Principals on Board

Teacher – The evergreen learner

Toral Shah
Teacher – The evergreen learner

It’s been two years since the pandemic has hit us, leaving these years marked with perhaps the most grueling yet challenging times for educators and learners. It is a world of constant change and uncertainty pushing education to break from the shackles of old pedagogies which were being followed for the longest time across the world to gain traction in revisiting education from a new lens. It is a fast-paced and dynamic world calling us to reimagine, rethink and redesign the system to point out that the learners of today need to be educated in other crucial spheres of life which will make life relevant, enjoyable, and sustainable for themselves.

Living in an information age, where content is available at our fingertips has made most of our teaching methodologies and syllabus irrelevant. The advent of edtech has provided new methods of learning and teaching resulting in autonomy, independent research, affordability, accessibility, and convenience for both, the teacher and the learner. A world that is information-rich and turning virtual in every way is perhaps alerting humans to look more within. To discover who they are, where they belong, how do they co-exist in the environment, how are they contributing to the environment and what purpose do they serve? 

The discovery of oneself through one’s own work or deed or creation is education. 

This goes to say that education is a lifelong endless process of self-exploration. 

The power lies with the teacher to make this happen for her learners at a young age.  Empowering the students to speak their minds and hearts out in a safe and nonjudgmental environment will give birth to a society that is creative, unique, and genuine. 

Education is a symbiotic process where learning happens for both the teacher and the learner and both benefit from each other in the exchange.

Teacher – the ever-green learner

The teacher to offer her best in the classroom must not only be abreast with the latest information from reliable sources (teaching content), but also, work smart by researching about the latest teaching tools to get work done in an efficient manner; get creative and implement innovative ideas to get her class excited about learning and most importantly take reflections from the learners about the learning.

The teacher having an attitude to always learn from anybody makes her an evergreen learner. She becomes a person who is young at heart and mind and who can easily adapt to changes and so move with time.

When the teacher takes the role of a guide/mentor/facilitator and a listener (rather than an authoritative and didactic figure who always takes the centre stage), it makes the classroom homogenous conducive to healthy and interactive discussions. Learners in such an environment are comfortable voicing out their individual and unique ideas, what matters to them, reflections, perspectives, and genuine views on the subject. 

She needs to start from where the child is! The teacher needs to identify the two points of knowledge and relate the two points. The starting point is - what the child already knows and the ending point is - what must be taught. The journey between the two points is what the teacher needs to design, implement and revise based on her frequent reflections.

On this journey, 

  1. When explained about the topic’s relevance to them, shows applicability.
  2. When explained about what happens if they don’t learn it, shows importance.
  3. When blended with fun, includes some humour, because learning happens best when one is at leisure.
  4. When inviting the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’ questions from the class, provides scope for craziness and innovation.

Thus making learning immersive, personalised, and interesting for the young learners.

Teacher training is not the only way for teachers to learn and update themselves in their field. Weekly ‘Teacher club meetings’ are critical to teachers’ progress if done consistently and in an orderly manner. The meeting is an opportunity to think for themselves and their work to identify their strengths and weaknesses, exchange new ideas, and solutions to problems, and build a culture of curiosity. 

Some sample points of discussion in weekly meetings:

  1. Review and Reflection – How was the week? 
  2. New idea implementation – what was something new that I implemented and what was the impact? 
  3. Best practices – What went well for me and the class?
  4. Discovering other options – Could I have done the same thing differently? If practiced regularly will lead to building a strong cohort which works towards the common goal of the school.

It all starts with the teacher. If the teacher practices reflections, she could make children do the same, (helping them to get to know themselves at a young age). If the teacher understands that curiosity drives learning, she could design the lessons plans in a way that creates curiosity in them.

Children perceive things and learn with curiosity and awe. 

Children learn best when at play! Play is critical to learning. Making mistakes and failing and not being stigmatized from early childhood, allows them to learn and bounce back to strive for more later in life. 

Student agency classrooms bring out their best selves when left on their own to explore and experience the required resources.  It teaches them self-initiation and taking ownership of their learning. At the end of the class, the teacher facilitates a session where each child:

  1. Reflects and describes his experience, 
  2. Asks questions to the group, 
  3. Makes suggestions if required and
  4. Journals it down at the end of the day. 

Their reflections help them identify areas of improvement and ideas to implement in the next class, getting them curious and intrinsically motivated to learn.

This is possible in an environment where all answers received are without being labelled as good or bad and not being reacted to. 

The entire process prepares the child and the teacher to be mindful. Being mindful improves decision-making and inculcates patience.

Children become thinkers and listeners as they are given the opportunity to create and self-express. It leads to lesser frustration as they are igniting their senses to feel their emotions, express it and then know them.

In a fast-changing and uncertain world, education needs to change its direction in every step to make young learners, ‘thinkers and listeners of today.’ When all the efforts are focused on building these skills, we are making the young generation future ready to be able to thrive under any circumstance. 

A strong foundation for human development at a young age that makes an individual discover himself, grow to the best of his potential, and be true to himself is education. Such an individual is strong enough to take on challenges and make the world a better place.

A place where there is no answer seen in its binary form, but areas of grey are yet to be discovered; a place where mistakes are celebrated; a place where individuality is honored; a place where reflective exercises are key to the learning process; a place where learners take the responsibility and ownership of their learning; a place where varied perspectives are welcomed and acknowledged; a place where leisure and love are in abundance is a place called school.

About the author:

Toral Shah
New Age Educator | Founder at Drishya | Principal of Domnics Group of Educational Institutions | Children's Author | Storyteller

A former Investment banker and MBA and Postgraduate in Commerce and economics Toral Shah is the school leader and principal of Domnics Group of Educational Institutions a K-10 educational institution in Hyderabad.

Domnics is a 45 years old reputed educational institution in Hyderabad and with her expertise and passion she is bringing about a paradigm shift in the four branches of the school. She believes in teaching by understanding the individual mindsets and capacities of the learners of her schools. She has worked with over 2000 children and coached, trained, and mentored about 500 teachers so far.

She believes that learning should be an endless exercise for a teacher and especially if the learning happens by interacting with children. Keeping this in mind, she has curated her own program called Drishya which means perspective. Recognising that children need an open platform to voice their ideas, thoughts, and feelings about a particular topic she founded Drishya in 2018. Drishya is a widely accessible program, inculcating the habit of questioning, self-expression, and creativity. Drishya provides a safe environment where children get to openly express their perspectives without biases, preconceived notions, or prejudices.

She has contributed immensely to the children from marginalised communities in the field of education and has revived a couple of schools in Hyderabad. Empowering the children by providing an opportunity for autonomy, creation, experimentation, and flexibility is what she is passionate about!

 

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