in the class. I play some videos, show students diagrams, use colourful chalks, and share relatable experiences from sports and films. I engage them with daily life experiences. Sometimes I take the students to the ground and explain them about the importance of environment and nature. In the chemistry lab too, I do follow a similar method to maintain the level of energy.

Syllabus of chemistry
In terms of coping with the vast content in chemistry textbook, I think the chemistry books were last revised in 2005. This year certain changes took place, but I believe that there is a lot of work to do. There should be more numerical and application based things into the textbooks as well as the relativity of certain topics with real life. Eg: Molarity and Molality are concentration terms which are often used in the medical profession, but not written anywhere in the book. I think these changes should be made in NCERT which is mostly read by students. There have to be practical books as well, e.g., where do we use sulphur? Which country has the ability to produce maximum sulphur? What is the application of sulphur? This kind of content should be included in NCERT to help the child learn better. Reasons like these make the textbook ineffective and hence, science students pursue different streams after 12th grade. This is why I believe we are lacking.
I do keep myself updated with the developments in the field of chemistry teaching. I search on Google about nanotechnology, quantum navigation and other aspects of chemistry. I attend seminars in IIT Delhi, I talk to my seniors, I go for board checking, I visit as an external to other schools to conduct practical examinations. I meet and discuss with people of my field and update myself as much as possible. I read lots of books. Teaching gives me so much of energy that I become younger and younger with the passage of time.
Talking about forming instructions, depending upon the situation, teachers can personalize instructions according to the student’s ability in the class. Sometimes one needs to ignore certain things and sometimes segregate students like slow learners and fast learners and maintain the teaching speed accordingly without affecting either of them.

About significant changes in the curriculum in future
It depends upon the content of the subject that one is dealing with in the class. I think when a child is in 11th or 12th grade it is the responsibility of the management, teachers and parents to tell them what happens in under graduation. Usually, this does not happen. Also, when a child passes to another class, he / she tends to forget what they had learnt in the previous class. They need to carry extra or basic information about that subject in order to understand the subject in the next class in a much better way. There has to be consistent development. A graphical data about the student’s development should be collected from the previous teachers, so that the teachers of the next class understand them better. I believe a lot of things have to be changed in this area.

Your views on teaching as a career
My philosophy of teaching is influenced by people like Gautam Buddha. My philosophy of teaching is about life and not about making money. When one drinks water one needs to feel that the water is consumed by the body. When you breathe one need to feel that the oxygen is absorbed into your blood. When you walk one should feel the gravity. My philosophy is totally about life. What if the students are not able to crack exams? Should we let them commit suicide or stay depressed? No, we can’t. I believe that we should tell students about the importance of life. We should tell them that there are so many things one can do in life. I spend a lot of time with students dealing with such issues. Gandhiji, Buddha and Kabir have influenced me a lot and I have read about them a lot. I admire them and use their philosophy and my experiences to share it with the students.

Contact: vadehrar@yahoo.in

Asha Christian – Motivated and affectionate retired teacher still remembered by her students

What motivated you into teaching?
My aunt lived with us and she was a teacher. Very often I would go with her to the school where she taught. My aunt was very much loved and respected by her students. When I saw all these, somewhere in my mind the seed was planted that I should follow her footsteps. And, talking about a specific moment or experience that drew me into education, let me tell you, when I was studying, I lived in a Chawl. My mom who had passed only 9th grade in the English medium took tuition of the children living in the Chawl. Many of them were given free tuition. Among these students, one of them got free tuition from my mom from the 1st grade up to the 9th grade. I feel proud that due to my mom’s sacrificial teaching, this boy is now a Doctor. And as I grew up, my mom’s sacrificial teaching made a great impact on me and the virtue of helping to grow, I firmly made up my mind to take up D.Ed i.e. the teaching diploma course after I passed my SSC. At the age of 19, I was into teaching which was my vocation, profession and passion.
I was a teacher at Raj Popat English Medium School and Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan in Juhu. I also taught at the Mount Mary High School, Goregaon. As my husband was transferred to Rajkot, I taught for an academic year in Sunshine School. After which, I began teaching in St Anne’s High School. As I always taught in the primary section, honestly, I had all good experiences. Even children were very innocent, so I loved them. Back in those days, they would come up with silly jokes about the ant and the elephant. That time there were so many of those kinds of jokes, I really enjoyed them. During recess, all the kids would want me to take something from their Tiffin. Even if I took a tiny bit or even if I touched their tiffin, they would become so happy. I liked them touching my feet before their test or exams.
The only thing I disliked when we had to grade our students based on competencies. For 80-85 students, each subject had 10 questions with 5 marks allotted for each one. After correction, we had to enter the scores accordingly to the competencies and total them. All this was handwritten because there were no computers back then when I was teaching. Eventually, I had no problem and got used to entering those marks.

Teaching as a Career – Your pleasant experiences and challenges you faced in teaching profession
Being the calm and composed person that I am, I never really reached to a point of frustration, but yes, at times, the class strength of about 85 students, which existed in the 80s and 90s was a bit overwhelming, not because I couldn’t manage but I felt that I could have given more if the strength of the class was less.
However, my love for the profession and love for the children made teaching more receptive to the students. I taught with enthusiasm and passion. I made things easy and entertaining for my students. I used different methods like storytelling, dramatization, class participation, recitation and so on. My History lessons were the most appreciated.
I would like to quote one of my students’ messages, “I still remember how much I would look forward to see you every day at school and cherish those moments, especially, have memories of the History lecture. History has never been my favourite subject, but your teaching style while portraying the life of Shivaji always made the sessions interesting. You always made learning easier and helped us in every way.”

Personal connect with students
I always made sure to be one on one with my students wherever and whenever possible I interacted with them. For eg: Reaching early to class while waiting for the assembly to start, during recess, even sitting down on the floor with the students during work experience or class period. I took time, a little minute from here and there, to talk to my students. Furthermore, I took deep interest in students who were difficult or shy. By my personalized handmade Children’s Day card, appreciation note, homemade sweet treats for the entire class and other ways, I shared a great personal relationship with my students. Talking about student to student relationship, cooperative learning is a well established technique for enhancing learning. I used this technique and gave responsibilities to fast learners to motivate the slow learners. Also, asked the students to speak about one good positive quality of the person sitting beside them. My seating arrangement was rotated weekly so every week each one had to speak about a different person, and that helped them to talk positive about their friend and get friendly.
I was well organized in terms of allotting responsibilities to each and every student to make them feel special. The monitors of the class changed weekly, even the weakest child in the class got to be a monitor. The rotation of seating arrangement changed weekly. So even the shortest child got to be a backbencher and the tallest one got to sit on the first bench.
My dedication to teaching, friendliness and approachability helped me in my classroom management.

Philosophy of my teaching
I never really had a strategy of teaching. But, I believed that if I have a good rapport and love for my students, teaching is just a natural process.
At this point, I remember two of my teachers who influenced me to love children. Miss Edith, my first grade teacher who was the most loving and kindest soul I ever met. My fourth grade teacher, Miss Hilda, she loved my very long hair. Every day before school started, she would open my plaits, touch my hair and plait them back again. I think I owe my lovable nature towards my students to these loving and kind teachers. Being kind, patient, caring, dedicated and having expertise in communication skills are other factors of my philosophy of teaching.

Challenges and achievements
Frankly speaking, there are no ups and downs, but talking about my achievements; professionally speaking, my achievement was the Mayor’s Award for the Best Teacher which I had received in 2001 to 2002. I was the first teacher to get this award for my school, St Anne’s High School. But, more than the award, I would say, the love and respect I won from my colleagues and my dear students is my greatest achievement. Here, I would like to quote one of my colleagues’ messages and one of my students’ messages who wrote to me. My colleague wrote, “Asha, you were and always will be inspirational to me. I will forever admire how you chose the profession that put countless others before yourself and still manage to make each person you encountered feel immensely special. I also admire your integrity. I watched you do what is right, even if it was difficult.”
My student wrote, “Dearest Asha teacher, the meaning of the word teacher for me is you. No one will ever change that definition for me. If I love anything to do with studying it’s because of you.”
There were many incidents which made me happy. One of them is the look of satisfaction on the parents face when they saw me enter their child’s class on the first day of school. They would walk back home without any questions and that made me feel so happy because they trusted me and they were happy that their child is in my class. A quote from a parent who said, “There is no point of primary education if a child does not get Asha teacher at least once.” Another moment of happiness, which cannot be described in words but I will try. On my 60th birthday, 2 years back, there was a plan of 60 surprises by my daughter. I was completely overjoyed and honoured to get notes and cards from my students who are now grown up adults sharing tiny little good memories of their experience in my class and how I had inspired them. Talk about disappointment, I can think of only one. I migrated to the USA in 2003 a few years before my retirement. So I feel disappointed about losing those years of my vocation. I could have touched and moulded so many other children.

Your views on current education system
Speaking about the common misconception existing in the education system:
According to me, one common misconception in education is that a parent thinks once the child is sent to school, it’s the teacher’s responsibility to bring about all round development in child. But, it does not work that way. It’s a team effort – the child, the parent and the teacher’s effort together.
For this, there should be good communication, workshops and seminars should be conducted.

Use of educational Apps in schools
Moreover, as I talk about the advent of educational apps taking over classroom teaching, on what I hear from my grandkids about the educational app that they are using, I am awestruck. I wish I could use something like this in my teaching career. At the same time, this is my strong opinion that no digital content can replace a teacher’s impactful teaching. Both should go hand in hand- technology and the teacher’s teaching. Just like there are two sides of every coin, technology too has its own advantages and disadvantages. If used in the right proportion, technology will be a healthy evolution towards better learning. Instead of teacher being the only source of help in the classroom, students can use technology to assist them.
It is my strong belief that providing access to technology for teachers rather than students works best.
Considering the functioning of the present education system, there are so many rules and regulations in the school these days. So many technicalities to be followed; Teachers have to follow the same speed of teaching in all the divisions, thus restricting their own pace of teaching resulting in a teacher’s talent not conveyed to the students. According to me, one change that I would suggest is to give some freedom to the teacher to use their talents of teaching.
I have retired but at the same time I am trying to adapt to technology and learning new things. A teacher rather any person does not stop learning until he or she dies. Learning is a lifelong process. This quality of learning was of great help when I migrated to the USA. In India, I taught children between ages 7 to 10. Here in USA, I had a class of a three year old. There was a vast difference. The mindsets, the culture, the environment and an entirely different education system, but my passion and my enthusiasm made me a favourite among my students and their parents. Also, I am now assisting my daughter’s teaching workshop in India along with my 30 years of teaching experience and with the usage of technology I am able to help her to prepare her lessons of teaching.
Although, I am not someone so great to give a message to young aspiring teachers, nevertheless, this is my message-
Teaching is not easy as it seems. Love your career and love your students, have excellent work ethics, know your students, respect your students, be a good role model and be flexible.

As told to Dhrithi Gulvadi

Anthony Hamblin- PYP Coordinator – Stonehill International School, Bangalore

Anthony Hamblin is the current PYP Coordinator at Stonehill International School in Bangalore.

About me

I was a teacher leader at The International School of Azerbaijan in Baku for 5 years. I have also taught in London, England as an early years teacher. I am an accreditor for the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and am in the process of becoming an IB workshop Leader. Stonehill International School is an inclusive school in the North of Bangalore. We are a three programme IB school; PYP, MYP and DP and are accredited by CIS and NEASC.

Career Graph

I started working at Stonehill in August 2017. It has been a massive learning curve for me, to take my experience as an early years teacher and try and support the entire Primary School. There were lots of great initiatives already in place, and it was my responsibility to keep them going, or tweak them slightly. I’m a big believer in sustainability, so anytime I could reduce the amount of paper used at the school I went for it. This included taking our assessments online, and supporting the rollout of an e-learning plaform for our portfolios.

The most interesting part for me as the coordinator was the PYP Exhibition. I have a background in drama, and was able to incorporate the arts more into their presentations. This year I have been teaching Performing Arts to one grade level, and I have also began to create the curriculum for Performing Arts, as our school is growing next year.

Another big part of my journey was the creation of Learning Hub. To encourage conversations between teachers, we created an opportunity for IB teachers to attend workshops run by teachers at Stonehill. This started with 70 participants last year, and was at over 200 this year.

Selecting India as a Workplace

My wife, two kids and I love to experience different cultures and different foods. After 5 years in Azerbaijan, we were ready for another adventure. Stonehill felt like the right fit for us and a great place for our young boys to start their schooling.

Embracing Technology and Creativity

Our mission and vision focuses on sports, technology and the arts. We use technology as a tool for learning at Stonehill, and the implementation of Seesaw as our e-learning portfolio has consolidated the way we communicate and share student learning with parents. Most of our teachers are now Google Level 1 certified and we rely on Google Team Drives to support the storage and sharing of information.
For more details, do visit the school website www.stonehill.in

Contact Details:
Stonehill International School
No.259/333/334/335,
Tarahunise Post,
Jala Hobli Bangalore North,
Bengaluru, Karnataka – 562157
Phone: +91 8043418300
Email: info@stonehill.in

Dr Seema Dutt – Principal – DAV Public School, Ambala Cantt.

Armed with a Doctorate degree in English, a master’s degree in Mathematics and 30 years of experience in the Education sector, Dr Seema Dutt is currently the Principal of DAV Public School,Ambala Cantt. Dr Dutt is also a master trainer of mathematics for CBSE and conducted many workshops for teachers and children across Haryana, Punjab, Himachal and Chandigarh apart from working as a Principal for the past 11 years.

D.A.V Public School, Ambala Cantt, established in 1988, is an English Medium Co-educational Senior Secondary School, affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi.

Role of Education

I believe the role of education is multifaceted. The primary aim of education is to prepare students for life and the basic ability to get a job. However, to maintain the job and to be an efficient worker, many factors come into play. A child should be confident,have sound values,have good command of communication skills,be proactive,have positive outlook,be willing to learn,unlearn or/and relearn depending on circumstances,be willing and open to criticism and be able to face setbacks and defeats without breaking and be able to get back up and try again. These are values that are more important in the long run. Hence, I believe that through education should help prepare students for a job, it must pay equal or more attention to the life skills needed to prepare them for life itself.

CBSE or IB?

The benefits of the IB board are in-depth knowledge of subjects, practicality and usefulness of knowledge and community service incorporated into the curriculum. It is particularly helpful if students plan to pursue their education aboard. Further, it has a bit of flexibility in terms of the capabilities of the child. It also encourages creative thinking and resource /research building capacity amongst students.

CBSE, however, has woken up to the changing needs of education and is currently in the process of incorporating the necessary changes needed to widen the scope of its educational practices and include more research-based and practical application of concepts. The quality of books, however, needs to be improved and updated to make this process more successful.

Technology as a teaching tool

Students nowadays are more tech savvy. Audio books are preferred over traditional books. Students watch YouTube videos, download various apps to understand topics better. But it is easier and faster to use a book than a tablet. However, if tabs are to be given to them, we need to teach them how to use it correctly and appropriately, without being distracted by countless entertainment applications like games, videos, emails etc. They need to be guided and monitored on its usage to ensure effectiveness and continuous use of tab may strain their eyes.

Challenges faced by teachers

Teaching is getting more and more complex and challenging these days. The patience level of students is decreasing while rudeness, argumentation, disobedience and short temperament is on the rise. No freedom of speech or expression, teachers efficiency is based on results, politics/backbiting among staff are few hindrances that take the joy out of being a teacher today.

Retaining Good Teachers

Recruitment and retaining bright teachers is one of the most important drivers of a well-functioning education system. Factors that help in recruiting and retaining good teachers are salaries, working conditions, professional collaboration, internal promotions, maintaining their respect and dignity before students and parents, shared decision making, accountability systems and resources for teaching-learning. Good teachers want to work in a productive environment where they are appreciated and allowed to grow. Continuous appraisal /feedback helps them to grow. The remuneration should be according to their experience and capabilities.

Influence of Coaching Centres

Coaching centres are just a trend in India in the field of education. Many students are not self-driven or self-motivated. Such coaching centres may help them. It might help them achieve their short term goals of getting into a college/institute /course. However, this can never replace the education system. Rather they have actually jeopardised the schooling culture. Many students are not attentive in classes and are irregular to school as they have coaching classes to teach them again. They are wasting resources and time in the process. It has to lead to a decrease in understanding of the subject as they are paying more attention to problem-solving than an understanding of concepts. There is no scope of inquisitiveness as students are encouraged to accept things given in the textbook.

Coaching centres are actually business centres generating huge turnovers. In my opinion, they don’t redefine educational systems as they exist but their increasing numbers showcase the need to change our society’s perspective about education and the future of our students. The entire system along with the stakeholders must realise the importance of school education system. We need to act and bring back confidence in our school education system. Schooling is a fundamental way of learning and we must curb another parallel system of private coaching which fails to deliver quality education.

Teaching as a profession today

It is unfortunate that the teaching profession in India is no longer considered an attractive career option by young bright people. So, the teachers of the next generation are going to be mediocre of today. In order to motivate the bright students for teaching as a profession, it is very important to restore the dignity to the teaching profession, strengthen teacher in educational institutions, link reward and career progression and create a more professional environment for teachers. Mediocre teachers at times prove to be more effective teachers. Just as they struggle to understand they can help those students who struggle too. Bright students might not empathize with weak students. However, each one is good at certain things and intelligence is just one factor. Teaching is more about the skill set needed to teach rather than pure intelligence.
For more details on the school, please visit http://davambalacantt.com

Address:
RIVERSIDE DAV Public School
Jagadhri Road,
Ambala Cantt,
Haryana – 133006
0171-2602141

Dolly Sirohi – Geography Facilitator – Northfields International School, Mauritius

Dolly Sirohi is a Geography Facilitator, IB-MYP/A Level/IBDPat Northfields International School, based in Mapou, Mauritius. Established in 2001, Northfields International School consists of a Prep school, Middle Year Program, Cambridge International and International Baccalaureate Diploma program.

Education System in Mauritius

The instructive framework in Mauritius is to a great extent dependent on the British educational systems arranged into 4 fundamental areas pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. There are government run schools and private supported schools. The administration of Mauritius gives free educations to its citizens up to tertiary level. The fundamental distinction between the National Curriculum (India and Mauritius) and International Baccalaureate is that it doesn’t concentrate on the substance rather enormous accentuation is given on creating pioneers for 21st century through inventiveness, innovation, coordinated effort, correspondence and international mindedness.

Like most teachers, I am in charge of arranging – making exercise plans custom-fitted to understudy dimension of subjective capacity and intrigue which help with assessing student’s performance. It is most compensating when teachers can truly have any kind of effect in student’s life.

Geography

Social Science is fundamentally an interdisciplinary subject which trains us about individuals as social creatures as they have existed and associated with one another and the earth.

Geography is a different subject which rotates around the inquiries” Where” and “Why”. It is exceptionally fascinating subject and I for one feel that it is the duty of teachers to procure learning of the investigated discoveries in their fields and utilize this information to elevate their subject to students.

I would prescribe students to peruse and watch geographical documentaries to awaken an interest for the subject.

Career Options

Contemplating Geography builds up your systematic and relational abilities and your capacity to assess information. Like other sociology graduates, you have a wide scope of professions open to you, however you might be especially attracted to zones, for example, ecological arranging, wellbeing, legislative issues and International relations. There is expansive scope of professions open for Geography Graduates. Most significant is Geography students will in general be liberal and intrigued by their general surroundings which empowers characteristics that are alluring to managers especially if you are working for an international organisation.

Learning to Teach

I trust the best development inspires teachers when they invest loads of energy in classrooms and schools — attending, learning, witnessing, planning, and teaching alongside experienced and passionate teachers. Focus ought to be more on long term connections between a student and teacher.

Authentic action research conducted in real classrooms helped me evolve as a teacher alongside students. My first groups of students helped teach me how to teach effectively—in many ways my training was on-the-job, trial-and-error work with adolescents. As I experienced and grew up the ladder – today I see myself as a person with capacities to support the quest for scholastic desires for students

Contact Details:

Northfields International School
Mapou, Mauritius
Contact-+230-54892333

Mohammad Rizwan Siddiqui -H.O.D. Physics and CAS Adviser – Greenwood High International School, Bengaluru

Mohammad Rizwan Siddiqui, the H.O.D. Physics and CAS Adviser at Greenwood high International School, Bangalore is also an Examiner for IBDP Physics. He has taught several curriculums like IBDP, IGCSE, O-Level, A/AS Level, THAI National Curriculum, Indonesia National Curriculum, WAEC, CBSE, ICSE etc.

Becoming a Teacher
Teaching itself is the noblest and one of the most respected professions. It is innovative at all moments. This is the best service to the nation, mankind and the earth which a human being can provide.
Teaching Physics is so inspiring because as it is the proper blend of theoretical, practical, mathematical and philosophical aspects of learning. There is a lot to do beyond the books and in the open field.

 

Teaching Physics
In an IBDP Physics class, each class is unique and hence every day is challenging. It is entirely different from a Physics class of “National Curriculum”. It is basically “to provoke learning” rather than a traditional chalk and board teaching. It is about making the students think independently on the subject.
My class is like a lab and lecture room combined together. Most of things we instruct, are asked be done in the lab(mostly as a non-formal lab activity) and note the observation and think about the deviations from theoretical results.

IB versus Indian Boards
Compared to the national boards in India, the IB programme is more practical and application-based. It has a broader spectrum of subjects that lead to all-round development. Reasonable flexibility of subject choice is there in IBDP. Different groups of subjects are there in which you can chose one from each. Further there is also higher level (HL) and standard level (SL) in the subject choice and depending upon the need for future study plan in University, the student can opt HL or SL.
IB examinations test students’ knowledge and understanding of concepts, not focuses merely on the memorizing aspects. For this reason, the syllabus is so designed that it cannot be found in one text book. The main idea is to let the students explore. The IBDP curriculum is efficient enough to transform the students into global citizens. The assessment quality of IBDP is worth praising as they never repeat questions in the question papers. There is no relative importance of one chapter of syllabus over the other.
CAS, TOK and Extended Essays develop the critical thinking of students on the subject and make them more innovative and proficient in applications of subjects in their real life.
Moreover, the internal assessments reflect the trust that IB has upon the IB Educators.
For more information on the school, please visit www.greenwoodhigh.edu.in

Contact Details:

Greenwood High
No 8-14
Near Heggondahalli,
Gunjur post,
Varthur Via,
Bangalore,
Karnataka-560087
Phone: +91 80 22010500 | +91 80 27822888|

Sangeeta Kapoor – Principal – The Infinity School, Greater Noida

Sangeeta Kapoor, founder Principal of The Infinity School, is an educationist with over 25 years of experience. Besides having worked with different boards like CBSE, IGCSE and ICSE, she is also a trained IB-PYP facilitator. Her certification from Harvard Graduate School of Education and her experience in schools in India and in Dubai give her a global perspective in multicultural environments.

Kapoor shares her thoughts with School magazine….
My approach towards teaching is succinctly expressed in the words of Ignacio Estrada- “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”

Purpose of Education
The purpose of education is to develop both the brain and the heart. Education must be delivered in order to strengthen and develop a child’s mindset. It must aim to instill a love for knowledge, which builds virtue. Education does have an economic purpose such as job preparation but that is not its sole purpose. The purpose of education also is to develop awareness about our environment and empathy towards fellow beings.

Coaching centres
These days it is a trend for children to take admissions in coaching centres for scoring well in competitive exams, board exams etc. It is a debatable topic whether or not students should take up such confirmations. Yes, it’s a competitive world but tuition and coaching are not required till higher secondary (12th). If the school, along with its educators, administrators and the entire staff, dedicatedly focuses on constantly developing a child’s interest in studies, a child will never feel the need to join any coaching. The school must aim to cater to all his/her educational/learning needs. Besides, students should practise self-studies and make taking support from teachers at school a priority.
However, it is totally at the parent’s discretion whether their child needs guidance/coaching for any specific entrance exam. The coaching academies are definitely redefining the education system. Because of ever-increasing competition, students constantly feel stressed and pressured to achieve more. This beats the entire purpose of education. Education must never scare children. Students must enjoy the entire process of learning through education.

Recruiting teachers
Recruiting and retaining highly effective educators helps in rapid and dramatic improvement in an institution’s performance. As management, we put in an increased effort in order to recruit and retain excellent teachers. Frequently followed measures include teacher induction programs, professional development and various other supports for new and experienced staff. A sense of achievement and opportunities for recognition, advancement and growth are key to building and sustaining employee motivation — a critical factor in retention and our comprehensive annual appraisal, helping teachers understand their strengths, areas of improvement and their next steps forward is the back bone of our working culture. Our HR policy also offers financial incentives/purposeful compensations to retain such highly effective teachers. In order to support the process of retaining successful educators we must constantly redefine teacher’s role to the best of their capabilities.

Challenges faced by teachers
Balancing a wide range of student needs, educational trends, lack of teamwork, empathy, and support between students. Teachers play too many roles at the same time and so they do not have enough time to plan. They have to apply a prescribed curriculum to all types of students. Sometimes lack of parental support is a hindrance as well. Addressing these problems and bringing awareness to the educational environment that our teachers and students face daily, can help improve teacher retention, student success rates, and the overall quality of education in our schools.
In today’s time, a teacher’s job is a very demanding but unfortunately it is deep rooted in our mind-set that it is a convenient profession and best suited for females only. Thus, over the years this has resulted in lack of aspiration and motivation in the education industry. It is essential that not only we bring a change in our mind-sets but also in the entire mechanism of the industry.

As a School Head
Well, there are a number of daily tasks and responsibilities that we have to accomplish successfully to ensure smooth running of the institution. I enjoy my work as a Principal. And maybe that is why I do not face extensive or dominant challenges.
Yes, one thing that I have to constantly meet up to is our parents’ aspirations. As mentioned earlier, today parents are well informed, more inquisitive and focused in terms of their child’s learning. So, I make sure that we invariably fulfill their expectations.

Address:
The Infinity School
HS-04, Tech Zone 7, Greater Noida (West), Uttar Pradesh 203207
Ph No: +91-81-30-60-7900
Email: principal@theinfinityschool.org

Ms.Smita Gangola – Year Head (MYP Year5/Grade10) -Pathways World School

Please tell us about yourself and how you got interested in teaching.
I hail from up North – from Nainital. I was schooled at one of the most reputed schools called Sherwood College. As of today, Sherwood has completed 150 years in the field of education. We have had one of the most elite alumni which includes Mr. Amitabh Bachchan who was the chief guest for today’s function.
Back in my school days, during my grade X, XI and XII I remember teaching a lot of my peers. Education back then, was not so conceptualized – it was more of content. You would know, it was the regular ISC, ICSE schools with much focus on the content. I used to peer teach my friends and eventually developed an interest in this career path. I began very early and have a tenure of 15 years in my teaching career.
My first assignment was in 2003 and it was in Nainital. I have almost 9 years of teaching experience in the International curriculum. I have transited to the IB curriculum where I have been for the last 6 years.
That is my career journey of the last 15 years in a nutshell.

