Shabnam Bhaya believes that she is now a complete communicator thanks to 28 years of teaching as she has had to compose, act, direct, and compere to teach her students. She loves to write and act and has therefore written and acted in many school plays. She values her experience with her students very much. These experiences have come in handy for her both in her class and on the stage. Shabnam strongly believes that her creative skills have helped her to break the monotony of the routine jobs that she has to undertake as Head Academics of her school.
Teaching becomes a rewarding profession only when teachers are able to understand and analyze the nature of challenges they are up against and find immediate and practical solutions to promote continuous growth and learning of their students.
The ‘non-performing’ students – ‘laggards’, ‘dodgers’, or ‘poor scorers’ – are always a challenge for teachers. These are the students who do not submit their work on time, are disinclined to classroom discussions, and do not actively participate in the question-answer sessions. Poor performance in academics has always been penalized with detention, conditional promotions, failure in the annual school results, etc.
At Bluebells we accept that we were responsible for the performance of each child in our school and therefore walk the extra mile to help them in their weak areas. After deliberations, we introduced one-hour ‘Booster Classes’. Each department is assigned one day in the week to take the booster class. Only acute cases of underachievement are enrolled in booster classes. Different worksheets are developed by the subject teachers, which are aimed at giving practice and help to the students in their area of weakness in a subject.
Thus, if five students are enrolled in one booster class for Hindi each with a different problem, say in comprehension, spelling, grammar, logical sequence, and punctuation, there will be five different worksheets designed for each of these students. Students are given remediation in these booster classes till they are mainstreamed.
The programme is unique because it not only discourages students from approaching private coaching centers but also provides them with the relaxed atmosphere of their own school and teachers who guide them in the right direction.
Teaching hindi in public schools is a big challenge. In primary classes, sometimes students coming from non-hindi backgrounds are unable to cope with the language, and very often disinterested parents influence their children with their personal attitudes because hindi becomes an optional subject in middle and high school where it has to compete with many foreign languages.
As Head of the Hindi Department, the biggest challenge for me has been to generate interest in the hindi language in the minds of learners. In 2009, I found myself in a very embarrassing situation when 19 students from primary and 11 from middle school failed hindi. Without further delay students failing hindi were enrolled in booster classes and teachers took complete responsibility of their students and their steady growth through differential worksheets and expert guidance. Teachers also had to maintain a booster register that carried complete and systematic information about attendance, assignments, class tests, marks obtained, and remarks about the level of their growth and improvement. Booster classes were the main topic of discussions in weekly faculty meetings where information and ideas were exchanged, and guidance and help was given for the next course of action. Close monitoring was done in special cases where students had a tendency of irregular attendance or where guardians were non-cooperative.
Weekly booster classes, differential worksheets and close monitoring did wonders for the hindi faculty. All children who had failed hindi in the first term were mainstreamed by the second term.
Booster classes are today an important and integral part of the education system in Bluebells. Having gained valuable experience, teachers do not wait till the end of first term results, but conduct a diagnostic test in the first fortnight of the new academic session or study the pattern of a student’s previous marks and enroll weak students in booster classes so that they are mainstreamed before the first term examination.
At Bluebells, each day teachers from a particular faculty are seen holding booster classes to help strugglers and low achievers so that they are able to stand on their own without crutches!