Curriculum Development

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Jaipuria Schools

EI is proud to partner with Jaipuria Schools, Delhi. A prodigy of the parent school (Seth M. R.JaipuriaSchool, Lucknow),the JaipuriaSchools Franchise is a premier education organization. To share their experience, success and lessons learnt from the Lucknow school, the Jaipuria group has envisioned opening 50 new schools in India in the next 5 years.

   
 
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NISA Schools

Curriculum Development Project for NISA Schools

To ful fill our commitment to work with a range of schools functioning on differing budgets, EI is privileged to partner with the National Independent School Alliance (NISA) on a Curriculum Development project.

   
 
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Modern English School (MES)

EI in its endeavor to spread the value of effective teaching and learning practices across India, has recently entered into the curriculum development project work for the Guwahati based, “Modern English School”.

   
Our Projects

  • Blog

    Grade 7: Human Body – what do we want to teach?

    bookI have been thrown into a bit of a quandary since this morning. It all started when I was reviewing a bunch of lessons for grade 7. The topic was “Human Body” and lessons were to cover aspects regarding the circulatory, respiratory, digestive and excretory system. When I started reading through, I was thrown off-gear on a couple of accounts – what are we trying to teach? Where are we trying to reach? What do we ultimately want our students to learn about/from this topic? These questions have been hounding me, to the point that I am hopelessly distracted and stirred from within.

    To establish some sense of calm, I asked myself – are there any conceptual errors? Is the format being followed? Any problems with pedagogy? Are the worksheets in place? Any issues with assessments? NO, NO, NO, NO – the answer echoed again and again. Then, why was I still twitchy?

    I guess the only reason was – because I was unable to see the spark in the child’s eyes!!! (That child who would endure the implementation of these lesson plans). I guess I kept looking for that spark in each lesson I read through.

    But if there were no conceptual or pedagogical errors, why wouldn’t the child’s eyes light up? The answer lied in the fact that I was reading the lesson plans through my teacher’s lens! (The one who taught me a thing or two about the human body and inspired me to study emergency medicine). He was a truly “inspiring” teacher who I can’t forget. Brian was his name. The question is – what made him truly “inspiring”?

    I guess he brought the human body alive! He didn’t make the digestive system look like a bunch of facts. The heart was not “only” about the aorta, atrium, ventricle or the pulmonary artery. In every little detail, he was able to instill the “WOW” about the human body. He told us how our digestive system worked tirelessly even though we forgot about that biscuit we munched on the moment it melted in our mouth. He made each vein, artery, muscle, bone, organ seem like they existed only to help us and had been working thanklessly for us. Therefore they deserved if not anything else a silent heartfelt “thank you”. Post his class, most of us were so starry eyed that we headed straight to the library to see pictures of how this stomach really looked (those were pre-internet days folks!) Gory, yet beautiful we thought. The next time one overate, the first thing one thought of was ‘sorry, am hurting you my stomach.’ Brian had successfully established for us a very deep connect with our own body. Not only had he ensured that we knew all about the colon, stomach, gall bladder and liver, but more importantly, he had inspired us to think of the human body like this ‘marvel’ that we had been bestowed with.

    I still remember the glee on our faces. And till this date, trust me I firmly believe that the human body is such a wonder!

    Hmm. So, getting back to the real world of lesson planning, needlessly to state, the plans I was reading through came nowhere close to Brian’s interpretation of the human body.

    In my opinion, what plagues our teaching is indeed the over-emphasis on facts and least focus on the affective domain of learning. Do we expect 7th graders to undertake a detailed study of human anatomy? Do we want them to memorize facts, the names of organs, their location, and their functions or do we want them to develop a sense of marvel, connect, empathy, care and respect for the body?

    Take your call. But please don’t forget Brian! The children need more people like him!

  • Blog

    Like Stars on the Earth

    bookA good teacher can transform the life of a student. How many teachers dare to go beyond the ordinary? Today’s post explores the role of a good teacher by drawing parallels from the movie Taare Zameen Par. The movie is an insight into the life of an eight year old boy, Ishaan, and how he comes to form a relationship with his teacher who not only helps him academically but also develops his social skills and helps instill in Ishaan, a sense of self confidence.

    Ishaan, who dislikes school, fails exams and tests and is always ridiculed by his teachers. Noticing the tiniest of things in his surroundings and looking at them in wonder, all Ishaan wants to do is paint, explore his surroundings and create things.This wonderful talent that resides within him unfortunately goes unrecognised. Adding to his woes, Ishaan’s elder brother’s academic and co-curricular excellence stands as a constant reminder of his own academic failure. Unfortunately, Ishaan’s inability is mistaken for repetitive bad behavior and he ends up getting admitted in a boarding school. Finding himself in a completely unfamiliar and unfriendly environment, he sinks into depression and fear.

    Most of Ishaan’s teachers judged his inability to study as his way of revolting.His art teacher, Nikumbh, was quick to realise that Ishaan’sacademic shortcomings indicated dyslexia. His efforts at trying and explaining this situation to Ishaan’s parents is also taken as an excuse for his poor performance. A good teacher lovesselflessly. Not letting judgment get in the way of their treatment towards the students, a good teacher finds the depth of the problem. S/he is determined to make the student succeed under any circumstances.

    This is where a good teacher tries to first understand her/his student and then modifies her/his teaching methodology to suit the student’s needs. Exemplifying this, Nikumbh seeks permission to tutor Ishaan and teaches him using remedial techniques. It is said that a good teacher is a work of art. I say, a good teacher is a work of heart. Very rarely does one find a teacher who understands and believes in a student more than the child’s parents. When everybody is busy blaming the student for her/his incompetence, a good teacher realises the issue and works hard to help her/his student overcome their problems. Persistence and determination go hand in hand for a good teacher. It is her/his belief that keeps her/him going and striving to achieve the best for the student. The love and confidence that a good teacher demonstrates for her/his students is what instills a sense of self-assurance in the student. Very few students are lucky to find that one mentor who will lead them to the path of success.

    I, on behalf of EI, would like to thank each and every teacher who has helped us and many more students out there to be what they are today. We surely wouldn’t have made it this far without your support and help.