I would love to hear your opinion on national versus international curriculum.
Firstly, I would like to do away with the myth that students studying an IB curriculum cannot gain admission in Indian Universities. Students who are more inclined towards engineering or medical, particularly from in and around the country, certainly benefit from the national curriculum.
CBSE Math is very popular on that front. I have had so many colleagues of mine who transited within the national curriculum. They left ICSE for CBSE, rather than ISC because CBSE Math is highly popular especially in terms of the competitive examinations held nation-wide for engineering, medical and even for the administrative services.
The IB, on the other hand, is so conceptual that I can hugely vouch for its critical thinking and research skills.
Holistic development of the child is what every school strives for – national or international. On the same lines, whether it is the Cambridge, the IB or any of the national curriculum institutions – they are all various mediums, per me, which work towards a common goal and that is the holistic development of children.
The approaches are myriad. More often than not, parents have come to believe that if they put their children in an IB school then they would have a special ground with respect to overseas placement. That is not totally untrue. It is a fact that so many IB students I know, have not necessarily moved overseas as they have sought admissions within the country. I think IB equips a child very well with critical thinking and research skills, which is not very popular in the national curriculum.
I believe, a lot of residential schools across the country – national or IB, work towards developing soft, social skills in children. It is particularly the creative/critical thinking, reading and research skills that are very deeply embedded in the international curriculum.
The entire IB programme rests on inquiry – inquiry that comes from the student. It is actually the student that is the centre of it all. The national curriculum, on the other hand, is very teacher dominated. We do talk about technology integration at various fronts, which I think is still an eye wash in the national curriculum and not so much in the IB.

What challenges does a school, currently affiliated to the national curriculum, face if it considers moving to the IB curriculum?
The infrastructure would be one of the most basic things. An IB infrastructure is very demanding – there are a lot of prerequisites, other than the building, the lab and the library. But, there are other things that go into it. That is the basic ground level factor.
Then, of course, is the curriculum per say. A lot schools across the country first extract the interest to teach IB.
Next is the delivery of the curriculum. IB is split into 3 programmes – Primary Years’ programme – Grade 1 to Grade 5; Middle Years’ Programme – Grade 6 – Grade 10 and the Diploma Programme – Grade 11 and Grade 12. There are lot of schools that really want to do a continuum IB course – PYP, MYP and DP. Lot of schools offer combinations. There are schools in India like the Don School that offers the national curriculum – ICSE/ISC, they offer Cambridge in Grade 10 IGCSE and which interestingly offers DP in 11 and 12.
When a school thinks of making a shift to the IB, I think the school needs to know if they are looking to be a continuum school – that is, right from primary to Grade 12, or if you are looking at only a part of the curriculum – PYP and DP. For example – the primary years and diploma programme have been around since donkey’s years. Now, of course, the PYP has gone through a major revamp. But, these are the most popular of programmes. Also, if a student wants to do DP and stay within India, their mark sheet can be brought to an equivalent of a national curriculum. That doesn’t hold true as of now for the MYP. That is something I believe the education ministry is going to look into. Students who pass through the middle years’ programme still have to get the recognition within the national curriculum. I do know of students who face that. Of course, MYP is fairly decent – it is still evolving, it isn’t yet set in stone.
In 6 years of my journey as an MYP teacher, I have experienced a sea of change. When I joined the current organisation 6 years ago, I was a well-established ICSE and ISC teacher. I used to teach Grade 10 and Grade 12. After those 9 years of solid experience, along with a lot of leadership positions I have enjoyed, when I came to this school – I was given a Grade 6, I thought it will be a cake walk. That was a mind-set and I cannot begin to tell you how much of a challenge I had to unlearn and relearn. That is the biggest thing for any organization.
The paper work is still a doable thing. But if the teachers of the organization are mentally not ready to unlearn and relearn, the transition will be very difficult. The methods are extremely different. I believe now, CBSE is gradually inching towards modifying at least the assessment structure. They have started talking a language of formative and summative. They have moved away from unit tests and unit plans and they are into a jargon which the IB uses. Formative and summative are IB jargons, which CBSE moved into a few years ago. But still, this whole bridging – we talk about bridging within the IB programme from primary to middle to DP – I would love to see our national curriculum beautifully integrated with bridges to the international curriculum. I think it will benefit both parties immensely.

It is quite a challenge for teachers to switch from teaching national curriculum to IB. Is it hard to get good teachers who can handle the curriculum?
I choose to answer this in two ways:
1.Let us talk about teachers in general. When I was growing up, I have had teachers I idolized. I was blessed with some of the best teachers. That was a personal sentiment that I held. I have travelled quite a lot and I have realised that globally the passion with which teachers are working has dwindled over the years.

There are lot of people who come with a mind-set that a teacher’s job is very easy. It is an 8-2/3 job. That mind-set needs to be broken. This has nothing to do with residential schools or a day school. There is so much that a teacher takes back home. I see so many office-going folks who are on a 9-5 job and I know that once they are back home after 5, they are switched off from office and are completely soaked up in their personal world.

In a teacher’s world that seldom happens. Even now when I am beginning to enjoy my summer vacations, there is so much of homework that I am carrying with me. That is one thing about a teacher’s life, in general.

2.Coming to your question about moving from national to international curriculum – as I was saying, teachers have to be very open minded. If you come with a closed and stringent mind about the way you teach and how your method has spelled success for students over the years, etc. – that mind-set creates a problem. So, be very open minded.

We are educators and mentors. But, above all, we ourselves are learning so much. When I was given Grade 6, 6 years ago, I had these young children come with a plethora of questions. They would ask me so many diverse questions. There were factual questions, debatable questions, conceptual questions, etc. So, the success of teachers depend on how open minded they are.
A problem that globally many teachers have is the fear of using technology within the classroom. If you ask me, even I am the kind who can get away with a few basic apps. But, I would rather invest my time in my subject area rather than integration. There is a very famous quote by an educator that we cannot teach 21st century students with age-old teaching methodologies – we can’t. Technology, today, runs in youngsters’ veins.
We all talk light-heartedly that a child is born and then suddenly takes to gadgets before he/she can even say the word mom or dad. That is how our students are and that is how progressive it is going to be. So, this fear of integrating technology should be dealt with.
Let’s say you are teaching a subject like Math. You want to do your chalk and board or a marker and a white board sort of a thing. But even then you need to figure out a way to bring in technology because students like experiential learning. In that perspective, in the national curriculum it is still very content-driven, run by a book and a teacher.
IB, on the other hand, is about experiential learning. It is how you bring out the multiple intelligence of your class. That foundation has to be strong. If that is the mind-set of the teacher then things become slightly easy. There is a lot to learn. In an IB curriculum there is so much more.
Another very tricky type is the cross curriculum. Cross curriculum basically is how to make connections within different subjects. When teaching English, for instance, how would I bring in traces of History, art and music into it? This is not very popular with the national curriculum. This is a mandate for an IB curriculum because the more creative one gets at teaching and learning the more interesting it gets for children.
When a student walks out of my class, I ensure that he/she is not taking away just English. He/she is able to make connections, the real life connections to the world around.
For instance, when you talk about urbanization, a student within the Delhi NCR region should be able to make connections with so many other things. So, along with making those real life connections, the student should be able to understand that that is what they are doing now in History. So, that is about the cross-curriculum nature of the subject. These are some things that you would look forward to learning provided you are very open-minded – I am consciously reiterating that!

In comparison with a CBSE curriculum, there is always something new to learn when it comes to the international curriculum, isn’t it?
Yes. We normally have a 30-40 min class. I remember back in my days, it would be 40 min of lecture with students taking down lecture notes. Students would, of course, ask questions and once in a while you would ask them.
In the IB, you break down those 40 min. You just talk with the students for the first 5 mins and they will have questions for you. In the next 5 mins you ask them to scribble something down. In the next 10 mins you ask them to do a group activity, followed by 5 mins of lecture and a last 10 mins of reflection.
There is so much of contribution and engagement on part of the students that they are very actively involved. An IB classroom doesn’t mean a chaotic classroom. And a quiet classroom doesn’t mean a disciplined classroom. These are not the standards. This is a general mind-set that a very quiet classroom is a well-disciplined classroom. I know that the most interesting IB classroom is the most noisy, loud and chaotic classroom. Everybody has a mind of their own and they want to share ideas.
We teach to respect each other. That is very important.

Is the national curriculum focused on India while the content of the other curriculum are not specific to Indian content?
No, not at all. The national curriculum is very prescriptive. They are very rigid in approach. For example, it is set that there are 15 stories that need to be taught. For instance, in the national curriculum they would say, these are the 15 stories, 15 poems and a drama text book that needs to be taught. Whereas, in the IB, the world opens to you. I am going to teach Tagore – great! I am going to teach Shakespeare – wonderful! It is not that I wouldn’t teach anything that comes under the national curriculum – I would. But, I wouldn’t be teaching just that.
For example, when I taught drama in the national curriculum, you know that Shakespeare has existed since time immemorial. We did Merchant of Venice and perhaps my great grandfather also did Merchant of Venice. Poetry by R K Narayanan are still there in the national curriculum. I am okay with that but it is just that it limits you to only that. In the IB, you have to have a world literature component. India is very much a part of the world and that does not go out. Taking that, we ensure that there is a lot more from across the globe. So, we like to pick up a Russian author or we would like to explore the works of an African writer. You have to have a world literature component, without having to undermine or underplay the national literature component – not at all!

What advice would you give to a young person who is seriously looking towards building a career in the education sector?
Firstly, they have to overcome this stereotypical thinking of the way a teacher and a learner interacts. There are some very stereotypical modes to look at it. Teaching seems to be the last resort in most cases particularly for women who feel it is difficult to manage a corporate life after marriage, so they get into teaching. These are very stereotypical opinions and they need to rise above them. That is the first thing.
Second, no matter how smart you are, every new generation that come will outdo them. Every child born in our country today will be far more progressive and will be far smarter than the one that was born yesterday. Now, we are teaching students that are generations apart. So, if you come in with a mind-set that I am the ‘be all and the fountain of knowledge’, it is not going to work. That is my biggest advice. One of the most beautiful things about being a teacher is that you even get to learn from your own students. If you are a good teacher you will take immense pride in that aspect. I think what has worked extremely well for me as a person, in the last 15 years, is the connection I have developed with my students. That is the one advice I give to every educator.
A lot of people believe that knowing about your students is whiling over your time – it is not! It is academic time. You take the time out to get to know about these 10-20 students. In the IB system, you don’t get a batch size of more than 20 students. I have never handled children more than 20 in number in a class. If I don’t know the in and out of those 20 children, if I don’t know what the break point will be for each of them, I am no good. Students, particularly who excel on the sport field, more often than not, are the kind of children who may not be very good at academics. It is not like it is always the case but most often it is. When I teach and I know a student of mine is very good at cricket, I would probably give him an analogy of cricket in my teaching. The moment I start using terminologies from an area which that student is extremely good at, he/she would definitely connect with me. The moment that connect happens, everything and anything I relate to the child, will be absorbed. Forming a connection with your students would be the most valuable advice I would offer. Once that happens, any part of the globe that you are in, the students will be eating out of your hands and once that happens whatever you teach will just penetrate in. They won’t have a mental block.

Are you concerned about the reading habits of this generation?
I know that good reading is a concern. But it is not that it is a concern only now. It was very much a concern even back then. People who are bookworms will continue to be so. That is the case even today. But, I think there is a conscious awakening to the fact. Over the years if you notice that a child is very much into gadgets and things like that, people say that old habits like reading have been done away with. As far as I remember my school days, reading wasn’t compulsory even back then. It took an awakening for that to happen. In fact I was interviewed a few months ago and they asked me – because reading is a problem, what would you do so that students take to reading? To be very honest, it is not something that can be mandated. Of course, one thing we can do is to arouse the interest – that is the start level. But the more important thing is to sustain that interest. In my class, if I am reading a book, which I often do, I introduce my children to those characters and I talk often about them and read very interesting bits of it. It has become like a habit. It is like work culture. I watch a movie every day and we talk about the protagonist, the plot etc. Similarly, part of my work culture is reading snippets from a book – any book that I am reading, and we talk about it. Reading of snippets invokes this interest in them to understand the climax of the book, and that is where I draw the line. I stop and say that they need to read to get there.
This is just one of the tricks. It is not even a proper method. It is a trick. In our life, we trick ourselves into eating healthy, we trick ourselves into exercising. So, similarly we have to trick ourselves into reading. That is what I feel.

What has been your experience in terms of managing a school?
I have been doing leadership roles for over a decade now. I had started out in my previous organisation as a house mistress.
That was a very traditional school. In traditional schools – boarding schools – a house master or a house mistress is nothing less than God. They are looked upon as God. I was barely 24 when I became a house mistress – a house mistress overlooking grade 6 to grade 12. You are looking after a house and in a particular house, you have about 150-170 students under your care. You are responsible for their academics, their co-curricular activities – everything and anything!
If you are staying on the campus, which is usually how traditional boarding schools function, you are literally living your lives with these children. That is where my leadership role started. Then I came to Pathways World School 6 years ago, and I did smaller leadership roles like being the well-being coordinator, etc. I transited into being an IGCA coordinator and I was even a subject coordinator. My journey culminated this year to a grade level coordinator. My current batch has 155 students. The thing is moving beyond leading students and has evolved into leading a team. We had team of faculty members working under me, wherein, I had to groom them as well.
For the last decade or so, my teaching role has been reduced, naturally, because I am wearing multiple hats. This is the bigger role. There are lot of other roles that I do. For example, I am also a part of the assessment team. Whether it is an internal assessment or an external assessment like the NYPE assessment, I help my school conduct those assessments. I am also a Round Square representative. Round Square is an international organisation which works under the philosophy of Dr. Kurt Hahn. There are a lot of roles that I do. In my current role, I realize that it is so much easier to manage children than managing adults.
My first experience of it was 4 years ago when I first had a team under me. I realized the kind of rift and understanding. I realized that feedback – a good, critical feedback is not necessarily acceptable to the other party. We all are educators. We have to drive across a point for the other person to understand and see certain things. So, that skill of dealing with people, letting them know the areas that they need to work on in such a way that they openly and candidly accept feedback has been one of my biggest challenges.
I am glad that over the years there has been so much of professional development. I am glad that over the years, along with my connection with students, I have also managed to connect with my team. I have had these team members listen to me, stand in awe of me, wait for instructions and meet goals. I think there is an ever emerging need within every human being to live and do more than what is accepted. This is true for at least in the Indian sub-continent. They want to do their best. They want to exceed everybody’s expectations. That is how, I believe, we are wired.
Globally, teachers are doing their work, but their ambition is not heightened. For instance, a weekend is a weekend and they like to switch off. I think the work life balance is missing in the Indian continent. We are very driven by work. I have seen educators who really want to prove and make a mark for themselves. So, passion is good, but at the same time, I would also advise to strive for a good work life balance. If not, we may not see the side effects of it immediately, but over the years you feel the drowning effect. You feel getting sucked into the system and the frustration gets to you.
This happened to me 6 years ago when I felt like I am being engulfed with the things around me.

How do you recharge yourself to re look at things in a different perspective?
It is simple. You have to slow down the machinery, and the initial step is always difficult. At the initial moment of realisation, you need to stop, pause and reflect – that is exactly what I have been doing over the years. Depending on how busy my schedule is, every month or fortnight, I just sit down and analyse how the graph is trending. I see what is happening to me internally. Of course, externally I may be full of energy, but I stop to reflect if I am doing okay internally. Am I okay with how the phase of my life is shaping, how have I handled a conflicting colleague, etc.
Reflection! That is a big lesson I have learnt with my stint with IB. That is when I realised that it is not just for the students, reflection is expected of the teacher as well. You really don’t need a system to know how good or bad a teacher is. The moment a class is over, you know if it was a terrible one or an excellent one. You really don’t need an external judge. It all comes from within. That is what I feel.
Another thing is, once the realization comes to you, what you do with it? Do you just toss it around in your head and let it go? Or do you make notes for yourself? Okay, the class didn’t go well — what were the weak points? How can I make it better? What could I have done? That internal conversation needs to happen.
Of course, you can reach out to a whole lot of people. I can reach out to my HOD or subject coordinator and relate what happened. But, eventually the ability to tide over a situation has to come from within. I believe whole heartedly that there is no concept of free lunch – you simply have to work towards it.

Contact:
smitagangola@gmail.com

Mr. Gopinath Vuchuru – Mathematics Faculty – Jain International Residential School

Please tell us how you got interested in education as a career.
I see this as a God-gifted opportunity. I am currently working at Jain International Residential School. Here I teach Mathematics to IB and CBSE students.
I don’t like many methodologies which generally people follow. Here, we don’t just depend on text books. We have an application-oriented methodology. For example, when I intend to teach geometry, I take the students outside, and we adopt an application-oriented teaching method.

It is great that you take students outside the classrooms and adopt an application-oriented methodology. How are you able to achieve this?
I am working in a residential school and so we get a lot of time and opportunity to adopt this methodology. I have also observed that students in our school take more interest in learning because of the methodology we adopt.
Completing the syllabus is not at all an issue here because whenever we call students, they come to attend classes. Our main aim is to see how much the students have understood.

Most teachers talk about the lack of time, the guidelines given by the board the school is affiliated to, etc. How is it that you get to do it whilst they struggle?
We complete our portions before December itself for CBSE students. We use the material prepared for the students from an examination point of view, and they follow that.
Our average grade is more than 8.5 and this year also we got very good results in terms of CBSE examinations.

Is it possible to adopt an application-based teaching methodology, interact and spend more time with the students because it is a residential school?
Yes. We spend more time with the students to generate interest in studies.

Do you think it is possible to adopt this methodology in a day school, with all the timelines and pressure in place?
No, I think that is difficult to achieve because besides teaching we have our internal assessment extended scheme and many other things. Therefore, students spend more time with teachers. The time we get in a day school won’t be sufficient to cover the designed curriculum in an elaborate manner.

Please give me a brief description about your background.
I completed my M.Sc. from National Institute of Technology, Warangal, and I graduated from Sri Venkateswara College, Tirupati.

What was the driving force for you to take up Math as a subject?
Honestly, I have liked Math right from my school days. I wanted to become a software engineer and I had got an opportunity as well.
But then, I was inspired by one of my professors – Professor G. Radhakrishna Acharya, also known as Prof GRK. He once told me that a teacher is like a lamp that holds the power to enlighten many a lives. Prof. GRK has always been a role model for me ever since I met him. And that is how I chose to be in the teaching profession.

For how many years have you been teaching now?
I have been teaching for 10 years now.

Have you been working in Jain International all these years?
No, it has been a year now in Jain International.

At Jain International, do students have the option of joining either CBSE or IB?
Yes.

And, you have experience teaching under both boards?
Yes, I have experience in both. Earlier I had experience only as a CBSE teacher. Last year, I had worked in an ICSE and ISC residential school at Chikmagalur, for a year.

Which board, according to you, is best for Math?
I enjoy teaching IB a lot because if you compare this to the other boards, a lot of things are different. I see how interested the students are because of the application oriented studies.
When it comes to CBSE, if you complete studying a bunch of papers you can write your examination and get good marks. That is how CBSE functions. But in IB, to answer a question, a child must really understand the concept. It is highly research oriented studies that bring in a lot of clarity on the subject and concepts among children.

You feel that a student who does Math under the IB Board will be better Math students in comparison with their CBSE counterparts?
Honestly, the way they teach Math in the Indian curriculum is not good. In our Indian system we give more importance for competitive examinations. But, IB doesn’t teach keeping in mind only examinations.
IB students will be able to handle questions that are out of the box as well. They tend to become very independent compared to their CBSE peers. CBSE students only study from an examination point of view.
Also, being part of IB is better if students are looking at foreign opportunities.

As a teacher, do you feel IB seems to be demanding more effort from teachers?
I had started my career as a Math teacher at a CBSE school. I can handle CBSE, IB, IGCSE, etc. Personally I feel IB is the most interesting. But I love teaching Math no matter which board I have to associate with.

For boards other than CBSE/ICSE, owing to constant change in syllabus, teachers are always in the process of learning new things. Whereas, in CBSE, at times, you feel you aren’t learning anything new. Do you share the same sentiment?
Yes. For instance, this year the syllabus changed again for IBDP. They are introducing ‘Application & Interpretation’, and ‘Analysis & Approach’. Those are two new papers. This is different from what they used to have.
Changing the syllabus, I think, is a good thing. Otherwise, people get monotonous and redundant. Teaching becomes kind of a routine. I think it is a very good opportunity to energize teachers with changes in the syllabus. It helps them keep themselves upgraded and curious about their subject.

What are the parameters you have for rating your own work? Do you rate yourself on the basis of a child receiving 100/100?
Honestly, we teachers expect only good grades from the students. I will be very happy if weak students get good marks.
Good students always get good grades – that is a given. But, if a weak student gets good grades because of my efforts as a teacher, it makes me very happy. It is very fulfilling when an underperforming student starts to perform well.

What kind of strategies do you follow to motivate weak students to do better?
In the classroom I treat all children equally. I divide students into three grades – A, B and C grade. I know the students who fall under the C grade group. I don’t take extra classes for them. Instead, I help them overcome their fear of Math.

Why do you think some students are weak in Math? Is it an inherent thing?
Honestly, that has to do usually with the elementary education. At the elementary level, if either they were not taught well or given proper care, they end up becoming weak in some subjects. Or, if we look at the student’s point of view, it can also be that they inherently dislike Mathematics.

What are some of those high moments you have had as a teacher in the last 10 years?
That is a very good question. There have been so many students of mine who got through IIT JEE. They completed their graduation from IIT Chennai. I also have a student who completed graduation from IIT Kharagpur.
My happiest moment as a teacher is whenever I hear that my students are doing really well.

What were some of the low moments you have had in your teaching career?
That is a tough one. Honestly, I am very happy with my career. One situation that was very hurting was when I was working in Coimbatore, all students of grade 12 cleared their exams except for one student who failed in Mathematics. That was my unhappiest moment. Besides that, I am very happy with what I am doing.

Do you have no regrets for taking up teaching and not being in the IT career, which you desired?
No, honestly no. And to reinforce that, whenever I meet IT people, they envy the position I am in. They tell me about the pressures they handle all the time and they claim that even on the pay front they don’t make much more than what I do. So, no, I do not have any regrets. I am really happy.

Do you find any difference in the way schools are managed?
I have worked in 4-5 schools in my 10 year tenure. I am very happy at Jain International because of the respect I get from students and the management. They are extremely systematic in whatever they do.
Other schools that I have worked at lacked a systematic approach in the way they conducted themselves.

What do you mean by systematic?
By systematic I mean, if you are happy it means the school is functioning systematically. If you are unhappy, it is a true indication that there is something inherently wrong with the system in which the school functions.

What are the things that a school can do to make a teacher frustrated and unhappy?
Teachers need to have clarity on basic things like which class they need to teach, and a set timetable, most importantly. They need to have clarity on the teaching methodology that the school runs on. These things may seem small but they go a long way.
At the end of the day, a teacher’s job is to teach and these basic things enable teachers to teach with peace and ease. Suppose I enter the school and the management asks me to take Class A today. Then tomorrow they come and ask me to handle Class B. If this is often repeated, the flow is lost. One cannot function haphazardly all the time. It is extremely important for schools to have a system in place for the betterment of the students, the teachers and everybody else that is part of the school.In residential schools, it is not just that we teach children. We also take care of them during after-school hours. We have a mentor system here at Jain International. Each teacher will have a set of children under them and we are responsible for those children. We make sure that we are in constant touch with the parents of those children to ensure that communication is on. We update them about happy moments and challenges, if any.
I don’t think so many things can run well if we didn’t have a system in place. I give a lot of credit to our CEO, Mr. Ganesh Sharma, for the smooth running of the school.

In a residential school you have more responsibility than in a day school. Does is feel overburdening sometimes?
Not exactly. Residential schools, in comparison to day schools, come with a lot more responsibilities. But, to think of it, nowadays day school teachers also take on added responsibilities such as taking up tuitions, extra classes, etc. So, in that perspective workload is kind of same. In residential schools, I feel our job is more secure and smooth.

What are your future career plans?
Honestly, I haven’t completed my B.Ed. I have to do that. I aim at becoming a Principal in a good school. That is my goal.
Contact:
vgopinadh.nitw@gmail.com 

Abhinandan Bhattacharya – CAIE and IBDP English Facilitator at JBCN International School ,Oshiwara, Mumbai

What got you interested in becoming a teacher and pursuing the education field?
My father has been my inspiration. He was a writer, academician and a disciplinarian. I being his first child, he ensured that my academics were always up to the mark. He inculcated in me the habit of reading literature from a very young age. I started reading Shakespeare’s classic novels. The world of English literature truly fascinates me.
I pursued Journalism and Mass Communication for my degree at Calcutta University. During that time, I began contributing my articles, write ups and editorials to newspapers and magazines like Times of India and the Tehelka Tabloid. In this way my interest in the subject grew.
I had great admiration for my school teachers. They were an additional source of inspiration, and that is how I started developing an affinity towards teaching. I think my interest in teaching was a journey. It was a matter of chance, rather than by choice.
My father passed away early and so I had to take up a job. That is when I started giving tuitions as a profession. I found myself very absorbed and satisfied when I was teaching, and ever since then I have been enjoying this profession through and through. It has been 12 years since.
If I ponder upon which profession would best suit me, I think it is anything related to education and teaching. That is the most suited job for me.
Over the years I have made a huge difference in the lives of students and learners. I won a lot of awards last year. The closest to my heart is the one I won for being a dedicated teacher. For this, I was shortlisted out of around 4000 nominations across the world. I was among the top 6 finalists and the only finalist from India.

Excellent! Where did you start teaching?
I began this journey by giving private tuition classes. I used to assist students affiliated to the ISCE curriculum.
I started this to reinforce my family financially because after my father passed away we had a tough time. What started as a means of supporting my family turned out to be quite a destination. I am still supporting my family with this profession.
Back then it was about surviving – today it is about passion. I am a teacher, and will perhaps continue to be one for very many years.

Which were the schools you started with?
I began teaching after I shifted to Maharashtra from West Bengal. I officially began teaching at the Wisdom High International School, Nasik. Today I am at JBCN International School, Mumbai.
In between my tenure with these schools, I was at Pune for a couple of years. Post that I have been in JBCN, and it has been around 10 months now.

