Classrooms for/of/by the people?

It seems to be an odd time to be talking about democracy, when we are in the middle of a number of civil society struggles that challenge our idea of what it means to be a democracy and question the level of equity and access across groups in our country. Whether we are talking about issues of power, water or land, there are clear inequities that limit and chip away at the democratic ideal that we may have held for India. But as individuals we often feel helpless in the face of such system-wide problems and end up responding in one of at least three ways: we turn away and say it has nothing to do with us, we throw our lot in with the struggles and carry placards and participate in protests, or we focus on what we can do within our own contexts, in the way we live and work.

In general, Teacher Plus has been focusing on this last approach – what can we as teachers do to ensure that we transfer certain kinds of values to our pupils? How can we approach our work so that the outcomes are improved? How can we use our everyday interactions with our colleagues and other stakeholders in education to make small, incremental changes? While we take note on the macro-level issues that concern education and teaching, we tend to stay focused on the micro-context of the classroom. And that is the spirit with which this month’s cover story is presented. As we have often noted, the classroom is a crucible of ideas, and a laboratory for social practice. Children learn how to think, but also, in so many visible and invisible ways, how to be and how to act. How we conduct lessons, even more than what we teach through our lesson plans, can make a lasting impact on their ways of being and doing.

As a nation, we may not have quite achieved the potential of democracy. But in the big little world that is our classroom, we could.