Saturday, August 27, 2022

Connections, growth stories and possibilities!

 I work in a progressive school which believes in small classroom sizes, individual attention, in the paradigm that each child can learn, and to give special attention to those who don't get ATTENTION at home. 

Recently some ex students of the school shared some memories from their school days. Right now they are in respectable positions and doing well in life. They credit their success to the attention and care they got in their beginning years in this school. I was the person collecting these stories and these stories moved me. A common thread in them was the feeling of being at HOME that they felt in this space. The feeling to be themselves authentically, to take up challenges knowing that they have someone to take their back if they fail.  The teachers at this school fill in this gap by being the HOME in a way that every child feels secure, comfortable in this space, they don't have to act to be someone else, no need to impress their adults, infact they can just be, they can be curious, they can touch, feel, talk and move which they are not allowed in other spaces like their homes maybe or other schools. This is also because our philosphy has been built after extensive research done by the founders. This school is their way of activism. 

Coming back to my present teaching days. I teach English in Class Nursery to Class 5.

Some of my case studies from last 1 year..

1. When Ansh was a new student in our school, he liked being loud, noisy, run around, pick up fights, and complain about others. We didn't complain or blame. We tried connecting with him and gave him the same attention like others, fast forward three months of schooling and  he has become one of the calmest boys, he loves wishing his teacher when she comes in class, loves to write in his copies, draws a variety of things and cooperates well. He trusts the adults around him and doesn't feel the need to be loud or complain about others. He is getting his needed attention and care.

2. Radhika and Lehar, 7 year old girls, study in Class 3. They did online teaching in class 1 and  class 2 like all other students as covid cases were rising. They couldn't attend and understand the classes very well, could barely write anything in copies. Move forward to class 3. They have attended 8 months of consistent teaching. They are self learners. They like doing their tables, write delicious stories and have a lot of questions for everyone. Connection with the teacher and the real space was so important. Those who speak in favour of online teaching for younger children don't understand their needs at all or have forgotten how they were at that age. 

3. Akshi, a 9 year old child in class 4 is lagging behind in her writing assignments. There is lot of scope of improvement in her work. What has beautifully developed is her self confidence, ability to smile and give a reply. When asked about the feelings about a particular class , she confidently said she felt bored. It is usually difficult for her to reply in English, it still feels foreign to her but sharing that the class was a little boring and not feeling that she would be reprimanded for it , is an achievement for both. She could verbalize how she felt.

4. When asked who their best friend is, none of the children in Class 2 and class 3, could name only 1 friend. All of them said  names of 2 or 3 classmates as every day they work in pairs or in groups and they have developed a relationship with many of their classmates that they cannot name only 1 child as their best friend. It has to be more than 1. Teaching cooperation, team work and no comparison with others, the effect of this is visible in so many ways. 

These are just some case studies. They do not let me sleep at night because they keep me happy  at the possibilites each one has to grow and learn. These children will be able to live a happy and fulfilled life. There is this space which really values them and also values  that which is  inside them and wants to come out. These children feel seen, heard and cherished every day. They are developing high self esteem and self worth. 

Excited to start another day at The Southpoint School!

Teacher and learning activist

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Our new Café manager pens her feelings about a kitchen staff member

I have never met anyone like Rita didi before. Well, in these three months I definitely can't vouch that I know a lot about her but whatever I know about her is enough for me to be amazed by her professionalism, her poise and her love for cooking. When I was new she hand-held me and taught me how to do accounts. I used to make so many mistakes; she would patiently tolerate me and maybe she wondered in what hands the café has been given to.

Whatever work I talked about, she did it instantaneously without any procrastination. Tried new recipes, showed all the interest in cake decorations. One day we had to bake a cake for one of our staff member’s son’s birthday and I hesitated using frosting because then it would make it more expensive and it was being sold for a subsidized rate. She chose not to listen to me and make a frosting to decorate it her own way. I felt so small in front of her and in front of the way NIRMAN operates. All that had to be done was to whip up a little bit of butter with a little bit of sugar with a lot of love.

I could see that love in her for her colleague and his child. Didn’t cost us too much anyway. She takes initiatives, tells me what has to be done how. I rely on her. I am her baby. I cant do much without her neither can I do much without the other staff members.

The world is unfair at large. If she would have been well educated she could have been some company’s CEO, who knows.

- Gunjan

(manager, The Southpoint Café)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Challenging to challenge!

 At Vidyashram we make the process of learning fun and that too without compromising the learning objectives. In the past week I used crossword puzzles as fun and engaging tool for revising the geography chapters with class 6th,7th and 8th.

The processes of solving crossword puzzle gets the child to carefully read the hints and makes them look up for word meaning to completely understand the hint, all this effort is put to reach to the reword! the missing word. A challenge they face sometimes is to spell the word correctly and hence a deliberate effort to recheck the spellings is put, since a wrong spelling could lead them to a dead end with next connected word in the puzzle.

Solving a crossword puzzle related to the ongoing chapter was fun and children enjoyed it, but taking up a challenge is not challenging enough! So we decided to create our own crossword puzzles and put it up as a challenge to others. Since challenging someone is more fun!

In the process of making a difficult crossword puzzle children did not just stick to the book but went back to other reading materials and class notes that were provided to them.

Knowing the correct answer is one of indicators of the fact that the child has an understanding of the topic being covered but formulating clever (intelligent) questions from the topic indicates and provides a broader learning opportunity i.e clarity of the concept as well as ability to write it with clarity. Formulating the hints for the crossword puzzles gave the children the opportunity to play with words and come out with interesting and challenging hints.

To sum it up, the puzzle making activity was as engaging as it could be, keeping the children busy with writing work is a challenge and it becomes easy when integrated games and puzzles.

It was great sharing with you all about my class room update here. Will come back with more soon!

Thank you!


(English and Social Studies teacher, classes 6-10)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Our Rituals

I have a personal ritual that I have created with my daughter. Every night, when we are tucked in bed, we say our gratitude prayer to our Creator. I say five things I am grateful for and my 7 year old daughter says five things she is grateful for. I love this exercise. My daughter comes up with very amazing things, such as one of the days she said about different colours of people and that she is grateful that some are dark, some fair and there are so many differences to celebrate. I had created this exercise with an  intention, to help her see how many things we already have and we don’t need new clothes or toys to feel happy as false advertising on television always promotes and children start believing it.

She is a student of Vidyashram-The Southpoint School. At Southpoint there are various rituals that children learn and follow in class. A ritual is any practice that is done everyday consistently so that it becomes part of our consciousness, it becomes a habit.  These rituals teach them to be responsible and active beings of their immediate environment. Some of the rituals include arranging own desks, cleaning own desks and chairs, cleaning up one’s own spaces such as classrooms and play areas. Such simple rituals are very powerful ones. They solve many problems existing in our country that of patriarchy, value of work done by hands, gender discrimination, waste that humans create and how to manage them.

If each child picks up the right habits, he becomes an active and contributory citizen. 

- Harshita

(Preschool and Primary school teacher; publicist)