What methodologies do you adopt to engage students in your subject?
I usually start off with stretching channels. I use a lot of peer assessment and peer reading. For weaker students we have differentiated learning. We give them worksheets that suit their learning pattern.
I also strategize flip classroom methodologies. We have the learners’ email IDs. I send them the lesson plan a week in advance about the class I propose to take. This way the weaker learners are already made aware of the kind of content they will be getting introduced to in the forthcoming weeks.
In my class I divide children into groups and assign buddy learners. This gives them motivation and encouragement to come out of their shell and be confident in participating during class discussions.
When all this is done and I see progress, I try giving them tokens of appreciation. We have gift cards, goodies, chocolates, etc. stored up for them. These work like wonders in lifting children up.
As an English language teacher, another strategy that I follow is that I don’t find it necessary to correct or check my students’ work all the time. For example, in composition, a child may have done an amazing work or may not have made it up to the mark. Instead of correcting the child’s work with red ink, we use green/purple ink which is visually less aggressive. This does wonders to the child’s psychology and I refrain from giving them scores and marks for every assignment. I sometimes ask them to mark their own work.
What I have observed throughout my teaching career is that children only see their marks and their correction and sadly make no progress at all. I feel these strategies are essential to bring in progress.

Can you please elaborate on peer learning and peer editing?
Peer learning is a commonly practiced strategy at almost all schools now, and many international schools are coming up with improvised versions of this strategy.
For example, if I have a class of about 15 learners, I will divide them in 5-6 groups of 5-6 members each. Then I give a chart paper to each group on which they have to jot down their ideas. Each group shares one idea from each member and this is recorded as a bullet point on the chart paper. This gives me 5 ideas from each group. This way all participants get equal opportunities to share their ideas and have a say in the classroom discussion. This assures 100% learners’ engagement and no learner is left aside. In the process it becomes pure learning.
Peer assessment is about getting peers to assess each other’s assignments. Instead of me correcting the books every time, I ask children to exchange books and assignments. Then I display on the projector the marking scheme and the answer key. Based on that, peers get to evaluate the work and give feedback to each other.
We also guide them to give feedback in a very positive and less critical tone. This way it builds an environment of respecting each other’s work and perspective.

Is this part of the IB pedagogy?
Yes, it is a part of the IB and Cambridge program. But, I have been following this strategy much before I got associated with the IB curriculum.
It was a great feeling when I learned that the IB follows similar procedures that I believe in.

What, according to you, is the best method that teachers can adopt to teach English?
When you talk about test solving – that is part of the evaluation process, which should be the final stage. As a life-long learner and teacher I believe in inculcating values in children for learning English.
When I teach the English language, I tell and remind my learners that English is not a subject but a language. Understanding the intricacies of the language is very important. We as Indians are definitely not first language learners of English because it is not our native language. We are gradually trying to adopt it as our official language but it will never be native to us Indians, no matter how fluent we get at it. It will, however, remain part of our lives. So, understanding English as a language and the intricacies of right grammar is important.
To be very honest, even when the British speak English, they can be grammatically wrong. It is their mother tongue and they have grown up learning it, but when I interact with the British, I find a lot of flaws in their grammar usage. It is just like how some Indians speak Hindi in a distorted fashion versus someone who takes the time and effort to understand the intricacies of Hindi as a language and speak it thoroughly well. All languages have a true version and a spoken version.
When I teach English, I incorporate the concept of role modelling, think-pair-share, group discussions, etc. This way I encourage children to speak. From those discussions, I draw parallels to the lessons which are required to be taught in the Literature class.
For example, when I teach Merchant of Venice, I allow them to think if there is a Shylock present in our society today. When I teach them Julius Caesar, I help them to think about so many characters around us who may be similar to the conspirators and Brutus. Once I get these links done and help them with their thought process, I throw out some open ended questions which sets them thinking and they come up with amazing ideas.
Teaching English can be a lot of fun. I include a lot of crossword puzzles, vocabulary games and activities. These things really do help. Vocabulary is an integral part of learning good English.

You have been associated with IB and Cambridge. Have you worked in a CBSE school prior to this?
No, I haven’t. I have taught at an ICSE school for 10 years.

Which curriculum were you part of as a student?
I was an ICSE student.

Are there any differences between the way English is taught in an ICSE school and a Cambridge or an IB school?
Absolutely! There is a sea of difference. ICSE is more structured. It is more like tic tac toe. You do your lessons, answer the exam papers and get marks. I have been an examiner for ICSE as well. I am, currently, also an examiner for A-Level English for Cambridge and IB English. When I judge on the parameters and essential components, ICSE and ISC curriculum is more structured in a lot of ways. It doesn’t counter for the child to think or apply skills logically. It is like whatever the examiner has set in the answer field, is what should be reproduced.
In ICSE papers, question 3 and 4 are grammar sections – 20 marks for grammar and 10 marks for transformation of sentences, etc. The assessment is only about checking if the student follows concepts passed on by the teachers or examination paper setters, moderators etc. I have observed that they do not want to deviate from that.
On the other hand, IGCSE and IB are pretty vast in their approach. Children, here, are encouraged to explore widely. The learning is very much application based.

Do you feel more challenged to teach Cambridge/IB syllabus in terms of the responsibility of the teacher?
Definitely! Teachers have a bigger challenge and responsibility in the IGCSE/IB set up because we are also learners and then we prepare ourselves to do our homework on very strong foundations. We cannot go to the classroom and teach without that ground work.
Also, there isn’t any structured formula for teaching in the IGCSE/IB syllabus. It is about how well you can bring out concepts and can help identify applications.

We’ve known Shakespearean English, millennial English, etc. Do you think this evolution of the English language over the years is a good change for the students in terms of learning the language?
It is! I agree with the learners when they say that in today’s world no one uses Shakespearean English. It is archaic but I would not call it redundant or irrelevant. What I would call it is archaic because it is old English. It is no longer in vogue. But the content of Shakespearean English is still absolutely relevant. Switching on the TV will give you characters brought out by William Shakespeare in a new avatar. William Shakespeare has been able to touch upon the human framework so succinctly and distinctly that I believe he was a school in himself. He is a legend! No other playwright has been able to achieve that kind of status.
I would definitely promote the study of William Shakespeare for all our learners. The question lies in how well we can tweak the study of Shakespeare to make it more interesting for our millennial generation.

When people interact on the social media, they use short forms for everything. Do you think students miss out on the actual usages of English?
Yes, I do. This is very appalling and alarming. Modern day learners, unfortunately, because of the social media influence, lose out on the crux and the beauty of language usage. We are helpless to some extent and are headed towards losing out on true language. This erosion is true for all languages, not just English. That is a sad aspect.
I would reach out to all the educators and language trainers worldwide to preserve the real essence of pure language and maybe form a community wherein we can teach our learners to bring back the past glory of language learning and steer away from all kinds of digital and social media influence.

How are the A level grades for Indian students for English? Are they on par with students in the UK, studying the subject and appearing for the same exam?
Till date, Indian students are writing the 9093 components. In IGSCE, they have English as the first language and second language as well. Till a couple of years back A Level English had only the English component. This was pretty difficult for learners who did not have the ability to express themselves in English. They had no other alternative for English in IB. But, since the past two years, CAIE – Cambridge Assessment International Education has also introduced another English paper for Indian students specially keeping in mind that for the Asian students English is a general paper. This is the 8021 component. This is still in an experimental stage. But with the feedback that I have received from educators, principals and language teachers from around the country gives me the understanding that students are coping well with the challenges. This is quite a breakthrough and Cambridge is always a student-friendly board. They aim at reaching out under the canopy of providing good education. These things are quite sensitive and they need to be dealt with quite mindfully.

Based on the students you interact with, what do you think are the challenges students face today?
The biggest challenge is that they don’t read. We are losing out an entire culture of reading. Reading age-appropriate and reasonably good stuff is fading away. This is much to our disadvantage. Children would always opt for walking into a movie than reading a 200 page book. This is really something very challenging when we come to teach English. The assessment would be expected in well-articulated language. This is a big challenge we are grappling with. Reading as a culture should be inculcated amongst all learners.

How do you try to grapple with this challenge?
At schools we try various strategies. For example, once a week we have the DEAR programme, which is Drop Everything and Read. DEAR is a strategy to inculcate reading. The bell rings and we have an alarm going around in the school similar to fire alarm. During this time, each and every member of the school, wherever they are and whatever they are doing, they need to drop it, pick up a book from the learner resource centre and read for the next 45 minutes – 1 hour. We have this rigorously practiced with teachers monitoring this activity.
Gradually, we hope to inculcate the habit with dedicated reading slots in the timetable. We also have events, like literary week. With this, students are given a book 15 days in advance – we choose the book for them. We give assignments based on the book, they are judged and we conduct book review and similar competitions. They have to write a book review and present their ideas. They have to talk about it and write about it in the presence of external and internal members. They get awarded too. I have realised that when there are awards associated with any kind of learning, this generation gets charged up to accept the challenge.

Contact:
Email-abhinandan.cie@gmail.com

Rohit Yadhati and Sreekanth Neelam -Want to change the way computer science is taught in schools!

Interview with Rohit Yadhati and Sreekanth Neelam – Founders of CST (Centinel Spark Technologies Pvt Ltd), Hyderabad. CST recently along with Secure space and SingularX organiseda big School Hackathon involving 4000 students of schools run by Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TSWREIS), in 20 different locations across Telangana. We spoke with them to find out how they felt about this experience.

Tell us about your firm. What exactly do you do?
Sure. Sreekanth and I started this company together in 2016. I graduated in Engineering in 2014 and I never did coding until college because I attended classes at Vidyaranya High School which has a philosophy against computers. The first time I ever saw a computer and used it was in my engineering first year. Ever since I picked up coding I was the best in class. After that I realized and could see the issues students go through when they did coding. I used to love it but I realized that not many liked coding. Among college students the computer science engineers had much inclination towards coding. I started researching on this. I met Sreekanth along the way, and with our research we concluded that there is more buzz on show business without any interest in realizing how computers work, especially in a world where everything is running via computers.
Now, why is English so important? It is important because we need to communicate with people across the globe. When you have to communicate with people across the globe, you have to learn English. Similarly, when we deal with the computer every day, we have to understand and speak a language that the computer understands. That is where our whole journey began towards building a curriculum towards coding. After that when we started going to different schools, we approached almost all top schools in Hyderabad. Then we started working with the government, especially with Dr. R.S.Praveen Kumar – IPS. Dr. Praveen Kumar, the Secretary of Social Welfare and Travellers in Hyderabad is a true visionary who stood behind us like a rock. Not that everything went easy, but his faith and vision made the ride probable and pragmatic.
We started working on a very low scale in terms of teaching students. We understood that the idea of teaching was much more surgical. I wanted to teach my students how to code. For the first time, in the school industry – private and public, I was asked by a person that he wants me to teach students coding. I saw that as a journey towards coding and understood him to be a visionary. So, we were walking around talking to each other and he shared his vision to educate children with coding. His biggest dilemma was that he couldn’t invest crores of money in computers. And then, we decided to venture into this without computers. I was certain we could do it without computers. It was up to me to find a way out and that is what I am good at doing. It took me a couple of months to structure a curriculum to teach students coding without the use of computers.
The article you read about the 100 hour programme Hackathon, was totally without the use of computers perhaps for the first time in the world. That is why we called it Mission Code. The information exchange during that programme was tremendous. We had all kinds of coding done at levels you can’t imagine – things that engineers try to crack and stuff that interviewers ask at Microsoft and Google. Students have cracked coding to that extent. We had goose bumps seeing the success and our vision for the future was getting clearer.

What was challenging in terms of organizing something like this on a large scale?
Every step was a challenge I must say. Firstly, we are talking about a completely remote area. Reaching out to those areas itself was a challenge. We had to send trainers who were good at the curriculum we had designed. Starting from hiring such trainers to computing 100 hours of training in schools was a huge challenge.
We needed support from Principals, students, trainers, logistics, etc. It was completely challenging. For almost 50 days we were completely immersed in this and away from family. There was no concept of breaks or holidays or festivals. It was a first of its kind event. It was a huge success. If you check with the 4000 students whom we trained, their confidence level has boosted up so much that they can solve any problem, I repeat, any problem without batting an eyelid. I mean they are open to finding solutions for them at their level. They don’t shy away saying it is too tough or it can’t be done. They will come up with at least a 50% optimum solution.
The main intention was we wanted them to do is use the curriculum that we designed for real life scenarios. The family background of these students is in agriculture/labour. Their parents may not be equipped to help them in terms of career choices or relationships or job scenarios. While designing the curriculum, Sreekanth and I decided on one important thing in the process. We wanted to teach a communication tool to the students so that they can talk to computers. We decided to take one step back. Before teaching them how to learn a language, we had to teach them how to code.
Coding and learning a language are two different aspects. Coding is grammar. For example, when you listen to a person speaking on stage, within 10 minutes of his speech we get a story of almost 100-1000 pages. How do people achieve that in 10 minutes? They can give us the right grammar and logic in 10 minutes! We wanted to teach students to take such a path – how to code, how to find the right code, how to find the right solution. In order to achieve that, we had to retreat another step. That was to address the most fundamental thing our country lacks today called problem solving. Youngsters and students, today, are failing to even identify problems. Forget finding a solution. So, our aim was to lead students to identify problems first. Second, give me one product in our country which is as famous as WhatsApp or Google or even competing or getting close to it. We are a country of close to 1.2 billion people and not even one product. The reason is because we find solutions but not the right ones.
We need students to find the right solution which happens only when you can put a problem at the centre of a circle and identify every single angle to that centre, thus, streaming down to the best angle that can solve that scenario.
So, we started from problem solving, asking students to find the right solution to the problem and move ahead to codify that in the right process and then walk up to a computer to build it. Coding, programming languages, AI etc. are things that come at a much later stage. If your fundamentals are strong then that is where your activities bear fruit. If you observe, most of the ideas in the urban centre come from the rural background. They do it more naturally. Our country was the base for every single technology that exists today. This is because of our ancestors. What is happening today?
Another statistics shows that every country gets a chance to conquer the world. Our country has got a chance to conquer the world in 2015. It will end somewhere in the 2070s. The reason that every country gets a chance to conquer the world is because of the youth of the country. The age group between 9-19 years constitutes of about 30-32% of our population. This is accounted population, leave alone the unaccounted. The unaccounted is mostly minors, who are not counted yet. Imagine the possibilities with such huge population of youngsters. There is so much that we can do. We can shine and reshape our future. We can create better lives for the future generations.
To conclude, the actual problem is to identify the problem. We taught them how to indulge in solving without the use of machinery and at the end of it we gave them equipment to build their targets.
For example, someone asked me a question that by removing computers from children’s lives aren’t we limiting their source of information? To that I said that people identified things even before the advent of computers. When an apple fell on Newton’s head, he created the equation of gravity. Every single formula in the world today includes gravity. Computer screen is a window, which is just one of the aspects of the window. The actual window is your eyes and ears. You have to observe nature to understand what you can do with it. For example, in one of our projects, the idea was borrowed from the sunflower. The nature of the sunflower is to move along from the sun from start to end for the whole day.
Students applied the same concept to a solar panel. They questioned why solar panels should be stationary and why it cannot be made it like a sunflower? They put a motor and a device behind it so that the solar panel moves along with the sun.
Are we able to pull in more energy? The whole idea was based on self-sustainability. We felt that if we have been away from our families, it better be worth the effort. Families are energy to anyone. The energy we got from those 100-200 odd days was derived from these students doing something great and opening up new avenues within themselves. Every child came up with innovative and unique solutions, which even we couldn’t imagine. The outcome was outstanding.

Fantastic! So did you give them a problem to solve?
No. You are right in one aspect. The other aspect is that we gave them a whole sector. For instance, in one sector we posed a sanitation problem. The Prime Minister of the country is running after it and even then we cannot achieve 100% success. Children started writing down the problems – why it isn’t getting solved – and then evaluating it.
So, for things like people not using dust bins, public toilets, etc., this was an amazing solution that came up. The evaluation brought to light that the public toilets are not being used because it is not clean. It is not clean because they are used but not cleaned after consecutive usage. That is the difference between public toilets in malls, airports and other public toilets on the road. Constant cleaning is what is missing.
All these children whom we were corresponding with come from marginalized backgrounds. They do fight being victims of untouchability. They said that they need to remove the whole concept of untouchability – that is, why should anyone clean another’s dirt? After saying that, they suggested having a robot to clean it. So in a huge space with 5 washrooms on one side and another 5 on the other, they put a pipe which goes on all three walls of the bathrooms and it goes on to all the remaining washrooms. They then took sprinklers from the garden and attached it to each side of the pipe against the wall. For 30 seconds, when the pump turns on, pressurized water from sprinklers hit the walls and the floors with pressured water and everything gets flushed into the centre of the washroom. Now, another pipe runs below it, which releases acid and phenyl for 10 seconds. Again the water turns on and flushes it again into the centre. The third pipe running below these two releases hot air and steam which kills the remaining bacteria in the bathroom and dries it out. All this happens in a matter of 2-3 minutes and whenever you see the bathrooms are clean. In such a scenario, why wouldn’t people use washrooms?
Similarly, there were solutions that came up for so many things – food wastage, automatic smart farming. There were live solutions that came up for so many real time issues. They made automatic water taps. In summer they face water issue. So, they identified that lots of water is lost while taking a bath, washing hands etc. So, they built automatic water taps – the kind we see in airports. It senses our hand beneath it and lets out water. They made that with a different hardware which can be sourced from an ordinary hardware shop. The total cost would amount to around Rs. 150/-.
This was not any approved curriculum. It was our own curriculum. If it were a prescribed, approved curriculum from the government, it is very easy to drive it because there would be books available in the market, we could have proper planning etc. But here, everything was done in such a way that there should be fruitful result and we were not looking for publicity at all.

Usually, when you deal with the government and try to implement these things, there are lot of approvals that come in like an irresistible evil. How did you manage not to have all that?
That’s a question that demands a 365 day story. There is huge patience required here. So, both Sreekanth and I do sales, run operations, and build curriculum. So, we are blessed with all three skills. I interact closely with Dr. R.S.Praveen Kumar Sir and to the government there. And it is a big yes to approvals, lobbying issues, and a plethora of things that I cannot mention on the phone. There were numerous huddles. But, if I am going to teach students how to solve problems, I need to apply it first. I made sure about getting things done and done correctly. So, yes we had lot of approval issues. I had to fight a war – a literal uphill battle. Luckily Dr. R.S.Praveen Kumar Sir was a huge support to ensuring that youngsters like us get pushed forward with these initiatives. I give him all credit for being such a visionary and trusting our company to deliver and looking out for us to work with these children. He made sure that not just he sees it, but also 15 financial commission of the country have seen it. IAS secretaries of the state and other states also have seen this programme. They were all truly and pleasantly shocked by the way the children were performing, because our curriculum starts with identifying problems. We told them to pick up sectors and find problems in those sectors. Problems are everywhere. We just have to pick them up and build solutions.

In what way do you make teaching computer science different from what’s already going on in schools?
Our presence is there in schools across India. After this Hackathon, there are schools that reached out to us asking us to implement the curriculum that we developed, in their schools as well. Also, in real life, applying simple psychology when you have something you never appreciate it. When you have something, you want to do something more with it. People have the luxury of cell phones, computers etc. But they are failing to go beneath the surface and think of what they can do with all these things. They don’t seem to want to build anything. Our country is becoming more of a service driven and service-taking country rather than being a creative country. This stems from not appreciating the luxury that we have! Private schools are honestly not doing their job. They are doing the job but they don’t drive their students to think or do things differently. The educators 20 years back were different, completely different, because back then everything was different. There were no computers back then – whatever the guru said was followed by the child. That guru had to go through meticulous preparation to be that confident and to be the driving force behind students. The gurus in those days were, thus, stronger. Today everything is available on the internet and nobody wants to be prepared for teaching these days.
There are schools where we have completely replaced the Computer subject itself with our curriculum. In such schools there is no curriculum for computers, we teach the students all from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Our trainers deliver our curriculum in those schools. Our process of driving international schools and other schools are different. We monitored every aspect of the training scenario.
The trainers do their job, the evaluation is done in the head office, there is a whole software behind this and each student is monitored separately.

Are you saying that they don’t need to hire computer teachers, you just go in, take over that section and run the show?
Yes, we are already doing this. We even have got very good feedback for doing this.

Do they finally hold you accountable for the marks that the student acquires?
Yes, absolutely! Apart from Grade 10, all question papers are created by us. We don’t have monthly, quarterly assessments. We do assessments for each topic.
We evaluate the level of students in the beginning. If they are good, we start with an advanced curriculum. If they are not at that level, we start from the basics and bring them up gradually. After they reach a certain stage, there is a test conducted. For students who over perform we delve deeper, and we customize things for students who under perform.
I think we have to revolutionize the teaching methodology and then only can we see a change in the country. At the end of the day, the only way to change the country is through the students we have today.
Fundamentally, it is very simple.If you ask schools to give something so that we can deliver, it never happens because teachers take it as a burden. For them, there is more load added to their daily workload. But, in our case, our trainers are there and so is our headquarters. The only thing is to follow what we have designed.

Going back to the Hackathon and the schools you interacted with there, what is the next step in that space?
You need to wait another month to see what we want to do. There is a plan and a process for something which is going to happen again. I don’t think you would call me for another interview if I told it out all right now. There is a continuity planned to that.
Our worry is not about training children. Our worry is to go through a quality check. That is what we are working on. Our area of work is to find the right trainers who understand our vision and our modus operandi.
We never offer one curriculum and promise to stick to that. We offer a process, a product, and the content associated changes as per the requirement for the time we are in. For example, sixth graders tomorrow may not need what their previous batch needed. Our curriculum changes and we start from there – that is our only constant. For example, I might introduce a hacking tool after a few months depending on how our country/world is trending.
The most important thing is that our whole training is about a human being present in the room. He, the trainer, is the best AI tool in the room. No computer can judge if a child is interested, distracted etc. better than a human being. No time, no solution and no matter how well you code it, a machine cannot beat a human being.

Contact
rohit@cstservices.in
sreekanth@cstservices.in

Shivani Sahni – Principal – G D Goenka Public School, Bahadurgarh, Haryana

Shivani Sahni, a self-motivated person, an educationist by profession, and a voracious learner, loves to contribute in people’s lives in various ways believing in the motto ‘Life is worth making relationships’.
Shivani Sahni is the current Principal of G D Goenka Public School, Bahadurgarh – a CBSE school under the aegis of G D Goenka Public School, Vasant Kunj. Its mission is to provide education in an engaging manner that is full of creative ideas and innovative pedagogical techniques. It lays equal emphasis on academics, talents and lifeskills.

Sahni talks to India School News…..

Purpose of Education
In my view the purpose of education is vast. It is not just preparing students for a job or be an entrepreneur but preparing them for life. Life puts everyone into various situations. A positive attitude/mindset and correct skill set becomes critical apart from knowledge to sail through those situations. The school must focus on enhancing students’ skills like thinking – critical & creative, emotion management, make them learn resiliency etc. So, to me the purpose of education is to empower the students to lead a powerful and happy life.

Challenges as a Principal
Finding the right candidate to fit the role of an educator is the biggest challenge that I face as a school head. What I look in a candidate is Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, Values and Ethics.
Among the others is to educate parents to the changes in pedagogy and the teaching methodologies.

Pre-requisites of a good teacher
It is not necessary for the best teachers to be the brightest students of their class. It’s a different skill set and attitude that is required to be an effective teacher. Knowledge is available at the click of a finger however; it’s the skills and attitudes that are a miss.
Teachers need to be equipped to be facilitators eliciting responses from their students and building the concepts on students’ previous knowledge rather than teaching or lecturing. An effective teacher will be great in developing skills like Observing, Experimenting, Questioning, Researching, Associating, Networking (Collaboration), instills the skills of Initiative taking, Leadership, Public speaking etc in the students. Such teacher lays the focus on the process rather than the product.
A positive and a never give up attitude for any student makes a teacher worth a teacher.

Teacher’s burden
A teacher’s task is a lot beyond teaching. Few hindrances that take the joy out of being a teacher includes lots of paperwork, rigid framework of curriculum without the liberty of being flexible, same syllabus and assessment system for all students of a grade, pressure of attaining marks especially in board classes.
Teaching work is a 24 X 7 work, it doesn’t end at the school. With the pay scale like Seventh Pay, the teachers are reasonably paid however, the same has yet not been implemented everywhere.

Coaching centres
Coaching centres are merely preparing students for competitive exams. They lack training students in life skills. Majority of them are still following the traditional approach of teaching learning process focusing on rote memorization and tips/shortcuts for quick calculations. These institutes guide students in various aspects of the competitive examination systems however, fail to redefine the education system. They play no role in doing so.

Contact Details:
G D Goenka Public School
HL City, Sector 37,
Bahadurgarh, Haryana 124507
Ph No:+91- 01276 – 298998, 298999
Email: info@gdgoenkabahadurgarh.com
Visit: www.gdgoenkabahadurgarh.com

Vikas R S Giri – Physics Facilitator – Sanjay Ghodhawat International School, Kolhapur

An electronics engineering graduate, Vikas R S Giri is currently working as a Physics Facilitator at Sanjay Ghodawat International School, Kolhapur, a boarding and day boarding school in Maharashtra.

At the School
At SGIS we offer the national curriculum Cambridge international curriculum and International Baccalaureate starting from this year. Its been almost one year of my association with this school.

Teaching Physics
Well I liked Physics and Mathematics during my school and university years. By its nature itself Physics is said to be study of nature. It’s the natural science of which maximum parts can be demonstrated or easily talked about to even a common person and that person can understand as well. So, its easier to teach as pupils can understand it. Easy to demonstrate most of things which is another advantage. And at the same time, it’s a challenging course which tests one’s comprehension and analytical skills.

Physics in daily life
Be it a gym, swimming pool,electricity, solar panels etc – from our childhood we see these things around us. When we go to a Physics class and learn about the same things with some new terms and calculations, it is obvious to rethink and apply certain equations. It’s a just that as a teacher, one needs to somehow relate in a most easy way the things which we learn in books and things we see around ourselves.

What I learnt as a teacher
I take four to five classes daily of students ranging from grades 9 to 12. Coming the teaching style, I would say only one thing that I have acquired over few years.What I learnt is to keep the teacher talk-time as less as possible in the class and make the students do the work as much as possible.

Challenges of teaching Physics
Pupils at times find it difficult when it comes to the extensive use of mathematics in the physics lessons. As we say Mathematics is the language of Physics, so a pupil needs to be at leastaverage in mathematics while doing a physics course. Students with a weak Maths base find it a bit difficult.
As a remedy, as a Physics teacher we try to incorporate some of the mathematical concepts in the physics class and work with the concerned mathematics teacher in our school.

Physics Laboratory
An ideal Physics department as per me is when I have a nice laboratory facility with all the modern-day instruments. Also, there must be a well-trained lab in charge who can take the role of the teacher in the laboratory.

