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Learning to Create

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“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

This session at the maker’s lab was a part of our PGDLT (Post Graduate Diploma in Learning at Teaching) program

Heritage XLS’s maker space is nothing short of magical. Open, well designed, and ripe with energy – maker space gets one’s creative juices flowing from the moment you enter it. ,/p.

Noora Noushad, the head of maker space at Heritage Gurgaon, explained the significance of having a maker space in schools. She shared examples of how students ideate and create, learning how to use tools and technology, and turn their imagination to reality in an attempt to solve real-world problems. She also got us exposed to programming software children as young as 5 years could use.

I realised the importance of maker space to create opportunities to build 21st-century skills among children. Not only that, but Noora also challenged our own abilities as 21st-century digital migrants. We tested our maker mentality by working in groups to create something out of the box. And I won’t be boasting if I say we shocked ourselves with our ingenuity and thoughtfulness.

“Just create something. You have the tools in front of you,” Noora said encouragingly to us. We were divided into groups of five, so we were a total of six groups. At first, we were perplexed. The tools might be in front of us, but something is rather elusive to make. It was the second set of instructions that made us realize that Noora was being vague on purpose. ,

Her instructions were:

  1. You are a maker and you can do it.
  2. When in doubt, ask your team members or use google.

Noora wanted us to uncover the maker within us. And there was no better way for us to realize our own potential than to be left to our devices. We had in front of us – a Buzzer, 9V battery, dc motor 5V, conductor strips, a few alligator clips, wires and a piece of fabric. We were a group of curious, enthusiastic, amateur inventors. We felt unsettled, as this was the first time for most of us to create something… anything. After a shock, We thought of a few ideas and finally concluded on making a massager for pain in the neck, shoulder area. Designing the circuit diagram was the first step followed by hit and trial. We finally managed to come up with a prototype. ,

We all felt ecstatic, proud, motivated. For me, the idea of the maker always felt like a far-fetched one. I believed only some who were genius and blessed could be creators and inventors. But now, this one-hour activity has given me a sense of achievement that has made me believe that I could also create something. I felt that if I could spend enough time in a place like this, I could uncover the inventor within me. There is no better way to make the world a better place than working on ideas that could make others’ life easier. It is an empowering feeling. I wished we had a place like makers lab in my engineering days. The experience of engineering would have been so much more meaningful.

Bill gates had enough exposure to computers and technology before he created started creating his own software. While Bill Gates were at Lakeside School, a Seattle computer company offered to provide

 

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time for the students. Bill Gates became entranced with what a computer could do and spent much of his free time working on the terminal. He wrote a tic-tac-toe program in BASIC computer language that allowed users to play against the computer. It’s hard to imagine how different our world would be if Bill Gates never had any exposure to computers. ,

What exactly is this Makerspace?

A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school, library, office, educational institution, or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing ideas and innovation focused on exploring human ingenuity. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and people from all walks of life. They have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons, screws, nuts and workstations.

It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that are at the core of a makerspace.  These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need critical 21st-century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) while being sensitive to the problems students see and feel for.  Makerspace provide hands-on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence. Some of the skills that are learned in a makerspace pertain to electronics, 3D printing, 3D modelling, coding, robotics and even woodworking, Makerspaces are also fostering entrepreneurship and are being utilized as incubators and accelerators for business startups.

The Heritage Xperiential School, Gurgaon has a huge makers lab. Students from grade two to twelve have makers lab as a part of the curriculum. It is amazing to see little kids using drawing software for creating images and then getting them printed on a 3-D printer. Students of middle years have successfully created prototypes of products they feel their parents could use, like stop-snore device, count calorie device, foot massager and many more.

Noora motivates each child to create something, though her natural charm, openness and love for people. Her aim is to have schools which have a MakerSpace inside their classrooms by using rolling tool trolleys. The idea is, to give enough exposure of STEM devices to students so that they feel confident using them.

Students of middle school come and design their own prototypes. Students use the SketchUp software to design 3-D models, which could then printed using the 3D printer! The joy of actually seeing one’s idea A group of students had designed a model of a heart using the software. This was later printed using the 3-D printer.

