A rewarding experience

Ambika Parchure

Looking back at my 27 years as an educator… much has gone into shaping the person I am today… a life-long learner.

My longest tenure of service in education was in two institutions: Rishi Valley School (14 yrs), a residential school in Andhra Pradesh, and in Parikrma (10 yrs), a string of day schools in Bangalore for the underserved.

The years in the residential school were the best years of my life. Very early, I realized that I was extremely fond of children and loved working with them. It was also a period of immense learning, both in terms of acquiring skills, and discovering the kind of person I was. The beautiful valley also inculcated in me a deep appreciation and love for nature, bringing alive a sense of continual wonder and enquiry.

Rishi Valley’s uniqueness lies in encouraging teachers to multitask in different roles and responsibilities, an exposure I was immensely enriched by. Starting out as a volunteer in the kindergarten for staff children, I also refurbished and upgraded the Junior and Middle School Library. For this, I equipped myself with a degree in Library Sciences. In addition to being the Librarian, I had to take on class-teachership and teach environmental studies to the 4th and 5th graders. I was little aware of the huge challenges that lay in store, for I soon discovered that this school did not follow a mechanical textbook approach to instruction. Instead, it relied heavily on me to visualize, organize, and design a curriculum that was holistic, integrative and child-centric. At my multitasking best, I evolved in the roles of a house-parent, games supervisor, coordinator of school assemblies, movie club showings, and weekend activities; member of several school committees, and organizer/escort to the yearly summer treks into the Himalayas.

In many ways, I can now see that my Parikrma tenure greatly benefited from my years at Rishi Valley. Developing and executing the physical education and art program, my most challenging experience was to come in the form of a fast-forward English Program for first generation school-goers of Parikrma. I soon took on the role of Quality Head for all the four Parikrma schools, being responsible for the overall performance of every individual child and teacher.

Looking back at these exciting and experientially rewarding years, they have increasingly shaped me into a person I never imagined I could be. They aroused in me an interest in many areas of human endeavor, polished and vetted the many skills and processes I employed along the way, gave me vast perspectives to, and an understanding of what education is all about. And yet, the most significant than any, will remain the realization that the magical moment of learning happens in a space that demands utmost sensitivity, care, and attention. What must happen, that will facilitate this alchemy? My post-Parikrma years are now given to exploring this most intriguing question.

My gut tells me to direct my energies to the task of teacher-evolution, not in the sense of upgrading her knowledge-base and teaching skills alone, but to address the ‘person’ we call ‘teacher’. The following quote gave me my first inspired clues: “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking” (Albert Einstein).

This is where I am today as I direct education at ‘cwld e & e foundation’, a nonprofit organization. (www.canwelivedifferently.org)

The author is a consultant in education. She can be reached at ambika@canwelivedifferently.org.

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