  • Blog

    Educational Innovations and the DAV schools: In Conversation with the Academic Supervisors

    "With the increasing frequency of our visits to DAV Public School, SreshthaVihar, it almost feels like home", says Dr. Priyanka Jain, Lead- Teacher Education, #Educational #Innovations. Having completed two successful workshop series with the teachers of this school on #Effective #Teaching #Learning, Educational Innovations (EI) recently conducted a 2-day workshop with the Academic Supervisors of various DAV schools in the Delhi NCR.

    The workshop, titled Role of Supervisors in Academics, aimed at equipping the supervisors in enhancing academics in their schools. The supervisors were oriented with the approaches to pedagogy, lesson planning and the key elements of a conducive learning environment in a school. It also focused on the vision of subject teaching as laid down by the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF). The school's principal, Mrs. PremLataGarg, also spoke about the importance of the NCF and how the role of the supervisors and teachers is vital in ensuring academic success in schools. Mrs. Garg calls NCF the 'bible of education'. For her, each and every teacher should know exactly why s/he wants to teach and the purpose toward which s/he is working. SreshthaVihar scored an average of 97.7 per cent in computer science in the class 12 board exams this year. Mr. Ashok Kumar Goel teaches C++ in the school and is one dedicated educator. Available 24*7 to his students, Mr. Goel used to wait for his students in the school till 9 in the night. Students used to finish their coaching classes and come back to school and get their doubts resolved from him. It is this dedication that PremLata ma'am talks about. She emphasises how important it is to marry co-curricular excellence with good academic results.

    Discussions and activities were also conducted on the vision of the NCF 2005 and Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) along with the importance of conceptual teaching and understanding and developing higher order thinking skills. These in turn led to practical worries raised by the supervisors. They were concerned with the high teacher-student ratio in most schools, teacher bias and the casual attitude of students. A major issue faced by them was the procurement of projects. CCE directs that projects be given to students as part of their #formative #assessment. The teachers seemed to agree that because of the massive amount of work at school, they end up giving projects to students as homework. Now, because of no time or incompetence in making these projects, the students end up outsourcing these projects which does not solve the initial purpose of the task. The workshop allowed the teachers to think about these issues and come to a consensus that projects can and should be given as part of the students' classwork.

    The workshop also gave an opportunity to the teachers to introspect on the role of the various stakeholders in a school, namely, students, parents, teachers and the school leadership. Discussing about the role of and expectations from supervisors, it was established that a supervisor should have at least a working knowledge of all the subjects. It is only then that s/he can help and impart knowledge to other teachers.

    Overall, the workshop led the supervisorsto be more positive about the CCE framework who now wanted to implement it in the right spirit. They agreed on the importance of all stakeholders working together and that once understood completely, the NCF will prove to be very helpful to each one of them. It felt good to know that the supervisors valued the workshop and were motivated to share their learning with the teachers in their respective schools.

  • Blog

    To Sir with Love

    Good teachers are born, not made. –Anonymous

    Today’s blog on the good teacher takes cue from E. R. Braithwaite’s autobiographical note, To Sir, With Love, written in 1959. Basing his story on true events that occurred in his school, Braithwaite talks about his journey as an accidental teacher and how he comes to form a relationship based on trust with his students. Once a teacher realises her/his true calling, s/he feels for the students. This coming of age novel encourages teachers to be sensitive towards the students’ needs and realise that no amount of education, tricks or ideas can work if you are not passionate about teaching.

    It is a common occurrence for teachers to find certain students in class who don’t accept them and are maybe averse to being taught by them. At this point, a good teacher is someone, who instead of punishing the students or giving up, sets ground rules for them. A good teacher constantly works towards gaining acceptance from her/his students and winning their trust.

    Seeking ways to break through to her/his students, a good teacher finds herself/himself to be controlled and intelligent. S/he will be able to tame her/his students and teach them self-respect. A very important quality displayed by a good teacher here is tact. A good teacher is tactful and resolves issues carefully. This trait is displayed by Braithwaite when he realises the needs of his students and what they really want to learn and how his students progress from disruption and distasteful pranks to learning the importance of education and eventually turning into gentlemen and ladies. He is calm and resists his students’ negative attitude and remains motivated not to be baited or manipulated by them.

    This is exactly where self-restraint comes in. Not letting negative thoughts and attitudes affect her/him, a good teacher continues to believe in the good that rests in every student, relates to them and imbibes in them the faith that education is important in everyone’s life. Relating to a student’s needs, a good teacher understands the need for inventive and genuine approaches to overcome teaching challenges.

    Teaching students the importance of education, a good teacher not only teaches them, but also learns from her/his students. S/he allows students to ask questions and be clear about what they learn and also realise the importance of building character and determination.

    Building on this attitude, a good teacher exemplifies a selfless nature and helps her/his students mature. Making students able to adapt to their environment and the world around themselves, a good teacher also adapts herself/himself according to the changes in the needs of the students. This is what a good teacher is. S/he understands that it is the students and not the teacher who matters most and in this process makes the children realise their own worth and importance.

    Here is a video from the movie which was adapted from the novel mentioned above. The song was a gift from the students to the teacher thanking him for his time, patience, love and dedication to them and shows how the students’ love in turn completely overcomes him by emotions. This song is a dedication to all the teachers out there who not only struggle but also find their way through into their students’ lives.

  • Blog

    My take on a Good Teacher: Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers Diary

    Writing is powerful. Whether it's a little girl hiding from the Nazis in an attic, or Amnesty International writing letters on behalf of political prisoners, the power of telling stories is usually what causes change.Erin Gruwell

    This article takes inspiration from Erin Gruwell, a first year teacher who dared to change her class curriculum radically. Erin, along with her students, wrote the book The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. The book went on to become a motion picture, The Freedom Writers, in 2007. You will see me drawing parallels to the movie throughout this narration. It will help the readers connect to what I am trying to put across in this description of a good teacher.It will be most relatable to teachers working with students coming from low income families, families where these children are probably the first generation learners.

    When Erin enters her class for the first time, she is welcomed (more like unwelcomed) by a group of students. Classified as the ‘unteachables’ and ‘at risk’ students, she finds it really difficult to get through to them. How does Erin then draw a connection with each one of them? What does she do to engage, enlighten and empower all students in her class? There is a scene in the movie where she tries to teach her students essay writing, all this while they revolt. These are children who do not want to study. They do not connect with the text and don’t see a point as to why they should be reading and studying something completely not related to their lives. This is when a good teacher digresses from the curriculum and tries to make things relevant for her/his students by contextualising what s/he teaches. She hands over journals to each one of these students and asks them to record all the events that have occurred in their lives that have had an impact on them.

