Are there qualities we could imbibe and make teaching-learning meaningful?
A student once asked me, ‘What inspired you to become a teacher?’ From my perspective, every woman has inbuilt qualities of a teacher that includes love, compassion, passion, dedication, sense of duty, responsibility and the list is limitless. As the saying goes, a mother is the first teacher of the child. And, in my life, the process of teaching-learning enhanced when I became a mother (of two children). Yes, all mothers are considered good teachers, but I also realized that there are certain skills essential to teaching and need to be learned too. I learned these as I began my journey at Ekya and with my little ones at Montessori and Kindergarten.
I wanted to explore my horizon as a teacher, and my career kick-started as a Montessori adult at Ekya Schools. The number of professional development sessions, orientations, and other programs organized for teachers at Ekya helped me boost my confidence and grow personally and professionally. Understanding the Montessori approach and methodology helped me gain skills and knowledge to facilitate students’ learning and development, but true learning to me came with an intense experience of working with children. Inspiration is a big word I say, the true love and admiration I received from the children from my journey as a Montessori Facilitator to a Coordinator have indeed helped me gain a great learning experience.
I began to ponder over a few questions like; what do we need to expect from children or what do we want our children to learn? This made me think further and I was able to realize that we want our children to learn basic qualities such as honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, and love for all. Actually, all children are born with these great qualities and all that we have to do is to nurture and strengthen them day by day. Children give true love and admiration to teachers and these are not deliberately taught to them! These come naturally to them.
At Ekya, the curriculum is designed with an emphasis on our children not just learning concepts or skills of varied subjects but developing an enduring understanding of them and applying them in the practical world. The exposure students receive with the “Quest” – an inquiry-based and experiential learning program helps them develop the confidence to express themselves.
Besides academics, there is an emphasis on personal development too. Every child is unique, and how to nurture each child with self- discipline is what I learnt at Ekya by adopting “Social Contract”. This approach to self-management is built on an agreement between the class teacher and students who together decide an appropriate set of consequences and rewards and take the responsibility of abiding by norms they have set for themselves.
Times have changed and so has education. Earlier, one would never consider the education of 3 to 6 years olds seriously. Parents would send these little ones to school only to play and socialize, sing some rhymes, learn ABC, and numbers 1 to 10. Today, we see a great transition, and the kids have proved themselves in participating in varied experiences in these initial years that are crucial for their growth and development – physical, mental, and emotional.
To cite an example, during this time of pandemic when the whole world went topsy turvy and the education system too got a huge setback- As the saying goes, learning never stops at Ekya, and the immense training paid off. Teachers took over online sessions with grace and the little ones adapted to these easily by learning how to handle the computer system or following norms during virtual classes. They demonstrated and proved that they belong to the futuristic approach to schooling. Their energies keep the teachers rocking and moving ahead strongly in facing various difficulties and contribute to building a safe society.
Children have taught me immensely. I feel I have learned many things by observing them learn and adapt to various situations so naturally.
I have learned how to make learning experiences purposeful, relatable, and enjoyable. In technology, I have learned the use of a variety of teaching tools and strategies to cater to different learners. I have learned to be more organized in creating a positive class environment and a strong culture; in planning and executing lesson plans and expecting learning outcomes continuously. I have learned how students are reaping the benefits of academics as well as outdoor activities in the sandpit and play area. I have learned how they are developing attitudes of sharing and care towards their environment and peers. I have also realized how sharing and caring, showing empathy, knowledge, and resources with each other is a valuable thing to do. Last, but not least, I have learned how students take part in competitions with a spirit to participate rather than winning.
I am glad to be a part of this prestigious institution which has helped me grow professionally. From just being a mother, now I feel I have widened my horizon, raised my aspirations, and above all being able to touch the lives of many children (beyond my two at home). I cherish this transition from a homemaker to a professional and continue to be open to learning valuable lessons of life from children and the environment around.
I feel immensely proud and blessed as I watch my children growing up imbibing these nurturing qualities, my students growing effortlessly and valuing my teachings, and also my pre-primary team which welcomed me as a Coordinator and allowed me to be part of them, to mentor them and to nurture the little ones along with them. My journey from a Mother to a passionate Teacher and now a Coordinator in facilitating quality and meaningful education to all children continues.
Vijaya Lakshmi A
Pre Primary Coordinator
Every life has a starting point. Mine was at the paper factory. No actually, my life started as a tree, in a beautiful evergreen forest. I was a small spruce tree amongst my family who by the record, was more than eighty feet taller than me though our age difference was about thirty years. We all stood rooted together and had small conversations with our neighbors, the pines, the hemlocks, the balsams, and many others. We spoke about many things generally, but one dark topic was about these malicious creatures, umm, they were called byumens, no, ah HUMANS!! Legends believed that these creatures were the cruelest of all…. They cut trees down and put us in some big, sharp gigantic cave-like place where we were made into some kind of thin layers called Paper. Well, I met the same fate; I was bunched together and one of my sides was pinned together and “Diary” was written on me. Thus, my new life began, without my family, without my friends, without anybody, or so I thought.
