Be(com)ing a Teacher

In the monsoon of 2009, I had just begun my final year of BTech at NIT Calicut. After countless hours and days and weeks of idling about without any purpose in life, the reality slowly dawned on me that I needed to find something to do after that year. The four years that I had bought myself was about to end and with it my sojourn in the attic of comfort that I had inherited with it. I would be thrown into the world out there, whether I liked it or not. I needed to decide what was it that I was going to do, or whether I was going to do anything. I had almost a year left, but I had to start looking.

I had to look because I had obstinately decided within that I would not follow the two common paths that engineering graduates normally choose- get a job or go for further studies. That much was clear to me. The world was on a head on collision course with catastrophe. We humans had become hopelessly dependent on a crude oil that was past its peak production, pollution and disease were increasing while today’s children had hardly any idea where the food on their plates came from, the world’s poor were getting more helpless by the day, and worst of all no one around me seemed to care, or even to know.

There was no way I was going to be a passive cog in the wheel and put my shoulder also to the wheels of the machinery that was speeding the world on the path to destruction. That had been the result of almost four years of an obsession with reading about the dire state of our world through articles and books written by environmentalists, activists, philosophers, “alternative living” pioneers etc. I had no idea what I would do if I didn’t take up a job or go for higher studies, but then my philosophy was, “if you are not sure what to do, do nothing.”

Though I describe two obvious options available to me, they actually comprised a wide range of options which can be categorized into two umbrellas. There are several kinds of jobs which electronics and communication engineering graduates normally opt for. The most highly coveted and difficult to get is in chip design/signal processing which is described as a “core job” in engineering college lingo (‘core’ because the job is supposed to be related to the core courses you undergo in college). The next kind is a software job in the countess companies that now operate a variety of services. The third is a job in public sector companies like ISRO, BARC, DRDO etc.

These distinctions were irrelevant because I wasn’t motivated to take up work that any of these organisations did. Besides, I had decided as far back as twelfth standard that I will not live in a city. One smart way to be living in a place away from cities seemed to be to become a professor. Most institutions of higher education seemed to be located in beautiful places. Which brings me to the second umbrella of options.

To do a masters. But in what? The easy option would be to do an MTech, for which one had to clear the entrance exam called GATE. But my interest in my BTech courses had been sporadic at best. The other option would be to do an MS abroad. Which would be more glamorous and flexible. You needn’t stick to what you did in BTech. But what else could I do? I hadn’t developed any serious interest in any particular field by then.

I didn’t want to do any of these. I wanted to do something different. Not for the sake of doing something different, but because it seemed like doing any of these would essentially mean saying to myself, “Well, the world is what it is, and there’s nothing much you can do about it, so stop cribbing and move on”. I did masquerade under the guise of preparing for GATE, but deep within I knew I was going to do something different.

And my reading slowly shifted from reading about the problems of the world, to people and organisations who were actually doing something in real life to explore a different way of living. Thanks to the internet, stories of dozens of such people are only a click away. Without this wealth of information I would never have gathered the courage, without knowing that there are so many people who are living a saner life.

There were so many fascinating stories of people who had set out on their own paths in life. I was often bursting to talk about them with someone. I used to do that with a few of my friends who were sympathetic to my concerns, but were intensely sceptical about my intentions to do something in real life, given my extreme passivity and reputation as a sleep maniac. At every opportunity they took a jab at me, calling me a future greenpeace activist or even a Himalayan monk!

Though they were just friendly jabs, they brought home to me the fact that I had taken virtually no concrete steps to fulfill my ambition of finding a different path for myself. It was all empty thought and talk. And the months were passing by.

Meanwhile I had taken an initiative to search out people nearby, who had done something different in life. I visited a man named Roy Jacob, who had left his job in the US to do farming in Wayanad. I visited another man named KB Jinan, who had revived the traditional pottery in Nilambur. I had read about both of them on the internet. It was great to meet them in person, and talk to them about my urge to find my own path in life, and hear from them about their own journeys in life. At the end of it I was inspired but still without any concrete idea of what to do.

That was when I came across the Krishnamurti Foundation schools and other alternative schools in India. I had been concerned with the problems with education along with everything else, and had been reading and thinking about it quite a bit. Also it was one thing which I had a lot of first hand experience, having been on its receiving end as a student for much of my life so far.

Though I had been a “good student” and had done well in school, during the last few years I had become quite fed up with it and had begun to realize that it had done little more than prepare me for taking exams. It all seemed to be pretty pointless. I also felt that the numbing of the mind due to the education we get is one of the reasons why we fail to look beyond our own narrow lives and respond intelligently to the situation our world is in. In short, it makes us incapable to do anything but follow the rat race.

