Growing teachers in our school

Kavita Anand

Long long ago in a time far, far away, the textbook marked the boundaries of what had to be taught. Today the field is wide open. There are multiple texts, the vast world of the Internet, experiential learning, and activity-based education. No teacher can ignore the new and exciting advances in the field, especially with the push from the National Curriculum Framework on the one end and the tug of international education from the other. It is imperative to grow at the pace of change into an exciting and innovative teacher as the current crop of students have outgrown the chalk and talk method.

This growth is also a moral obligation, as it models the “learning for life” that today’s skill based education empowers students to carry within them when they leave school. In that sense, teachers must remain students forever in the same holistic manner that they design for their students. This implies cognitive, social, emotional, physical, ethical, spiritual, cultural, and aesthetic growth. Such growth integrates the professional and personal realms. Since we educate students to work cooperatively, it also implies that we teachers must demonstrate the efficacy of these methods. We, therefore, must show that these methods are effective by carrying everyone along with us – our colleagues, our parent body, our management, our support staff, and even our government.

It is in this spirit that we teachers continuously and comprehensively learn at Shishuvan. As a young school we have no laurels to rest on. We are, therefore, akin to a young rabbit warren, in which we rabbits keep digging new tunnels to discover new worlds and better food for thought. The collaborative working culture of the school has inbuilt, continual in-service professional development. Every activity of a teacher – classroom teaching, creating assessments, report writing, designing field visits, event preparations, reflection meetings, subject department meetings, planning sessions, focused training sessions and parent teacher meetings – is part of a rigorous, ongoing in-service training programme. All these activities have outcome assessments, process charts, reviews, and observations. This training is not restricted to subject knowledge or skills alone; it ventures into the messy yet crucial territory of beliefs, attitudes, prejudices, and values.

teacher-&-students
The self-appraisal of the teachers on all these activities leads to the decision on another professional development space-accessing short-term courses, workshops or even higher education programmes offered by organizations other than Shishuvan. Courses accessed include, for example, workshops in English language teaching by the British Council; workshops in pedagogy by The Teacher Foundation; workshops and courses by the Maharashtra Dyslexia Association; the course in the Waldorf methodology by Tridha; the Empowering English course by Mindsprings; a course on continuous and comprehensive evaluation by Educational Initiatives; post graduate courses at Bombay University; B.Ed. courses at a variety of colleges; theatre in education by Theatre Professionals; and Administrators training in School self-review and evaluation by Bespoke Educational Solutions Ltd.

We have allocated Rs. 4000 per teacher to be accessed over two years from the second year of teaching in the school by the teachers for their professional development. Those who have used this well have gone on to become resource persons for other organizations (Mini for the SSA, Mumbai, Meera and Ranjana for Akanksha, Viveki for Adhyayan, Neha for the British Council) and we have benefited enormously as a school from these teachers and the training they have accessed. We also take great pride in and measure the success of our school’s professional development programme by the teachers who leave us to take up and succeed in the leadership of other schools and education related organisations – (Sapana in Muktangan, Krishna in Samhita, Bangalore, Christabel in Euro-kids, Pune, Viveki in the Heritage school, Vasant Kunj, Delhi, Priyanka at Salaam Baalak, Bombay and Gopal at TISS).

Shishuvan has become well known in Mumbai as a training and exposure space for the education sector including teacher training colleges, research institutions and other schools. Our teachers and students accept the presence of observers in the classroom as a natural occurrence. Students know they are in a school that has unique events that bring awareness to the neighbourhood and the educational community in Mumbai. Continuous improvement in the content knowledge, transaction and communication skills, creativity, and perspective of Shishuvan’s teachers will remain critical in maintaining its quality and constantly evolving the school’s educational programme.

The experience of one school is not prescriptive, but does pave the way for all schools to evolve their own strategies in response to teachers’ professional growth needs. The world over, students’ are viewed as the ‘future’. They need a perspective that is rooted in nurture, ethics, and creativity. To give each one of them a sense of being special and noticed, we teachers need to evolve in tandem with the debates, discussions, and skill sets of our field. As professionals, we have a great responsibility – we are bringing up the next generation!

Evolving as a teacher

An inspired and informed teacher can create great students. It is therefore extremely important that teachers don’t get bogged down by the routine and are instead alert to the developments, advances, and improvements that are constantly taking place in the field of education. This is why on-going professional development becomes necessary both for the new teacher and the experienced. We give here a list of professional courses and programmes that teachers can apply to keep themselves updated on the latest in education research, emerging technology tools, handling different kinds of children in the same classroom, etc. These are courses offered every year and we request readers to look at the links provided for specific dates.

The author is the Executive Director of Shishuvan, a school in Mumbai. She can be reached at kavita63@gmail.com.