Such a way of education help students clear their concepts and they are involved in their own learning. Students feel confident, thrilled and encouraged when they are able to make models or prototypes. The electronic circuits help them understand the use of diodes, capacitors, resistors in a circuit. They are able to think out of box. It’s only a belief in oneself makes or breaks one’s destiny. If students can believe that they too can be makers, only then will they be able to make a better future for themselves.

 

 

Written by Pragya Jindal, edited by Vishwa Srivastava

 

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From Corporate to Classrooms

Kevika Bali, a resident-teacher from IAAT Mumbai, shares why she moved mid-career to become a teacher. 

I spent 15 years in the corporate world of finance, a highly competitive field where performance was key. The margins were huge in this business and everyone wanted a big slice of the pie. I experienced my annual appraisal as an exercise in ‘normalization’ as if I were being neatly boxed and categorized. There was space only for a few at the top, who got the lion’s share. So the work environment was one of comparing and devaluing others, in a hurry to get to the top. At the end of the day, all that people wanted was to win brownie points and be perceived as successful performers.

From the beginning this was quite disconcerting, having worked in a very open work environment in the United States for 4 years. Back in India, I was shocked to witness the reality that life was only about making money at the cost of quality and reducing people to a number. I still do not understand why I succumbed. Maybe I had joined the rat race and was not willing to give up. It took its toll though. I suffered from paralysis of my right side many years later.

I consider myself fortunate because I got the opportunity to turn my life around and set my priorities straight. I started reflecting upon and questioning everything including my own thoughts. I realized that in very subtle ways, my opinions and behaviours had started forming right from the time I was in school, wherein I got the first ‘lessons’ of life such as ‘fear authority’, ‘pretend’, ‘please people ’ and ‘I am not good enough’ to name a few.

After years of suffering, I was finally ready to put down all this baggage. I resolved to reach my highest expression and assist others in reaching theirs and what better place to start than at school? I was convinced that there was actually no structure in place to prepare our children and youth from falling in the trap I took so long to emerge from. So transforming the educational space was imperative, I felt.

A chance encounter with ‘I Am A Teacher’ (IAAT) Teacher Development Program in 2016, gave me the hope and encouragement that I needed to ‘be and lead the change’ I wished to see in our education space. I was happy to see a program which was designed to break our frameworks besides providing the training I needed to be a teacher.

It was extremely exciting to join this course and I have never looked back. The program got me head to head with my fears, apprehensions, physical constraints and mental blocks, which have started loosening their hold on me. As an IAAT Resident Teacher, I am accepted and celebrated for who I am – a unique individual. I am learning to be an educator who leads by example- transforming myself to reflect the transformation in children and my peers. A tall order, I know.  But IAAT tells me, and I believe, “I can.”

 


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Finding Hope In The Classroom

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Most of us have stories of how teachers have left an impression, guided us on our life paths, mentored, suggested or directed, taught both implicitly and explicitly, even scolded and punished us. I would like to recall not just one teacher but many teachers who taught me, guided and mentored me at different points in my life.

I fondly remember my English teacher – Shenbaga. She was my class teacher for many years and taught me English from class 4 to class 8. In the way she read out the stories and poems to us, she brought the images alive. I still have a vivid memory of one of them, ‘The adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn’ vividly. I can recollect parts of the stories – sections on how Tom Sawyer was made to paint/wash the wall and the journey of Huckleberry Finn in the boat and many more. She would create an atmosphere of suspense while reading out certain parts and then urge us to read by ourselves. It was not just her ability to create magic with words but her warmth and ability to connect with students as well that made her affable.

Teachers would often remind us about our uniform, tying our hair up, etc. I had a new haircut and many teachers warned me on flaunting my new hair style. After a week or so, Shenbaga Miss called me and said, ‘please tie your hair’. I said, I would do so, since she had told me and also, she said it with love. I guess this has stayed with me. The qualities of listening to students, to be warm and approachable, I guess she has taught me implicitly.

She once asked in the class if anyone would choose to teach or take up teaching as a profession. I partially raised my hand and replied that I would like to be a lecturer or professor. She asked, “Why not a teacher in a school?” I was shy at that time, but now if I meet her, I guess I would proudly say, “I am a teacher”.