So here at last I had something that I felt some connection to, something that could be a serious option to consider after college. I had several questions in mind, of course. Most of these schools, even though they had an unconventional outlook and philosophy and offered a different environment for children to grow in, they still had structured classes and subjects and their students did take exams conducted by some board or the other. Was this option a path that was fundamentally different? Wouldn’t I be serving the same machinery, only a different part of it?

Being a teacher in one of these schools seemed like an attractive option nevertheless, because these schools were all located in rural settings, “close to nature”. Anyway, I would need a job to support myself and what more could I hope for than the opportunity to work with people with a similar outlook of life and education.

My biggest doubts were over my own ability to assume the role of a teacher, young as I was, with virtually no experience of working with children or handling a classroom or planning a lesson. It was definitely going to be a challenge, especially given my virtual isolation from everything around me for the last four years or so. I would be putting myself in a situation in which I would be forced to connect with the people and activities around me. But I believed that was the way to go.

Thus I set out looking for a job as a teacher in a residential school run by the KFI, 70 km from Pune, on the top of a hill on the Bhima river. I eventually joined the school and am half way into my second year as a teacher there.

If I’m asked to name one significant challenge I’ve faced so far, I would say it’s been how to relate with the role of being a teacher and all that it entails, in the context of the questions and the discontent that brought me here in the first place. Without that connection, it’s a floating, aimless existence. It’s been a struggle, and I’m still in the midst of the struggle. That’s as far as I can say at this point in time.

One can only look back later and say in retrospect, “Ah, this is what this experience did to me!”

Teaching Chemistry

Chemistry is very intriguing in its incarnation as a subject in the senior school curriculum. Perhaps its notoriety for being a subject that forces the student to memorize a lot of factual information is surpassed only by that of biology. Names of dozens of compounds, their chemical formulae and structures, chemical reactions which they undergo, the equations for those reactions, the conditions required for those reactions… it is a huge mountain to swallow. At the same time, there are very complex concepts involved that are quite counter-intuitive, and without which even the conceptual parts of the subject degenerate into something which has to be “mugged up”.

I liked chemistry as a student. I first started learning chemistry as a subject when I reached the eighth standard. I studied in a CBSE school, and chemistry was not really a separate subject, but part of the science paper. We had separate classes for chemistry, nevertheless. I don’t remember much of what I learnt back then, but I have a vague remembrance that there wasn’t much that was taught. It was mostly the basic ideas of elements, compounds and mixtures, atoms and molecules, carbon compounds etc. I also remember quite clearly an experiment demonstration in which our teacher showed us the preparation of soap from oil and sodium hydroxide solution.

My real association with chemistry started in the eleventh standard, when I took up physics, chemistry and maths along with computer science as my subjects in higher secondary school. It was truly a time when the horizons of knowledge just broadened like anything, and I seemed to learn so many new things about the world we live in, that all seemed to fit into each other perfectly.

Chemistry, along with mathematics and physics, seemed to offer glimpses of an insight into what our world really is made of, and how it works. It made one pause and wonder and appreciate how intricate are the mechanisms that drive chemical reactions in plants which convert useless carbon dioxide into the invaluable carbohydrates which we eat, how the energy locked up in a particular arrangement of atoms and electrons in the carbohydrates is released when it is broken up again into carbon dioxide, how a similar reaction powers our cars and thermal power stations, how we are made up of atoms that were formed billions of years ago in stars and so on.

It was a truly revolutionary, worldview shaping body of knowledge. Perhaps because of the intense connection I felt with it, and the power that I felt it gave me in knowing the world better, I had a good relationship with the subject. I never struggled to find any motivation to learn the rules for writing electronic configuration, or memorize facts about the transition elements, or learn different reaction mechanisms in organic chemistry. I had taken this group of subjects under the guise of preparing for engineering entrance exams. To be honest, right from the beginning I was not convinced that I really wanted to become an engineer, but the subjects were intrinsically interesting, so my reservations about taking up engineering didn’t stop me from engaging with them fully.

So I studied chemistry for two years, engaging with it as deeply as I could with the resources at my disposal. Then after twelfth standard, I joined the National Institute of Technology Calicut for BTech in electronics and communication engineering, and thus ended my relationship with chemistry as a student. We did have a laboratory chemistry course during the first year at NIT, but it was a set of highly specialized experiments which none of us really knew why we were doing them.