Contact:
Sanjay Ghodhawat International School
Gat No. 555 Kolhapur – Sangli Highway
A / P :Atigre Taluka : Hatkanangale
Dist : Kolhapur ZIP / PIN Code : 416 118
State : Maharashtra, INDIA
Cell No. : +91 77200 12058/Land Line No. : +91 230 – 2689700
E-mail : vikas.giri@sgichool.in

Shirisha Kondury -IBDP Coordinator, IB Math and TOK facilitator- CHIREC International School – Hyderabad

An engineer by profession with a bachelors in electrical engineering from Mumbai University and a Masters in electrical engineering from University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, Shirisha Kondury joined CHIREC International School in December 2016 and has been working as the IB Diploma program coordinator and IB Math and TOK facilitator in the school.

The IB Curriculum

IB is a philosophy more than a curriculum, students and teachers are partners in this journey of teaching and learning and ensure knowledge transfer is bi-directional.

IB trains students to learn not just from their teacher but their peers, their environment, their challenges and their personal experiences. So a student looks at every experience as a learning opportunity.

CHIREC IB Program

CHIREC stands for Children’s Happiness, Inspiration, Recreation, Education and Celebration.

The IB program at CHIREC International School is meant for16-18-year-old students who have just completed their grade 10 and most of our classrooms have students coming from varied curricula (state syllabus, CBSE, ICSE and MYP). The diversity enhances the classroom experience because students bring with them their learning and the teacher ensures their strengths are leveraged appropriately during learning.

Also, IB allows students to show evidence of their learning in a variety of opportunities. They have case studies in Business and Psychology, analysis and interpretation in English and History, research, experimentation and exploration in Math and science internal assessments, oral commentaries in languages, presentation in TOK, commentary writing on articles in Economics etc. So students get an opportunity to use varied skills and discover what are their values, interests, skills and aspirations (we call it VISA power) over the two years. This makes them better prepared for making informed decisions for higher education, career and even choosing the right college based on the culture and student demographics.

The presence of an IB school should have a positive and meaningful impact on the environment around the school.For example, CHIREC’s establishment in Kondapurhas contributed to real estate growth, generated employment opportunities in the school and increased the number of school going, children. Three government schools inthe vicinity are also supported by CHIREC.

Teaching Mathematics

Teaching high school students is like Andragogy (teaching adults) because they think, inquire and challenge you in your subject and ensure you delve deeper into knowing your subject well.

As a student, I prepared for myself, but as a teacher, I need to anticipate questions of 20 odd students in my class and cater to varied learning pace and learning style and hence need to be that much more clear of my subject at a conceptual level.

My favourite topic in mathematics is Functions and mathematical modelling because I get to showcase how mathematics helps explain, process and predict data in various fields like business, physics, psychology, economics, sports, music, art etc and thus make students experience the beauty and magic of mathematics. It also makes them see the relevance of the subject in their daily lives.

Over the years, I have worked to build a class environment where students experience the Aha moments of learning when they discover how the subject is more outside the textbook than within it.

What teaching has taught me

In IB, starting to teach TOK has got the biggest difference in my approach. I have become less rigid, more open to perspectives and started respecting student opinions and ideas far more. This makes me less judgemental about things and I am able to assure students that being good in mathematics doesn’t always mean getting an A grade in assessments, it is also about appreciating patterns in nature, it is also about effortlessly doing statistical analysis of their favourite sport, being good at budgeting and being intuitive about space and measurement when playing sports.

The biggest surprise in teaching has been that I entered my class to teach and I ended up learning more. I always say this in my class that as a student I was a mean person who used to be worried only about my own grades and performance but as a teacher, I have become more meaningful where I derive happiness out of the success of other people.

Teaching is the only profession where you work to promote others and sincerely pray for their success and growth.

Contact:
CHIREC INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
1-55/12, CHIREC Avenue,
Kotgaguda PO, Kondapur
Hyderabad 500084
040- 44760997
venkatraman@chirec.ac.in (vice principal operations)

Saurabh Deshwar – HoD Science, No.1 High School, Wuxi Jiangsu China

A passion for learning soon led to a passion for teaching in my life. Now, as IBDP & CIAE Chemistry teacher, an Examiner and CAIE Exam Officer at an International department of Wuxi No. 1 High School Wuxi, Jiangsu China, I try to instill that same passion for learning in my students.

Wuxi #1 High School, first established in 1911, is more than 100 years old and was called one of the ‘Five Charming Roses among the High Schools in Jiangsu province of China’. I will be completing 1 year in this school, having moved here in 2018.

The Inspiration
My chemistry teacher Mr. P.C. Shukla who taught me chemistry during grade 11 and 12th inspired me especially his dedication to regularity and teaching. His problem solving approach was different from other teachers. He took up problems especially from the stoichiometry (Numerical Problems in chemistry) and proposed different methods to solve the same problem. He always told us to focus on concept and practice past paper questions to get good grades before main examinations. I still stick to his words and always tell my students to solve past papers before their exams begin.

Teaching Methodology
At the beginning, I was inexperienced and it was quite challenging to face a class of 21-24 students. I did not have any teaching style then so I followed what most colleagues did – the “Chalk and Talk” method. As time passed, I grew in confidence as a teacher, and started engaging students in different hands-on activities.

Later, I moved to inquiry based learning and engaged students with line of inquiry. Even after the introduction of technology, the classes remained teacher-centred, where I used ppts, videos and simulations to teach students.

When I joined IB in summer 2015, I moved to student-centred learning. I started using more advanced online platforms where I put tasks online and allowed students to divide themselves in groups for group discussions. Since then my job has changed from full time teacher to a facilitator in the class. Now I plan the classes in such a way that students take the authority of their work, perform and learn. My entire goal is to facilitate students during the whole process and make sure learning takes place in the class.

Sometimes, I just throw a question to my students and ask them research to come up with possible solutions. They are enlightened then with facts and process of knowing something, will make them own it. Once they own something, they value it.

Teaching beyond books
I greet my students “good morning” because once, my senior told me that a teacher’s responsibility is not limited to just teaching inside the classrooms but it is to make them better human beings and this is possible if we impart values in them that they will remember throughout their life. Initially I greeted them, but now when they see me, they have started doing it, because they know if they don’t, then I am going to greet them anyway, so before I say it, they try to greet me. It’s kind of teaching them to pay respect to their teachers.

Teaching as a career option
Future is bright in the education sector. Earlier, teaching was the last option for the people as a job because wages were not high enough. I have seen people try to work in different sectors and when they did not succeed, they moved to teaching as it was easy as compared to other jobs. Therefore, I have seen an era of less motivated people joining teaching because they have to do something to earn their living.
In addition, it was an easy job for women and considered safe for them in comparison to other jobs. These were the main reasons school administrations exploited people and paid less than what was expected.
Now things have changed – Education is the only sector that has not been affected by the inflation and it is constantly growing. The stability and growth in the education sector have attracted the youth to choose teaching as their first carrier. I am glad that the introduction of International curriculum like CIE and IB worldwide in the education sector brings more charm and make it more fashionable than ever before. Wages are high and market is open for all. If you have the quality, you will be respected irrespective of color/country or religion.

Advice to teachers and students
The one thing is to never stop learning. The best thing we can teach kids to do is learn how to be learners, and how to get excited about something new, or learn to ask a question and then search for answers or more information.

Contact:
Wuxi No. 1 high school
98 Yunhe E Rd, Bei Tang Qu, Wuxi Shi,
Jiangsu Sheng, China, 214046

Talking to Harsha Gandhi -A-levels Visiting English Faculty- CIE/Educationist and Academician/Economics/Cambridge Primary Program Math and Science/ Primary Pedagogy

A levels Visiting English Faculty

CIE/Educationist and Academician/Economics/Cambridge Primary Program Math and Science/ Primary Pedagogy

Harsha Gajria Gandhi – Proud to be a Bahraini born Indian Educator, who has done her schooling from The Indian School Bahrain(Arabian Gulf). She is an Educator – A levels & IGCSE, CIE and lifelong learner.

How did you tread the path to teaching?
Teaching has always been a lifelong learning for all of us and I just enhanced it by giving myself the designation of a teacher. It has been a lot many years that I have been into teaching. I have been teaching my little one and other little ones in the neighbourhood. When I was confident that my little one could take care of himself, I officially got into teaching.

Which classes have you taught?
I started my career with the primary section and my heart still lies there with the affection, always. During my career with the primary section – from grade 1 to grade 5, I began catering mainly to the Math and Science sections.
As I mentioned, I am a lifelong learner so I learn more than I teach every day. After I enter my class, I wait for every new story that comes my way. I look at all the faces and I see that they are simply ready to pour their minds out. The primary section has always been a stress buster and a booster for me.
Currently, I am with the AS level English faculty. This is because English has always been a passion. Per me, English cannot be learned but can only be practiced.  Somewhere I felt that children, from the primary to the secondary section, need to understand what language is. This eases out every subject. That is how I paved my path into being an English faculty.

There is a lot of concern around about children fearing Mathematics as a subject. Your thoughts?
I must say, that I have been a victim to this as a child. I realise that we have all been victims at some point or the other. It is a different story that some speak it out and some just climb up the ladder. It is a fact that there is a fear for Math and it lies in each and every primary section child. To make it simpler is up to the teacher.
It is the duty of the teacher who stands at the foot of a blackboard and right behind her desk facing these children to make it simple when it comes to Math. One doesn’t really have to get into the classroom to work on Math problems.
It is best to keep heavy terms away at the primary level. The primary section is very tender. They just want to have fun all the time. A teacher needs to be a fun lover first. She needs to keep her mind open to children who may not be listening to her. She also needs to be open about the fact that the class may be sceptical at some point about doing number bonding – these are tasks for grade 1 and grade 2.
Teachers need to be ready for the fact that she doesn’t need to use books that particular day. In fact, I am of the opinion that she doesn’t need to use books on any given day. She can make it simple using manipulators, creativity and hands on activities. I personally believe today Math in the primary section is 100% supposed to be all about being hands on. That is how we really learn.
For example, when we speak about fractions, introduced at grade 2, it is highly monotonous and old school to write one half on the board and tell the class that this is 1/2 and is known as half. The question is why would that be known as a half and what is the theory behind that one half? Why cannot one say 1 by 2? There is this delicate line of difference in the way you deliver concepts to children.
That is where I feel teachers need to be trained rather than blaming the tender, primary section. I am a teacher who personally believes that no child is to be blamed irrespective of the section they are at, if the teacher fails to deliver.
If the children cannot understand, it calls for teachers to rework on the topic, their thoughts, their language, the relationship they hold with their students. They should understand that they are not there for the primary Math alone, which is the base, I agree.
But, when the children go to the secondary level, there is not much time for them to do a lot of hands on activities. Therefore, when we teach geometry, for example, when we speak about angles, curves, etc., teachers can just use the door of the classroom to demonstrate angles. That visual of the door will go a long way for the children aiding them in higher sections too. They don’t have to measure anything really; they just need to get children to understand how they can judge angles.
It is definite that we need to get into theorems etc., but these are ways in which children can lay a strong base and get the connections right.

Schools should facilitate time for teachers to step back and reflect on their work. What do you think?
Definitely! That is absolutely missing. Today, it is a rush of curriculum, management pressure, pressure from seniors, admins, etc.
Teachers end up doing a lot of admin work these days. It actually spills over the amount of teaching that they do. This is true for International Schools, Public schools, Government schools etc. This affects the teaching quality, the connectivity between teachers and children.
There are very rare schools where teachers are actually trained and well groomed. These are schools wherein teachers are being entrusted with classes of about 20 children who is the teacher’s responsibility until 2 pm. 2-4 pm is when they are asked to focus on other management and admin activities.
In such scenarios, the teachers gain a sense of balance. She/he doesn’t have to track time thinking 11 am, perhaps is the deadline, and mess up her/his class time. I feel planning, delivering and coordinating needs to be taken care by the management. The management needs to take care not to disturb any teacher during her time table.
With the young millennials, I feel there is a lot of enthusiasm and passion that teachers start with. But it gets shattered with the haphazard functioning of schools. They even get blocked when they try introducing methodologies under the pretence that the curriculum has not reached that far, etc.

In the long run, teachers would tend to feel laid back and give up on something that the environment gets discouraging. They would learn to tell themselves that they don’t have to change the world. It is not their own children after all, etc. They advise themselves to just do what is told, and take home the salary. The sad part is that the brunt is taken up by the primary section children. They have wonderful teachers but who are unable to deliver.
The debate of who is to be blamed goes on forever.

You have been in this space for a few years now. Do you feel disheartened? You seem to have gone through all this and yet maintain this energy. How do you do that?
Every teacher goes through every single thing. A few speak out, a few just hide themselves and climb the ladder – that is what I mentioned, some just find things that are worthy for them.
With respect to the enthusiasm, yes, a teacher needs to be self-motivated and that is where I stand today.
A teacher needs to be totally self-motivated. This self-motivation comes in only once you yourself being a teacher have gone through everything inside your home, your premises, you neighbours, your friends. Once you know that you are a lifelong learner, there are so many children around you then the enthusiasm never dies down and it always keeps you on your toes.

What are your thoughts on the new generation of people coming in to teach? We always look up to our old teachers and feel that they inspired us, and we still look up to them.
Yes, I still do – definitely!

There is a view that there are new people adopting the profession without being motivated to teach. It is not their first choice. What are your thoughts?
A major difference definitely exists. The first difference I see in their mind-set is that there was nothing else that I could do, so I thought I will adopt teaching – get a half day job and go home with a salary.
Another thing is they get to enjoy annual vacations – that is usually two months of holidays. But, back in the old days, teachers were not there by choice, they were there with a mind-set to deliver the best that I can for generations to come. They wanted to give valuable things to a world that would perhaps not be theirs. That is a huge difference. They had a 100% hard core teaching wherein perhaps our parents didn’t have any say. That was the situation in the past.
In today’s generation, the teachers are restricted from a lot of things. That is why they cannot give in their 100%. Much of it is because they think that they have nothing else to do and so get into teaching.
When it comes to me, I just love being with children. It is not just about being with children and loving it. It is the most delicate and most authenticated section of our community. The tender community that we cater to is children, today. Once any teacher has that mind-set, that thought process, she will be nothing less than a wonderful teacher.
If teachers have it in them that they are catering to the tenderest of communities, then it becomes their responsibility, and then that is a game changer.

What is your idea about guest teachers? Have you ever felt that that would perhaps generate some freshness in the way this profession is viewed?
No, I don’t think that teachers should personally think of a sabbatical or take an off and go visiting schools or colleges. For being a real dedicated teacher you need to develop a bond with your children and that comes only by being present with them. Even when the grade passes and the year has come to an end, it is important to be there on the first day of school. It is important to be with those children who come looking for you. And, mind you, all of them would! Even if they don’t like Math, they will come looking for you if you have developed a bond with them, if the Math teacher has always ensured a peaceful and fruitful class, rather than just being behind a set of books and correction chores.
If you are a visiting faculty or guest speaker, the bond goes missing. The thought process is that she/he is just coming for a session and I just have to bear them for about 4 times a week and it will be over. Then, there would be nobody to question me. I am not answerable for the subject. The sincerity, hence, from the child’s end as well becomes thin, which is unhealthy.

What are your views on the different kinds of board curriculum? Do you feel that the A level curriculum is different from the Indian curriculum?
India has been booming around with too many curricula lately. Basically, to put it simply, people do not know what curriculum is. They are just willing to spend money but they are not in for understanding the need of the best curriculum. I personally feel that curriculum is the subject matter prepared by teachers. I would just make it simpler that 2+2 always is 4 no matter how you portray it. The script writer and the narratives have the same layout to be followed no matter the way in which you portray it. Those things form the base are never going to change and are always going to remain the same.
When it comes to Math, IGCSE ensures that children are given separate sheets with all the formulas in it. When you compare this curriculum with CBSE or ICSE, they don’t provide such things. That is where children are more inclined towards the different curriculum than the Indian curriculum. This is where teachers also feel eased out. They also feel that their children don’t have to mug up all the theorems, formulas etc. Post standard VIII, they consult school to school providing IGCSE and IB curriculum. These are boards that permit the use of a calculator unlike other boards. That is where the balancing is different.
As a teacher, I personally wonder what is the fun of having a brilliant mind if you cannot multiply 15 by 9 without the use of a machine. That way they get addicted to a machine, and stop training their minds from creating shortcuts. They fall short in understanding the pattern in which a 9 table can be written. The 9 table can be easily written by writing 0-9 on the LHS and 9-0 on the RHS. That is such a simple and beautiful thing to understand. That opportunity is lost when it comes to using machines.
Hence, I personally believe that all boards have their own pros and cons. If children just want to keep their life simpler, easier and faster, the Indian boards do not cater well for them.

In contrast to the larger picture of education, which is about learning, people are more obsessed about exams, getting the certificate, etc. The real learning opportunity, in the process, goes for a toss. Do you notice that?
Absolutely! This has been the reality since quite a long time. This has been a trend even before I started my career as a teacher. People are more worried about percentages, marks and grades rather than understanding how much has their child taken home, imbibed and learned. That is something which is increasingly disturbing for the young learners. Once they get into the mind-set that they need to get more marks, it is all about how to get them. Then understanding and learning takes a back seat, and mugging up is the only choice. This is becoming very difficult for us educators. Parents come in with a lot of comparisons. This becomes very annoying. Lately, it is a task to educate parents to stop comparing and making them understand that every child is different. They need to ensure that the child learns and knows most of it rather than rushing him/her for marks.
I personally believe that marks are unimportant compared to having concepts clear in your mind. That way, in the long run, there are less chances for that person to get stuck because they are on a mind-set to learn more, unafraid of being stuck. Basically, everything starts from home. The comparison amongst children also starts from home. That needs to stop and that is a huge task for an educator to convince a parent to stop comparisons. It is not necessary that one child writes a beautiful essay the way your neighbours’ child does. Every child thinks differently.

Sadly, the societal expectations of what a school education means, needs refinement.
I have another view as well. That is when the parents tell their children that they need to be like their teacher because she/he knows everything. I am one teacher who ensures mentioning it to my learners and my set of people once in a while that I am neither Einstein nor Newton. I am a simple human being who has crossed multiple stages of failure, have got up, reappeared and moved on. It is absolutely fine to not know everything.
When you don’t know something, raise your hand. I make it a point to make it comfortable for children to raise their hands in my class when they don’t understand something and ask/say confidently that they don’t understand. I don’t want the class to think that I may not like if someone asks me to repeat. I don’t want a feeling in class that asking a question disturbs a class. At times, I may slack with my curriculum, but I ensure that questions are answered.

Every bit of my success is thankful to my Mentor Ms Pranita Lele who has been guiding me since I have been 13.

Connect:
gharsha1401@outlook.com
gharsha.1401@gmail.com
LinkedIn – harsha-gandhi- 01a713138
Public Speaking & Toastmasters
M’Com- (Accountancy and Tax)
M.A. (Economics)
B’ed – (Math & Economics)

Talking to Shashi Bhushan – VidyaGyan, Shiv Nadar Foundation, Noida

Why did you want to become a teacher?
I belong to a rural family in the Western part of UP. I was brought up with very limited resources. My father was a marginal farmer. In fact, he struggled to educate us. But, he toiled hard and got me enrolled in a good school. I completed my 10th and subsequently my 12th from a CBSE school, located in our district itself. I was a good student so I used to manage to get half of my fee relaxed.
In the place where I hail from, there were no good colleges or universities. My father was willing to send me to another place if I opted to continue my studies. But, finance was a problem. Anyhow, by the grace of the Almighty, my uncle who was working in a private firm in Shillong, Meghalaya agreed that I could stay with him and study.
It was a new place for me – the experience was very different. I studied well and did my BSc in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics from CMJ University, and passed with Honours.
During that time itself I had started teaching in coaching classes. Somehow, the love for teaching started building up and then I moved to Kanpur and got enrolled for MBA. I had to get into something that would generate an income for me. It was a necessity. I appeared for my entrance exam and qualified with good grades and got admitted into HBTI, one of the best government colleges. I passed my MBA with Honours.
I, then, got selected in three companies under campus selection. I joined a company and worked there for some time. I left that job in a couple of years because the work didn’t complement my enthusiasm. Post that I joined 2-3 companies, but couldn’t stick to anything for long. Before long I realised that I wasn’t carved for the corporate life. I then decided to switch to the education sector.
When you take such a decision, you should first make peace with the salary difference. When I left the job my salary was more than 62000 and I joined the school at 26000.
Having taken the decision, I decided to do my MSc in Physics because that was the subject that attracted me most. I did my MSc from Shobhit University, Meerut through distance mode of education. I also started teaching in one of the schools in Kanpur. It was one of the best schools around. Few of my students from back then are in IIT, NIIT and a lot many in Delhi University. It was a good journey for me.
I must say that on the monetary front, it was a very difficult decision to take. My friends and parents did discourage me at that time from switching. But I was determined and I was confident that I would do well. That was how I dived into the education field. I worked in that school for two years.
Then, I shifted to Nagpur to a school for the children of employees at the Sunflag Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. I was there for around one and half years. My work was very good and I had a good rapport with the Principal as well. But, I was too far away from home.
Then, I came to know about VidyaGyan and they had a vacancy. VidyaGyan is run by the Nadar Foundation, the founders of the HCL Company. The vision of this school is so unique that I felt it very close to my heart. It was a foundation that I wanted to work with.
The school is for the poor students of UP. They select 200 students every year through an entrance test. About two and a half lakh students appear for this exam. Their motive fascinated me because I could work with such students who would be going through what I went through at that age. I went through seven stages of interview before getting selected.
There were so many ups and downs in my life. Choosing this has been one of the most fulfilling decisions of my life. That is about me.

Why do you think some people find Physics very hard? What do you do about weak students in Physics?
I believe that no student is weak. When I was doing my MBA, I was not very good with Accounts. The reason was obvious – I was not from an Accounts or Commerce background. Sometimes it does happen that we are unable to develop interest among students. Once a student gets fascinated by a subject, they will no longer be poor in that subject.
Another important aspect is that in our Indian education system, the whole evaluation process – the examination system is trash. The way in which we judge performance of students is not fair. Many times it so happens that the student may be very good in analytical skills but those analytical skills and their overview about the subject cannot be judged in 3 hours of time and that too through a single paper.
What I do for the so called weak students is, I try doing a SWOT analysis – the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threat. I then create an opportunity to work with the students. Once we start getting involved with the students, the overall work becomes very easy. Once students feel that a teacher trusts them, they get motivated.

Is being a Physics teacher in school like being any other teacher? Or are there any aspects to be highlighted when one is a Physics teacher?
It is a blend of the two. There are certain areas which is common to all the teachers. But being a Physics teacher, there are certain areas where we feel we lag behind and then there are areas where we are far ahead of others as well.
I feel Physics is the most beautiful subject as spoken by Einstein. No doubt. Physics is the base of most of the technological advancements. So, I feel if Physics is taken in an optimistic way, it can lead to very good results. But if taken negatively, it can lead to bad results as well.
The basic problems remain the same for all teachers. But, being a Physics teacher, the most difficult thing is to explain the concepts and derivations, and again the interrelations between different topics is important. Bringing these out is a challenge which Physics teachers face.
As an HOD, I feel not all teachers are equally motivated from within. This is the most challenging thing. Once a teacher is enthusiastic and self-motivated, 80% of the work is done.

As the HOD, if you want to build a good Physics department in a school, how will you go about identifying good teachers?
In most of the cases, identification is not our issue. We have to work towards sustaining people that are being hired. But, if they ask me, I think knowledge is no doubt very important.
But, I feel a teacher should be a person who is open to learning new things, being highly motivated, and feel that learning is a license to growth. If I have a say, I would go for that person than looking at the number of years of experience.
Nowadays, youngsters are very passionate and energetic. So, bringing young people into education can bring in a lot of changes.

You feel that the youth can make a difference compared to the older generation?
No, not exactly. We can always go for experienced people. But, I feel that experienced people should be given more preference for administrative side of jobs because teachers play a vital role when it comes to teaching.
One thing that I tell is that students in 10th or 12th standard have very high energy levels. The age group that we deal with – they are full of energy. If the teacher is dull, their energies don’t match. That does create a rift and it can hinder the interest that the child has for the subject as well. The first aspect is that children map the subject to the teacher. So, more youngsters should be encouraged to join this industry.

What do you think schools should do to keep teachers motivated? How do you keep monotony from setting in?
I have a different perspective to this question. No teacher can feel demotivated, lack confidence or become bored because, as far as my subject is concerned, every year and every month many changes come up, even in the syllabus and the content. The content that we delivered 20-30 years back was without audio visual, with no animated videos, no real life simulations. Now for the same thing you teach there are different ways of presenting the class. What happens is – with the changing time and phase you have to acquire different skills. This is required to work in this present era.
The students are more informed than the teachers. They are living in the world of the Internet. All the info that we have they have the same. The difference is that the frame of mind that we have, they don’t. We have to work on that. If they can accommodate information from various sources, so can we. I think we should work more on how we deliver the content. That is what matters a lot. Most of the teachers do not take this essential tip while teaching.

Presentation and delivery of content is the key!
Yes! The same content can be presented and delivered in so many ways.

How do teachers acquire it? Do schools make an effort to train them on this aspect?
My old school is a good example. The principal used to ensure that there are seminars regarding this. Harish Chandra Verma, one of the most acclaimed Physics teachers who was the HOD of mechanical engineering at IIT Kanpur, had taken a good step about making the student and teacher fraternity attracted towards Physics. He wanted to make Physics easier. Most people feel Physics to be a difficult subject. So he authored two books H.C. Verma Vol. 1 & 2 on concepts of Physics.
That book was published about 30 years ago and is still relevant. It is very concise and precise! Attending his seminars in my then school was a privilege. There is so much to learn beyond my knowledge!
So, a teacher should come with an attitude that they have so much more to learn. So, that credit should be given to teachers if they come with that attitude. This is another way to keep your curiosity high.
Curiosity is the mother of all inventions. So, keep the teachers curious. That can be a solution to a lot of issues. We have WhatsApp groups where we share information related to Physics. We all learn from that. This is a group of very good teachers who are all fascinated to know something new. I think caring is the basic part if learning.

Taking one class after another, exam duty – do these things rob you of the time you should be spending to research? Can you make things better with a sabbatical?
I have worked in a public school where the system was rigid – no doubt. But I was always bold. I have never feared to go up to the Principal and discuss things if I felt otherwise. What I feel is – the management will hear you out if the teacher has logic behind what is being said. They will try their best to bring in a change. We have to have that positive attitude. For everything there is scope of change for the better. So, we have to do our homework on how to present the thought and the courage to speak up to the management.
See, if you open up they will only do either of the two things – they will either take action on it or not take action on it. If they take action – Cheers! If they don’t, life is not going to be harder than it already is. But your input will be the feed for the future. There is always a way forward. Moreover, if they don’t take steps, you can either train yourself to fit into the system or look for better opportunities if you feel you fit elsewhere.
I have followed this policy and today I am in one of the best institutions in India, even globally, perhaps.