    I can’t help but draw a connection to this exact same incident that occurred during one of my field trips in the interiors of Odisha. While conducting a case study, I realised that students of class 9 are made to read topics like ‘My Birthday Party’ and ‘Christmas’. What was dismaying was that these children, belonging to farming families and living in one bedroom kutcha houses had no idea about their own birth dates, let alone having a birthday party. The only festivals they probably knew about and could afford to celebrate were the ones related to the crop harvest and a few followed by Hindus. Why is it that no one makes a conscious effort and tries to contextualize reading for these kids?

    A good teacher is also sacrificing and resilient. Erin faced a lot of opposition from the school authorities in terms of getting books for her students to read or conducting field visits. Known as Mrs. G to her students, she took up two part time jobs to help sponsor her students’ field visits and books. By the end of the school year, Mrs. G was able to get around 35 computers donated for her students in order for them to write abook; all this, at the risk of losing her husband and inviting the displeasure of her fellow teachers. A good teacher fights against all odds and invents new learning models: kinesthetic, auditory and visual. S/he comes up with innovative curriculum emphasising on self- actualisation, tolerance and the active participation of students by building on their common experience to bring learning to life.


    Before all of this, it is of utmost importance for a good teacher to demonstrate leadership qualities and build her/his students’ trust. Erin here demonstrates what it is like to be a true leader. She leads her class against all odds and most of all believes in her students. It is this trust and belief that led to most of her ‘at-risk’ students to work hard and even graduate from school.

    Being a good teacher is all about commitment, setting high expectations from students and building a partnership with the students. A good teacher doesn’t let anyone put her/his students down. S/he listens more and makes her/his students feel at home. It is about how effectively and efficiently the teacher is able to help her/his students reach their highest potential. In the end, it is all about caring and giving thought about each student.

    I leave you all with a soundtrack from the movie. The song portrays the struggles that most of us go through on a daily basis and also gives the listener that small ray of hope to strive and achieve what s/he really wants.

  • Blog

    Beating the Lucknow heat

    “One week on the field! Oh my God”, is what I said to myself looking out of the window in my bedroom. It was getting hot and the only thing that I could think to myself was the enormous amount of work staring at me. The thought made me nervous. I have been out of school for seven years but I must confess that entering the premises of Seth MR Jaipuria School, Lucknow for the first time brought back happy memories. Senior school boys who look older than you, kindergarten students who are no higher than three feet, children playing, loitering in the corridors and just about every miniscule happening in the school brought back the good old school memories.

    Setting foot on a totally unfamiliar territory (at least for me), I walked slowly towards the main building. Making my way inside along with a bunch of UKG students, I started clicking pictures of the junior school girls playing football. This is where I met three boys studying in UKG class. One of them quickly comes up to me and says, “This is the camera I saw on TV!! Will you come to my class and take our pictures?” I graciously accepted the offer and walked right into their yoga class. What a delight it was!

    My work revolved around interacting with the students and teachers. These students, I must admit, are a bunch of really smart, outgoing and most importantly, well-mannered youngsters;right from kindergarten to the senior classes. Shubhang, the school’s Vice Head boy, is pretty satisfied with his teachers. He says, “The methodologies adopted by them have been effective since the time I have been studying here. They have groomed us and have helped us not only in establishing ourselves in the school but also outside the school premises.”

    I also noticed few students wearing a different uniform. I learnt that ‘Nav Sanjivan’ is a parallel school run by Jaipuria which provides free education to children from the underprivileged section of the city. Also taught by Mrs. Anju Wal (Principal, Jaipuria School), the school which provides classes from KG to 4 has a different set of teachers. I had the opportunity to observe a couple of their classes.

    Celebrating Earth Day, the school had arranged for a competition for the students, “Best of Waste”. The students were asked to collect whatever waste material they thought could be re-used. One particular piece of art that drew my attention was a mango tree made with the help of fallen twigs and mangoes cut out from empty ‘Frooti’ packets. The student had depicted the importance of saving the soil in order to avoid the damage of mangoes due to improper and untimely rains. I was delighted when I learnt that quite a few students from this school have gone on to appear for the class 10 exams from Jaipuria school.

    On getting an opportunity to meet the school’s principal, Mrs. Anju Wal, I started talking to her about the school and its work with Educational Innovations. “It has been a rewarding experience for the Jaipuria teachers, all members of the staff and myself particularly.” The school has now found a new way to look at the teaching learning process and is happy to have been able to experience the importance of a child centered learning environment. Ma’am agrees that it is a long process and takes a lot of time to get the students to respond in the right manner and ask them the right questions along with developing critical thinking skills in them.

    Overall, the week-long field trip was a wonderful learning experience for me and the entire EI team. The hands-on classroom experience has definitely added value to our work.

  • Blog

    Using Comics and Graphic Novels as Teaching Learning Tools

    Children have a natural affinity for anything graphic- visual illustrations, comics, cartoons, et al. Gone are the days, when we would reprimand kids for sneaking comic books instead of textbooks, or reading story books instead of completing their Math homework, or watching cartoons instead of drinking milk! Educators and parents have realized the immense potential graphic novels and comics have in developing essential skills- writing, reading, drawing, inking, and having computer coloring skills.

    In my view, graphic novels and comics can completely replace those boring school textbooks with a wall of words, daunting and endless. They can take the role of literature in the classrooms. They have an added advantage as they divide up the text into manageable chunks, which are supported by images. These images help readers increase their vocabulary through the connection between words and images. Comics and graphic novels can be used as a “point of reference” to bridge what students already know with what they have yet to learn. For example, comics and graphic novels can teach about making inference, since there is a small amount of text associated with it. For students who lack the ability to visualize as they read, comics and graphic novels provide for it. Moreover, it provides an excellent way for reluctant writers to communicate a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. I think comics and graphic novels are an excellent vehicle for teaching writing, as a story has to be pared down to its most basic elements. It is easy for the students to look at a short comic strip and identify story elements.

