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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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Insights from an Intern

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Chahat Kaur interned with us in the month of July 2018, she is currently a second year college student at Claremont McKenna College, California, USA.

Education to a child is what soil is to a plant. It provides a platform for a child’s
growth. On the land of education, learning is one of the key sources of knowledge that
nurtures a child’s mind. As the metaphor continues, a child is exposed to several
sources of learning; one of the initial one’s are educational institutions – schools.
These follow specific guidelines for examining the child to provide an unbiased
education to each child. The guidelines of learning, in schools, vary amongst
countries and are distinguished mostly, by their affiliation to the boards of education.
The boards are examining systems, which organize education for students to be able
to grasp knowledge in the best manner possible. With the emphasis on the “learning
by doing” approach, the schools have deviated from a traditional classroom
environment to a modern high-tech experiential one. These changes have been
prompted due to the awareness, in parents, regarding reasonable experimental
practices that should be exercised by the teachers at the school.
The irony of the system, however is that the schools claim to provide education
through “learning by doing” approach but do not train the teachers in the same
fashion. The style of teaching holds individualistic values (varies with each teacher’s
experience), however it is imperative to observe if the style aligns well with content
assigned by the boards. The hands on learning approach is essential to have but
cannot be practiced efficiently if the teachers are not trained effectively.
The I Am a Teacher Program (IAAT) focuses on practicing the theory, which is
taught during the lectures. The theory includes modules on learning about school,
classroom and student culture. The program respects the individualistic teaching style
of the teachers, but also focuses on teaching a common set of guidelines essential to
teach students across all grade levels.
It is interesting to note here is that even though the style of teaching is different for
teachers and these trainings are mostly the same for all, there is still a certain degree
of variation in classroom functioning of each board. The CBSE exam pattern is based
on the questions given in the NCERT books, whereas the IGCSE exam questions are
based on the findings from the experiments performed in class. Much like we
appreciate the hands on learning approach, we should also fathom the need for putting
into practice the theory that is learnt by an individual to become a teacher.
Education empowers you with the ability to ponder over the intellectual challenges.
The IAAT program catalyzes this process of thinking and encourages teachers to
contemplate the purpose of education. During the course of this program, the teachers
explore this purpose and put it to use while imparting education.

Chahat Kaur
IAAT Intern



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


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.