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School-Based Teacher Preparation- Possibilities and Challenges

In this article, Indumathi S. and Sameera Sood, Teacher-Educator at IAAT, explores the way in which IAAT‘s model is key to preparing competent teachers- while sharing some challenges for the same. Published by NCERT in Volume VII Issue I (August, 2018) of Voices of Teachers and Teacher Educators.

This article discusses the school-based teacher preparation model run by a not-for-profit organisation called I Am A Teacher (IAAT), Gurgaon. This is a one-year Post-Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching (PGDLT) programme. This course prepares teachers through a model where Student-Teachers spend a minimum three days practicing in a host-school. This article describes the mentoring model and highlights how teachers are prepared through a blend of theory and practice. The voices of the Student- Teachers are presented through reflections and narration of their learning experiences. It briefly highlights the challenges of such a school-based model.

Read more at: Read more on page 99



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A Journey Within, A Retreat Without

One of the most profound aspects of being a teacher is to be a learner. And this journey begins by looking deep within oneself – as you travel away from from the humdrum of your routine life, into a more tranquil quieter space closer to nature.

It wasn’t the course, it wasn’t what lay ahead for the next 10 months and it wasn’t the job placement the course guaranteed. The one thing I was most apprehensive about when I attended the first ever info session of IAAT was this retreat. For me, making the decision to do the course was almost instantaneous. What took a lot of convincing was attending the retreat. I am turning 40 next year. As I near this landmark birthday (it is indeed a big one, at least for me) the idea of ‘hanging out’ with complete strangers for four full days and nights didn’t exactly excite me. Add to that, roughing it out with most other students at least a decade younger than I, wasn’t appealing at all. I honestly thought of all possible excuses I could make to get out of this.

After the first day’s interaction with IAAT-ASB team, I was more than convinced that I wanted to go on this trip. The single most important factor being: Prerna, the head of IAAT, Mumbai. Her personality, her calm demeanour, her style of talking and listening, the absolute pleasure one feels when she is around was the ‘deal breaker’ for me. The challenge of reaching ASB at 6 am for the retreat wasn’t daunting anymore, because I knew Prerna would be there.

The bus ride started and ended as expected. I mingled around well but you know you haven’t really made a very strong connect if you can’t even remember names! We reached the place and it was pretty obvious that everyone, including me had made a mental note of whom we wanted as our roomies! The way the tent allocation was done, for me that really set the tone of things going forward for the next 4 days. And then there was no looking back!

The first team challenge (the pipe and the marble) brought out the teenager in me. One who didn’t care getting all soaked up in the rain and the one who used to get aggressive in a competing sports game. Snapping at fellow team members, the impulse reactions were all on display naturally. Even the action of hitting Pranav (the games coordinator) in jest or trying to bribe Shekhar was something I have always done in a competition. The spirit of ‘I have to win’ or ‘My team has to win no matter what’, I now realize was intact all these years. Just as my sportsmanship spirit. My team won. But my reaction within was just ‘well done’ because I knew that was just the icebreaker! There was a lot more to follow. I felt all charged up.

So while we were warned that the challenges were going to be like Roadies, I never in my wildest dreams did think they would really be so formidable. The rope bridge activity was confusing to begin with. But personally, I had figured my role in the challenge and was pretty confident and clear in my head that I would be able to do it. In retrospect, I think having Shringi in my team gave me that confidence. This comes from years of conditioning that only a man can do physically tough tasks. I think I was probably the third last person to cross that bridge. By then the rains were down on us in full force as was darkness. Not for a minute was I scared but a thought that kept popping up in my mind was that a man is really nothing in front of nature’s fury.

The next two days and nights had equally demanding tasks. Without getting into specifics I’d just like to highlight my feelings and thoughts:

Courage is all that we have and it is courage that keeps us going, helps us grow. There is a lot of hidden courage within us.

All emotions are common. If you are going through some, the other person is going through the same. It is of utmost importance that we show empathy towards another person and have some control over our impulsive reactions. Think before reacting.

It is absolutely essential to focus on the journey and not just on the goal.

For anything to happen, YOU must make it happen.

Be true to self.