    Comics and graphic novels also encourage readers to explore different genres, and develop an appreciation for different literary and artistic styles, teach positive messages, such as helping others, working to one’s best ability, working as a team, and persevering. They also open a reader’s mind to new ways of storytelling, and increase their imagination, through the unique combination of text and pictures used in comics to convey the story. However, selecting the right comic is very crucial. It has to cater to all the learners and readers in the classroom. But the real daunting task, teacher might have to face, is getting students to actually enjoy reading comics. But given the fact that, children are usually drawn to graphics and cartoons, it would not be very difficult after all.

    So go on, add some drama to your classroom! From Batman’s intensity, to Supandi’s absurdity, from Veronica’s charm to The Hulk’s anger, from Dennis’s menace to Chacha Chaudhury’s wisdom, let your classroom breathe some life and magic!

  • Blog

    Music as a Way of Knowing

    There is simply no denying that music enhances our senses, feelings and energy levels. It creates the desired moods we want to engage in- happy, angry, sad, etc. Essentially it sets the tone for a variety of purposes- from a romantic dinner to loud weddings, from quite sombre outings to jazzy evenings- anything and everything. So, how about using music as a teaching learning tool?

    Despite the immense pressure on teachers and students to accomplish more and more and to do it faster, there is strong rationale to incorporate music in the classroom. Apart from “The Mozart Effect” principle, there are many ways music (or sound to be precise) can help. Through music and movement, children learn acceptable outlets to express feelings and relieve tension. Music may also convey a specific mood through which children reveal their feelings and emotions. Also, there is a connection between music and the development of mathematical thinking. Mathematical concepts are developed as children sing counting songs.Music can create an imaginary world that stimulates a child’s creativity. A box can become a drum, a stick can be transformed into a horn, or a broom can become a dance partner. Children make up songs or give new words to old songs for pure enjoyment. (Imagine, a classroom that lively?!) Music helps to establish a positive learning state to create a desired atmosphere, build a sense of anticipation, energize learning activities, change brain wave states, focus concentration, and increase attention. It also facilitates a multisensory learning experience and helps to release tension, enhance imagination, align groups, develop rapport, provide inspiration and motivation, add an element of fun and accentuate theme-oriented units.

    Now, let me suggest 5 ways for teachers (even those with little or no musical training) to integrate music into the daily life of their classrooms and schools.

    • Teachers can use music and songs for early morning meeting/assembly. They could keep a list of favorite (appropriate) songs posted and ask students to sing together. This will build and enhance a sense of solidarity and group competence.
    • Songs can also be used to reinforce content and facilitate memorization. Rhymes, poems, folksongs, audio aids, can be used to develop vocabulary skills and can also be used as teaching learning tools to teach content.
    • Music is a tool that can be used to help teachers achieve effective and efficient classroom management. The calming effects of music have positive effects on the students when it is introduced into the classroom. Creating a classroom that has low anxiety and stress levels is important to classroom management.Music soothes transitions and soothes tempers, especially in the early elementary grades. There is a long tradition of early childhood educators using songs to support transitions and garner student attention.
    • A great way to give primary-grade students opportunities to play with sounds is to create a music center in the classroom. In these areas, teacher can provide a junk box full of objects which can be made into musical instruments, along with a good set of rhythm instruments. A variety of recorded music should also be accessible. Songbooks and sheet music can be available to introduce children to the musical symbol system. Dancing supplies, such as scarves, jingle bracelets, and ribbon sticks, can add to the fun.
    • Using background music as a tool to limit disruptions and behavior problems is an effective strategy. A recent study found, that music was an effective method to lower behavior problems and increase performance because disruptive students tend to seek constant stimulus. The background music provided the stimulus that they were seeking, and allowed them to concentrate on the task. They also found that instrumental music was the most effective. Music with vocal accompaniment seemed to provide too much stimulus to the students.

    The evidence that music impacts the body and learning suggests that music should be included in classrooms. Music can be included in any classroom, regardless of grade level or subject matter. The power that music can have on learners is extensive; it can benefit students and lead them to higher achievement and development.All children should be given the opportunity to discover and develop an appreciation of music and how it brings people together. And as Nietzsche puts it, “Without music, life would be a mistake”, let’s make learning (life) melodious and musical!

  • Blog

    A New Beginning…

    It was 4 in the morning and I was really nervous and excited to get to the railway station. I had to catch a 6:15 train to Lucknow, the city of nawaabs. This happened to be my first out station work trip at Educational Innovations and my visit to the city as well. Seth M R Jaipuria School recently inaugurated a franchise at Bansal Campus. For this, Educational Innovations was invited to conduct a 2-day workshop on Effective Teaching Learning for the newly recruited teachers of the school.

    Defining their curriculum with the core idea of self-learning, the Jaipuria schools imagine education to be holistic. Our workshop focused on imparting the new teachers with the vision of the Jaipuria schools. It also oriented them with the curriculum development process, the importance of higher order thinking skills and approaches to pedagogy.

    I must admit that I had my inhibitions regarding the teachers at first. These of course were shed once we started interacting and I heard their views on the various topics under discussion in these two days. They were quite vocal about their ideas and contributed their views through the activities and discussions.

    Excusing myself from the workshop, I made my way to the principal’s office. A very warm and welcoming lady, Mrs. Monica Tewari calls herself a man! Having joined the school just a day before our arrival, Mrs. Tewari had a packed schedule meeting parents of prospective students. “The admission process is quite a gigantic task”, she acknowledged.

    I quickly struck up a conversation with Monica ma’am, having shared a similar personal background. Talking about her experience, she shared her plans and vision for the Jaipuria School, Bansal Campus. She is very sure as to how she wants her mentors (teachers) to perform in school. Mentors are expected to share their ideas and views on different teaching practices in their staff work station. More than anything, for Mrs. Tewari, it is of utmost importance that a teacher listens first and dictates later.

    A hard task master, Mrs. Monica Tewari agrees that there is a lot to be done in the school; systems have to come in place and challenges need to be overcome. For her, a student revolves around her/his school, home and tuitions. Mrs. Tewari’s focus lies on making the Bansal campus students say no to tuitions! The school is going to undertake counselling sessions for the parents as well as teachers along with providing a lot of diagnostic tools to assess the child.