I met many more teachers who guided me and challenged me when I started my course in M.A Education when I was in my late 20s. I would say that I am happy to have met one of the finest teachers in my life through this course, Prof. Chayanika Shah.

I was a student of science and a science teacher and had just started my exploration in social sciences and education. At this point she helped me examine my own notions of science. The question she raised and made me think about was, ‘Is science objective’? Her lectures, discussions and the materials she used were provocative. I was so intrigued by these that I started my Ph.D. on questions related to the nature of science. I would say that her questions around objectivity and subjectivity gave me a new lens through which to look at life. Questions around science led me to explore the ideas of tentativeness. I am happy that I did it. I am open now to new ideas, questions and challenges.

Prof. Nandini Manjrekar is another person who challenged and pushed my limits. I was in awe of her knowledge and understanding of different subjects from history to science, political science to mathematics. Her lectures on sociology of education made me understand social justice, democracy, inequality, and many more ideas and their relationship with education. She has read so much that in a one hour lecture she would quote and suggest at least five authors/books to read. She would set hard deadlines and, in many ways, I am thankful for that. Through her guidance she made me think through my research deeply. Her feedback would be so detailed and every line would have comments. My goal while writing and sending the drafts would be to have a minimum number of comments. Her standards were always high and it really helped me to go deeper and sharpen my understanding of education.

Prof. Padma Sarangapani was another person from whom I learnt to ask more and more questions. Her discussions and lectures were highly engaging. She would ask hows and whys and try not to give direct solutions. She made me think and find my own answers. I remember, during one of her lectures I had a strong opinion on examinations and said something in the class. She asked, ‘Indu, why do you say so?’ I tried to respond to her and this question made me think. I gave some answer and again she asked, ‘How is that?’ She spent a good ten minutes with me asking these hows and whys a couple of times and helped me understand my own assumptions. I realized that it was not reasonable for me to hold any unverified, unexamined views about learning and teaching. This made me think deeply about education. I try and emulate her and aspire to be a teacher like her. I try and make my students think and find their own answers. ‘Whys’ have become a part of my every day conversations and I bug my family and daughter with these.

These three teachers and many more of them whom I have not mentioned here helped me ponder on education, teaching and learning. I moved from being a student of science to becoming a science teacher and later teacher educator. I am happy that I have been exposed to social sciences and education. I now try and push people and student teachers to think deeply and take education and teaching as a serious profession. I would say that I found hope in classrooms, while teaching and while interacting with students. I end with a few lines here as an ode to my teachers

Classrooms are the only hopeful places,
I find hope when I enter classrooms,
I find hope in the questions that are asked,
I find hope in the curiosity that is aroused,
I find hope, a germ, a seed that we sow,
I find hope when there is dissent, an argument in the class,
I find hope when there is critical engagement,
I find hope when there are mistakes and
I find hope when there is chatter and noise in the classroom,
I find hope, a possibility of dialogue in classrooms,
Let’s keep this hope alive, only teachers can keep it going.


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An ‘Accidental’ Teacher Shows Us The Difference a Simple 1-Year Course Can Make!

Ramesh Jayaraman

Unlike the quintessential image we have of teachers, Ramesh brings not just an immense amount of passion towards teaching but also encourages curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking in his students.

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Many new-age schools expect parents to be involved every step of the way. So when Ramesh Jayaraman glanced through a leaflet his son had brought home which spoke about training to teach, he assumed it was a workshop for parents to teach their kids. Intrigued, he decided to attend the session, and as they say, the rest is history.

A chartered accountant by training and a filmmaker by choice with over two decades of experience, Ramesh can perhaps be described as an accidental teacher.

Unlike the quintessential image we have of teachers, Ramesh brings not just an immense amount of passion towards teaching but also encourages curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking in his students.

In this exclusive interview with The Better India, Ramesh speaks with passion about the year-long course on teacher training that he underwent, the teaching methodology, and why he thinks getting trained to be a teacher is a worthwhile exercise.

A chance encounter at the teacher-training session

The flyer that Ramesh’s older child got back from the school said, ‘Learn how teaching is done’. Thinking that the programme was all about helping parents teach their kids, Ramesh attended the session.

