Friday, 26 April 2013

An Eye Opener and My Reflection

I am taking a course on understanding the challenges of learning disabilities and how to support children. While discussing the academic challenges that we are facing currently and the learning gaps our children have with my teacher there, she asked me some questions that set me thinking:

Teacher: Why are you doing this course?
Me: I am interested in learning.

Teacher: Why did you sit through the session, which was just a ppt?
Me: Because I could read and make sense of what you were telling.
Teacher: So you felt successful with reading, were motivated, and hence, learned something. The same is true for children – to want to learn to read they need to be able to actually read and then make sense of what they are reading. Only then would they experience success and feel motivated to learn further. Success and motivation are the key factors to learning.

She asked me: do all your children get the opportunity to feel successful in reading in class each day? This set me thinking, do our children come to school just because their parents want them to, or do they want to come because they feel motivated?? Do they actually get the opportunity to experience success with reading and learning each day??? 

The reality is that a large number of our children are unsuccessful with the basic skills required for reading – phonemic and phonological awareness, and alphabetic principle in KG and grade 1 itself. So how can we expect them to be motivated to learn to read when they face failure every time they attempt to read or are forced to read?

Do you think having a structured intervention plan that includes in-class structured instruction and one-on-one intervention in these basic skills will help our children remain motivated and become successful readers??

Kanchan Moray
School Coach, Pune

Friday, 12 April 2013

The day I became a KG Coordinator

Good day!! Let me begin by saying that I love my four schools: Natwar Nagar MPS (Mumbai Public School), Mahalaxmi MPS, Laxminagar MPS and Wadibunder MPS.

The day that I became a KG coordinator, I was super excited. The excitement lasted for a few days till it seemed to me that my teaching career was coming to an end. I had a difficult time in the first 3 months letting go of the classrooms and the students.

I had become an instructional leader and someone that was entrusted to building capacity in others. I had to become a grandparent to my students and a parent to our teachers...phheww

However, though I wasn’t a “teacher” anymore, I noticed that I missed the teaching part – I missed the feeling I would have when students would “get it”, the joy of dancing singing and acting with abandon and knowing you won’t be judged. I enjoyed the direct interaction with students.

But being a teacher at heart meant that I refused to let go, at every chance I got, I not only entered the classroom but took over the classroom teaching.

I still remember a funny incident at Wadibunder MPS where the teacher had to tell me to take a break from coming into class as the students felt like she was a substitute teacher and were getting used to my way of teaching. In reality I couldn’t let go of the class, I missed the students terribly. The same thing happened at Mahalaxmi school.

The past few months have been good for me as I have come to realize that as classroom teacher, I was able to directly affect students assigned to me for the year, but in the my role, I am able to support and positively affect all teachers and students in my schools.

Also, I continue to still be a teacher and teach as the role provides ample opportunities for me to go and substitute for an absent teacher.

I’ve started to enjoy the creativity and collaboration involved in the process of professional development of teachers and staff. At a recent PD, I was thrilled to hear the teachers saying that despite the distance and struggles, they felt that the 4 schools are one big family.

My first step towards building the community was to truly see all members of the school family: students, staff, parents and significant community members as partners.

We had a collective vision and mission that guided our practice. But it was also very important that each individual member of our schools understood that the collective vision and mission did not dictate that there is only one correct way to do something, and that we don’t all have to be at the same place, and on the same timeline as we move forward.

Our PD sessions always have time allotted for teachers to present their ideas, their understanding of any given situation and to write and narrate their learning stories. We promote the sharing of strengths openly so we can learn from each other. We learn and have fun, that’s why our KG schools are so cool.

Sheetal Murudkar
KG Coordinator, Mumbai

A school where happy memories are created

What would an ideal school be like? How would it be like the school you attended? How would it be different?

School. For each of us this word means something different. In my opinion, school helps us to build the foundation of our future lives because we learn to read, write, and understand the difference between good and evil. School helps us to build confidence, become independent, and learn to be persistent. It also makes us smarter, more curious about knowledge, and determined to find our place in the world. It plays a big role in our lives. Everybody has memories of their school that stay with them their whole lives, whether they are positive or negative.

Looking back at the experiences I gained at my school, I realize that it may not have always been the best, but I wouldn’t want to change anything about it. So when I was given a chance to be a leader of Shindewadi, I dreamt of making it a place where such experiences would be created that would last forever in the memories of the children. Creating happy experiences at school is very important, especially in our kinds of schools, because children do not experience such at their homes.

Thus I began to write on paper my vision of the ideal school. The ideas I had in my mind were many but translating them into reality was going to be the toughest part. Thus began my journey on the 13th of June 2012.

The first few months at school weren’t the easiest - transforming an existing setup is not an easy thing to do. But the support that I received from a set of new, young and enthusiastic teachers was amazing and motivated me to do better and better each day. Not to mention the support that I received from others who had already been associated with this school from its inception. My idea was to create classrooms which were engaging, fun and trying to give hands on experience and as much exposure as possible. Over the year  teachers planned many such activities and lessons to make sure we tried to create classrooms like that.

My experience of being an Akanksha teacher and working in a formal school for many years came in handy and made me very solution oriented. My teaching experience has changed my entire outlook on and attitude toward life. Before being a teacher, I was shy, had low self-esteem and turned away from seemingly impossible challenges. Teaching has altered all of these qualities.  A few years ago I would have never imagined myself conducting a meeting with 25 new teachers or planning a Christmas carnival or doing an elocution competition with 380 kids. But all this became a reality this year.

Days flew by and I did not realise when the year was about to end. I had already started to think about the coming year and how I could alter the mistakes I made this year so that I could make this school a place where children created memories they would cherish all their life.

I realise now that though I am far behind from creating my vision of an ideal school, the goal is not an impossible task.

Dhwani Shah
Assistant School Leader
Shindewadi Mumbai Public School

Quiet at the Back

A few weeks ago the school leadership team met for two days to share best practices, highlight successes, and confront struggles and challenges they face in building excellent schools for our students. From this activity grew a discussion around our purpose for educating children and our beliefs about what this means. The chart below is a map of this discussion. 

One of the things that emerged is that we have an immense amount to learn both together and from each other. As an Akanksha team, we have the benefit of being a network of schools, and as we grow it is critical that we be our first resource - that we leverage our strengths, ideas, and learnings to improve our schools and help each other.

This blog is meant to do just that. It is a place for school leaders, curricular support staff, coaches and teachers to exchange thoughts, questions, and ideas. As the title suggested, "Quiet at the Back" is a platform for all of us to engage in the kinds of discussions that are often neglected or lost in the million urgent tasks we must do every day. I hope that teachers and staff across our schools will read these posts to gain insights into schools across our network.

Let the posting begin!

Reena Shah
Chief Learning Officer, The Akanksha Foundation