Suppose you need to look for the next job after VidyaGyan/Shiv Nadar, what would you consider? Salary or position hike?
I would like to take you to one and half years ago when I was about to join VidyaGyan. Even at that time, if I had thought about salary, I wouldn’t have joined VidyaGyan. VidyaGyan is paying the best salary in the industry. But having said that, I had got selected to a school that offered one and a half time more than this. But it is the philosophy of the school that hooked onto me. When I shifted to the education sector, salary was not my criteria. For me it should be fulfillment and satisfied work. I agree that finances are crucial, but there should be a balance, and that is met.
I definitely want to be a teacher going forward and I feel this institution has better teachers than me. When and if I feel I want to be with a better crowd is only why I would look outside of VidyaGyan. Otherwise, I feel really happy and content here. One more thing I would like to say is even 30 years from now, I would still want to be a teacher.

Wouldn’t you want to manage a school or something?
But then, what will happen is I will be something that I am not. I enjoy this profession.

Good to have met someone so passionate about teaching.
Nice talking to you!

Contact:
Vidyagyan
Shiv Nadar Foundation
3rd Floor, Corporate Towers,
HCL Technology Hub, Plot No 3A,
Sector 126, Noida – 201303. UP
Email: Amy@Shivnadarfoundation.Org/shashibhushan790@gmail.com

Talking to Ms. Nilam Das -Senior Chemistry Mentor -Lucky International School, Jodhpur

Please tell me about yourself – how did you get into teaching?
Sure. I started my career at a very young age because I lost my father when I was 17 years old. Since then, I have been taking tuition for CBSE Class IX, X, XI and XII.
That fueled my studies and I went on to complete my Masters by the age of 22. Then, I became a full-time teacher. I have now completed my M. Phil and Ph. D and I continue teaching.
In the course of my career, I have been associated with all kind of education boards – CBSE, ICSE and IGCSE. I have also taught in colleges for 6 years.
Currently, I am teaching at Lucky International School, Jodhpur in Rajasthan as an A Level Chemistry teacher.

How many years of teaching experience do you have in total?
I have around 15 years of teaching experience.

Which was the first school you started teaching at?
I started at a CBSE School in the Bihar-Bengal border area.
Where are you from?
My native place is in the Bihar-Bengal-Bangladesh border area. It is in the Bihar district but near to Bengal and Bangladesh. I was born there. My early education was over there itself. I went to Sikkim for my University education.
You mentioned you have completed your Ph. D – which subject is that in?
Chemistry – I did my Ph. D at Bihar and M. Phil from Sikkim.

When did you start teaching?
It was in 2004.

What are your views about the various education boards? Are the teaching patterns the same?
I have taught in many places as well – Bihar, West Bengal, Mumbai, Maharashtra and currently in Rajasthan. And at various places I have been associated with various boards – CBSE, ICSE, IGCSE. I have been a college lecturer as well.
The language in which we teach for all boards is the same. The basics are the same – in Chemistry, for instance, an atom is an atom and a molecule is a molecule. The pattern of assessment is what sets them apart. Another point of difference, is the amount of content we need to teach in a particular class. For CBSE it is relatively less, ICSE and IGCSE, it is more. According to me, these are the only differences.

You are teaching Classes XI and XII . Which has been the most challenging board for you?
Yes, I teach the equivalent of XI and XII.
In my experience, as far as teaching is concerned and from the student’s side as well, I feel IGCSE is easier because it gives them ample sources to make children think.
In CBSE there is a defined curriculum. You give it to the children in a set mode, they mug up and write it down. Thinking capacity does not develop when it comes to the CBSE curriculum.
In IG, on the other hand, it promotes thinking, learning and problem solving. They do not focus on mugged up answers. There is no scope for that. They are given the concepts and they get well versed at it. To answer their assessments, however, they have to do a lot of thinking.
So, in my opinion, IGCSE is better.

Does that make IGCSE tougher for a teacher to teach? I mean how do you train people to think?
Yes, that is there. I used to teach IGCSE in Mumbai around 8-9 years back. That was a time when this syllabus was only popular in big cities.
Here in Rajasthan, of course this concept is very new. People are more used to the CBSE approach. Nowadays, international schools have started IGCSE as well. They have started it at the primary level itself. Those children get used to this curriculum and syllabus.

Is there any difference when it comes to being a teacher in a normal CBSE school and an international school?
Not much. In fact, IGCSE can prove more difficult for teachers. You have to gather all kinds of knowledge and give maximum to the students so that students are enabled to think properly. They have to have all the knowledge regarding a particular topic.
In CBSE, it is all well-defined – the start and end points are dictated to you.
Different students have got different capabilities. Some are good at mugging up and remembering and some are good at thinking.

Where are these IGCSE final exam papers evaluated? Do these A-level papers of international schools go out of the country?
Yes, they are evaluated abroad.

Do papers come to India to get corrected too?
Not yet. They do appoint examiners but we are not involved in paper correction.

In these international schools, do you get paid better than in other schools?
The international schools do have slightly higher pay than the other schools. But nowadays branded CBSE schools also offer 7th pay commission. This is the outcome of school competitiveness. However, the reality is that most CBSE schools don’t follow the 7th pay scale. They offer almost 50% of what is required to be paid. That is very demotivating.

Are you saying that the CBSE schools who offer the 7th pay commission are good schools, from a teacher’s point of view?
Yes. Schools like DPS offer competitive salaries and are at par with international schools.

When you look for a job, what else do you look for other than the salary point?
In general, people look for the salary and locality. I definitely would look at the locality in which the school is positioned.
Certain localities wouldn’t appeal to me. And, of course, I will look at the salary package. We teachers work very hard. I think it is fair to look for a good package. I would also look for a chance to grow. I would try to analyse if the place I am going to will have scope to make me grow as a person.

As a teacher what, according to you, is growth?
I had switched from teaching CBSE to college and then, I got back to IGCSE. The reason for not going back to CBSE is that the chances of growth is very limited. But, there may be other administrative positions or something that may open up.

Would you like to go for such a position if you get one? Is that what you look for?
For a Science teacher such positions will be a burden, to be honest.

You are a person who has traveled around quite a bit. Why haven’t you stuck to a place?
Yes. I like travelling. I like understanding new cultures and people from different places. I like these travel experiences. Travelling is a hobby and this way I get to satisfy my hobby while doing my job.
In fact learning about different places and people helps me a lot when I tackle with different kind of students in my class. I can understand the psychology of the children in my class, which is of great value.

Do you see any difference in the students in the various schools you have taught?
Earlier it used to be different but now because of the higher reach of information through mobile and internet, people are becoming similar. Earlier I used to feel children in Mumbai are more advanced when compared to other children. But, I don’t see much of a difference now. They are still different but at a very marginal level.

Nowadays, we have international schools even in smaller towns, not just in places like Mumbai, Delhi etc.
Yes, we do.

What do you think will be the future education of these children after this A level?
Earlier, only the affluent used to think of giving their children this kind of education. They used to want to send their children to the States or Europe for further education. Whereas, in small towns, people used to aspire to send their children to other states like Bangalore and Mumbai.
Times have changed. There are many people who have a lot of money. Some of the parents here are filthy rich. They may not be very educated but they are extremely rich and they have the capacity to send their children to foreign lands to complete their education.

What was it about Chemistry that attracted you?
Honestly, I used to like the length of the answers we had in Chemistry. Compared to other subjects, I find Chemistry answers much simpler and the gaining marks in Chemistry was much simpler for me than other subjects.

But since you continued sticking to it all the way till Ph. D, you must have been passionate about it, right?
Yes, that is true. I wasn’t very keen on it until +2. But I gradually I developed interest in it and when I got better marks in Chemistry I got attracted to it even more.

Good! But when you teach the same subject over and over again, don’t you get bored?
Well, teaching can get boring sometimes when you teach the same subject. But we have gotten past it. This boredom doesn’t affect us anymore.
I bring in different activities – lab or outdoor etc. But, yes 80% of it is the same.

Do you feel exhausted?
Teaching job is very exhausting compared to other jobs. Some jobs are physically draining and then there are others that are mentally draining. Teaching is both mentally and physically draining.
Continuously talking, standing continuously for hours, getting weak students at par with others, and then there are corrections, etc. So unlike other jobs, we don’t feel tired at the end of the week. We feel tired at the end of the day itself.

Does being in certain schools make a difference?
Yes! It all depends on your boss (Headmaster/Principal). If the boss is cooperative and friendly, everything is good. You may not feel tired even if you have to teach two extra classes. You still feel energized.
On the other hand, if the boss is not cooperative and someone who doesn’t want to listen to you; if they just command you around, the whole thing becomes very stressful.
Nowadays, schools are kept understaffed and this will burden the few teachers that are there with everything that needs to be done. All this, and we have to deliver quality teaching as well. I am not sure how to achieve that.

How would you define a good teacher?
See, even if a person is a Ph. D. holder but students can’t make out what that person is teaching, what is the point? On the other hand, there are gifted teachers who may only hold a bachelor’s degree.
The content that the teacher delivers should be easily understood by anybody – the young or old. We have to create an interest in the subject in the students’ minds. Once they get curious, they will continue liking what is brought to them.
Teachers can’t be expected to be like robots. We have to understand and devise methods to generate curiosity among students. Teachers should be effective communicators and be well-versed in their subject.

It is interesting that you have a college tenure too because most school teachers don’t do that. What was it like to teach college students?
I felt teaching in a college is easier. I feel if you have a good command over your subject, teaching in a college is easier than teaching in a school. They are grown up children who don’t disturb the rhythm of the class. You deliver the class, they may ask one or two questions. So, if you have a good command over the subject and have confidence, college teaching is easy.
If you are not confident enough or if you are not very well versed with the subject, teaching in a school is more advisable. In a school, children are younger, so you have to have better control over your class so that children may not disturb the rhythm of the class.
You don’t have these issues in a college. Another thing that works in your advantage in colleges is that you are spared of correcting notebooks, giving homework etc. That way working in a college is more relaxed.

How would you rate the new generation of teachers that are joining?
What I have realized is that in India, usually no one chooses the teaching profession by choice. If you ask any student what they aspire to be in the future, you hardly get to hear that they want to teach. I feel people come into this profession, if they do not get a job elsewhere. That is the biggest hassle.
I think nowadays because we have IT jobs in the picture, people are more driven towards that.
That is true. You also get to see people who have B. Tech degrees, working as teachers, usually because they don’t get placed elsewhere. Getting into a teaching profession is easy. Though they do not offer a fat salary, you do get to make some money. Most of them do not have a passion to teach.
I see lack of passion usually within the male community. Ladies join schools because perhaps their husbands may have got transferred to that part of the country etc. These are the reasons why people join the teaching community – not exactly because they love teaching. Hopefully it will change.
CONTACT:
Email: nilam.nkd@gmail.com

Shailendra C Kushwaha -Physics and Mathematics Teacher- Ecole Mondiale World School, Mumbai

Shailendra C Kushwaha is the Physics facilitator for grade 9 to grade 12. (IBDP, MYP an IGCSE syllabus) at Ecole Mondiale World School, Mumbai. He has 15 years of teaching experience.

The inspiration to become a teacher

I started teaching students when I passed my High school. I always use to help students in my area and support in their academic learning. This passion of teaching and helping others was developing slowly and growing within me. During my graduation years, I met my Physics teacher, Mr. Venkatraman – He use to teach me solid state physics and I was so impressed with his style of teaching and his knowledge that I decided to devote my life to teaching career and be a teacher like him.

Being an IB teacher

We always align our teaching and plan as per IB philosophy. By various activities , debates and TOKs(Theory of knowledge) in regular teaching, we try our best to develop young minds to be creative so that they can gain knowledge and be open minded to other’s ideas, accept challenges and become a risk taker.

I also conduct a session on self-reflection of their own learning and how to keep balance between academics, co-curricular activities and be focused in today’s world where mind gets easily distracted.

Advantages of the IB Board

The most important skill which is developed in young minds is creativity and research skills. The curriculum is so rigorous that knowingly or unknowingly the skills will be developed in students and they realise it during their higher education program at university level.

The other important factor is that students become self-reliant and they study locally but think globally. We not only develop mind but develop the heart of students and make sensitive towards global issues through various CAS(community, Action and Service) programs. IB focuses on all around development of young minds and makes then independent and lifelong learners.The biggest difference between a national curriculum and IB curriculum is that Teachers are also learners here. We learn from each other and our students as much as they learn from us.

 

Professional development of teachers

I think it is very important for teachers because it make the teacher more efficient in understanding the curriculum and the best practices going around the world. It helps and empowers teachers to make teaching and learning more meaningful. The world is so dynamic that you have to keep pace with it else you might be left behind, so professional development is a must for teachers. It enhances our practices and helps us make the students learn better.

Overcoming the fear of a subject

Fear is human nature, fear will always be there, the question we should ask is – what are we doing to get rid of those fears. We as educators need to work at various strategies to remove those fears from the mind and heart of students.
I would recommend students to go through the process a subject demands and do self-reflection regularly.

Let me explain with an example – suppose a toy is been made in a factory and if the toy misses a single path and process through which it has to go, you will never have a finished product as it should be. Reading a book on “How to Swim?” will never help you unless you are into the water. So dive into the choice of your subject and you will be successful.

School contact details:
Ecole Mondiale World School
Gulmohur Cross Road No. 9,
Gulmohar Road, J.V.P.D. Scheme,
Juhu, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400049
+91 9702449402.

Soham Roy, Faculty – Chemistry SelaQui International School, Dehradun

I have always been a seeker of new knowledge and experiences. To know the “WHY?” of things and then sharing with others the knowledge, gleaned from my learning, with added insights always gets me excited. The curiosity to explore and find new things all started since my days in Don Bosco, Bandel and Kendriya Vidyalaya (AFS), Barrackpore, where I went to school. From there, my journey has taken me through IIT Kanpur, where I did my Master’s and off to foreign shores of USA (Arizona State University) and Germany (Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research) for independent research.

Since the past two years, I have been in the lively and verdant 52 acres of SelaQui International School, a residential CBSE school in Dehradun. At SelaQui, which is built on the ideal of leadership and excellence at its core, I have the privilege to share my learnings in Chemistry to Classes 9-12.

Becoming a teacher

Personally, I believe there cannot be a science teacher as such. No one can teach something when that thing is ubiquitous in our daily life. What indeed can be done is to be still and observant. For me the biggest inspiration during my science explorations has always been my surroundings. It all started a long time back. Maybe, one of the first times was when I observed water rushing across a window pane and still the glass felt dry to the touch. Why was water behaving like so? My teachers, parents and others all explained it in different ways and to different degrees of accuracy but there was no one single reason to justify what I had observed. Perhaps, this deep curiosity led me to traverse the paths of fundamental research and finally, put me in front of a classroom of eager teenagers looking for answers.

Teaching Science

From sitting in classrooms across continents, what I have gathered is that a rigid, structured routine inside the classroom doesn’t always lead to the best outcome when it comes to experiencing science. Thus, I make it a conscious effort to make no two classes similar. There should always be an element of change. On some days, it may simply involve re-arranging the furniture to represent the different states of matter. While, on others, I challenge the students to devise ways to represent a topic to their classmates using ideas based on design-thinking. Although, for the board classes, I tend to keep the assimilation of the prescribed curriculum the foremost priority. Though, I would like to add that I always insist the pupils to ask questions – any and all questions are welcome in my class. It is because through questioning only, you begin the process of unearthing and discovery in the Sciences.

The surprise element

One of the biggest rewards of the teaching journey in school is that every class holds something captivating every single time. If everything went “as planned”, the journey would be quite insipid and monotonous. Like, I vividly remember the time when this class of 9th graders gathered themselves into a surprising and rousing chorus of a song about the asteroid belt. We were discussing the heliocentric model of the atom. It was quite unusual and at the same time, quite heartening. They were making all their neuronal connections in unison to this new topic from what they learned in grade eight about the solar system.

 

 

The fear of science

Science subjects feature high on the list of stress inducers for a student in the Indian Education System. The reasons for such apprehension are many-fold. Without delving into too many details, I believe there are 2 key issues behind this paranoia or ‘fear’. Firstly, the societal and peer pressures of performing well in Science, lest you be labeled as unintelligent or academically weak since a young age. The other cause would be us, teachers, from junior classes, emphasizing high stakes in Science as a marker for future success.

One of the ways to remedy such a stressful environment is that students should be given the freedom to make mistakes without high stake judgment attached to it, when it comes to Science. Every student is different and he / she should observe record, analyze and infer at their own pace. Students need to reflect at the end of the day to figure out the “WHYs?” and sometimes, the “WHY NOTs?” behind a science concept.

The CBSE Curriculum

Having studied in both ICSE as well as CBSE systems, the breadth of the content CBSE offers is beyond compare. NCERT is implementing incremental changes every year to its curriculum and the content delivery in the classroom. From not only instructing the students in the textbook material but also coupling it with relevant skills of collaboration, communication, citizenship and other necessary competencies, which are essential to succeed beyond the school.

When such a modern approach is taken to the classroom, there is an observable change in the attitude of the students. The students display high levels of confidence in their abilities. This is of paramount importance.

SelaQui International School,
Near Pharma City,
Chakrata Road, Selaqui,
Dehradun- 248011
Website: www.selaqui.org
School Telephone Numbers: 0135 3051000, 0135 3051002

Chitra Venkatesan -MYP Faculty and Physics Teacher, MIT Vishwashanti Gurukul, Pune

Chitra Venkatesan, a science graduate with 18 years of teaching experience is currently a teacher of Integrated Sciences for grades MYP 1 to MYP 4 at Vishwashanti Gurukul world school, LoniKalbhor, Pune – an International Boarding and day school following the IB Board.

On Physics
Physics can be well understood by the application of the concepts taught in the classroom in relation to everyday life activities. All the technologies we use are based on some of the rules of physics. Whether it comes to describing the motion, forces and energy of ordinary experience, in actions such as walking, driving a car or using a phone, or a simple “see-saw” at a park to a slide, a ramp used in railway stations, etc., physics is at work.
So, I strongly believe in encouraging the students to think and ask open-ended questions that trigger inquiry to learn the subject well.

Weaving Technology into the curriculum
Integration of technology into the classroom is one very effective way to connect with students of different learning styles. Virtual classrooms combined with traditional classroom instruction enhances the level of understanding. I have seen students with diverse learning styles connect well through the virtual lab when conducting research and scientific investigation.These days most students prefer taking notes on their laptops than their hard copies. This can be greatly utilized in the teaching process.

No rote learning in the IB model
IB curriculum focuses on holistic development and it is student-centric enabling them to have interdisciplinary understanding and liberty to choose their subjects of interest. It focuses on the concept-driven curriculum taught in connection with the 6-different global context, which encourages the students to interpret information in different new perspectives. Learning in IB is represented by a 3-dimensional inquiry cycle, with Inquiry, action, and reflection of the unit. Intellectual and practical skills are developed through designing, analyzing and performing scientific investigations that allow students to collect enough data to address a problem or question. IB encourages analytical, logical reasoning and language skills. The students are assessed all-round the year on a variety of criteria. Quizzes, essays, portfolios, and assignments are used to evaluate students, and with a heavy focus on internal assessment, keeping the students on their feet throughout the year. Therefore, in the IB curriculum, as research, application, and analysis play a vital role there is no place for rote learning.

Breaking the monotony
Integration of technology, i.e teaching through presentations, simulations, videos, interactive lectures with discussions, lab demonstrations, guest lectures by experts, educational field trips and tours, etc., can be used to overcome monotony. Virtual labs are interesting and fun and hence provide for a high degree of understanding and learning.

Significance of coaching centers today
Today’s parents are very keen in their children’s career. They approach coaching centers to put their children under the guidance of the experts in that field, to get admission in good colleges. In fact, students hunt for good coaching classes even before seeking admission in school and it has become a necessity, as it is impossible to cover most of the concepts in detail within the time span in the classes during school hours. Also, the students prefer these classes rather than the school as they get one to one attention. It is advantageous as it helps them in understanding and learning additional concepts. The focused study in the coaching centers, which provide training for specific entrance examinations is also helpful to the students. This eventually reduces the load on the students and gives them guidance at one place.
Even the schools have started tying up with these classes to support their students’ professional training in the higher secondary levels, as they consider the importance of the expert guidance. I feel that these coaching centers have gained popularity over traditional schooling in recent times, as they have experts in that field to prepare the students to appear for all the competitive examinations.

The fear of Math and Science
According to most students, subjects like Science, Mathematics, and engineering are considered difficult, as they feel that these subjects are abstract and cannot be understood easily. Usually, most of the students become nervous before the day of Math and Science exams, especially Physics. I strongly feel that the lack of conceptual understanding of the basics of these subjects plays a vital role in developing the fear in them. The students are also under the stress of getting less or average scores in these subjects, which add up to their aversion. They need to understand the concept and visualize it, deal with the solution for solving problems of Mathematics or Physics.
Visualization comes from the everyday experience and relating Mathematics or Physics to such everyday experience requires sound teaching. These subjects should be taught with fun rather than using the conventional system of teaching, which makes the learning of these subjects boring, bringing down their interests. They tend to develop a disassociation with the subject and after a longer period, they start disliking it. An efficient teacher should enable the students to learn the way to solve a problem through visualization and in the process, ease out the difficulty in learning.
As this Math fear is growing every day, the educators should sense this problem and create a healthy and fear-free environment where a child takes interest in Math and Science.

Fewer girls in STEM subjects
Generally, women in our society are rarely encouraged to pursue Math and Science as most people believe that these subjects are meant for men. I feel that not all the women are encouraged to continue with their career like men. Getting into another family becomes an important phase and an unavoidable factor in their life. As they take up a new role as a wife and mother and simultaneously pursue their academic careers, they find it difficult to manage both. Without any support structure to help them to continue working, at times, they are forced to prefer family over their career.
Another reason could be – while pursuing professional courses there may be discrimination in allocating projects to girls. Boys being assigned interesting problem-solving tasks where they could develop their analytic and technical skills, while women may have been assigned jobs that do not appeal to their technical skills.

Advice to students
I would want the students to learn the subject with logical reasoning. Relate every concept taught to everyday activities to remember the laws, principles and their application. Never practice rote learning. Be attentive and spend ten minutes of your daily routine in just reading the concepts learned that day.
Apart from the textbooks, cultivate the habit of taking notes in the class. Never fear or feel timid to ask questions. Curiosity is the mother of invention that unfolds the path of ‘learning’. Both curiosity and the inquiry were the seeds of growth and achievements of the great eminent scientists of the world, without whom the luxuries we enjoy in life would have notbeen possible.

Advice to parents
My message to all the parents, to appreciate the good qualities in their children, in front of others and correct them personally. Trust your child and give them the confidence that you will be with them always, to approach you for any of their concerns. Never compare them with any other child as this will bring down their morale and curb their growth. Listen to their concerns and respect their feelings rather than forcing your thoughts and decisions on them. Talk to them freely, support and guide them to be independent, respect the time, take responsibility, to believe in sincere effort and hard work and teach them to analyse all situations and take decisions looking at the pros and cons. Each child is unique. Try to look for that uniqueness in your child and encourage that quality.

Address:
MAEER MIT,
Vishwashanti Gurukul School,
Rajbaug, LoniKalbhor,
Near Hadpsar,
Pune, Maharashtra 421201.
:+91-9604029199

Sharmistha Acharya Mukherjee -Biology Educator- RBK International Academy, Mumbai

Sharmistha Acharya Mukherjee, an educator with 8 years of work experience, is currently teaching IBDP- Environmental System and Societies at RBK International Academy, Chembur an IB world school located in Mumbai. She a mis also ember of the IBEN (The International Baccalaureate® educator network) working with the curriculum review team as a reviewer for Environmental systems and societies.

A typical classroom session
Sharmistha says – My day starts with lot of enthusiasm and fun. Students look forward to my energetic attitude and activity plans. My teaching comprises mostly of hands on activities in the form of puzzles, quizzes, videos, games, current topics discussions etc. students find it easy to connect and proactively participates into the generation of inquiry cycle. When children are not in a mood to study or do anything then I usually begin the class with a discussion on a very current topic of their choice that might be viral on the social media. So, automatically children become attentive and participative in further discussions. Thus, making the classroom environment different from the regular classes.

Developing international mindfulness
A lot of discussion based mainly on subject specific topics with claims and counter claims concludes into the development of International mindedness where in students show several attributes of the learner profiles (caring, open-minded etc). Students adapt and learn to accept all cultures.

 

IB Board prepares students for the future
IB is the only curriculum that caters to the holistic approach of learning that is based on conceptual understanding. Content is available everywhere. It’s just a click away these days. IB enhances the understanding of the students to such an extent that a student can himself understand and analyse that which content is correct and authentic that he searched on any search engine. If a child has the conceptual understanding then only can he do this analysis. Isn’t it?
The International Baccalaureate is well positioned to respond to the global challenges of the 21st century. As people increasingly wake up to what it’s going to take to compete in this new flat world, the IB is increasingly viewed as one of the best education systems to prepare young people for that future. Our programs are shaped around creating a better and more peaceful world with a core determination to develop students who can create this better world through intercultural understanding and respect.

 

Imbibing the love for Science
Science is a logical subject that works on facts. However, children inculcate interest in science from childhood. If the subject becomes monotonous with only theory, they find it challenging to remember or recall certain concepts .Thus, the playway method at times becomes handy. The experimental concepts inculcate inquiry in students which eventually develops interest in the science subject. Students who are critical thinkers actually love sciences. Students who have creative thinking do better in Humanities or Commerce subjects but the subject groups are so designed in IB that every child has to take one science subject at least. Thus,the non-science background students are given the option to go for trans disciplinary subjects like Environmental Systems and Societies to meet the subject group requirements.
Scientific knowledge allows us to develop new technologies, solve practical problems, and make informed decisions — both individually and collectively.

Contact:
RBK International Academy
Opp. Indian Oil Nagar, Near Shankara Colony
Ghatkopar – Mankhurd Link Road
Mumbai – 400088
Telephone: 7400091646/7400091647
Email ID: info@rbkia.org

Talking to RajaRao Kondury, IBMYP Coordinator

There are people who are opinionated about the current system of education in India and there are some who are not. There are constant debates among parents if CBSE or ICSE is a better choice. And, in all the mayhem, came in introduction of new boards like IB and IGCSE in India.

It is true that the education system, just like any other industry is constantly evolving. Boards like IB and IGCSE is like a breath of fresh air not just for children, but for teachers as well.

Our conversation with Mr. RajaRao Kondury, IBMYP Coordinator, ToK Coordinator, HoD Science, Assistant Examiner Internal Assessment at Genesis Global School (GGS), has been insightful and thought provoking. Does the board, a child studies in matter? It is interesting that it matters not just for children but is a paradigm shift for the teachers involved as well.