“I loved the half-day I spent there. I must mention that the team that works behind the scenes, the enthusiasm and the passion with which they speak about education will leave you pumped with energy and a willingness to give teaching a chance,” he says.

Even though Ramesh was convinced about the course, it took him an entire year to decide to go through with it.

He says, “It was always at the back of my mind, but it was only a year after I attended that half-day session that I enrolled for the ‘I Am Teacher’ course.”

As a filmmaker, Ramesh travelled extensively around India, covering various projects that the UNDP and UNICEF have funded. Most of these projects were around primary education, and that is when he started looking at education. “What works, what doesn’t – I’ve seen some amazing projects that have been pedagogically wonderful,” says Ramesh.

The formative years are extremely important for the kids. If one doesn’t get them hooked on to learning from that age, they are lost to the world of learning forever, he feels.

Having worked with government schools, he was keen on seeing what it would be like in private schools. He took a sabbatical for a year to see whether teaching would interest him and six months at being a teacher, after which he was confident that he made the right choice.

What does the course entail?

The course is a year-long programme, which attracts professionals from various walks of life. In a batch of 30 teacher-trainees, there were banking professionals, doctors, homemakers, filmmakers, and corporate workers. “This eclectic mix is what adds to the course. Each one brings so much to the table,” he says.

Ramesh says that he would recommend this course to those who are keen on teaching because it allows them the freedom to be in a classroom during the teacher-training course.

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The trainee teacher gets to learn from a teacher and shadow the teacher for a while.

“We weren’t just theoretically learning about how kids should be taught. We were getting to teach and learn hands-on how to deal with children and teach them. You will notice a change over the one-year that you are a part of the course,” he says.

This course makes you a good student to enable you to become a good teacher, says Ramesh.

Activity-based learning

What this essentially means is allowing the children to experience things and learn, through various activities. Ramesh says, “Just after the Tsunami struck, many schools along the belt that was hit were rebuilding from scratch, and they chose to adopt this activity-based learning module. I was involved in creating these modules for classes 1 to 4, and that was a great learning opportunity for me as well.”

Schools that follow the philosophy of J Krishnamurthy and Mother fascinated Ramesh, and for his children, he was looking for a school that followed their ideals.

It was this search that led Ramesh to Heritage Xperieential School in Gurugram.

What keeps a teacher going?

For Ramesh, being able to bring his filmmaking experience, spanning two decades to the classroom is most valuable. “I started working with students of senior grades and mentored them to produce their very own video newsletter. The high that I felt seeing the final product was something else,” he says.

While teaching is a passion for him, Ramesh was sure that he did not want to give up on a skill that he had spent almost twenty plus years fine-tuning.

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As we end our conversation, Ramesh urges anyone who might be interested in teaching to take the course. He says, “It’s one thing to be good at something but being trained in teaching adds so much more to what you can deliver.”

Passion is one thing, but teaching is a skill that one needs to learn, he says in conclusion.

If you find yourself drawn towards education, then do check out the details of the ‘I Am Teacher’ programme  here.

 

Ramesh Jayaraman – IAAT Graduate


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CAN WE CREATE AN INDIA OF OUR DREAMS WITHOUT CREATING CLASSROOMS OF OUR DREAMS?

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Smriti Jain writes why it is important to educate teachers in the changing education scenario.

 

“The status of the teacher reflects the socio-cultural ethos of a society; it is said that no people can rise above the level of its teachers.” The National Policy on Education, 1986

Can we truly empower our youth without empowering our teachers? Nations are built in classrooms. However, even after seventy plus years of independence, our classrooms are dominated by rote- learning and fear.  Millions of children in our country experience the education system as disempowering, robbing them of their curiosity and they suffer silently in our institutions of learning.

Physically punished for asking questions, forced to prioritize rote memorization over analytical thought, overcome by crippling anxiety, their self-worth reduced to the results of exams. It is no accident that India has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. One of the primary causes sited is failure in exams or the fear of that failure.

