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Student in Focus: Anuradha Kishore – From clinic to the classroom

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The IAAT class is a diverse space with students from various walks of life coming together to enrich the learning experience in unanticipated and spectacular ways. The presence of Anuradha Kishore is one such addition. A graduate of AIIMS and the Royal College of Physicians, London, Anuradha has over two decades of experience as a paediatrician and has been running a private clinic for the past 13 years. Apart from providing an invaluable perspective to us all, Anuradha is thoroughly enjoying the process of becoming a learner again. Here is her story in her words.

What is your life’s dream?

My dream is to work with children who have special needs and different capabilities. I have always enjoyed being around children, working with them and for them. In my 20 years of experience as a paediatrician I received immense satisfaction in terms of helping young beings find relief from their immediate ailments and providing guidance for their growth. But I felt one big lacuna which still needed more inputs from us as child health-care professionals – the field of special needs education. I wanted to contribute to this need in some effective manner. With that passion in my heart, I began my path in the field of education.

I would first like to attain a sound knowledge base about teaching and learning of young minds and gain reasonable hands-on experience of working with children in the elementary years in a progressive and inclusive school. After gaining enough experience of the methodology, content and pedagogy of various parts of learning in the youngest age group I would like to gain further experience in a specialised environment dealing with differently abled children.

Just as we follow the learning approach in Medicine where we first master the normal body anatomy and functions before knowing how to diagnose abnormal and devise an intervention, in Special Education too the first step to learn would be how to detect a problem no matter how subtle it is in the early years and then plan a well-rounded approach to help the child achieve his/her true and best potential.

As the majority of such special children are just marginally away from the expected normal range, with the right inputs at the right time, we can surely help most of them make a significant difference to their lives and attain the required life skills to survive and subsist in a challenging world.

How does being in the classroom help you in what you want to do? What do you feel like you’re gaining?

For the experiential part of my training at IAAT I have been assigned a KG class at Heritage Xperiential Learning School Gurgaon that has 30 students with 6-7 of them needing extra inputs from the teachers at every level. Being there with my Collaborating Teacher and co-tutor thrice a week for the entire school day I get a complete hands-on experience of what steps are needed to conduct a fruitful learning experience, starting from pre lesson planning, co-conducting lessons to review meetings and feedbacks at the end of the day.

Through this process, I have been able to see the various challenges that a teacher faces and needs to handle on a day to day basis while keeping the pace of learning going. It’s heartening to see how compassionately my co-teachers are making sure all the students are gaining knowledge through their own capabilities without missing out on any opportunity.

Being with children in the clinic and in the classroom – how different are they?

It is similar yet different being with children in the context of a school environment compared to what I have experienced before. Dealing with 1-2 children at a given time in a clinic setup where each interaction would last for 15-20 minutes is very different from being with 30 of them together but in a healthier setup where they are bursting with energy and enthusiasm for the whole day.

Now I feel the need to encash on my physical stamina too while keeping my thinking cap on all the time as these children throw a new challenge at you every few minutes.

However, the speed and consistency of attentiveness needed in both situations are alike and I feel it’s a blessing to work with the purest form of beings who are so honest and generous when it comes to giving a positive or a negative feedback!

You’ve been part of this programme for almost two months now. How far do you feel you’ve come as an individual? What kind of growth/challenges are you experiencing?

I have truly enjoyed the journey I have covered in the last 7 weeks at IAAT. It has been an awakening in many ways. I always knew how much I love the company of young children and how much I value what they have to tell the world in their own sweet ways, but I have now discovered how patient we need to be as adults to allow them the time and space that they all need in their own different journeys of growth and fulfilment.

Without doubt I have grown as a person too, grown more expressive, more compassionate, more inquisitive and more at peace with myself and the world around me.

Maybe the path ahead is a long one but I feel I’m not alone. I have my colleagues and friends who are as passionate about making a change to the present scheme of things as I am. Together we will cross all hurdles and find the momentum we need to keep this ball rolling.

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Discipline or direction?

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Indumathi S.

This reflection comes in the context of the notice issued by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) to the Ministry of HRD that elements of Sainik School – such as discipline, physical fitness and patriotic outlook – be promoted in other schools (Indian Express, July 21st). It appears that the state is using schools to promote their agenda and controlling what ought to be taught and learnt. In this article, I would like to discuss how discipline is understood and whether schools need to promote discipline.

Discipline is defined as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour. In this definition, the power and authority connotations are clear. Discipline seems more like indoctrination. In this case, one can ask – whose rules, rules for whom, or what behaviour, obey whom and so on. One wonders why and how schools started taking this role of disciplining students. Is discipline something schools need to promote? What is the purpose of schooling and education?

I discuss two situations below where discipline and norms are dealt with in classrooms or the school scenario.

Case 1:

Students wear uniform. As they enter school they are checked to see if they are wearing tie, shoes,  and school identity card, amongst other things. They are punished or questioned or given warnings if they fail to adhere to it. The school has rules on how students should walk up and down the stairs, how teachers need to be greeted when they leave or enter the class, where and how they sit and so on. The rules are ‘must’ and ‘should’ and such rules are mostly framed by the school authorities. I guess most of us would be familiar with many such rules in the school and come across such situations.

The belief is that such kind of disciplining helps in behaviour or character formation. Does this belief need to be questioned? Do imposed rules lead to character formation? Pupils tend to follow such rules as they come from teachers for the fear of punishment or consequences if they are broken. Often, one comes across students who behave differently when teachers are around and they are not offered opportunities to know their true selves.

Case 2:

Few students were bullied in class VII. They brought it up a few times to the notice of the teacher. The students and teachers sat in a circle during the assembly and the teacher raised the issue in the classroom. Most students felt that they were bullied. The teachers asked them to share some of the instances without naming their friends. Students shared examples and how they felt about it. The teacher asked them to think for some time and come up with a solution. The students came up with a few solutions and norms. The teacher asked if they could choose one norm and follow it.  Many said that name calling would not be accepted. Teacher asked if everyone would agree with following this one norm for a month. The students – at least 90% of them – felt so. The teacher then posed what would happen in the class if someone would not follow this norm. The students mentioned that they would remind the other person and if their friends still continued to call names, they would not cooperate or include that person in the team game.

The teacher could have just said that there would be no name calling in the class and if anyone found so would be punished. Would this have helped to control bullying? In this situation, there is no imposition from the teacher. The norms are discussed and laid by the students. Are the students moving towards some norms for themselves to operate, or to work and learn together in the classroom?

But this situation also has its challenges. Bullying might not stop completely. One or two might continue to bully or falter. The students could bring it to the notice of the teacher and the teacher might have to have a conversation with the student. He/she might have to understand what is going on in the child’s life, what prompts the child to call names and address the root causes. But is this possible in every class with 30 students? This might be possible if trust and dialogue are built into the school culture. It is a continuous process.

The words direction and order are also synonyms of discipline. Direction and order appeal more to me than the idea of discipline. Schools can foster direction and order. Order and direction are required for effective teaching and learning. I am not saying that rules be done away with. It is about the process of how rules and norms evolve and are followed. The way it can be done is more through dialogue and reflection. Rules and discipline, if imposed from outside, might remain only as rules to be followed for the sake of someone and not as value for oneself.

 Indumathi S. is a teacher educator at IAAT. Questions on gender and science intrigue her and she likes to write on education.