Please tell me about your background and how you got interested in teaching as a profession.
I have completed my Masters in Chemistry and am a graduate in education as well – MSc B Ed.
My folks always wanted me to become an engineer. However, throughout my student life, I was always inspired by certain teachers. They could hand hold me and usher me to independence. I am talking about 1 or 2 teachers. But, I didn’t have the good fortune of spending many years with them because my father had a job that came with transfers. So, we kept moving places.
I remember my uncle asking me once as to what profession I wanted to pursue after my Masters and I was spontaneous in admitting that I wanted to be a teacher to inspire my students. I think being a teacher not just instils subjects’ lessons. An inspiring teacher teaches you how to live and lead your life. That’s my story.

So, when did you start teaching? How long has it been?
I began my teaching journey in 1993 with a post graduate college in Raipur. That was an adhoc job at Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University. And so, I chose to switch as a school teacher because I could get a sturdier job and that is what resonated more as per my definition of being a teacher.
So likewise, I began teaching at the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram as a Chemistry teacher and in junior class I used to teach Science too.

So, you have had about 25 years of experience as a teacher!
Yes!

How has your journey been so far? What were the ups and downs now when you look back?
I began teaching in a school that catered only to tribal children. These children were picked up from their jungle homes and were given all facilities – made to stay in a boarding school, etc.
So, we spent time with those kids the whole day. I was asked to shoulder the responsibility of the boarding facilities as well. These children had no idea how the world outside their school campus, looked like. They were really talented children and many of them were highly knowledgeable. A huge majority of these children stayed there because they thought that was God’s arrangement for them to have their meals.
Inspiring children hailing from such backgrounds, so that they can lead better lives in future is instilling hope. That was an amazing experience. I see the fruits of those years when I hear from many of those children who are now into corporate jobs and other walks of life. When I talk to those children, I feel an amazing sense of fulfilment. I am sure they have a mind set to aim much more for the next generation.
From that stage, I now work for schools that have children coming from elite families. I see that many of them are not very career oriented. Inspiring them is again a task that seems herculean because there is hardly anything that inspires them. That is a challenge I am facing now.
So, I wouldn’t say ups and downs. You become this 25 year old teacher, who goes through different types of working culture at different schools – dealing with different set of students and catering to different kinds of requirements.
Hence, you keep changing your strategies to motivate children, teach them and inspire them.

Where are you currently teaching?
I am in Noida, working at Genesis Global School.

I see you are in a whole new different environment now, in comparison with the ashram school that you were part of!
Oh yes, totally different world!

What curriculum does Genesis Global School follow?
This school offers CBSE, IB and CI curriculum. I am associated with the International Curriculum – that is IGCSE (CI) and IB.

You’ve been with CBSE and you’re now with the international curriculum after teaching for many years now. How do you see the change? What do you feel about both curriculum?
Even while teaching CBSE, I used to not teach in the traditional format. Perhaps by virtue of being a Gemini, I am known for being restless and who find it difficult to stick to the same format.
I can’t stick to the same method of teaching. I always try teaching things differently, as much as possible. I would try creating my own ideas, when I taught CBSE. We didn’t have much networking among teachers in those days. Whatever I bought to the table was the knowledge I got through reading or my discovering my own teaching strategies or by sharing ideas with colleagues and passing around best practices. We were limited to text book content.
Having come to IB, I realise that teaching is not simply delivering of content. It caters to different changes in the education industry.
No matter what subject you teach, you have to teach it with all your heart – this is my motto.

Do you, as a Chemistry teacher, feel there is a big difference between the CBSE and International Boards, in terms of the curriculum?
I wouldn’t say that there is a sea of change when it comes to content. It is similar. In fact CBSE has a much larger volume of content in comparison. Honestly, it was much more challenging for me to teach and complete CBSE Class 11 syllabus. There was a time when I couldn’t complete a few topics and I had to ask children to go through them and revert with any questions that they may have. But I used to be cautious about which topics I leave them with.
I focus on teaching those topics that require more explanation to understand the application. I always enjoy teaching those topics, as well.
I could never understand, while teaching CBSE, the need to teach certain subjects to Class 8 students. It was too much for children of that age.
With IB, on the contrary, we are supposed to contextualize what you teach and understand why you teach whatever you teach. This curriculum encourages you to go beyond books and explore. It led me to understand the real life applications of these contents. I understand now that all subjects and topics can be easily contextualized.
The beauty of the IB curriculum is that there is a set of experts who diligently review the curriculum every 5 years. These reviews are conducted to bring studies on par with the changing requirements of job sectors and the skills that are required of employers and employees.
But, CBSE on the other hand, which also does have beautiful content, is on a standstill from when I have been studying.
These are my observations.
I have upgraded a lot from where I was with this curriculum. I have changed my teaching strategies. The very thought that I am only teaching Chemistry has now changed because I understand that no subject can be taught in isolation. Subjects are almost always interconnected. I know now that there is connect between visual arts and Chemistry. It also connects with Ethics, recent changes happening in the medical front, etc.

Do you see a huge difference between children who pass out from a CBSE school vs. an IB school?
There will be a lot of difference.
There is a sea of change when it comes to job requirements in any field. Every field is going through a change all the time. A marketing person cannot say that he can only deal with subjects related to commerce and that he/she doesn’t need to understand psychology. He is wrong. A marketing person is someone who needs to use psychology constantly. That kind of inter dependency has not been mapped in CBSE. In CBSE, all subjects are taught in isolation. They are portrayed as standalone subjects, when it is not.
You keep deriving formula in Math. I remember always wondering why I am memorizing theorems and my self-assurance that I would never be using them after school. I never knew how to research or how to write what I accomplished. I never knew how to reflect on what I have learnt. There is so much I have learned after I entered the IB world and I have ended up teaching much more in the process. I have touched upon other subjects when they intertwine with Chemistry.

There is a view that if teachers are in a school for a very long time, they tend to get bored with the same content and method of teaching. What are your thoughts?
People say that I am into teaching because it is my passion. I love to teach. If a teacher means what they say when they say that, such teachers would never compromise on their quality of teaching. They wouldn’t grow bored of teaching even in 25-30 years. It eventually depends on the individuals’ passion for teaching and the integrity of the teacher.
If a teacher thinks he/she can just pick up one out of four methods of teaching only because they felt like it that day, without understanding the requirement of the child, backing this course of action with their tenure in the teaching field, then that is a sign of boredom.

You have been an HOD. So, if you need to be recruiting new teachers for your department, what will you look for?
The soft skills of the teacher, of course, will be essential criteria. Besides that, during demo classes and interviews, I would ask questions which would help me determine the attitude of the person and how he/she would teach rather than what they would teach. I may employ psychometric questions to analyse the personality of the teacher before absorbing the teacher into the organisation rather than going only by appearance or credentials.

What are some essential soft skills that you would be looking for?
A teacher should have the urge to learn and impart effectively.
Interpersonal skills are highly essential. In this changing world, a person can never grow lacking interpersonal skills. I would look for organising skills and ability to respond to different situations effectively.
I may ask questions, like, if you come across x type of grievances from a child – who keep disturbing the class and do not exhibit interest in studies, how would they deal with it? Or, you have a blend of children in your class – some of them are extremely bright and the others have the urge to learn but are mediocre in their grasping power. How would you teach both set of children in the same classroom?
That is what I meant when I said, it hardly matters what you teach when compared to how you teach it.

What types of people are coming into the teaching field in recent times?
I see a lot of enthusiasm and it is a good thing that many of them are very good with technology and are grasping it well. They are already exposed to the outside world through the internet and through fun networking. Some are highly motivated and raring to grow and go forward.

What next? Have you considered any other career plans for the future?
Right now I am working in an amazing atmosphere. I have about 24 teachers working with me. We have been preparing and getting trained on the new curriculum. I feel very excited to work with all of them, here. So far I am excited to continue my journey here as I am learning a lot.

Contact
Rajarao Kondury
Coordinator, Facilitator of Chemistry IBDP,
IGCSE, HoD-Science Genesis Global School, Noida
https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajarao-kondury-8723b731/
krrspis@rediffmail.com
7292067273

Talking to Utkarsh Kumar -Physics teacher who wants to be an entrepreneur one day!

Can we start with your education? I see that you have completed your BE from Lancaster University, UK.

The course I took, while studying, was a twinning programme between Manipal University, India and Lancaster University. After 2 years of my education at Manipal University, I took a credit transfer to Lancaster University. There I completed my graduation in Mechanical Engineering.
Upon completion of my course, I got back to India and began looking for a job. The recruitment scenario wasn’t very good back then. However, I did land a job in Jaipur. I worked for a year as a Mechanical Engineer.
During my stint at Jaipur, I had two students preparing for IIT at the PG I was staying. I started helping them in their studies and I gradually started liking what I was doing.

Your path to teaching has been quite unconventional
Actually the teaching has been consistent part of my life. I have been teaching other students from a very long time – even when I was a student.
For instance, Physics is a mandatory subject for 1st year engineering students. I have always been in love with Physics, so I used to help students grasp Physics when they found it difficult.
The motivation to shift from the job of mechanical engineer was from the love for Physics.

Which classes do you teach now?
I teach Grade 10 and IB Diploma.

By IB Diploma, do you mean the equivalent of Grade 11 and Grade 12?
Yes.

Physics is a very challenging subject for many students. What is your observation? Do some students just have the Physics aptitude in them?
I have been teaching for 4 years now. During the first two years of my teaching career, I have been associated with the CI curriculum; then, for a year I was teaching CBSE syllabus and then IB. Looking at Physics course outlined by different curriculum, I see there is a lot of aptitude based on which children are best fitted for certain curriculum. Apart from that, what I see is that most students who have taken up Physics in my school are actually interested in Physics – they are, gratefully not there due to any compulsion. And, because there is no compulsion, they want to learn Physics to seek knowledge and understanding. So it is not much of a problem.
But, when I associated with CBSE, I used to tweak my methods so that children understood what was going on. My methods are not very suited for CBSE students, so I did face difficulty during that phase.

Can you elaborate more on the methodology?
What I try to implement in class is driving the subject through data. I accumulate data from a set of demonstrations and try to understand the physical concept through that data.
If I am, for instance, trying to explain mutual inductance, I would give a demo of a how a step up transformer works. I showed it using an oscilloscope. I would rather teach in this manner than fro the text books.
I trigger students to think why the voltage fluctuates, what causes it etc. It is through these conversations that I drive in concepts. Mine is a practical kind of approach than a theoretical one. Many a times, some students do get confused. But, those who are really into Physics appreciate this approach. For them, it is a great learning experience. They learn more than what we think they can through this approach.
This approach gives me an edge to explore the subject and keeps my curiosity high, which I think is very important for a teacher.
Some demos may not work, I admit. In such cases, we – my students and I – as a team have a conversation of why it may not have worked. That also becomes a learning experience for us. That way, through this approach, I believe, we learn to handle failures and success with equal poise.
Having said that, I understand that all students cannot be taught in the same way! Through this approach, I am aiming at driving those students who are genuinely interested in Physics, to take up Physics in higher classes. I would aid in keeping their interest ignited from within. I aim at making my students proud of me and proud of what they have learnt!
I do not promote just remembering things. I would rather promote curiosity, thirst for knowledge, the zeal for experimentation and cherishing the fulfilling experience that you gain when you learn something new.
Students may not be interested in pure Physics, but this approach encourages them to look for new things, experiment and explore options.
One of my old students is currently in the US. He was once having a conversation with me and was sharing that it was our discussions and conversations that he discussed with his fellow mates in college and in many walks of life. When he has similar discussions, he is reminded of my classes. Statements like these give me a sense of fulfilment, as a teacher. So, in a long term scenario, I think I am doing quite well.
Having said that, if you only focus on short term goals, like grades, ranks or marks, I may be ranked differently! Those things depend on the aptitude of the student as well.
My students, if they choose Physics or anything associated to Physics as their career option, they won’t be disappointed.

From what you have said, it looks you really enjoy IB curriculum

Yes, I find it really interesting now. I enjoy this method of teaching because as a team, my students and I are exploring things that are perhaps unknown to many. Currently, I am guiding my students for extended assignments and internal assessments. When I read their research paper and find that they have discovered something new, I feel exhilarated. At Grade 11 and 12, we don’t expect a quantum level knowledge delivered to us by a research paper. But, from the first year on we can understand how students get moulded as a researcher. Even if they are not great at this, we can instruct them on how to do a good job and equip them better for their after-school journey.
This is precisely what excites me about IB and I am still in my initial phase looking forward to many more things coming my way.
My best part of the day is my interaction with students. But, of course, teaching is much more than just interacting with students. There are other activities too.

What do you mean by other activities?
I mean for things that are not exactly your subject or your first line of thought as a teacher. These things are not enjoyable but it also feeds you with some learning. I may have to head the science exhibition, etc. That is still at a tangent. But when it is not inclined to Science at all, I feel terrible with the journey. But, I guess that is part of any profession. There will be bits and pieces which you are not interested in.

Do you think school education has now become an obsession about marks?
I do. I am glad that my school encourages venturing out of textbooks and learning with experience. But, majority, like you said, term some learning as extra. They only seek information that has a possibility to appear on your exam sheet. Students are very frank about what they want and what they don’t want, in today’s world. They are not as receptive as we were when we were young.
Today, we have a generation that is very vocal about what they want. They don’t alter themselves to simply suit other’s liking. So yes, students do walk on that thin line of analysis.
I regularly take feedback from my students so that I can constantly make my class more relevant for them. But there is a struggle between the things I want to convey and the things they want to learn.
That is a common hurdle for any academician. I keep observing a friend who is a history teacher. I have sat in that class for observation and found it very interesting. I am a person who is not bound by curriculum.
When I take feedback from students, may be out of 20 students 5 will come and say that 30% of the class was dealt with topics out of the course and so they didn’t think it was productive. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I believe. I think the teacher is the best judge because he/she is conducting the class. I use the feedback to try and define my boundaries.
This is the same for all subjects. There are teachers who want to share tons of knowledge and experiences but are bound to the time they have in their class. In the time game, some pieces of information get titled as extra. But, these pieces go a long way for some students and for others it is something that is not very significant.
The ones that enjoy the extra bit is only perhaps 20% of my total class and so if my extra bit of information is relevant to the topic, I go ahead with it giving no heed to the rest unhappy faces.

What difference do you notice between the schools you have worked in?
I have a very peculiar take on this. The school I am associated with currently is only accessible by the high profile families. Only they can afford this school. So, this only caters to a particular economic stratum. I do think that upbringing changes with the family income people hold. I can see children in this school being more open about what they want rather than being pushed around and commanded by their families.
Then there are schools where most of the decisions are taken by the parents and not by the students – even subject selection.
In my class – there are children who are not interested in Physics but are here anyway. But the percentage (about 30%) may be very low when compared to students sitting for Physics in a CBSE school (which may be around 60%). So, students who are there not by their own free will may have a different opinion about the extra information coming their way.
Ours is an inclusive school. There are all kinds of students in a class. I see students who are not interested but pick up an interest over time. I see a lot of students evolving. These things take time. I learn from hands-on activities and that is the only way to learn for me.
On the flip side, I am not sure how many students will be patient enough to read and understand though. I have also observed that if you pass the message through parents, to encourage their children to study and appreciate what they do, there is a sea of change in terms of attentiveness of students – it shoots up!

 

So what happens next in your career?
I honestly don’t see myself teaching for a very long time, for various reasons. When it comes to a long term career goal, teaching is not monetarily rewarding. However good you are there is an upper saturated limit of money you can earn. It all runs on a budget. So, I don’t see a lot of financial security there. To gain the monetary part of it, breaking the glass ceiling becomes inevitable.
I am looking forward to developing more demo projects that can be marketed, branded and used by other teachers across the country. I want to be an Edutech entrepreneur.
I am trying to groom myself in that direction. This is one of the reasons why I keep myself updated with the current technology trends and keep sharing my work, online. I see a need to build a community of people who will trust my work and use it to ease out their work.
I love having these conversations as well because it helps develop me as a brand.

Contact:
Utkarsh Kumar – Physics
Pathways World School Gurgaon
8527329255
https://www.linkedin.com/in/utkarsh-kumar-stem/

Current address :
102, Annapurna, Gate 5,
Pathways World School, Aravali World School,
Aravali Retreat, Sonha Road,
Gurugram, Haryana – 122002
Ph No: 8527329255

Srividhya Balachandar -Subject Matter Expert for Mathematics -Velammal Group of Schools, Chennai.

Srividhya Balachandar is a Subject Matter Expert in Mathematics. Her teaching career spans over two decades with formal training and experience in multiple curricula including IB and IGCSE. As the Senior Learning Officer in Velammal Group of Schools, Chennai, a chain of 21 schools in Chennai area offering CBSE and IGCSE curricula, her current focus is to enrich the Teaching-Learning aspects related to Mathematics.

The Lure of Mathematics

I was first fascinated by my Mother’s mental calculation skills. She used to do calculations with quarters, halves and one-eighths very quickly while doing household chores. There I was, trying to match up to her speed by solving the problems in my notebook, but I always either ended up with incorrect answers or inability to match her dexterousness. This slowly prompted me to challenge her with numbers and this friendly duel helped me not only evaluate and challenge my own skills, but also lured me towards enjoying numbers and inculcated within me an ability to manipulate them at will. Though it was a fascinating start to my love with numbers, I never imagined the field of Mathematics to be a prospective and practicable career choice for me.

Teaching Mathematics

In the course of my career, I handled different curricula and recognised that there was no standard way of teaching Mathematics to cater to the needs of different student profiles. Mathematics is a subject which can be enjoyed only if it is looked upon fearlessly,with no inhibition or barrier in mind. A teacher’s basic duties are threefold: to keep every student focused, engaged and motivated, but it is easier said than done. The methodology I adopt has evolved over the years – it is not something like “one size fits all” but needs to be tailored to the unique blend of student requirements in a classroom which tend to vary based on their attitude, aptitude and ability to learn the concepts quickly.

My approach is focused on the need to challenge the fast learners with tasks and problems involving high level of thinking. Else they would soon enter the zone of boredom with expectations not matching their skill levels. For slow learners, the concepts can be taught through a variety of real-life examples. Even in such cases, the teaching through real-life scenarios needs to be tailored through related interests – science, games, arts etc just to make it appropriate or relatable for every student. It is essential to remember the mistakes committed by such students from time to time and find opportunities to reinforce the concepts by asking appropriate or related questions. The hyperactive bright students also need to be kept engaged through the Buddy system by getting them to assist weak students, and in the process also make them revise the topics for their own benefit.

I am a strong proponent of concept-based learning and would never allow students to memorise topics blindly. The intent should always be to promote independent thinking to solve problems, than helping them with direct solutions. This will ensure active participation by the students in the class and also relieve them of any stress or apprehension while trying to learn new or difficult concepts. It is important to connect with the students well and all my classes are interactive and fun-filled.

Practical Applications

Modern Age students are so inquisitive that unless they see a merit in acquiring new knowledge, there will be constant push-backs in their mind.This can potentially impact their learning process or instill a sense of doing something they feel is irrelevant.

Practical application of Mathematics helps reverse their perspective towards the subject or inhibition against any topic. For example, Calculus can be taught in a practical way by taking the students to an amusement park. While the students are in a roller-coaster ride, we can introduce fun-filled learning.Probing them with questions will help them understand and relate concepts like curves, slopes, turns, tangents and related acceleration, velocity, increasing / decreasing functions, derivatives, etc.Similarly the students can be taken ona field-trip to the beach and assigned to model the sine or cosine curve based on observation of tides. Such application oriented learning, will not only help them comprehend the concepts well but would also enthuse them to learn further about related aspects like amplitude of the curve, period, etc.

The fear of Mathematics

Fear of Mathematics typically sets in during the formative years, if the learning process is not appropriate or effective, usually with topics like fractions. Some students may not be able to do the calculations, even though they know the topic well. Hence their inability to solve questions. Another example is that of Trigonometry which is covered before Calculus. By the time the new topic is started, students tend to forget the inter-related topic taught and they appear blank. Memory retention is a problem with current age students.

Mathematics is something that cannot be mastered through one reading, which students often do, leading to performing poorly in exams..This could be the result of their low confidence level due to non-clarity of concepts or lack of practice. It is necessary to constantly motivate such students, take them through special classes and reinforce the concepts,to eventually help them conquer fear towards any topic.

Some category of students assume they know it all and are difficult to handle, hence are prone to commit mistakes. It is essential that they are taken through the process of unlearning and relearning the concepts meticulously.There could be a possible resistance to change which needs to be managed very delicately and carefully. This has to be achieved through good relationship and trust building.

Another category of students panic when they are tested with huge numbers. To test concepts, huge numbers need not be given since the students get rattled and more prone to commit errors.Students should be trained to work with big numbers through repeated practice.

Also the inability of students to comprehend and convert English to Mathematics is noticed, especially while dealing with word problems. Working in groups could possibly help address this. Synergies within the group will help them learn the conversion aspects and facilitate in their ability to convert English sentences and fit them into Mathematical context.

Tabs or Textbooks?

Many schools are already providing or transitioning towards blended learning involving traditional and technology-based instruction. Visual impacts through power point lectures or digital content go a long way in enforcing new concepts through differentiated instruction, thereby helping them to remember easily and also eliminate any monotony while learning.

Inherent advantages of learning through textbooks cannot be underrated or overlooked. It is essential that students are made aware of the pros and cons of using both text books and technology options to help them get the best of both and make blended learning effective.

Velammal Group of Schools
‘Velammal New-Gen Park’,
AmbatturRed-hills Road,
Surapet, Chennai – 600 066
9840070161
e-mail: srividhya_bala@hotmail.com

Neha Kabra – Chemistry teacher -Singapore Intercultural School, Jakarta

Neha Kabra is a Chemistry teacher at Singapore Intercultural School, Jakarta, Indonesia with 7 years of teaching experience and post-graduation in Organic Chemistry from Mumbai University. She has taught several curriculums including IBDP, IGCSE, ICSE, CBSE and Maharashtra State Board from various schools based out of Mumbai, Pune & Jakarta (Indonesia). She is also an online tutor, mentoring students across the globe studying various curriculums. She talks about teaching in Indonesia and more…..

Singapore Intercultural School
Singapore Intercultural School Bona Vista in Jakarta is one of the seven schools that the SIS group has in Indonesia. It is a school with a highly diversified group of students and caters to IGCSE, IBDP and Singapore Curriculum from Pre-school to K-12.

Education in Indonesia
The Indonesian education system has religion as a subject. Students in Indonesia learn about different religions other than their own as well. There are academic, spiritual, social and emotional advantages that come with attending a religion class. Religious studies are a diversified and multi-faceted discipline focusing on the study of specific traditions and the general nature of religion as a human phenomenon.

Let me share an example of how a non-Hindu student can learn a scientific fact from Hindu religion class. In the epic Mahabharata, some excerpts indicate the possibility of nuclear weapons being used in the Mahabharata war or post-war. This fire of suspicion has further been fueled by the recent discoveries of green glass and many radioactive samples in certain excavations in India which apparently were associated with the Mahabharata war. Green glass is said to form when sand melts at very high temperatures prevalent in nuclear explosions. This can become a great topic of discussion for Theory of Knowledge (TOK) which is an important component in IBDP.

Learning with music
Every student has their own style of learning. A lot of my students say listening to music makes them relaxed and stress-free, but everyone is different because I personally can’t concentrate with music on in the background. Further, music can actually help you learn too because all of us are good at remembering lyrics to songs because the melody and rhymes cement the words in your mind, students can use the same principle in studying too. They can remember the dates, facts or figures by setting them to music. It sounds cheesy but picking up a tune and substituting the lyrics with content (to learn) is a great way to remember things.

Teaching as a profession
There is an old saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Earlier teaching as a profession was looked down upon, but things are changing for educators now. Most teachers are dedicated and are in the profession for the right reasons. I personally love teaching and cannot think of anything else as a profession because I am passionate about what I do.

In recent past, teaching methodologies have changed a lot with evolving new curriculums like IBDP, IGCSE &different boards in the country, and growing significance to practical knowledge vs theory. With this shift in the education pattern, Teaching has also become a specialized profession to ensure level of education reaches new heights.
Today, teachers are in the public spotlight because of their direct impact on the nation’s youth.

But with evolving teaching methodologies, teachers are also overburdened with too much workload, lesson plans, collaboration and meetings, and along with this, teachers are always under pressure to ensure that their students get best grades in the subject they teach.I think one of the key reason for this is lack of parental support because most parents expect teachers to get the best results out of their child, whereas ideally there should exist a partnership between school and home for the student to have the best learning experience.

Technological tools for teaching
Teachers in the classroom are like entertainers who have to hold the students’ attention for the entire lesson and what can be the best way to do that other than using technology and newer mediums. Children today are tech addict and thoroughly enjoy the use of technology in the classroom, I have always received positive feedbacks whenever I introduce any technology in the classroom, be it simulations, interactive quizzes or virtual labs. Technology is causing a deeper shift in how students learn. So instead of labelling technology as a distraction, we should use it as a tool to make our students process information.

An Ideal Chemistry Laboratory
Today technology is evolving faster than ever; new devices become obsolete within months. Modern chemistry deals with extreme temperatures, unbelievable pressures, vacuums and incredible velocities. Even the students want to push their boundaries, explore and research more of their subject knowledge.

To overcome this problem, every chemistry department needs high tech laboratories of advanced equipment and also the capable faculty to fully utilize the equipment’s potential. A good chemist without a good laboratory cannot do much.

Contact
Singapore Intercultural School, Bona Vista
Jl. Bona Vista Raya,
RT.8/RW.6, Lb. Bulus,
Cilandak, Kota Jakarta Selatan,
Jakarta 12440

Indrani Chakraborty- HOD Computer Science Department -Indus International School, Hyderabad

The current HOD Computer Science for the last five years at Indus International School, Indrani Chakraborty is also an IBDP ITGS and computer science examiner. She is a teacher with a passion for Computer Science, 20 years of teaching experience, is an animal and nature lover and volunteers at various social and charity activities.

Excerpts from an interview with Indrani Chakraborty

Tell us about your role at school
Besides, HOD Computer Science, I am also a Housemistress and CAS supervisor.teach students of the age group 14 to 18 years. As HOD, I am responsible for quality control of curriculum design, curriculum delivery and assessment. I am also responsible for teacher training and mentoring students

About CAS
CAS is an integral part of IB curriculum where students have to showcase their creativity, action and service to wards society. Last year we built one computer lab and ran a computer literacy program in the local village school. This year we have taken up project ‘stop open defection in the village’ and built eco-friendly community Toilets for them.

Is the curriculum examination oriented? In the process of scoring higher grades, are the students forced to rote learning?
International Baccalaureate Programs emphasiseproject-basedand experimental learning. While teaching we lay stress on concepts. We facilitate students with their self-learning and critical thinking.