The struggles of our children reflect the struggles of our teachers. Our teachers are grossly unprepared to do anything different than what was done to them in their classrooms. Additionally, the prevalent model of teacher education bears a stark resemblance to the current model of schooling assembled around rote memory and examinations. When teachers do not experience any progressive pedagogy in their college classrooms how can they discover the vast potential of education?

Unsurprisingly, this type of teacher education yields the epidemic we see today of low teacher motivation, high absenteeism, and meaningless test-focused pedagogy. This perpetuates the destructive myth that teaching is easy, is a half-day’s job, and not a profession to take pride in. It is easy to put the blame on teachers. Our teachers are not failing. We as a system are failing our teachers. If we really want to re-imagine classrooms for our children, we must first re-imagine classrooms where our teachers are prepared. All research concludes that improving teacher quality is at the heart of improving student learning.

Teacher education is fundamentally about building more aware and empathetic human beings – people who understand themselves, can balance multiple perspectives, and relate deeply with others across traditional lines of difference.

Teachers first need to find their own voice before they can teach others to do the same. Teacher preparation programs should help them to connect with their self, their aspirations, and help them carve out their own identity as people and teachers. They must experience the purpose of education first hand and the profound effects it can have.

As children growing up in schools how many of us were provided the space to connect with ourselves and our purpose? As a nation obsessed with performance, grades and marks with little regard to deeper understanding, meaning, and nurturing human values; we are germinating violence in the classrooms.

For our classrooms to seed love, compassion and empathy instead of jealousy, comparison and one-upmanship; we need those torch bearers and change makers who can lead by example

Given the current ‘stick and carrot’ approach; nothing much is going to change. The system has created enough accountability measures without really looking at inspiring our teachers and nurturing them as human beings.

Smriti Jain, Co-Founder and Director, I Am A Teacher

 

 


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Transformation: Within and Without

Kevika Bali, PGDLT Resident Teacher

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It is commonplace in the corporate world, from which I come, to ask oneself to rate themselves in comparison to others as well as be told they do not ‘match up’. One may wonder where this way of life comes from, but it is actually simple to join the dots. One look at this giant leap and it becomes apparent that such behaviour is actually an expansion of what is happening in our schools. The imprints that were awarded to me at this time ran so deep that my life was rife with comparison and judging and instead of nurturing I got neglect and ridicule.

I was forced to think that if these imprints are playing themselves out in the ‘world outside the school’ at much higher stakes of materialistic joy, then where was my fulfilment and everlasting joy?

It was much later that I realized that I was capable of reaching true fulfilment in doing something I loved. Sure, there were those who found their calling in the corporate world but they are really few and far in between.

What really stood out to me in my corporate stint was the stark reality that life and love ‘out here’ are of no real value to anyone, while that was exactly what everyone was seeking! A hollow world that derived its value from having, achieving, competing and measuring up to standards, was not my cup of tea anymore

I awoke night after night troubled that if this is the fabric we are weaving, then what is the framework in which it is being weaved? My answer was – our schools. So, if students were being exposed to aggression right from the start, was it really surprising that they got behavioural issues and fostered hate for authority, which showed up later once they were independent? I realized that I had not even seen the highest expression of my life. The niggling feeling that “I am just not good enough” would just not leave me. Imagine living with that!

After being at the receiving end for so many years, I was forced to think that IS THIS WHAT WE WANT TO LEARN WHEN WE ARE IN SCHOOL? Do we want to expand our knowledge at the cost of contracting our hearts?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – Matthew 7:12 is a favourite quote of mine because they carry the wisdom that we, are but mirrors, who simply reflect each other. So, I ended up reflecting upon incident after incident in school which showed me that I had ingrained learning from each incident that reflected in everything I did. The best part is that I could not see it – but others could. I started seeing the world as a horrible place where I wasn’t valued. The day I realized that I had it backward, I laughed, really laughed. I was free!

Sadly the stress of my stint in the corporate world and my broken personal life caused paralysis of my right side. But soon the clarity came to me that in any case there was nothing “normal” about this world, paralysed in its own way. A window then opened up for me to see others and myself as they are – unique and irreplaceable.

