From teaching to learning

Kanchana’s association with Vidyaranya is a long one – first as a student and now as a teacher. She has been teaching at Vidyaranya for 13 years. Kanchana loves music, drama, and needlework. She enjoys reading, and meeting and interacting with people. She is very fond of animals and doesn’t lose an opportunity to help an animal in distress.

I started teaching 14 years ago and have been teaching the primary classes. When I started teaching, I did not have a clear-cut idea about how I was going to go about the task. When I was first interviewed for a teaching position, I was asked by one of my interviewers how I was planning to teach with no prior experience or training. While I was wondering how to answer this question, the principal of the school (thankfully) answered on my behalf and said, “She’ll teach the way she’s been taught.” This really set me thinking and I began to recall the way my teachers taught me; how some of them brought the subject alive and how I understood or responded to things at that age. A remark by Shantamma was another eye opener. She said I should find my own way, never mind if I made a mistake, it’s better that we learn from our mistakes than from those of others.

When I entered the classroom and looked at the expectant faces of my new students, things just fell in place. Teaching happened most naturally and I became aware that no amount of planning or training can prepare one for the actual classroom scene. Each child is an individual – each classroom experience unique; and a teacher must be able to adapt and work according to the ‘need of the hour.’

Teaching children has been a most fulfilling experience as most of what we teach children is what they are hearing for the first time in their lives; their rapt attention and enthusiasm to share their experiences is most endearing. I’ve always been fascinated by how little children learn a language. From the time that the child first hears words and repeats them to the use of complex functions, grammar, and lexis, it is an amazing process. It seems quite miraculous how at each level/class a child learns just a little more and more until he/she is able to use the language effectively.

I often reflect on my own childhood and try to understand how I learnt what I know today. A lot of the language we know/speak comes not just from the textbook but from music, drama, movies, and from our observations of others; and because these things are fun, one doesn’t even realize how one’s skill at a language is growing.

As a child I would I find it very difficult to memorize things, so I devised ways to learn. I would set a tune, or a beat, or a rhythm to a piece of text – be it a poem or chemical equation or a definition in physics and play it over and over in my mind or sing it aloud. This method really helped me learn things while I was enjoying myself My own experiences as a child motivate me to make learning a joyful experience and help children learn so much without even realizing it.

Vidyaranya is the ideal place for creativity to flourish. Teachers here are given a lot of freedom (with responsibility) to try out new methods and have the liberty to make mistakes and learn from them. Music and drama is really important at Vidyaranya. Every child is given a role in a play, and participation and the learning experience is given more importance than putting up a show on Annual day. This attitude and approach has gone a long way in helping our children grow into good human beings with values like compassion, honesty, fearlessness, the ability to speak their minds and question things that either don’t make sense or are obviously not right.

I’ll be forever thankful for my association with Vidyaranya – as a student, parent, and a teacher, and for the numerous ways in which it has shaped me as a teacher and as a person.