Apart from just the physical challenges, our minds were really put to use. For me to see the passion of Smriti, Prerna and Bindya were really inspiring. It honestly makes me want to work harder and a lot more sincerely. Often we come across people who seem to be in full control of their emotions. It is not easy to get someone to open up in front of relative strangers and be true. But I think Smriti you do really have some powers. At the end of 4 days, each one of us ‘choked’ up on our emotions multiple times. Something that haunts me 3 days after the trip as well. And strangely enough, I don’t feel vulnerable. I think I just needed somebody to peep inside my soul, understand it and awaken it. I probably may have been running away from confronting unpleasant things/feelings/situations but I now realize how important self-introspection really is. If we can lift ourselves from a space of non-awareness, it can truly be awesome. And once you are aware there is no stepping back. We just need to consciously work towards creating a space where we can truly be ourselves.

The single most important takeaway for me from the camp was being mindful. “Mindfulness is not about erasing bad feelings but about acknowledging them, even befriending them and then choosing how we respond.”,/p>

I would just like to end by saying it really has been an experience of a lifetime. For someone who has zero threshold for pain, to emerge absolutely refreshed after this four-day rigorous mental and physical hard work does say something. While I did think a lot about my children and family and my relation to them, I didn’t miss them. The first call to them was on the third day of the retreat, such was the engagement of the retreat for each of us!

Grateful to Prerna and Smriti for introducing me to this whole new world. Teachers are adventurers, and I began my journey of being one by experiencing the other.


                                                                                                                – By Tina, our Resident Teacher from IAAT-ASB


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Classroom Culture

The only working model of socialism I have ever seen is in an elementary school classroom



Most classroom practices, rules and practices are rooted

in the school values

According to my observations, I feel each teacher lends a unique flavor to his/her class. Each seemingly insignificant action of the teacher is actually not a random but a well thought out act. The teacher is the role model, and by being consistent in his/her practices and behavior, he/she becomes the living example of the values. The students invariably pick up and inculcate these values.

The classroom norms and practices are arrived at after discussions amongst all the students of the class. All the ideas and thoughts are considered and there is active participation by all the students. The value of ‘inclusion’ is very evident as children show receptivity to all ideas. The norms are not imposed by the teacher. The students realize the importance of having certain guidelines for the smooth functioning of the class. Since they exercise freedom in choosing their own rules, they feel responsible to follow the norms as well.

There is a sense of ownership and it is displayed in almost all the actions of the students. The students play an active role in implementing all the routines – taking attendance, distributing stationary and journals, collecting and arranging books in the book corner, arranging bottles in the bottle corner etc. The striking feature of such practices is that students become more attentive and aware and are thus in a better position to notice inefficiencies and take corrective action. For instance, the student in charge of organizing the bottle corner every morning noticed the chaos that ensued in the afternoon when students rushed to collect their bottles. The following morning she requested for permission to distribute bottles to all the students at the time of closure to avoid the chaos.

One of the most important value that is being cultivated in the students is to practice self-discipline. Whether it is listening attentively while others are speaking, waiting for their turn before speaking, winding up the tables, arranging the chairs back under the table each time children get up so as to not block the path, or waiting patiently for their turn to move out of the classroom without obstructing others’ way – each of these practices convey an underlying value of respecting others.

Social learning is also very important aspect in the classroom. The teacher utilizes various opportunities to encourage children to reflect on their conduct. For instance, an accidental fall of a middle school student in the corridor while running, was used as an opportunity to initiate a discussion on reinforcing the rules to walk down corridors. In such a process, students observe the behavior of others and its consequences, and as a result modify their own behavior.

Similarly peer learning is also an integral part of the classroom. The children are seated in crews to facilitate group work. Children are assigned in groups after a careful examination of various factors. For instance very fluent readers are paired with progressing readers, a high energy child paired with a low energy child and so on. Children who are able to finish their tasks early welcome the opportunity of helping their peers. There is no competitiveness, rather children appreciate and applaud the progress made by their peers as they feel equally responsible in contributing to peer learning.

To sum it up, the classroom culture is more about co-operation and self esteem rather than comparison and thus provides a joyful learning experience to all the students.

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Harjeet Kaur, Resident- I am a Teacher