    She believes in the philosophy of treating the student as a plain white paper who can be shaped by the teacher. The teacher in turn will be made to appreciate each student just the way s/he is. Getting rid of punishments completely, Mrs. Tewari wants to imbibe a mix of modern technology with Indian culture into the school learning environment.

    We continued chatting about our experiences for a while. Just then, a knock on her door was a reminder for me to take her leave as there were a group of parents waiting for Monica ma’am. It was then that I was told that the number of admissions had risen to 175 from 92 in a day. Wishing the principal good luck for the admissions and the new school session, I quickly made my way out towards the workshop room where the participants shared their excitement about the curriculum development process and its implementation. Their zeal and eagerness assured me that they indeed were. Well, so were we!

  • Blog

    Learning Science through Stories

    We all grow up hearing stories from our elders about so many different things. Stories form the key to child’s learning especially during elementary stages. They capture a child’s imaginations in the text. Children of all ages love when learning happens in a narrative way through stories. One can teach so many concepts to a child easily through stories.

    angry_birdsIt is, however, interesting to know why one should teach science by stories. For me, both science and stories are big mystery bags which one unveils as one goes deeper into both of them. While stories answer for the emotional side of the brain, science answers for its rational side. However, one rarely sees a science teacher using story as a stimulus for teaching any concept.

    I feel stories are easier for children to remember and understand than a list of new facts and terms taught to them in isolation. Stories act as a wonderful link to connect scientific concepts to real life situations. For example, concepts like force and work taught in complete isolation may seem difficult to understand for a child. Yet, the same concept taught through a story where characters are in different situations, applying force and dealing with its reaction, allows a child to comprehend the scientific aspect well.

    Stories can also be used to explain concepts that cannot be taught in the classroom environment. For example, it is very difficult to teach plant adaptations in the classroom especially for those plants that may not be naturally available in that particular habitat. Using stories for such a topic will help children to discover the features of those plants.

    Stories are also a wonderful way of introducing new vocabulary to children. Children tend to retain words more in their active vocabulary that they hear in the stories.

    The most important skills of inquiry science i.e. observation, drawing inferences and thus creating a hypothesis can be developed very easily through stories and narrative texts. This and many other skills of science can be developed in a child with the help of stories. What is important is selecting contextual and age-appropriate stories for the child and you will see improvement in how a child perceives scientific concepts and how easily s/he connects to them.

    I am sharing a link which has a few examples of stories to teach some science concepts to get you started. So, take your folktales and fables to the classroom and enjoy the experience of teaching science in a fun yet informative manner.

    http://learningcenter.nsta.org/files/PB333X1web.pdf

  • Blog

    More Power to Education

    “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

    Clearly, even fanatics and terrorists have understood this and they intend to sabotage the cause of education, especially education of the girl child. For decades now, we have seen this felony getting legitimised by the Taliban in Afghanistan, killing or punishing by throwing acid on women who dared to seek education; in Pakistan, when the Taliban shot Malala Yousufzai in the head for being ‘unislamic’ and attending school!

    But the most gross and the latest, is the abduction of around 300 school girls aged 9-15 years in Nigeria by the terrorist group, ‘Boko Haram’. Boko Haram translates as “western education is a sin”. Rarely, has a name revealed so much! In full notoriety, they kidnapped the girls in their sleep from their boarding school and fled with them to unknown locations. In a video released recently, the chief of the group claimed responsibility and threatened to sell ‘your’ girls in the ‘market by Allah’.

    So, what is so scary about women seeking education? Like Mandela puts it, education can change the world. It can change everything. It can turn patriarchy on its head and transform society. According to an article that featured in The New York Times, educating the feminine force actually changes demography! For every 1 percentage point increase in the share of the population aged 15 to 24, the risk of civil war increases by 4 percent. That means, curbing birthrates tends to lead to stability, and that's where educating girls comes in. You educate a boy, and he'll have fewer children, but it's a small effect. You educate a girl, and, on average, she will have a significantly smaller family. Another study found that, for each additional year of primary school, a girl has 0.26 fewer children. Also, educated women add to the working force. According to the World Bank, educating a girl child leads to an increase in infant survival rates and reduction in maternal deaths. Educated women marry at a later age; make use of birth control measures and maternal health services. They provide better nutrition to the family and better health care. Educated women also understand the importance of sending children to school, without discriminating against girls. Simply put, educating a girl can actually break the poverty cycle for future generations as well.

    Now, that is something that should really scare the fanatics. And scared they are. No wonder they intend to sell the kidnapped girls as slaves, for reasons best known to them, slavery and prostitution are not as sinful as education is! Boko Haram has a stronghold in northeastern Nigeria because it's an area where education is weak and women are marginalised. Some two-thirds of women in the region have had no formal education. Only 1 in 20 has completed high school. Half are married by the age of 15.

    Huge amount of finances are doled out every year by almost all developing countries to increase growth rates, counter terrorist activities, test missiles, look for alien life, building infrastructure, etc. How about funding the cause of education?

    In a nation like India, where man-hood is divine and female foeticide is the norm, how much can we gain by ignoring education and worshipping growth rates which can hardly do anything for human development? Can we? Let’s think about it.

    As of now, let’s just try and #BringBackOurGirls.

  • Blog

    Tackling Ignorance through Awareness


    Image source: www.mapsofindia.com

    Nido Taniam, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, who was mercilessly beaten up by locals in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar and then died in a hospital, was just 19 years old. His death has yet again highlighted the question that raises its head very rarely in our country- racial profiling of the people from India's north-east (NE). Not entering the debate on whether we are a racist country or not (let’s leave it to TV news channels), let us examine our ignorance towards people from the NE. It’s easy to condemn racism. But how can you condemn someone who is ignorant, ignorant for no fault of his. I firmly believe, ignorance or lack of awareness is the root cause of this ‘hatred’ towards people from the NE.