It is in this context that I happen to join Sahyadri School as a chemistry teacher. Many people ask me why I wanted to teach chemistry, of all subjects. The truth is, I never wanted to teach chemistry. In fact, I didn’t have any particular subject which I wished to teach. I just wanted to be a teacher in a school like Sahyadri. Given my education after tenth standard, physics, chemistry and maths are the three subjects I could have taught. They needed a chemistry teacher at the time and I thought, Why not?! I could give it a try!

In my first year of teaching, I was asked to handle chemistry for classes 8, 9 and 10. I was momentarily taken aback when I first saw that. I had said I could handle chemistry, but I had not realized that I was going to join as a “chemistry teacher”, that I would be the only teacher taking chemistry for the entire senior school. I remember walking into the chemistry lab for the first time, seriously wondering what I had gotten myself into! It brought back memories of working with salts, and pipettes and burettes back in eleventh and twelfth, but I realized that now it was different. I was going to have to handle the lab when there were twenty odd highly energetic adolescents moving about under my charge!

Before long I had started teaching chemistry to all the three classes. The ICSE curriculum, I learnt, was much vaster than its CBSE counterpart and as far as chemistry was concerned, this meant having to learn many more facts than a student in a CBSE school would learn at the same stage.

In tenth standard, I started with topics like the periodic table and chemical bonding, where there was at least some logic and conceptual understanding involved, where I could start conversations with what the children had learnt earlier. In eighth and ninth standards, I started with the study of matter, and ended up spending class after class on meandering discussions and conversations which practically led nowhere, and bored both the students and myself.

Having dived into teaching without any training in classroom teaching, I found myself just walking into the class with virtually no preparation other than the patchy and limited knowledge base that one gathers as a student in the process of studying for exams. The first thing I had to do was to read up more about the history of how ideas came to be, and what were the experiments and observations which led to different scientific concepts we take for granted today. That turned out to be an interesting and absorbing endeavour, and led me to several good resources for teaching chemistry, on the internet.

Even if one knows thoroughly the complex and interconnected web of concepts, it’s a challenge to present them in a coherent and engaging manner. Needless to say, I felt totally unequipped to teach chemistry. I wondered whether I had taken up the wrong subject, but then I felt it would have been the same whatever the subject I taught.

One really starts learning when one teaches, because when you are teaching, inconsistencies or gaps in concepts stare you in the face. You realize, for example, that you’ve taken it for granted that water contains some H+ and OH- ions and find it difficult to explain to a student why it should be so since I had never asked the question before myself. It forces you to look further to understand better since you need to put forth a coherent explanation. Not that one always finds the answers, but at least you know better what is it that you know, and what is it that is beyond your current scope of understanding. Which is everything, I feel.

Every now and then I come across some such gap in my conceptual understanding, as well as the conceptual gaps in the curriculum. Either through questions posed by students, or through questions which occur to me when I try to prepare for a class or through the “wrong answers” which students give. I scribble them down here and there, but need to find a systematic way of doing it.

Out of necessity I had flung myself full length into learning more about chemistry, but I decided to stick with chemistry in my second year of teaching, to carry forward all the work done in my first year. I had become quite fascinated with the conceptual domain of chemistry- especially how one looks at atoms, molecules, ions, chemical bonding, reactions, and where all this fits in the larger picture of how one looks at the world.

Despite this potential richness in the subject, chemistry remains a difficult subject to teach. The curriculum demands that the student learns so many facts- most of which wouldn’t make any difference to a student’s conceptual understanding if they didn’t learn it- for which there is no reason why anyone should learn them unless one would like to pursue higher studies in the subject.

You can only teach parts of chemistry, and tell the student to memorize the rest. Unless the teacher is so deeply immersed in the subject that she has enough stories about all the little details that the student has to learn. Even then I have my doubts about how effective one can be with so many facts to transmit.

I used to feel very confused about teaching chemistry. It was a subject that I liked, but still it felt strange and frustrating often. It was an important milestone for me to realize for myself which parts of chemistry I liked and which parts I didn’t really care about. More importantly that there was such a distinction, and a blanket statement like “I like chemistry” needs to be examined further.

It is true that a teacher has to be passionate about the subject she teaches, but when you don’t identify with the topic, I think it’s important to be honest and say, “I don’t know what more is there to this chapter than a set of facts and have no idea why the board wants you to learn it. Anyway, let’s see how we can effectively learn it.” Without accepting that, I’ve found myself teaching a topic, and in the middle of the class wondering what was the point of it all, and getting derailed.

It’s been an interesting experience. I’d never imagined I’d teach chemistry one day, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the last year and a half! Along with the learning in the realm of academics, equally important (or perhaps more) has been the learning in the realm of how to look at the work you are doing, and how to establish a meaningful relationship with it.