I was placed in a big, bright place where I stayed, alone for weeks. But one fine day, a young pretty-looking human, came towards me and kept staring at me. She picked me up, smiled widely, and took me to her house, hugging me during the entire journey. I was placed in between a few other books on a shelf, and they were all amiable on my arrival and made me feel homely. There were many books, but each had different titles… One said “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, another said “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “Divergent” and so on. That night, the girl came into the room all cheerily, shut the door, picked me up, and the smile from her face eventually faded away. She started speaking to me, which I understood surprisingly, as we weren’t of the same species, but she doesn’t fit the description of my parents about humans. Her name was Cora, and she was the nicest creature I have ever met.
She told me secrets that she never disclosed to anyone. Her parents were entrepreneurs, and their latest project failed which led to a sudden drop in their financial status. One night, Cora heard her mother wailing and asking her father what to do about Cora’s school and future. On hearing this, she was heartbroken and decided to do something to earn for her family to ease her parents. She took up a part-time job in a cafe close to her school, and the money she earned, she would put it in a small box kept in her parents’ room for a month’s expenditure. Poorcan girl had to work for three hours after school in the cafe cleaning the tables and washing dishes to earn an inadequate amount of money. She often got questioned as to why she arrived late every day, and she would come up with some excuses. She told me that I was the only one who knew about this, and I shouldn’t tell anyone, but I thought it was necessary that her parents know about this, but whenever I spoke, it seemed as if they never heard me. Cora, though looked happy on the exterior, had some deep secrets. Apparently, people bullied her in her workplace and in her school, but she told me that it doesn’t bother her much. Cora told me many secrets for a long time and I think a friendship had been formed between the both of us.
Anyways, years have passed since I have seen Cora. I was sleeping in Cora’s house and woke up in the middle of nowhere in a dusty attic a few months ago. Turns out Cora moved away. I was heartbroken on hearing the news from my friends, as she didn’t even say goodbye, and I thought we were friends. Well, months passed, and I remained idle in the same place, and one day, I saw a bright light enter the room, and in came Cora. She looked at me, picked me up, smiled widely, and hugged me in the same way she did when she first got me from the shop, but this time, I saw her shedding some tears. She took me down to her room, and the sight of it made me reminisce about the time Cora and I spent together. She told me one last thing, “You are the best friend I have ever met and I will never ever forget you. You comforted me when I needed someone, helped me reflect my thoughts, and made me the person who I am”. This made me ambivalent as my existence had positively impacted her life.
I was glad that I made such a difference in a young human’s life though I wasn’t logically alive then. She was my only companion as I never met my parents after the humans’ invasion into my home. I was first very biased and thought not to open up to any human being as they destroyed my parents and me, but Cora proved the fact that not everyone was like that, and she brought about a change of opinion in me. She depended on me and told me everything, even though she never heard me talk. I would like to end by saying that even though I am not breathing right now, I am helping you all by being your closest friend and I will always be there for you to depend on me. Yes, I am a DIARY and I am proud of it!
Ekya JP Nagar
Teaching, and being an educator…. What a beautiful feeling it is! … A journey of discovering new connections!
I have had around two years of in-class experience with the pre-primary children and have absolutely enjoyed and cherished every bit of it. And then came a sudden and unexpected turn in the lives of children and educators. Lots of questions started to cross my mind. Now what? How are we going to adapt to this? Online teaching? For the little ones? Will they be able to sit through the class and grasp concepts? Will we be able to deliver the content? Oh! and the concerns were never-ending.
But, as always, the little ones have completely managed to surprise me and proved that they can adapt to any change - be it handling a laptop/tab, muting and unmuting, communicating with their peers virtually, and being able to sit through for 30 mins in front of a physical space without much scope for movement that every preschooler yearns for. Students are doing a brilliant job of adapting to the current situation. They are sitting and are moving too and are trying every bit to embrace change.
On the first day of the online class, I was super nervous. I was wondering if I will be able to connect with my students virtually as I could in a physical classroom setup. Connections to me mean- understanding the child, getting comfortable with him/her, being able to discuss things openly with them, and sharing experiences. These are not only important to me but also to the child who is in pre-school. Indeed, before we start implementing our lessons, we need to establish connections. And, to my surprise, within no time, these connections were built with each student.
We have now grown into a class filled with lots of excitement and learning. Students eagerly wait for classes and love interacting with their friends virtually every day. If a student is absent on any given day, one student from the group always asks, “Ma’am, why hasn't he/she joined yet? I cannot see him/her on the screen.” This is what is the real connection that I have discovered among our students in the virtual classroom.
The little interactions we have in the corridors, in-between lessons, in the play area/sandpit are irreplaceable. I was wondering how we could create these personal touchpoints with the students virtually. This is because these are the areas where children establish relationships with each other and with things all around.
But, as the days passed by, everything fell into place and we are all learning together. Everything is possible as long as we want it to happen and work towards it. The routines that were set during the initial days of online classes really helped in managing the classes more efficiently and productively. Few routines that made a lot of difference were - unmuting yourself when asked, raising your hand if you wanted to speak/share something, hands to yourselves, listening carefully while your friends were speaking, and waiting for your turn.
As the saying goes “Learning never ends”, be it in-class or virtual. It continues to be a great experience for me! Besides learning to teach, I have understood how important it is to make real-world connections with each other! We are all doing our best. Proud to be an educator!
Ms. Meghana C