    The other day, I was asked if I was really from the North-East. Perhaps, my ‘non-tribal’ appearance confused people. I replied, “I am from Assam.” The person in question, looked confused for some time before saying, “Aah that’s why!” Even as I was wondering what to make of that comment, he remarked that since I was from Assam, which is the most mainstream among the other NE states, that, I was not a ‘chinki’, a colloquial for anybody with

    south Asian features. Another time, my tailor who masquerades as a ‘know it all’ sometimes, observed that the river Ganga itself becomes the river Brahmaputra in Assam. I corrected him duly, but then he also thought that ‘NE’ was a single state, that I quit feeding him facts. (He is a BA pass, FYI). Another time, when I was a newbie in Delhi, I was mocked, asking if my father liked drinking tea, or selling (for clearly everyone who lived in Assam was associated with either tea or bamboo!). My friends too have encountered questions like if there were any airports back home, or if they rode atop rhinos to go to schools (which I thought was hilarious). I do not blame anyone. Most people are ignorant, some are intrigued, and others just plain curious. But what is that we are not being able to accomplish here? Why are we as a nation producing such ignorant people? What makes us racist? Are we racist? Has vote bank politics anything to do with it? What is it with respect to education that we ought to do?<

    Let’s get cracking about the last question. So what is the deal with education (or lack of it) that we are so ignorant and eventually a racist population? India is a diverse country. We all know that. Even school going kids know that. Is it merely enough to offer lip service to this diversity by including incomprehensive and incomplete information? I believe we need elaborate discussions and debates on what is meant by diversity. Discourses on the NE are conspicuous by its absence in school textbooks and syllabi. There is hardly any information about the socio-economical, geographical and historical realities of these eight states. Students need to be aware of the multicultural nature of our country. Therefore the need of the hour is to include regional discourses, literature and other folk tales into the mainstream curricula and be more proactive, so that a democratic education can be achieved. Teachers should make instruction "culturally responsive" for all students by not favoring one group over another. Teachers should structure their teaching to acknowledge different perspectives. For example, while discussing Indian history, it may be beneficial to incorporate parallel discourses of both the NE and the ‘mainstream’ India. An environment based on tolerance and mutual respect should be promoted. Teachers should be empowered to be able to teach effectively and ensure that sophisticated, tasteful learners who respect multiculturalism, heterogeneity and plurality are fashioned. Teachers, themselves should understand and respect the multi-cultural roots of their student, thus fashioning an environment built on mutual respect and trust. To create a positive environment where students and teachers are respectful of different backgrounds, even the schools have to be proactive and stop being political entities.

    To curb racial bias and violence, needs a step by step approach and is not just a law and order issue. It is much more cultural and social than that. It, therefore, needs a well-planned and studied approach and not any easy quick solution will do the trick. My vote goes to more awareness and some accommodation! What do you vote for?

  • Blog

    Is gender discrimination a by-product of education?

    A sense of ambiguity overpowers me whenever I encounter something that comes under the umbrella of gender discrimination. It submerges me into a pool of thoughts and questions. I have personally not experienced the way it is talked about publically or politically. I belong to a family dominated by girls. I have studied in a co-ed school and an all-girls college. Dialogues like ‘itnapadhkekyakarogi tum, akhirkarni to shaadi hi hai’ or ‘kyaladkiyonkitarahroraha hai’coming from a male/female teacher is alien to me. But somewhere down the line I know it is ubiquitous. Students are vying with this all the time, perhaps.

    I believe that we need to ponder about the nitty-gritties of it more holistically. Does gender discrimination means one set of people who are defined as ‘males’ discriminating against second set of people defined as ‘women’ or are there more layers to it? Whatever the case may be, the fact remains intact that it exists and its corollary is precarious. Now, here I would like to dig further to reveal the stakeholders of gender discrimination. Education, (here it connotes school education solely) I feel is one of the primary stakeholders in either aggravating or combating gender discrimination through implementing some very simple rules. Whenever we talk about something as opaque as this and juxtapose it with education, mostly, social science departments or classes on moral sense are indirectly targeted and sometimes even accused. While other departments like science, math and languages etc. wipe off the onus from their shoulders.

    Let’s see some examples to understand how gender discrimination ensues in a school. When a kindergarten teacher divides the class into two groups namely girls and boys; when a PT teacher mostly asks girls to play badminton and boys football; when a Math teacher comments on the abilities of girls and boys pertaining to the skills required to perform the sums; when the principal reprimands boys on their notoriety demanding them to learn something from girls or on the anti-social behaviour of girls and blame the manifestation as over growing friendship between girls and boys; when a teacher alleges girls if their behaviour is akin to boys like running around or wearing loose tie or the most common of it being sitting with legs open; all of them wittingly or unwittingly segregate the group thus normalizing discrimination and naturalizing the unequal, unjust environment. These indicators of inequitable environment in which children learn and develop eventually sabotage children’s mindset. Children grow in this fabricated environment of school and absorb this sort of prejudice in their brains so religiously that it has permanent impact on their thoughts and ideas.
    Let’s halt a little and try to answer- Is it only the teachers or different departments of the school who are responsible? Can schools help in getting rid of this inequality? Amidst all this inequality what is the child learning? Will not this child who has grown within such an environment manifest the same in future with the next generation? Isn’t this a vicious circle that will keep on moving till a full stop is put?

    May be if the learning generation is given a just environment it will thus create the same in future and gradually this inequality can vanish or may be its just a myth and we can never get rid of gender discrimination. I think we know the answer; a firm step is what is required.

    Succinctly, I would like to say that the whole education/school system needs to relook at their ways of formation of the enriching and holistic environment for children whose personality they claim to shape and whose behavior they entitle to transform through modern techniques and international methods. The impact of school and the teachers or adults is immense and it should be used effectively to transform children. Gender discrimination should not be a by-product of education and everyone in the school should be wary of it.

    Think and act!

  • Blog

    Raise your hands and pat your backs

    This school visit for me was a very different one. To start off with, this was my first Effective-Teaching Learning workshop and unlike my other visits, this was not in either of the NISA schools. The students of DAV Sreshtha Vihar, fondly called the Sreshthas, are a whole bunch of enthusiastic young adults. I unfortunately did not get a chance to interact with them due to the on-going examinations. This branch of DAV was established in 1989 and has successfully completed 25 years of its existence. Belonging to the third largest chain of schools in India, DAV Sreshtha Vihar surely lives up to its expectations.

    Walking through the corridors of the academic block, something that gained my attention was the gayatri mantra:

    Om Bhurv Bhuva Swaha
    Tatsavitur Vareniyam
    Vargo Dewa Syadhi Mahi
    Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayat

    It is believed that if a person does the work given to him by chanting this mantra and instituting it within oneself, his/her life will be full of happiness. Keeping faith in this belief, the Sreshthas strive to become Sarv Sreshthas.