Assessment is based on concepts so the student needs to think and apply his knowledge in a given scenario to answer the question. We don’t believe or practise rote learning.

According to the recent studies, girls are way too under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In your view, what could be the reason?
I think it is the socio-cultural gap which is yet to be narrowed down or filled. In our culture, parents never educated girls, keeping in mind that boys will do jobs and earn money. They use to educate their daughters so that they can take part in intellectual discussions, take care of family and home. So they mainly focused on Art and literature. This somehow manifested in people’s mind that girls are good in Arts and boys in science.
Also, from childhood, parents choose a different kind of toys for their child. Like mini kitchen set for girls and block games for boys. This way girls learning has become gender biased.

But now I think the gap is filling very quickly and in future, education will be gender neutral.

What do you see as the future for computer science education?
In future, most industries will be using AI, IoT and cloud-based computing. They will require skill employees.

Being future-ready also means preparing for these types of jobs that are already in demand. It means being sure that students leave school with strong foundational knowledge in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and computer science.

The fact is, students who gain knowledge in these subjects will have a big advantage. At school level itself, students should become aware of how computer scientists
work and communicate with each other and with other stakeholders in the successful development and implementation of IT solutions.

Advice to students
For computer science students, my suggestion is that you must be very open-minded and innovative while creating solutions. Many students struggle when they first learn to programme. I’ll suggest to them to keep practising and it is just like learning any other communicative language and skill which becomes better over time.

Contact
Indus International School, Hyderabad
Survey No. 424 & 425 Kondakal Village, Near Mokila, Rangareddy District, Shankarpally, Telangana 501203
Reception:+91-8417 302110 / 199/100

Praveen Mariadas -Senior IB Faculty for Biology, ESS & TOK. Pathways World School, Aravali, Gurgaon

Praveen Mariadas, the Senior IB Faculty for Biology, ESS & TOK. at Pathways World School, Aravali, Gurgaon, has been associated with the school for the last 9 years. Pathways World School follows the PYP-MYP-IB Curriculum.

Teaching Biology
My favourite part of teaching Biology is taking students for field trips- aligned with the topic I’m teaching in class. It comprises of two events per semester. Practicals and its implications in Biology, to a larger extent, have been dried up in Schools, since 2014, only because of Animal rights policies and Organisations like PETA, who has imposed a ban on Animal dissections or preserving Biological specimens. The absence of dissections and other practical has led students to do experiments only in Plants and few selected micro-organisms. This has taken away 60% of the passion away from students which was very strong years back!

Genetics, Nucleic Acids, Evolution are few of my favourite topics to teach, as it’s very vast, interesting and can debate a lot.

Teaching keeps you trendy!
What I love most being in classrooms or in this profession, is a state of ‘Well-being’! Keeping myself updated to current issues of society, Sciences, Politics, Entertainment etc which many students randomly discuss, we are indirectly getting exposed to it, and we gather information on recent trends in Science related to the inventions and for a better tomorrow.

Above all the daily routine of associating with teenagers will keep you young, vibrant, lively……..all the 365 days! We’ll also be updated about changing trends in fashion, lifestyle, dress code etc, which no other profession will give you.

Fear of STEM subjects
There’s a trend of students reluctant to take STEM subjects. It’s not Fear! As already I mentioned, science students have a larger than life ambitions- mainly targeting fields in Engineering, Medical and other related higher professions. Few may follow their parent’s ambitions or blindly follow their footsteps. They don’t realize the change in exam pattern & study environment which has happened from the 1970’s or 1980s to the present scenario. This lack of decision-making result in poor grades or poor performance. Influence of media has led teenagers not only wasting time but also leads to a professional urgency in life…………just to make money!!

This uproots their sincerity towards each subject, and hence later disinterest develops towards that subject. And then they say ‘ that so& so subject is very tough, I made a mistake by taking that’. It’s not toughness, it’s the lack of sincerity and passion that leads to reluctance. STEM subjects need constant focus, revision, additional reading and passion for the subject to become geniuses. This is absent in many teenagers of today.

Flip Classrooms
We encourage fieldtrips & workshops to enhance classroom learning. These outdoor activities should be parallel with content teaching. Assignments and projects become a part of FLIP CLASSROOM – a technological and theoretical combination, where students can study in a collaborative way, outside the classroom or even offline, or being just at home to complete assignments.

Challenges
The biggest challenge in science is in implementing and getting successful projects from students. The absence of passionate students in Sciences, Laws enforcing a ban on Animal dissections in the lab can be threatening to Science classes, especially for Biology in future.

Science is a subject- be it Physics, Chemistry or Biology – an involvement lasting throughout the semester is important. Constant distractions like School events and other programmes can lead to a lag/delay in syllabus completion and take away the connect from students. It will also distract the deadlines to be met by students in a semester.

Teachers should be sent for Foreign Workshops & conferences, for studying the new trends in curriculum, as part of their professional growth, atleast once in a year. It should be based on experience and not on ‘Face-Value’.

Advice to aspiring Biology teachers
They should take this profession, only when they really feel the ‘calling’ to this profession. It’s a service than an earning profession. Passion for the subject and the patience to survive through hurdles and new technological advancements should be there. A sense of belonging to the children and should cater to the needs of students, at any point of time.

Contact
Pathways World School
Aravali Retreat,
Off Gurgaon-Sohna Road,
Gurgaon-122102,
Haryana (NCR Delhi) India
T: +91 124 4513000 | EXT: 3846
praveen.mariadas@pathways.in
M: +91 88005 39078

Talking to Vineet Sharma -Soaring High with Mathematics

Math is strange for some, nightmare for many, quick and easy for some and a fun adventure for many others. Meet Vineet Sharma, IBDP, Cambridge mathematics faculty and CAIE coordinator at Sanjay Ghodawat Institute! His journey seems to tell the story of how Math chose him and the relationship struck a chord which is musical and magical.

The passion Mr. Vineet holds in what he does is evidence, reiteration and encouragement that one should work on only that which we are passionate about.

You are a Math HOD. Can we start with where did you do your education? What made you opt for Math as a career?
I did my studies at a small town in Himachal. The resources offered were very less at that time. There were hardly any students in my school to be honest. I did my 10th in 1999 and 12th in 2001. My Math was always fine. In fact I was waiting to get to grade 11 so that I could opt for PCM. I carried these subjects forward and did my graduation in the same town. After completing my BSc, I pursued MSc Mathematics.
I always imagined doing my MSc Physics. But, unfortunately that didn’t happen. My father reverted saying that he would allow me to do my Masters only on a subsidized seat. I got MSc Physics on a non-subsidized seat but my father refused. He would only hear of me taking up a subsidized seat wherever I got one.
So, Math being my next choice I carried on with it. Before this Masters’ journey, I did my CDS exam but because I had a problematic eye sight, I couldn’t become an army officer. Finally while doing my Masters; I thought I should go for an administrator job. To top it, I had a roommate who was very keen on securing an administrator position. So, we both began preparing for the Allied Services. It was called HAS exam – Himachal Administrative Services exam. We both cleared and went to the next level. Again, fate had it that I did not get selected. My friend is the BDO of Mandi District right now.
I came to peace with it and told myself that these things cannot define my future. I realised that I need to define my future myself. So, I continued with the subject I had opted for and in 2006 I completed MSc and was struggling to get a teaching job.
Fortunately, a coaching company hired me with a good package and then I learned all the tactics and key points of Math. I think the best thing about Math is its evidence in daily life. If you are at IIT JEE, the content of Math there is awesome. If a teacher begins three years of their blossoming career in such a firm with all your loyalty and dignity, I am sure that you will have your subject on track. I mastered my subject because of that. I am really thankful to the coaching institute for hiring me back then.
After that, I got into a school and now have a teaching experience of 11+ years. Currently, I am a Cambridge coordinator as well. I am taking care of exams. In the course of my teaching profession, I have taught ICSE and CBSE curriculums as well.
Do you see any difference in the way Math teaching takes place at the coaching institute and in regular schools?
Oh yes! There is a huge difference. The thing is the coaching institute is just a commercial set up. Teachers there are just faculties of subject. He/she comes, delivers his subject and then that’s it. Of course, this is about result-oriented studies. There are daily practice sheets and marks involved. The student is fully engaged to the extent that he cannot move beyond a level; he/she has no choice but to focus.
In schools, on the other hand, we are more relaxed. We have lot of teaching aids and methodologies to teach in school, which we can inculcate in our lessons. We can relate Math with real life situations and that makes it more interesting. That is one differentiator in comparison with coaching centres.
In schools, I can use software technology as a methodology to make Math more interesting. And a lot of real life situations are used. To give you a simple example, Math starts from the time I walk out of my house. I feel Math and I think we as teachers should inculcate that in the children we teach. We should teach them to feel Math.
The way I wear my clothes is also Math. I apply permutation and combination to understand and decide what to wear to look good. That way, everything is a part of Mathematics. I encourage my students to look at everything with a pair of Math optics. I emphasize on one more thing that nature itself speaks about Math. These are some fantastic things that we should imbibe to understand Math.
Is it more challenging to be in a school classroom or in a coaching institute?
I feel it is more challenging to be in a coaching institute because it is much commercialized. For reasons like, stuck somewhere on a working day or your feedback is not good, the coaching centre owner will fire you. They will just substitute your position with someone else.
But, that pattern doesn’t work in schools. In schools, we don’t want teachers to solve; we want the students to solve. They should understand what to do and come up with a solution.
Schools are where learning happens and coaching centre is the place where practice happens. That is the basic difference between the two organisations.


How do you compare Math in CBSE and ICSE boards?
I feel that in CBSE, the content is not all that updated. I am not being critical because I am a Cambridge coordinator. I feel the CBSE Board should update their content and the syllabus and scheme of work should be available on online systems.
ICSE, on the other hand, is filled with problems. If we compare the Math content of CBSE and ICSE, I would give a good rating for ICSE because Math is about problem solving. We can tell a number of things like making the lesson interesting etc. But, at the end of the day, students should solve problems and that should be inculcated. That way, I feel, ISCE and ISC content gives students an edge.
Another basic difference between both the boards is that in CBSE Math is a compulsory subject until grade 10, unlike in ICSE which gives you a choice to drop Math in grade 9.
As a Math teacher, I always promote my subject. I always state that if you drop Math you are shrinking your career options. For a scaling career option one should stick to Math, according to me.
Math will be instrumental in fetching you good packages or else you become an easy prey for marketing companies, credit card companies, call centres, etc.
Which classes do you teach?
I teach Class 11 and very soon we will be starting with DP 1 and DP 2.
About students who are weak in Math! When you come to know of such a child, what is your attitude towards them?
I feel it depends on the type of hunger you have. For example, imagine we are all at a table and having our meals. All of us cannot have the same quantity and all 10 types of meals, right?
Similarly, everyone has a natural flair for certain subjects and we all have our special learning needs as well. Once we know what our special learning needs are, we need to address them.
For example, I have a grade 6 child in IGCSE and he is appearing for a core examination. So whenever he is free or I am, we make sure we talk to each other. We used to discuss about people all around the globe and in that conversation I add my topic in a magical way. That is the magic that everyone needs to have.
So, teachers should teach how to think and encourage coming up with solutions; not solve the problem themselves.
As a Math teacher, how do you keep yourself fresh and motivated?
I am very fond of going to multiple places and go to places with different landscape while on a break. Sometimes, I hang out on the beaches and at other times at hill stations, with my family. I go on long drives also.
That is what refreshes me. Having said that, I don’t find my daily routine boring at all, which is evidence that I am teacher by choice too and not just by destiny.


What have been some moments of frustration in these 11 years of being a teacher?
I felt it in the beginning, when I got selected at the coaching institute.
I was in a class and a student asked me to solve a problem which was based on logarithm. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to solve it. That was a shattering moment for me that I chose my career as a Math teacher and I couldn’t solve the problem. I wondered how I would sustain in this field.
I went to the chairman of that institution, apologized and told him that I felt unfit for the role and proposed that they fire me.
That person, D.N Sharma, suggested that for 6 months I keep away from teaching and asked me to join the security training program. Hence, for 6 months, I had to visualize virtual classes. As an outcome, I ended up solving around 6000 problems in that span of 6 months. You can imagine – 1000 problems a month (it matters a lot)! Mr. D.N Sharma’s suggestion ended up being a game changer in my life.
Like I mentioned earlier, you should devote 200% of the first three years of your career to learn extremely well. Then, you get to justify your career and profession.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, Vineet?
I will teach Math – I know I can become a lot more. But, I choose to keep teaching Math simply because I love it!

Talking to Prof. Sundar Sarukkai -Philosophy in schools

Dr. Sundar Sarukkai, is a Professor of Philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. He has also been recently involved with initiatives to introduce philosophy to school children. We spoke with him to find out more.


You have been trying to create awareness on philosophy at the school level. What has been your experience?
Basically, I have been working towards getting philosophy to schools. Formally, lot of philosophy programs in the country are being closed down – there are very few of them now. A year or two ago, I thought of philosophy in public projects, more of a philosophy in action kind of initiative. This is now funded by the TATA Trust.
We started not to preach philosophy as a subject or as philosophers but to address certain philosophical concepts to children. That was the first camp we conducted and it turned out very successful. We learned that a large number of parents also wanted to be a part of it. Now, we are taking it to different cities – Calcutta, Chennai, etc. We are also publishing a series of philosophical books for children.
The thought behind this is that Philosophy is like the Mother Discipline who brings fundamentals into this world. Disciplines get separated because they ask questions in a specific sense. But, there is a commonality to our notions of inquiry and thinking. This is what Philosophy is at the foundation level.
The large amount of questions that children have about the world and their experiences are already philosophical in some sense. But, you need someone to show them the path. That is how we started this and hopefully with our books and children’s camp, in the long run we will have a larger impact. Our aim is to get teachers, children and parents aware that there are other ways of looking at the world, other than through the technological lens.
Was the philosophy camp in Bangalore your first attempt?
Formally, in the stint of dealing with various schools, etc., I have been working with many school children. There is a school in Kanjeevaram which teaches the Koothu tradition. There are marginalized children who live there. We have been trying to plan out something with them earlier. But, if you are talking about a formal approach where we contacted many schools, etc. then, this was the first one we did – the one in Bangalore.
Were the schools forthcoming to this idea?
As a matter of principle, we avoided asking schools to nominate students. We find that to be opening up a can of partiality. I am not talking about all schools because I do not know enough. But, typically school heads and teachers tend to nominate those children who they think are the best students. And, that is not what we have in mind.
Our point is to attract children who are open to think openly with us and preferably not-so-good students are welcome because they are the ones who will bring another dimension to our discussions, usually. This is because of the current school systems, which I am sure you are aware.
This camp was done more out of public interest than just a school thing. So, we didn’t go through schools at all. We sent them emails etc. and parents who were interested applied for the camp. There were lot of people who applied and we couldn’t handle that kind of crowd. We had to choose a small group and restricted the age group to 10-12 years and worked with that.


How does a camp run?
Since philosophical thinking is so central to most of our experiences, we worked with few teams who are central to philosophy without having to call it philosophy as such.
For example, we did a module on perception. What do we actually see? We think we are seeing a green tree and then we start inquiring into is there something called a tree. Is it really green in colour or could it be that the eye is contributing some property atop that object. The whole concept behind what we see and what we perceive is done through a series of dialogues. There was no course material as such.
We wanted to do this cautiously because we were doing it for the first time. Most people were very sceptical about how would we teach philosophy to children and stuff. We had about 8-10 students, some of whom were my PhD students. We divided the crowd into 8-10 groups and worked individually with each group.
We would discuss a topic and each group would have discussions with their mentor in a more detailed fashion. It was one of the best workshops that we had ever done and so decided to take it other places. I support exercises like these. We still have parents and students asking when they can come next etc.
Many of the students who came for the camp already had a clear vision for themselves. It is a bit surprising when children in class 4 and 5 are so clear in thought and vision. There must be pleasure in learning to be that way at that age, other than learning for 10 years down the lane.
If there is a headmaster somewhere who wants to introduce philosophy in their school, what kind of guidelines would you suggest?
Part of the problem is that, and this is something the community of philosophers in India should take some blame for, that there is not enough material which can be accessible to students and teachers to teach. That is why as part of our initiative, we try to get books published. But the publishers are worried if these books will be something students will be interested in. So, we will have to brainstorm on how to make it useful and accessible.
Philosophy exists to broaden their scope of understanding things. To take into account not just the technical skills but also the humanistic skills, something which makes us better human beings in our own circle and everywhere we go. It is not just about being smarter than each other.
Philosophy is also about how the trend is in terms of technology use among children. Everybody I speak to, including teachers and parents are worried about how technology has entered into the children’s spectrum and how it is dominating interactions. On one side, parents can restrict it but that is not going to go very far because it gets confrontational after a while. But, how to make children understand technology and its impact and the right way to handle it?
You should prepare them to understand these concepts. It is not just about terming things as good and bad. The aim should be to be able to think through and reflect on such concepts.
I have two researchers working for Teach for India initiative and will be doing these workshops in some of the schools here. This is something that needs to be given a lot of thought. If we talk to teachers they say they are anyway teaching too much.
Care should be taken for it not to be seen as adding one more discipline to already burdened ones. Philosophy doesn’t have to be taught separately, it can be part of every subject you teach.


Do you think teaching critical reasoning skills at the school level are a good first step?
For example, in the camp, we began with perception and then we did something on thinking and logic because that it is really the core of philosophy – logical thinking, aspects of it, etc. None of these were taught like how we teach subjects in school. We worked with examples children are familiar with and got them to articulate what they already know. This was a discussion and dialogue. Most the discussion was driven by their own understanding of what a concept could be. Children easily pick concepts without any difficulty.
What is the current state of undergraduate philosophy courses in India?
I went to Manipal, to start a centre of Philosophy. I started a Masters course but there are very few undergraduates who opted for Philosophy. Typically, in India, today undergraduates will take people from all disciplines unlike other disciplines.
Delhi colleges always had courses on Philosophy at St Stephen’s College and a few others. There used to be good undergraduate programs in Pune etc. But everything has closed down, almost everywhere. No colleges in Bangalore offer courses on philosophy with the exception of Dharmaram, which is largely a seminary institution.
No, there are no real undergraduate programs in any of the colleges. I think very few colleges like Loyola and Madras Christian colleges, in Chennai offer it and that is because of the connection with Christian institutions who have the priests who are trained in Philosophy.
How did you start with philosophy and what was your journey like? What are your current interests in Philosophy?
I studied in Bangalore in St. Joseph’s and even at that time, there were no philosophy programs. I went on do to Physics, which also interested me a lot. Once I went to the US to do my PhD in Physics, I realised that they have a whole department for Philosophy and went on to understand what Philosophy is.
I found this brilliant philosopher and took courses with him for many years. I was very sure from then on that that is what I have ever wanted to do.
In that sense, it was good that we didn’t have philosophy classes here.
You are based at Bangalore, is it?
Yes.


We understand that western philosophy is about logic and reason. What about Indian philosophy?
That is a very fair question. Much of what we understand about Indian philosophy is something to do with religion etc., right? From my engagement with Indian philosophy, and I had a taste of all Indian traditions, my great discovery was that all Indian philosophical traditions are very analytical in nature. If there is one term that is central to what their idea about philosophy in India is, it is about arguments and the idea of debates.
You find that among all the Indian philosophical schools, they look at what is the valid means of knowing anything. They begin with perception. The second most important topic of analysis for knowing is inference – which is logic in what we call as western tradition, the nature of inference – how do we infer for example, clouds to rain, etc. the nature of inference that leads to the whole idea of moods etc.
So, this notion of inference is so central to all Indian traditions that they become the dominant aspect of analysis of almost any actions that you do. Suppose you want to make some comment as a philosopher, it has to be grounded as a valid means of knowing and for that. It is not because they are saying something odd, but everything you say – every word you say – is analysed, defected and broken up. You need to have great energy to stick to that argument.
It is ultra-rigorous. That is part of the reason why I started doing this book called Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. It is to point out this argument about how philosophy of science within the west has almost overlooked the analysis from Indians, particularly the Buddhist, Jain and Mayan traditions.
It is very argumentative about very simple things – how can you know for sure that a crow is black, all crows are black and stuff like that. So, there is a kind of different way in which we present Indian Philosophy itself.
Remember that the question of religion and religious beliefs in western philosophy is much centred. The presentation of western philosophy is as if they have nothing to do with religions or beliefs, etc. Without exception, important philosophers are deeply influenced by religion, prejudices against women, skin colour etc.
Contact:
Sundar Sarukkai
National Institute of Advanced Studies
Indian Institute of Science Campus,
Bangalore 560012
Email: ssarukkai@gmail.com

Talking to Richa Saklani

Ms. Richa Dwivedi Saklani, Founder & CEO at Inomi , a career guidance company based at Gurgaon. An IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, Richa worked as a corporate banker and a stock analyst before entering Career Guidance in 2003.
Please tell us about your background.
About my background – I am working as a career guide for about 14 years now. I published a book in which I have written a little bit about my journey and how I got into this career.
I grew up in a very typical, small family in Jharkhand. Most of my batch mates in school did turn out to be engineers or doctors and they are placed well in different parts of the globe, today. That is the sort of environment I come from. Having said that, I was looking for something more creative and social science oriented. But, our school didn’t even offer options other than PCM/PCBM.
After schooling, I did Economics and completed my MBA at IIM Ahmedabad. This was not in true joy but, reluctantly. It did work out for me and I began working as a stock analyst.
At that time, one of my colleagues happened to tell me about a book of theirs. That inspired me tremendously because I have always wanted to write a book.
I quit my work at that point with the thought of doing something that I have always wanted to do – write books and work with people. I started working as a freelance trainer and did some corporate training work as well. I really enjoyed the work that I was doing; working with people and making a difference in their lives. It was much more fulfilling than my work as a stock analyst.
From there, I looked forward to set up an organization through which I could help people find work that they enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis and feel fulfilled. This began in 2004. I was working, initially, more with schools and I developed my understanding of careers and what works for which student, how people can figure out what careers are right for them over the years.
I have been trained in this space and have extensively studied the Holland Career Code and multiple intelligences. Over a period of time, by working with multiple students I got an idea about the kind of personalities that impacts specific careers.
In the last 5 years, I have worked a lot with individuals – both students and the working folk, helping them chart a career path for themselves and helping them create a vision based on self-discovery. I have published a book called the “Ultimate Guide for 21st Century Careers, 2017” and am currently working on the second volume, which explores careers of the future.


Where are you based out of?
In Gurgaon – I have been in Gurgaon forever, well almost!
What has your experience with schools been? How do you go about it?
I have worked extensively with various schools when I started and found it very fulfilling. In schools, you work with batches of 25 kids or so.
I realized that all the psychometric things that we or anyone else uses are based on the students’ ability to answer them in an open and productive way. So, when I work with schools, I give recommendations that aren’t as customized as when I work with individuals. The other side of it is, of course the great fun part working with children.
A large part of our program is about advising children on career options and they have so many questions around this area. Of course, many of these questions are around the earning potential and they are so excited.
At times, we realize that they don’t know anything more than 6-7 options that their parents have been telling them about. If a parent is working with technology, for instance, they would keep advertising about coding and selling that idea to their children. Then, there are others talking to you about arts, consulting, about corporate law and about education and everything that can happen – those are the areas which we never often think about because we all grow up in this tech-savvy world.
So, when we give them many options, children get very bright-eyed and excited about the career guidance program.
So, visiting schools and doing presentations – is that how your guidance company works or does schools refer students to you?
The bulk of our work now is individuals coming to us. By individuals I mean students or working folks.
We do conduct presentations in schools. We work with Patrick School, Noida for instance, with whom we have been working for around 5 years now. We do talk to them about career options. For example, we were talking recently at Tagore International School and we were talking to them about careers of the future. That is also part of what we do – essentially more like an outreach activity. It generates awareness of the work we do and creating awareness among parents about the options around us. But the actual work that we do involves individual connecting to us through references.

And, how old would these children generally be – 13-15 years?
I do have random children reaching out at the age of 13-14 years of age. Having said that, I find more productive work done with students from standard 10 onwards.
We do have some students in grade 9 who are working with us. But I don’t always find that they are mature enough to act on the recommendations that are made to them. There are times when we work with even younger children who come over and say that they aspire to become a paleontologist, astronaut etc.
It is not that they can’t do these things but if you talk to the same children when they get to class 10, they will have a more pragmatic approach. So, I think, grade 10 is much more suitable for this program.
Our program works through self-discovery; so, unless the children are ready, it doesn’t really have an impact.
How does career guidance work these days? Please walk us through the road map of this engagement? Do you suggest options based on aptitude tests?
A career guidance session is a 1:1 session of about 4 hours. First you have fairly engaging conversations with students about the options already introduced to them, and then we talk about more options available to them. We answer their questions and this is the part where students create a long list of 10-15-20 careers that seem interesting to them. Some of the options may be what the student is interested in and other may be what the parents are interested in, etc.
Then, we discuss this long list and map it to psychometric tests and we use a tool called Signature Sense – a tool that we have built, we use a game around goals, etc. At every stage, the 15-20 lists keeps getting contoured down. Finally it gets filtered to 2-3 options that are most suited to the students and we build this into a flowchart to show the recommended path, the backup/alternative option, etc.
At the last stage, we invite parents as well and we have a three-way conversation because I truly believe that the action actually happens only when parents and children are aligned in their goals or else there is a lot of conflict, which is hardly productive.