The Difficulty with Science

One of the first things that struck me when I started teaching is that science comes across as a difficult subject to a majority of the students. There are some to whom it seems to come naturally, and we label them “science-persons” while the others who seem to struggle, as “arts-persons” or “humanities-persons”.

While there is no denying that there are variations in children’s ability, aptitude and interests, I’m gripped by the question whether everyone can be given a meaningful and enriching, and not painful science education. And if so, what would that be like.

One of the approaches that could be taken, perhaps, is to study how science is normally taught and what are the sources of the difficulties which children face. How is scientific knowledge organised in our brains and what are the factors which make this process so difficult for so many? It might require some thought about the very nature of science and scientific knowledge.

While I’m not an expert in any of these areas, some of the problems which I myself have faced as a student provides some hints. The problem may not be such a big mystery if you look a bit closer.

Much of science is abstract, counter intuitive, and removed from real life experience. Take, for example, the kinetic theory of matter, which says that the particles which make up matter are in continuous motion and that the temperature of a body is a measure of the average kinetic energy of its particles. Most text books don’t explain why people came to believe that the particles are in motion, or why a body is hotter if the particles are moving faster. There is a lot that ends up having to be taken for granted.

This is not an isolated example- far from it. Every theory or topic that children have to learn has some gap like this, and after a while instead of the concepts building up nicely into a jigsaw puzzle- an understanding of the way the world works, they end up being isolated and unrelated fragments that have to be “mugged up”.

Related to this is the fact that scientific knowledge is often presented as absolute truth. Very little, if any importance is given to the process of discovery and the evolution of scientific knowledge. Text books do mention some history, but it is often lost within the vast sea of facts which children have to memorise. And in the process, only the end product, and not the evolution of the idea or the real life phenomenon that led to it, is given importance.

Another difficulty which students often face is in forming mental pictures or representations of concepts or processes. If you are unable to visualise it, it quickly becomes abstract, meaningless information.

For example, consider the case of common salt dissolving in water. I, the teacher, have a vivid picture of differently sized Na+ and Cl- ions packed tightly in the solid crystal, and water molecules floating (or flowing!) around with their partially positive H and partially negative O ends. And the moment you put NaCl in water, the partial charges of water molecules arranging themselves around the ions in the salt and pulling them apart. It is a complex mental representation, built up over time, with connections to many other concepts like kinetic theory, chemical bonding etc. How can a teacher help a student build her own mental picture? Some students do this effortlessly, but can the others do it with some help and more importantly, can having such coherent mental pictures help them learn science more easily and connect with it better?

Most text books would introduce this concept with a sentence like “Sodium chloride dissolves well in water because it is a polar solvent.” And then go on to beat around the bush with all kinds of irrelevant information. How does the student visualise the term “polar solvent”? Does she think about it at all, or switch off completely? Or does she memorise the term without any clue as to what it means and move on and write the correct answer during the exam?

It’s important to note that the problems I have mentioned are not solved by just doing “more practical work than theory”. The same problems arise in lab sessions also, because doing an experiment is one thing, and understanding what happens behind it is another. Of course, being usually more engaging than theory classes, there is a greater chance that the student will apply herself better and get the concept. But one cannot assume that the student has understood it just by carrying out the experiment.

Again, let’s take an example, say precipitation reactions where solutions of two soluble salts are mixed together to form an insoluble salt.

Na_2CO_3 + CaCl_2 longrightarrow 2NaCl + CaCO_3 downarrow

Some children are immediately able to connect the above equation to their understanding of ionic compounds and solutions. They will immediately conclude that calcium and carbonate ions can’t stay together in the solution and that’s why they precipitate, and if they had come across calcium carbonate in earlier experiments, they would already know that it is an insoluble salt, which all fits in nicely into a perfect mosaic of knowledge. They would already be predicting which other pairs of solutions would give precipitates.

But for most, the equation wouldn’t mean anything deeper than what it literally states, and it needs to be made explicit to them what all information it represents and a visualisation of the process that is taking place. Otherwise, it is not unlikely that many would do this particular reaction, learn the equation by heart, do the next one, again learn the equation by heart and so on.

It’s fortunate that I have had these problems myself as a student, especially during engineering days, so that I can connect with the difficulties which students face. It’s not as if only “non-science-persons” face these difficulties, and “science-persons” don’t face them at all. I, whom many would classify as a “science-person”, have had experiences of having gone through entire courses without being able to make out head or tail of what was taught, and having to mug up to pass the exams. The moment you are unable to form coherent mental pictures of a concept, it is going to become more and more meaningless.