    The school’s leadership has committed itself to teacher training and wants its teachers to be empowered to be able to handle and solve the prevalent shortcomings in the classrooms. The school’s principal Mrs. Prem Lata Garg is a visionary, Mrs. Garg understands and accepts the need for Curriculum Development. It was quite enlightening to see the school leadership and teachers being so open to learning and implementing the changes.”

    Nivedita Ganguli, the school’s Counselling Psychologist, has lots of expectations from EI’s Effective Teaching Learning workshops. She feels that the workshop has created awareness on various aspects of teaching methodologies which was not present before. For her, a lot of classroom problems can be minimised if only the teachers’ capabilities are strengthened. “And ultimately what matters is that it should be a happy classroom”, says Nivedita.

    I also had the opportunity to interact with a few teachers post the workshop. Here is what Ms Preeti Singh had to say:


    I regret not being able to meet the students. Considering the level of enthusiasm and openness that the teachers possess, I only wonder how lively DAV’s students are. I look forward to meeting them some day.
    I have spent around two years in the field of education. Never have I seen a group so enthusiastic and driven towards teaching. It was heart-warming to interact with teachers who were really passionate about their profession, who wanted to make a difference in their students’ lives and who readily accepted their shortcomings and were willing to change the way they taught and evaluated their students. I have never appreciated the profession much. But I will now. There is a need for all of us to realise that the profession of teaching is not merely a back-up option for everyone. There are indeed a few who teach because of their love for the profession and because they feel and understand the need for quality teaching.

     

  • Blog

    Innovation and Instruction - A Good Teacher

    bookA good teacher is a spontaneous innovator. He often puts in new devices and techniques of formal and informal instruction. He also realises the importance of individual attention and invests time to engage himself in personal conversations with his pupils.

  • The Good Teacher Series

    Knower of Reality

    A good teacher knows reality and is able to distinguish between appearances and reality. Having known reality he should wish to uplift those who still live in the bondage of ignorance.

    A good teacher seeks pupils, even as a good pupil seeks a good teacher.

  • Field Notes

    T for Tiger

    “There is no way in hell that I am going to reach on time today!” I have had a very flustering morning. The taxi I booked last night was cancelled at the last moment and I have had to make numerous calls to the taxi agency to get the cab re-booked. Finally, after making 10 calls and being sent a taxi half an hour late, I could not help but worry about what my boss would say to me. The traffic, coupled with the fact that none of us knew the way to our destination, I struggled to get the directions for Mr. Rajesh Malhotra’s school on the phone. I couldn’t help but picture the school’s locality in my mind. Remember how I had written about the school in Shahdara that I had visited a few weeks back? Well that does not even stand to compare to Tigri Extension.

    Tigri is a well-populated area and is surrounded by establishments of the Air Force, BSF and CRPF. Driving down noisy congested roads before taking off on foot and surviving being crushed by a tempo, I tried retracing my steps to Sai Nath Public school through the narrow gullies of the colony on the second day. Now my main motive to visit these schools is to get an idea about its origin and the colony’s socio-economic environment, a slight hint of which I got when I ventured out of the school’s gate to get a few shots of the entrance. Ignoring the staring and hooting, I decided to carry on with my work.

    As I made my way back into the school again, I noticed a kindergarten class right next to the main gate. It was heart-warming to see a bunch of four year olds in their formative years, so eager to learn their first alphabets. I quietly go and park myself behind these kids. But it wasn’t for long that they noticed me and were awed by my camera. There is something about children. They are happy to pose for you at any given time of the day!

    As I strike up a conversation with Malhotra sir, I am told that he is a defence brat and I am unable to control my excitement. So sir and I start talking about the places we spent our childhood in before ending up in Delhi. Malhotra sir’s father was in the Air Force before he took a pre mature retirement in 1980 and decided to settle in Tigri, right opposite the Air Force Vayusenabadh. The family bought a piece of land and established the school which got registered in the early 90s before finally being recognised in 1996 by the Directorate of education. Found by Rajesh Malhotra’s mother, Mrs Kamlesh Malhotra, the school is run by the Sai Education Society and has two branches. The primary school, Sai Public School, is recognised till class 5 and Sai Nath Public School is upto class 8.

    An alumnus of the Air Force Bal Bharti school, Rajesh Malhotra calls himself a student leader by fluke. Malhotra sir worked in the NGO sector extensively before joining the school in 2008. He feels that there is an urgent need for upgrading the skills of the teachers. “There are a lot of old teachers whose skills are rusting and eroding, which of course is a natural process. They are the backbones of the school and what we need is to motivate them.”

    Recognising the need for quality teaching and management skills, Mr. Malhotra became one of the founding members of the NISA initiative. He has recently been introduced to the ISLI (Indian School Leadership Institute) which trains school managers and leaders on leadership and teaching skills for a year. The selection is a long process. Mr. Malhotra is hopeful that he gets through the programme. “There is a huge gap between thinking of something and actually executing it. ISLI will help me manage things in a better way. And I will in turn be able to transfer these skills to my teachers.”

    His dissatisfaction with the teachers is quite evident. He wants the teachers to think and come up with new teaching techniques. “Only lecturing is not fruitful. That is why the NISA- Educational Innovations workshop. I know how these workshops are going to help both the teachers and students. These teachers, the ones who are going to help with the lesson plans, are going to be different teachers once they are out of this training.”

    Mr. Malhotra agrees, “A lot of my teachers come up with constructivist ideas but only wishful thinking won’t help. Sometimes language becomes a barrier. That is one reason why I keep stressing on the English language during these sessions. It is very important for our students to learn the usage of proper grammar. Thoughts have to be paired with language skills.”

    As I try to grasp the needs of this school in terms of teacher training and curriculum development, I can hear a faint noise from one of the junior classrooms, “T for Tiger, U for Umbrella…” It is 12:30 pm. The bell rings in the courtyard, I can hear the children say their afternoon prayers before leaving to go back home. Tomorrow is going to be a usual day for them. I wonder if these students will be able to benefit from the various initiatives that their school’s leadership is initiating. How much time will that take you ask? Well only time and implementation will tell that.

