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!
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.
Coordinator, Facilitator of Chemistry IBDP,
IGCSE, HoD-Science Genesis Global School, Noida