Wonder overflowed through me to see this beautiful creation, which I would not have been able to see had I remained in the roles I played or in the fixed ways of thinking that I had developed. I had to relearn a lot and finally I understood my love for learning. All I could think was ‘what could I do to help children’? I was convinced that there was actually no structure in place to prepare our children and youth for facing this world because no one was really invested in them, a fact that in my experience I felt was true across our educational system.

It was my good fortune that I had a chance encounter with IAAT program in The Heritage School, Gurgaon. The program had a framework that broke other frameworks. It was extremely exciting to join the course and I have never looked back. I have faced my fears, apprehensions, physical constraints and mental blocks ever since I joined and it’s only been a couple of months.

There is a lot of good humour and camaraderie in the IAAT team which makes one immediately feel accepted. Yes I am still learning the ropes but now my heart is definitely in the right place as I know I will finally add value to all the little hearts waiting for their turn to beat joyfully. This is going to be one journey to remember.

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It takes a collaborative community to educate a child

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A PGDLT alumna shares her experiences of being part of a mentorship programme and her more recent experiences of trying to collaborate in a new workplace

Shradha Jain

There is a famous African Proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. What does it mean? African culture recognizes that parenting is a shared responsibility – a communal affair – not just the concern of parents or grandparents, but of the extended family. Uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours and friends can all be involved and all have a part to play.

My experience as a first time parent were somewhat different. When I became a mother, bringing up my two children was never a communal affair for me – I craved for a guide or a support who could advise and help me to hold the strings together. I dealt with it all; singlehandedly. I can say I managed the show well; well almost!

When IAAT happened, I stepped into a world of learning. A space where I learnt as well as unlearnt. A space that was new to me. I had worked with children and youth of almost all age groups. However, being a teacher was a new milestone for me. I stepped into a learning space with a mentor by my side. I was literally handed over to her.

Inside a classroom, observing the mentor teacher is one of the most powerful and insightful experience a mentee can go through. I experienced that magic! To be able to engage 32 odd eight year olds in learning. You comprehend a lot, merely by observing.

I took my first Maths lesson in Grade 2 with my collaborating teacher and mentor teacher observing me. I made mistakes conceptually because of the fear of the subject. However, my mentor stood watching and gradually and discreetly she transitioned into the lesson without affecting the lesson as well as the students. It helped me to learn and understand her approach towards the situation. She imagined herself being in my shoes (a teacher feeling challenged) as well as being in the children’s shoes (a class looking confused). As a mentor as well as a teacher, she could empathize and had strategies at hand to take charge and make learning happen.

It is extremely crucial that the relationship between a mentor and a mentee is of two learners. People who are striving to learn from each other. My mentor was receptive to my questions and curiosities while I was receptive to her feedback and insights. There were times when I did not feel confident about taking a particular class and I was encouraged to go ahead and do it even if I made mistakes. It was heartening to know that I was allowed to make mistakes and my mentor was there to support and rectify. I also learnt that the mentor and mentee have a shared responsibility towards the students’ learning in a classroom.

Having graduated from PGDLT, as a new teacher, I have a vision to make my classroom a collaborative community. A space where children are allowed to make mistakes while learning and eventually learn from the feedback from each other as well as the teacher. It is an uphill task which looks far-fetched but definitely not impossible. What may work is to be able to identify situations where children collaborate naturally and use them as simulations.

I have experienced that collaboration happens effectively when the individuals involved are treated as ‘equals’. When there are no power struggles between two adults or even between a child and an adult (a typical situation between a parent-child and sometimes even a teacher-student). Each one of us has different talents, so it helps to work with each other rather than work by ourselves. These are opportunities for close collaboration, shared challenges and the sense of achievement that comes from successfully working through such challenges. Collaboration and mentoring works brilliantly when planning engaging lessons for the students. It helps to improve our professional knowledge and skills when several minds and experiences are put together.

However, a challenge that is faced by many of us here is the lack of structures that aid collaboration. Schools and organizations strongly believe in collaborating but fall short of providing support and opportunities for the same. Reasons can be many, however, we as people who impact children’s lives need to ensure this diligently with no compromise. Here I would like to quote Einstein, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ And before I end I want to leave you with a quote by Steve Jobs, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”