Innovation is the lifeblood of education! Using twenty-first-century pedagogy and innovative teaching methods and technology made it possible to safeguard the academic interests of learners by making education accessible in spite of all the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Through innovative use of educational technology, the students’ interest was safeguarded by the adoption of hybrid learning in the Lawrence School, Sanawar. Today, there are a majority of students who have returned physically to the Campus however a certain number are still at their homes. It is therefore through physical as well as bespoke hybrid online interactions that the School ensures that no child is left behind, wherever they may be physically! Through technology, for those who are still at their homes and were not able to attend School physically a facilitated virtual real-time interaction has replaced much of the physical communication between students and instructors that was the norm pre-Covid. What this enables the School to do is to gainfully engage the remote students actively in online lectures and activities; and assimilate them into a living, breathing class by incorporating interactive technology and virtual components.
Truly, change is the only constant! And, when the entire world is going through myriad changes for better and for worse, how can School Education be left untouched? Indeed, that is exactly where school innovation and an agile pedagogy come into play. And, on which side of the conundrum one finds oneself on, in a period of global churning and challenge, will depend very much on the use of innovative methods of teaching and learning at School.
The Lawrence School, Sanawar was witness to a wondrous phenomenon in which even after there were no students in the School buildings, learning never stopped because the School, through its dedicated and hardworking teachers and using cutting edge technology brought the syllabus and the curriculum home to the students. It began with assignments, went on to PowerPoint presentations followed by asynchronous teaching, and then, finally graduated to synchronous teaching via a brilliant remote learning program.
This was a year unlike any in the history of the 173-year-old The Lawrence School, Sanawar. Sanawar is a home away from home for all the children who are away from their parents and families for eight months a year. Consequently, the teachers and the pastoral care staff play a very significant role in the life of the children. The teachers and staff members are in loco parentis during the eight months that the children stay away from their homes. It is the teachers and the pastoral staff who provide moral support, care, sustenance even, and keep the children grounded and happy. Teachers at The Lawrence School, Sanawar do much more than merely teach. They serve as mentors, parents, friends, philosophers, and guides to the students. It is this very fact that is precisely the reason that leads to strong lifelong bonds between the students and the teachers who take on the persona of gurus for the children. It certainly was a very strong possibility that the teachers too, evacuated the campus once the children had left for their homes. So, did they do so?
No! During the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, the teachers chose to stay back in the School and elected not to go back to their homes in faraway states including Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and West Bengal. They took online classes while residing in their official service accommodation because of the care and the affection they had for their students.
When the children left on 18 March 2020, it was logical, natural and only to be expected that the teaching staff and the pastoral staff would logically leave the campus, once the children had been safely handed over to their parents. Instead, they chose to stay and attend professional development seminars so that they could ensure that they were equipped and competent to take online classes. Amongst the challenges we jointly faced during the implementation of these methods was the need to change mindsets, upgrade skill sets, and invest in increasing bandwidth as well as software and hardware. Almost overnight, teachers who had been teaching in the classroom, some for more than 30 years, changed gears; unlearned and learned new ways to deliver the curriculum, and then re-learned so that they were competent and able to take online classes.
The School was witness to a wondrous phenomenon in which even after there were no students in the School buildings, learning never stopped because the School Team inspired by the School motto Never Give In carried on and bashed on regardless until they and their wards were through! Of course, screen fatigue did set in but that was offset by the sheer joy that the pupils took in their online extra-curricular activities. The pros and cons of using technology for learning are well documented; the success of this innovation in learning was largely due to inculcating digital citizenship in all our stakeholders so that this had a positive impact on the community. And fine-tuning the programme in line with the feedback received from the stakeholders.
FVLP-- Facilitated Virtual Learning Programme:
This was an innovative step in the face of the unprecedented global pandemic taken by The Lawrence School, Sanawar.
This deployment of innovative teaching methods via the FVLP had a very deep and extremely positive impact at our School.
The School also made available Counseling, Health, well-being, Debating, Collaboration with the UNODC on the Sustainable Development Goals, Model United Nations, Personality Development, Career counseling, and online programs including webinars to the students.
Some of the online events conducted were:
1. Webinars on Emotional Wellbeing.
2. Webinar on Know Your Headmaster.
3. Webinar on the Everest Expedition - 2013.
4. Webinar on presentation on The Lawrence School, Sanawar girls’ expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro - 2019.
5. Webinar on Fall Semester 2020 in US and Canadian Universities: Panel Discussion.
6. Online Zine making Workshop.
7. Virtual Art Workshop.
8. Virtual Inter House Sr English Debate
9. 3rd Edition of SNAMUN 20.
10. Senior English Declamation
11. Hindi Poetry Recitation – Prep School
12. Virtual Yoga Workshop.
13. Hindi Sahitya Samaroh
14. Cyber Security Workshop
15. Webinar on series “Imagine & Inspire” with the Mentor Dr. Niti Pall.
16. Webinar on series “Imagine & Inspire” with Mr. Parikshit Sahni.
17. Webinar on series “Imagine & Inspire” with Mr. Varun Sharma.
18. Webinar on ‘Contribution of Indian Soldiers in World War-I with H.E. Ambassador Navtej S. Sarna.
19. The Sanawar Literature Festival.
20. The Collaboration between our students and the UNODC on the SDG’s.
The Lawrence School, Sanawar has weathered many a storm and endured against all odds since it was founded in 1847. It is this Never Give In credo that is the reason behind this great educational institution’s success. Many valuable lessons were learned from the trials and tribulations of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The efficacy of Sanawar is evidenced by the fact that it is the proud alma mater of many eminent men and women who have made their mark all over the world. And yes, it is definitely this very positivity, powered by a growth mindset and innovation that is the lifeblood of an institution that is ready to march towards its bicentenary!
About the author:
Himmat S. Dhillon is the Headmaster of The Lawrence School, Sanawar. He was previously Principal & CEO of GEMS Our Own English High School, Fujairah since 2014. Prior to this, he was Principal of The Gandhi School, Jakarta, Indonesia from 2008 to 2013. An alumnus of The Lawrence School, Sanawar, he was formerly Head of the Department of English at The Doon School, Dehradun.
Mr. Dhillon is equally passionate about literature, travel, exploring culture, writing, nature, and swimming.
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