  • Blog

    Learning is Recollection - A Good Teacher

    bookThe pupil has an inherent drive in his being and it is the task of the teacher to allow the pupil the freedom to grow and develop at his own pace.
    For a good teacher, there is no such thing as teaching, only recollection.

    MENO: I see, Socrates. But what do you mean when you say that we don’t learn anything, but that what we call learning is recollection? Can you teach me that it is so?

    SOCRATES: I have just said that you’re a rascal, and now you ask me if ii can teach you, when I say there is no such thing as teaching, only recollection. Evidently you want to catch me contradicting myself straightaway.

    MENO: No, honestly, Socrates, I wasn’t thinking of that. It was just by habit. If you can in any way make clear to me that what you say is true, please do.

    SOCRATES: It isn’t an easy thing, but still I should like to do what I can since you ask me…

    SOCRATES: This knowledge will not come from teaching but from questioning. He will recover it for himself.

    MENO: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And the spontaneous recovery of knowledge that is in him is recollection isn’t it?

    MENO: Yes.
    (From Plato, Protagoras and Meno, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985, pp. 130-138)

  • Blog

    Red Brick Bylanes and Lesson Plans

    Driving along the crowded and dusty roads of Guwahati reminded me so much about my home town in the Western Ghats. A stunning rocky hillock towering on the left, patchy forests on the right, fresh vegetables piled in round cane baskets, Guwahati town felt quaint and rich.

    As the road weaved up and down the inclines, my dreamy mind took off on a hike. Soon the taxi stopped in front of Modern English School (MES) – my destination had arrived. In the red mud and brick by-lanes of Guwahati, MES does not physically surprise you in any way. The old walls, un-plastered building, unkept pathways are for all to see. But, all that aside, when you enter, there is an unmissable inspirational whiff in the air.

    Stoned to the world, the bustle of the street was still ringing in my ears. I briskly walked through the corridors, greeting teachers and kids. The energy and positivity in this school has always been child-like. The down-to-earth tone is overpowering. It doesn’t take time for the humility to rub off.

    Our curriculum development project in MES has been on for a while now. The aim is to reimagine teaching-learning for grades 6 to 8 – all subjects included. However, the honeymoon phase of WOW and AWESOME is over now. A mountain of work is staring at us (meaning all of us, EI team, MES school leadership, the CD team teachers).

    On this visit, a lot had to be accomplished – timelines to be planned, project progress to be assessed, concerns to be voiced, lesson flows to be mapped, lesson plan reviews to be shared – the list can go on and on.

    Besides all that, one of my chief motives for taking the flight to Guwahati, is to interact with Pankaj and Jonali. Here’s why - Jonali, the principal of the school, is one of the most unassuming human beings I have ever met – demure, intelligent, well read and a very insightful person. She also holds a Masters degree in Education from the University of South Hampton, UK. Pankaj, a doting husband first and then the Director of the school is so passionate about improving the quality of teaching-learning; it is infectious. With sheer enthusiasm and decisiveness he ensures that you feel as committed and motivated to work.

    And not to be left behind are their ‘every-ready’ band of teachers – it is not very often that you come across teachers who are equally passionate about teaching and are willing to match steps with the school leadership.

    My discussions with Pankaj and Jonali have ranged from constructivist theories, William Dylan’s views on formative assessment, Andrew Pollard’s compilation for a reflective teacher to the politics of education in Assam. I thoroughly enjoy these interactions and on this visit was happy to be a part of another such informing discussion. This time it was on lesson planning.

    Mushrooming education companies in the metros have put the spotlight on lesson planning like never before. It is considered fancy and a must-have for schools these days. But here at MES we were attempting to empower teachers to do the same. Having reached the lesson planning stage, we were discussing the instructional detailing in the lesson plans. The central questions were – how much detail is too much detail? Or is there anything called too much detail? How detailed should the instructions be?

    I pulled out 3 samples of the same lesson plan written in 3 different ways. 1. Very directive, explicit and clear. 2. Very concise, offering a gist and direction to the teacher and 3. Was sometime in between – neither too explicit, nor too brief. Jonali also pulled out some samples and we also photo-copied another plan created by a leading curriculum development company. So we had 5 samples to compare.

    Jonali and I reminisced about how originally when the concept came about, the ‘ideal’ school teachers would write their own lesson plans and therefore the instructional clarity did not matter. I totally agree: at the end of the day, it is just a few teaching ideas arranged in sequence for the teacher’s reference.

    But given the perils of teaching (number of classes, students etc.) in India, teachers often did not have the time, energy or wherewithal to engage is such a creative exercise. And therefore the plans have to be created. Luckily this time it was being created by teachers of MES itself.

    Anyways, coming back to the central questions, after half hour of thrashing out, we realized that there can’t exist one-fit-for-all answer to these questions. The level of detailing is directly linked to the proficiency of the teachers. A highly evolved teacher would perhaps get put off by an acutely directed plan which constantly told him/her what to do and say – in that case a summary of ideas would do. However, a teacher in the beginning years of work could feel empowered with a detailed plan that explains to her each and every step. Given these variables, often times, giving either end of the spectrum what they would not appreciate is road to disaster. Ultimately if they are too challenging or too handheld - the usage of the plan will depend on which audience it is being presented to. We neither want to spoon feed nor stifle an able teacher. Of course we do not want to leave the beginner teacher directionless.

    Therefore understanding the target teacher audience is critical in the curriculum development space I feel. It baffles me to believe that there can be one-size fit lesson plans out there for purchase.

    Anyways, post our loud discussion, it felt like I had a halo around my head ;-). Needless to say, we chose option 3 for MES lesson plans.

    As I head back to Delhi, my memories of the school leave me so inspired to continue work in this space. The warm sunshine of Guwahati, bright young and open mindsets of people I interacted with and a restless energy to make a difference to how students learn – I hope these winds blow towards Delhi. Hello! Anybody listening?

  • Blog

    Good Teacher Series - VI


    A good teacher trains his pupils in all things good, teaches them to hold knowledge fast, speaks well of them to their friends and companions and guards his pupils from danger.
    I now will turn the wheel of the excellent Law,
    For this purpose I am going to that city if Varanasi,
    To give light to those enshrouded in darkness,
    And to open the gate of Immorality to men.



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