Going with the flow

Arvind Dhondphale

How do I update myself? Where do the updates come from? Am I making myself available to these updates? These are the questions that come to mind when I think about updating myself. Updating oneself constantly is an important requirement of growing as a learner. Updating is learning new aspects and perspectives.

In the pre-COVID times, I was fortunate to have participated in international summits and conferences, which proved to be big updating boosters for me. I was selected to participate in the Maverick Teachers Global Summit once. In this event I met, interacted, and worked with educationists and education researchers from various countries. This gave me a broad outlook on education in Europe, Africa, and Asia. I also had the chance to present papers at the International Conference for Design Pedagogy and Contextual Aesthetics – Thanima 2 and 3. Here I met and listened to many people who are experimenting with traditional and modern educational approaches. This made me re-think, learn and come up with a totally new approach to teach my subject. Having gained deeper insights into environmental changes and social scenarios around the world and learnt how education can play an important role in coming up with solutions, I now incorporate art exercises that will help children connect with nature. Including experiential learning in my pedagogy is helping my students to think and come up with solutions to real life problems. They are also learning the importance of jugaad or reusing waster materials.

A boom in the sharing of ideas
During the lockdown, when the world came to a standstill, webinars became the easiest means of sharing thoughts and ideas I attended many webinars, which gave me the opportunity to listen to educators, researchers, school owners, parents, and teachers. This helped me get a better picture of the education scenario in our country. Podcasts* have made it easy to watch and listen to educators, subject experts, policy makers, researchers, scientists, etc. We are now able to listen to them, know their thoughts and viewpoints. There are many YouTube channels as well that keep you updated.

Online courses
Online courses have become quite popular. I am very curious about art therapy and colour therapy. Whenever and wherever possible I try to learn about them. During lockdown, I got the opportunity to learn about these therapies. They opened up a whole new approach towards life and art education. What I learnt is helping me understand not only children but also their emotions. I am now able to develop exercises on the senses, how we see colour, how we can express our emotions, what lines express, what and how different shapes and forms communicate different emotions, etc. These courses added to my knowledge.

Illustration: Arvind Dhondaphale

Art updates
As an artist I keep working on my art and skills related to it. I sculpt, paint, and draw on a regular basis. This helps me develop my skills to express myself better and to realize the deeper aspects of life. It helps me stay connected with the inner ‘me’. It is like staying updated with myself.

Exploring new paths
Experimenting with teaching methods has become one of my most favourite things over time as an educator. I try to come up with new ideas to develop exercises. Since last year we have initiated experiential learning in our school. It provided both teachers and students with opportunities to explore deeper learning.

I started a ‘dialogue group’ for teachers. We used to meet once a week for an hour. In these meetings, if one of us had a question, the rest would try and find the answer, or we would discuss classroom situations, or read articles or extracts from books and have discussions. This practice discontinued when regular school activities increased post COVID. We now take up the activities of the dialogue group during some of our school staff meetings. The dialogue group has helped all of us understand various aspects and open up for healthy dialogue.

On one occasion I proposed that teachers switch their subjects and conduct classes for a totally different subject for a week. Many teachers warmed up to the idea and came forward to participate. So a language teacher would take classes in geography, a mathematics teacher would teach social sciences and so on. We took efforts to plan the exercise carefully. Once the subjects and grade levels were decided we started our preparations with the help of the subject teachers. We selected grades 7 and 8 for this activity. The activity went very well, providing children and teachers with rich experiences and added fun to the process of learning.

As an art educator I take art students to art galleries, handicraft melas, art museums, etc. This helps me encourage art students to take art seriously and choose creative fields for their higher studies. These visits help keep me updated with the art scenario and art field.

Flowing is life and stagnation is death. Keeping myself updated is like flowing with life. In this journey, if I am able to keep myself open I also receive the answers to many of my questions. Updating also is a form of openness to the changes of life. These thoughts encourage me to explore life as well as help me meet the latest version of myself.

*Podcasts: Scoonews, ANI podcast, BeerBiceps
YouTube videos of Abhijit Chavda, Praveen Mohan, The Sanskrit channel, Mati India
News channels like Better India
Websites Jinan K B, Agastya Foundation, Kuppam campus

The author is an artist and sculptor from Pune. He has worked as an art educator for more than 20 years. He developed his interest in ‘child art’ when he was in Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai. Currently, he is exploring various aspects of art education and the process of learning in The Peepal Grove School, Andhra Pradesh. He can be reached at arvind.dhondphale@gmail.com.

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