That takes me to the next question – ours is a country where parents, relatives and the society at large wants to decide what each individual has to do for a living. How much scope is there for others to influence these decisions in a significant way?
That is a slightly complex question to answer. I do see that a lot of the parents who come to us are parents who are open to whatever is right for their children. That is another difference when working with schools vs. with individuals. In schools you have parents saying engineering + MBA is the best option. But, that is not quite how it works with individuals. We notice that parents who come to us – who have self-selected us are the ones who are open to understanding what their children want to explore. That, in itself, makes them free-spirited.
At the same time, students today are under a lot of pressure. There is a lot of pressure to perform. The parental pressure of the yesteryears have transformed into peer pressure. Hence, this pressure depends on the college you go to. Nowadays the thought of going to a particular college is the ultimate goal.
Most of the time, yes, I get to meet free-spirited children these days.
What will the economic background of these children be?
I do want to work with students from the lower middle class economic families and the privileged students but at the moment these free spirited students are from financially well-off families.
Couple of institutions has reached out to us. But, I find our knowledge to middle class and upper middle class careers, at the moment. I am best in that area.
To work with kids who are underprivileged and look for vocational roles, I need to do a lot more research to guide them. It would be fulfilling to get there though.
In your recent article in THE HINDU you mention that the students shouldn’t get over worried about the brand name of the institution. Tell us more.
To give a little context for that article, among the students that I work with, I do find some students going through a lot of stress. These are very bright children too. They are students who can articulate things very well and can perform above average and they stand to get through a good college.
But their definition of good is so high that they are simply not happy with what they are doing and because of this they undergo so much of stress that it becomes a vicious circle. They can’t perform well, because of the stress and because of that the potential of what you can do goes down and that creates more stress for you. That vicious cycle seemingly becomes unbreakable.
The only way to break it is to let students understand that these things are not the be all and end all. I try to make students whom I am working with understand this through my own personal stories. I don’t know if that article would make sense to them because I haven’t shared it with any of my students. You do your best and reach some point. It is important to tell students that wherever they reach, they can always carve a way from there.
This idea of doing aptitude tests, figuring out what the aptitude is and then deciding a career – do you really see that working? Is it a fool-proof method? Lot of decisions we take is not so clear cut. We all do something and then something else, etc. in a process to discover what we are doing.
You know what; I do have a view on this. When I started in 2004, there were lots of resources on existing tests. I finally went with one that I understand it very deeply. Having said that, I will not use a test to give an answer! Though I keep toying with the idea that I somehow be able to transit that!
We have so much AI in the world today that I need to be able to translate what I do into some sort of simple and easy test that people can just take online and get the answers.
But, the truth is that our answers are very self-discovery based. The question then is, why use the psychometric tools? They are meant to reveal an idea of who you are and therefore help you make a choice.
I have always felt that the answer is right inside you and there is no test in the world that I can use to tell you that x or y is what you should be doing. And, you wouldn’t do it anyway because you would do only that which seems right to you. Having said that, the tests that are popular and that work, for example, the Holland Career Test gives you about 30 options that are right for you. That is because human beings are extremely complex and it is very difficult to say, based on any test, that this person can only do x role.
It can be that a child only has creative skills rather than analytical skills and could be an excellent investment broker as well as an excellent architect. Now, how does a person make a choice among those options? The person could be good with technology, arts and also might be good at educating other people. If you just do a test you would get at least 30 valid responses. To choose from those will require counselling and the self-discovery process.
I don’t think that any test is the final answer, nor do I think that any test is really wrong because most tests give you very obvious answers. For instance, it may say that you are good with people, which is something that you might already be aware of.
To say what to do with that information for a bright career is a gap that a test cannot bridge.
In short, how you use these tests are what matters.


Is there anything else, Richa, which you feel I may not have covered?
Well, I can share a little bit of what I am doing now. I am trying to get a view of the world in the future and how children need to be raised and what the future holds for them. I worked with grade 9 students today. By the time they hit the job market, it will take at least 9-10 years from today.
It is very important for students to understand that and so, it is important for them to pick up things that are becoming trendy and that can be the future rather than just looking at the work in a very static manner.
Often, parents do not have that dynamic view because they have the view that they grew up with. That is where opinions such as Engineering + MBA is the best option, stems out.
They don’t understand that education is being revolutionized and that it is one of the fastest growing industries today. They don’t realize that what is happening in therapy and psychology today is expected to change the world tomorrow.
I think that it is very important for children to understand future trends to be able to make intelligent choices.
Contact:
4 Bougainvillea Marg DLF II
Gurgaon – 122002 | +919818388669
Email: richa@inomi.in

Shankar Dayal -Faculty Head, Mathematics Heritage Girls School, Udaipur

Shankar Dayal has been the Faculty Head, Mathematics at Heritage Girls School – Udaipur for the last 2 years teaching Mathematics Cambridge IGCSE, A levels and CBSE curriculum 11th and 12th standard. The boarding school is affiliated to CBSE (New Delhi) and Cambridge International Examinations (UK).

Inspiration
Shankar Dayal says – I have always been passionate about Mathematics during my school and college days and the credit goes to my wonderful teachers who have inculcated in me the love for Maths. Mr Aniruddha Gupta (Lecturer) stimulated love for Math when I was pursuing my Undergraduate degree at KNPG College Raebareli. Dr.Anila Tripathi from DAV College Kanpur identified my way of doing Mathematics and used to verbally commend me for my contributions in the classroom during post-graduation. This appraisal from teachers has attracted me towards this noble profession.

The fear of Math
Performance in Mathematics totally depends on your regular practice and critical thinking. Fear is because of a lack of clarity in concepts. If a student of grade 9 is weak and has fear in Mathematics then surely the student did not understand the concepts of grade 7th and 8th. So, it is very important that learners must be corrected and taught everything at the correct level.If a child has flunked in an examination but still gets promoted to the next level (due to the no- detention policy in some schools), at the next level it becomes a challenging job for the teacher to push such student.

Helping weaker students
It is very important for a teacher to identify the areas where a student is struggling – only then you can provide a remedy. I do one-to-one sessions if children have such problems and monitor the progress. I tell them very clearly that there is no short cut to learn Mathematics so ensure that mistakes are corrected. I give them assignments and projects based on basic Maths skills. I praise them for their right efforts- This motivates them and boosts their confidence.

Tabs or textbooks?
Since I teach senior classes, children require assignments based on critical thinking in chapters like Graphs and functions. I often use online tool like Desmos, Geogebra to explain graphical aspects. Tablets, laptop help sincere children to store assignments, reference books. In a Mathematics lesson, showing videos using projectors and screen does not help always because its difficult to remember concepts just watching them. This is a subject which requires regular practice so I think tablets and computers only help to store study material in convenient way. It does not ensure better learning.

Project Work
Rather than giving individual projects I prefer to give group projects. Group projects develop team spirit among members, develop skills and pulls everyone’s contribution. This makes them responsible, sensible and prepare them for life.

Girls in STEM fields

Contribution of girls in the field of Mathematics, Engineering and Technology has been low for long. It does not mean that girls are not capable enough to handle these areas.

Girls’ security have always been a matter of concern in our society; this is what pulls them back. Parents want their daughter to look for careers in the areas where Job is available just after college degree. Also, parents plan for daughter’s marriage at their earliest possible. After marriage, some families do not permit girls to continue their studies or work in the areas of their interest. Ultimately girls have to sacrifice their dream.

Gender discrimination also matters in some families where families have a budget for male child not for girl child. Nowadays, thinking of society is changing and girls are equally participating in all areas so we can expect girls’ contribution in Mathematics, Engineering and Technology more in coming years.

Contact Details
Heritage Girls school
NH8 EklingJi
Udaipur 313202
Rajasthan, India
Phone:0294-2772400

Richa Yadav -Sardar Patel Public School, Kanpur

Richa Yadav, the current Principal of ICSE-based Sardar Patel Public School, located in Kanpur, began her journey in the education industry in 2010 as a facilitator.

Purpose of education
Only placing the student in good job is not the purpose of education, says Richa Yadav. Education implies all round development of the student from mentally to emotionally. It is only education which helps us to differentiate between urgent and important. We are actually redefining the education in school with the pre-primary and primary students. We are making self-made students. In schools, we teach how to think not what to think. It is they who decide what they want to do and think.

Technology in teaching
I personally have a very good experience when I have introduced new pattern of learning where there is more performing and less coping. Teachers are also interested to do the process of teaching and learning with all new techniques. So , the collective feedback from my teachers over new learning medium and traditional textbook and blackboard medium is both are good but the new method is more effective and long lasting because it leaves an impression on the mind of the students. Yes, students are excited to work with keys, because half of the lining and designing work became very easy with the help of keyboard.

Being a teacher
The only thing that acts as hindrance to enjoy the pleasure of being a teacher is the amount payable. Also, teachers’ are over-burdened in the new scenario of education. Remuneration need to be fixed as per the grade and scale of teachers to boost their confidence.

Recruiting and retaining good teachers
It is a hard task to recruit bright teacher in today’s scenario because of several reasons, but yes it is not impossible to have bright teachers. Bright teachers can be retained by maintaining good standard of salary and healthy respectful working atmosphere. Other allowances need to be paid for the extra administrative work. Teacher’s appraisal is a very good practice to appreciate good traits of teachers. It also inspires other to perform and improve them.

A day in the life of a Principal
Every day is a new day with “N” numbers of challenges from students, teachers and parents to divert the daily work schedule. Being a school head, in the morning – I sit for 10 to 15 minutes alone to prioritise the work flow and plan the day and I firmly try to stick to the plan throughout the day and at the end of the day, I go over the list and carry forward the pending jobs to the work plan for the next day.

Contact
Sardar Patel Public School
524 W-2, Golden Quadilateral
Juhi Kala, Barra, Juhi
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh 208027

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Parents are child’s first teacher. We believe that education is more impactful when parents remain an integral part of their child’s day-to-day learning. With a suite of easily accessible, digitally delivered resources and parental login features, parents have the ability to participate in their child’s learning and monitor progress at their discretion.

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WE DELIVER A COMPREHENSIVE TOOLKIT FOR EFFECTIVE BLENDED LEARNING

Blended learning is becoming more and more common in today’s classrooms and requires a rich array of resources for both traditional and technology-based instruction. Our products allow teachers to deliver the right blend of instruction, using varied printable, projectable, digital, and mobile platform resources designed to make differentiated instruction easier than ever.

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As science and technology forces classrooms to change, LAZ DIGITAL is at the forefront of leading the transition. All over the world, Computers and Information Technology are becoming increasingly common in teaching tools; while projectors, digital labs, TABS and interactive whiteboards are transforming the face of classroom education. LAZ DIGITAL has been quick to grasp the nature of this transition and anticipate the future by Empowering Teachers and Enriching Students. LAZ DIGITAL has entered into a tie-up with Learning A-Z, among the largest Education software services companies in the United States of America, to create Digital Labs in schools that act as a complete learning resource.

The RAZ PLUS Product

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  5. Sreenidhi International School – Hyderabad – Telangana
  6. Lead India Foundation – Mumbai – Maharashtra
  7. Indus International & Early Learning Center – Bangalore – Karnataka
  8. Inventure Academy – Bangalore – Karnataka
  9. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Golden Jubilee School, Tirunelveli

 

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IT SKILLS – A Brand of LAZ DIGITAL LEARNING PVT LTD
No 621, Anna Salai,
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Email : info@lazdigital.com
Website – http://www.lit-skills.com/
Ph Nos: +91 9025941961, +91 9384401322

Talking to Adnan Lokhandwala

Mr Adnan Lokhandwala, Math faculty at Aditya Birla World Academy at Mumbai is a qualified engineer who chose the teaching profession. In our conversation with Mr Adnan, we found the calm of his personality and the storm of his passion to strive for the better, always!

Tell us about yourself – your education background and what got you interested into becoming a Math teacher?

I am an Electronics Engineer from Mumbai University – passed out in the year 2002. During the course of my engineering, I started teaching children, part time, to earn some money. While I was working with children, the response I received from them was very encouraging. It was evident that they liked my teaching style and wanted me to continue teaching them in future as well. Honestly, that response was what made me stick to the education field itself. Not just the response, I enjoyed being in the profession as well. As I progressed in the profession, I got more comfortable and continued as a teacher ever since.

In my journey as a teacher, I kept growing and now I am an IB teacher. I really love everything about teaching, at the moment. Having said that, I realised that if I have to grow in this profession, I will need to educate myself further. So, I completed my B.Ed. in 2015 and my Masters too from Mumbai University in 2017.
In the school that I was at previously, Jamnabai Narsee School, I was the head of the Math department. It was this year that I shifted to Aditya Birla World Academy. That has been my trajectory so far.

People are joining teaching from other careers. Is this something that is an upwards trend these days?
Currently, when I meet other Math teachers at forums, workshops or meetings, I see many engineering graduates who take up teaching Math. I see many reasons for this.
1. Engineering students are expected to be good at Math.
2. Engineering jobs are less in our country – I mean pure engineering jobs. So, these students look for other options.
3. With the advent of IB, CI such other curriculum penetrating the Indian education system, the education sector is scaling now in India. It is a lucrative profession as well.
4. When I began this career, there weren’t many IB or CI schools. But, there is a boom and the money is also good.
Hence there are engineers streaming into this career. I have colleagues who have completed their BSc/MSc in Math too. The difference I see is that they are very theoretical in approach as compared to the engineering crowd who take up teaching because they have this aptitude for applied Math. Also, in IB and CI schools, the need for applied Math is high. That is where the engineering graduates have an edge over the regular faculty.
Math is considered a difficult subject. They say, you either have it in you or you don’t.

How to bring the not-so-bright children up to speed?
That is a very good question. It is true that some children have the analytical ability and some don’t. The ones who don’t, are challenging for Math teachers. Having said that, the IB curriculum emphasizes a lot on critical thinking and applied Mathematics. So, when I teach those children, who are not gifted with analytical abilities, I make it a point to make a connection between the concept I teach and a real life situation. For instance, when I teach trigonometry, I connect it to the buildings etc. so that it is easier to consume the concept. I have realised that the more connections we make, the easier it is for children to grasp concepts. That is what I do to make sure that all children understand what I teach.
We can make a difference by bringing in real life concepts while teaching and moving away from the rote learning system. Rote learning doesn’t promote questioning of concepts or even understanding why one is learning. There is a concept and that is the end of matter. When I aligned my teaching to the IB way of thinking, I could make the subject simple.

Which classes do you teach?
Currently, grade 11 and 12. In my previous school, I have taught 9 and 10 as well.

Was your previous school also affiliated to IB?
Yes, my previous school was affiliated to ICSE and IB.
Children, from the formative years, have been conditioned and in Class 11 you get a set of students who have already gone through the churn.

Do you feel that you really can’t do too much in Class 11 and 12 because the reformative years of Math teaching has already passed?
Not really. The way I look at it is that I can do lots in Grade 11 and 12. Children coming from different backgrounds, mediums etc. come with a different mind-set and knowledge base. The first thing is to align all of them to the IB philosophy and then there is a lot that we can do.
The practical applicability of Math increases with Class 11 and 12. Of course, we build it on the base that was formed until Class 9 and 10. Of course, I have no control over the way in which the child has been conditioned – I have seen some children who have been conditioned in a very stereotypical manner who end up becoming quite a challenge but I try and connect their past learning to what they need to learn currently. Then, apply it to practical knowledge. That opens up a lot for the children as well.
They then have abundant possibilities to link their previously learned Math to practical knowledge. There are, therefore, lots of opportunities, in my view, to expand their thinking.

Do you see any difference in the way girls and boys take an interest in Math?
Not much. However, to a small extent I have seen boys apply what they have learned to business and economic abstracts. In IB, a part of our curriculum is internal assessment, wherein children have to conduct research work in Math and submit it. From what I have observed through that activity – it is that boys do these projects based on economic or business abstracts, whereas girls bring in the flavour of art and other such aspects, like environment topics. I had one student who applied it to cooking as well.
It is not that girls don’t use Math concepts for economic or business concepts, but the number is less.

How many years have you been teaching Math now?
After I completed my engineering in 2002 and became a full-time Math teacher, so ever since then, it has been about 17-18 years. Out of these 18 years, I have been an IB teacher for almost 15 years.

How has your experience been as the Head of the Department (HOD)?
It is a big responsibility because now, I am not just responsible for my students but also other students. As an HOD it’s not just about my teaching but also ensure about my colleagues doing it the right way.
In short, I would say that the whole of grade 11 and 12 becomes my responsibility and this definitely increases my work to a large extent. You always help colleagues but as an HOD the help changes to responsibility. You are responsible for that entire section of teachers and students. As an HOD, I have to see to it that they all do it the right way; that they use the right methodology and the right kind of examples in class.
The most challenging thing for an HOD would be to answer to the higher authorities. They bridge the gap between the authorities and the teachers. Everything that the teachers require and vice versa is communicated through HODs.
I am answerable to both ends of the pole. I am good with my subject and I had the respect of my colleagues – with these your work becomes easier and there is less of friction and I can stand up for them easily. When there is transparency, they know what I go through for them and they know what the management expects from them.
An HOD’s job becomes easier with transparency and if you are a person who is accepted by your department, you can get a lot done.

I understand that these can be very difficult moments as well since you are responsible for others’ performance as well. They may not be as motivated as you, right?
True.

In such circumstances, how did you handle both situations?
I had cases where students who were not happy with their Math teacher would come and complain, etc. That is where my role as a Math HOD would be at stake.
I would speak to the teacher and would have a conversation with him/her briefing that the students are not comfortable, seeking clarity as to what may be going wrong, etc. Sometimes, it may not be a huge change that is required, and a fine tuning is all that they may require.
Sometimes, the small things we miss out may result in the fall out of students. That is where we have to take care. There have been instances where I had to sit the teacher down to understand their point of view, explain the children’s point of view and discuss what can be done and alert them of what they need to be careful about.
Again, if you have gained your colleagues’ respect and they are assured that you are not picking on them, but in fact trying to help them and want them to grow and evolve, and then your job becomes easy.
When I was faced with such situations, it is my rapport with my colleagues that helped me. I admit that these were moments of stress for me, but I feel I handled it well. The support my colleagues made it easy.

So, as a Math HOD, what in your opinion will be an ideal math department?
Irrespective of the subject, an ideal department is one where there is open communication among team members. In my previous school, I have seen departments which lacked this. So, some things go into your head and other remains open – this becomes a communication barrier and can hamper the progress of the department.
I have come to understand that things don’t go well if there are communication gaps. To top it, if the HOD is not approachable it sows more seeds for frustration. The communication gap not just surfaces between teachers and the HOD, it creeps into the relationships between teachers as well.
As a result, the working environment gets toxic.
So, an ideal department is where there is free flowing communication. It is one where every member respects each other, cooperates with one another and has a clear understanding between each other.
My first project after taking up this role was to bring in free flowing communication. To bring in communication, I brought in transparency, positive intent and the sense of oneness that we are all constantly learning something new.
I strongly believe that higher authorities should possess the work ethic to make colleagues feel that we are all team members working towards a single goal, rather than playing boss. When we all work together, we become a team! Now the best part of gathering of being a team is to grow and nurture each other’s growth. There are no selfish and hidden motives. The atmosphere becomes motivating and positive!
All this positive energy pushes everyone do their best and work scales up. That is the atmosphere in my team now. We help each other, share resources and share ideas with an open mind.

If you were to hire a Math teacher for your department, what would you look for?
I would want to understand if they love the subject because if one doesn’t love the subject they are going to teach, they cannot be a good person with all the frustration that may eventually set in. If you love the subject, you will try increasing the knowledge about the subject, try different things in the subject and in the process you will help students and other teachers as well. So, the love for the subject would be the first thing I look for.
The second thing what I try to understand is if this person loves students. A good teacher will always have a soft corner for students; one who has the patience to repeat what they have taught, as many times as required. They will have the patience and the mind to go deep into why a person is unable to grasp a concept. A good teacher would delve into thinking what more could be done to get those children to crack the concept. So, with the right attitude, shelling out some extra time to get those children to come to speed would be something that would be initiated by the teacher itself. So, it is essential that the person loves the subject and is warm to children.
If these two conditions are satisfied, then even if I find them that they are not experts in some areas of Math, I would hire them because they would make an effort to learn and give it their best shot.
On the other hand, if the person is only interested in completing the job and going back home, then what is the point even if you are an expert?

When you appraise a teacher – when you evaluate whether one has done a good job or not – what are the parameters you have in mind?
Performance criteria to evaluate a teacher is:
1. Student’s opinion about the teacher. Even if exam marks have not been very good, if the children are of the opinion that that teacher is very approachable, makes the class interesting, etc. I think then, the teacher has done his/her job.
A teacher cannot guarantee anybody’s marks. Every child is different and the marks that the child fetches are dependent on his/her ability of the child.
2. The ability of a teacher would lie in how he/she gains the respect of the children. Children can evaluate teachers quite easily. Of course, if the teacher has pushed boundaries to help children reach their objectives then the teacher has done his/her job. It is a teacher’s job to make the classroom’s atmosphere conducive for each child to rise and reach their potential.

Do you see monotony setting in after a while in the teaching profession – a feeling that there is nothing more to learn/grow in this career anymore? Any frustrations that have set in within this span of career that you have built?
The IB has a very robust and path-breaking curriculum. I remember that the curriculum had changed in 2014 and it required us – teachers to develop our skills and hone our skills to impart this knowledge to the children in the most effective way. So here, there is a constant nudge to evolve yourself as a teacher. I hear, the syllabus will change again next year and it changes quite drastically. This would largely mean to brush up our knowledge bank and understand how we can teach better. Hence, there is a need to constantly rebuild ourselves.
Another thing about the IB curriculum is, we have internal assessments, in which each child has to research on the topics we teach and we have to guide them so that they do a meaningful piece of work. That again requires us to be up-to-date because in research work, the child may pick up any topic from anywhere and hence, it is sometimes a journey of self-discovery because even if the child has picked up an area which is alien to the teacher, they are expected to support the children. Hence, in this curriculum, it is always work in progress and we never feel monotonous. We are kept on the edge to push ourselves to expand our comfort zone.

Do you hail from Mumbai?
I was born in Rajasthan, did my early schooling in Muscat, Oman – my father worked there at that time. From grade 1 until my engineering days I was in Mumbai.
For a brief period of 6 months I was in Dubai. I have worked as a teacher over there too. But, I moved back because it didn’t work out financially for me. Barring a few years here and there, I have mostly been in Mumbai.

Is there anything else you like to talk about?
If it is of any help, I have also been guiding students for Model United Nations (MUN). That is one of the extracurricular activities that our students do, where we help students to participate in MUN. This is where children represent themselves as delegates from countries and discuss over topics. I train children for this event. It is very interesting and is quite an innovative activity for children.

What kind of training goes into that?
It is a little different from debate because the children will need to participate in an event, where there are other children representing other countries.
For example, they can be representing the G20 committee. So, every student who participates will act as a delegate of a G20 country – India, China, France, etc., to discuss a current hot topic like terrorism or trade and impact of trade and every child is asked to put forward the stand of that particular country that he/she is representing.
Children have to do a lot of research to understand the kind of difficulties that each country is facing. We, as trainers, have to train children as to what kind of things wouldn’t go in their favour, the opportunities they should look for to speak up about certain issues. Those are things that we do as part of this activity.
We have had this in India and there are events happening all over the world. We take our children for such events as well. I have had the opportunity to take a team of my students twice to Singapore and once to Korea for such an event and currently a team of students and teachers are going to Spain to participate in Harvard Model Congress as they call it.

Shilpa Sawant -Principal -SNBP’s International School, Pune

With over 20 years of experience in the education field, Shilpa Sawant is the current Principal of SNBP’s International School, a CBSE based school in Pune.

Shilpa Sawant shares her insights about leading a school and the world of education….

On becoming a Principal

Being a psychology student, I have an urge to peep into the minds of people. My mind tries to analyze why a person behaves, acts, dresses, talks, remains silent, has a fetish for , even why is he/she creates an email id weirdly. I enjoyed being a teacher and would keenly change my teaching methodology with a few garnishing of humour. However, I found that somewhere I had limitations as a teacher’s time with students is short-lived. My hunger lead me to the position of a School Principal where I am not limited to any particular class or a period. Moreover, I am authorized to mentor them wisely for their academic growth.

The three most significant challenges as a Principal

The three headed monster is always invisibly present in the schools and the Principals, like King Arthur, have to bravely fight him. The three heads are parents, students and teachers. All challenges revolve around them and the Principal is like a juggler maintaining the appropriate balance among them.

• The first challenge is to define and identify high standards of intellectual quality for learning.

• The second is to improve the quality education. With limited resources, finance and high pressure expectations from the management, parents and teachers, the Principal faces difficulty in maintaining the balance.

• The third challenge faced is to sustain the effort of school improvement. The entire academic year the Principal has to monitor carefully whether the protocol made is being followed. Many a times I have observed that changes for improvements are made, but if they are not closely observed, and then it becomes a mess. Without supervision, the staff will do as they please disregarding and breaking the rules.

Using newer mediums like smartboard in classrooms versus the traditional textbook and blackboard

I realized that even though a teacher is trained, it is still in a chalk and talk method, and not by digital teachings. In Montessori, B.Ed, Diploma in education, teachers are made to manually make teaching aids, charts, draw etc., so how can you expect them to be so tech savvy?! Considering this fact, the management of each school should first train the teachers strategically. Once the teachers understand and learn to use smart boards, students will definitely gain from lectures.

I think that using a smart board enhances a student’s thinking and increases the student engagement in the classrooms. When a lesson is taught through the smart boards, the students visualises the concept, listens to the sounds and memorizes by the resources. It’s like entering that stage or an era. Various media types can be displayed on the screens like photos, videos, maps, graphs which is a rich source of information. The smart boards allow children to interact and can even teach each other. A difficult lesson can be easily explained in many ways through the technology as it is connected to the internet.

Each child is different, and it is often challenging to get children engaged in learning due to short attention spans. Some children are visual learners while others learn auditorily or kinaesthetically. Smart boards are designed to engage all students through all these learning styles.

On coaching centres focused on preparing students for competitive exams

The rise of coaching classes has jeopardized the schooling culture. The need for coaching classes emerged when sadly, our education system demanded high percentages for admissions in engineering, medical, civil servants, etc.

In Schools, students are taught lessons and then evaluated quarterly/ monthly or term wise, however, in coaching classes students are made to rote the answers without even understanding it basically.

Coaching classes promise high percentages and not high understandings. Students and parents gain trusts on these classes as everyone is keener to pass with flying colours. No one seems to bother if the student is clear with the concept.

My opinion of these classes is that they make a person dependent on the crutch, even though he can walk and run.

Introducing the IB board as an option in schools

• I think more and more schools should introduce the IB board in their schools as it offers PYP, MYP and IBDP where students learn beyond the academic study. This type of education offers to learn through real life experiences which are very essential in today’s competitive world.

• IB board allows a lot of flexibility in the choice of subjects and students can decide what subjects interest them.

• Moreover, IB schools are recognised internationally which offers a better global platform to the students. They can enrol for some gateway programmes which are recognized globally and can help them to earn credits required for international universities.

Of course this type of board is expensive and is not widespread in India.

Managing the overall demand for good teachers

Teachers are vulnerable individuals who struggle to align instruction. The need of efficient teachers is real and every school faces this problem. Considering this issue, I have a strategy of conducting one-on-one meetings for all teachers who have taught for a longer time in the school just before the end of the academic year. In this way I understand the difficulties they faced in the year and the challenges they accepted. I give them some scenarios in the competency based interview where I try to analyse their potential. Many a times, I come across the situations faced by them which helps me in understanding whether they are looking for other opportunities or whether they are happy to continue. I discuss their views with the management and then we plan accordingly. It really helps to retain the efficient teachers and reduces the number of new hires.

Advice to Students

As the Missile Man, Dr. Abdul Kalam rightly quoted: Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you, but to help you realise your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult.

Contact Details:

SNBP’s International School
126/A Manjri-Keshavnagar Road, Near ShivkrishnaMangalKaryala,
Manjri Bk., Pune 412307, Maharashtra.
Phone numbers: 9146656622/ 9011577199
Website: www.snbpschool.co.in
Email: snbpkeshavnagar@gmail.com
Facebook: SNBP’s International School