Churning of the Ocean of Thoughts

The sun disappeared behind the distant hills, in what could have been a scene taken right out of a painting, and I got up to head back. Walking alongside the Bhima, I couldn’t help turning my attention to a largish bird which was performing fantastic aerial stunts above the water. I’ll ask Prabhat to find out which bird that was.

As I reached the path that would take me back up the hill to the school, my thoughts again went back to hovering around the reality of my being here- in this place, at this moment. I suddenly noticed a dark piece of rock lying on the ground, and for no reason tipped it over with my foot. It revealed a fascinating shiny crystal formation on the other side. You find so many such crystals lying around here. These hills are believed to have been formed in massive volcanic eruptions around 60-70 million years ago.

I’m fascinated by the mere fact of my being here, of having spent almost a year here, so far away from home. On second thoughts, what is home? Where do I really belong to? Isn’t the whole world my home? Well, this place definitely feels like home.

The new path has made the walk down to the river and back up an easy affair. In a few minutes I’ll be back in school, in time for my evening prep supervision. Prep is a good space to sit quietly and observe the children. In class, so many things happen at the same time and you yourself are fully engaged in the moment, so there is no opportunity whatsoever to step back and observe the events from a distance.

Today they are doing their work silently. Only last week they were extremely noisy and boisterous, and had to be spoken to sternly. What exactly is my relationship with them, as a teacher of Chemistry, as an adult? What is it that I have to help them with? To prepare for exams, to keenly observe the world they live in, to have confidence in themselves?

They are already thinking, aware human beings. Many of them come from urban settings, and this place has made a difference in their lives. Many of them do grow up to be sensitive, sensible individuals. That’s not to say that that doesn’t happen in other places, but I do feel this place provides a good atmosphere for children to grow up. They are already adept at expressing and articulating their ideas and opinions, many of them more so than I am.

They won’t accept most things unquestioningly, but they do listen to reason. I’ve realised that it is important to be very clear in my head about “why do it?” when I ask something of them. This engagement with them on a level playing field, treating each other as equals, has been a huge learning experience for me. But they can also be extremely irritating and trying at times, with their tendency to slip into lousiness, and give in to impulses. It does seem like they need to be held together actively at all times, and that perhaps is one of the jobs of a teacher living with children.

I’m so lucky to be able to do work that I enjoy. It is a pleasure to be able to help children learn about the world we live in, learn new skills… But I’ve also encountered situations in the classroom where the whole exercise seems pointless, when I’ve asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” I’ve sometimes felt that I’m doing the same things to my students that I despised some of my teachers doing to me.

When I started teaching, I was desperate to perceive myself as a “good teacher”, to convince myself that I had taken up the right thing, having decided to deviate from the trodden path. As a result, for some time, I couldn’t accept the fact that I had problems with the work I’m doing. Today, I no longer feel uncomfortable confronting these questions, sharing them with other people. Being able to be honest with myself has been liberating, and has enabled me to begin to tackle some of these issues.

And it’s a boon, to have people around you who are at the same wavelength. It is absolutely wonderful to be in a place where you are valued for who you are- not something easy to find in this world. And the space to pursue all your interests and exercise all your faculties- without having to work around any narrow definition of your role. I’ve surprisingly found a continuity with who I was before I joined college, before I became excessively pessimistic and cynical!

After dinner, I go for a stroll in the cool breeze. The sky is clear, and I can see countless stars. Only last week I had my first glimpse of the milky way, when I went to the library roof with Prof. Mahajan early in the morning and had my first stargazing session. I’m going to spend some time learning about the objects in our night sky and observing them. It evokes a certain kind of wonder, which must be the same wonder our early ancestors had, which gave rise to science and religion.

But being in a place like this, there is a danger of becoming too preoccupied with oneself. It’s important to keep asking the question, “What is my relationship with the larger world?” I’m tempted to say “the world out there”, but I know I’m also part of that world. The world of corruption, powerful and greedy politicians and corporations, millions of homeless people, but also organisations which are making a difference in small ways, often unheard of in the mainstream media. Closer to home, what is my relationship with the dadas and didis (the support staff) from the villages down below, whose silent work keeps the school running? What is the children’s relationship with this world they are living in? Isn’t it a question of crucial importance for a teacher? Not just for oneself, but on behalf of the children too.

On a related but different (and more abstract and philosophical!) note, I have often felt that different parts of me come alive and active when I’m doing different things, when I’m relating with different people. It’s as if I’m a messed up assortment of unrelated fragments. Can I have a single scheme of things where each of these has a place? Not that I want to relate to each person or each activity in the same way, but I want to be the same person when I’m relating to different people or activities.

The children go home tomorrow. The school will become quiet and devoid of life for two and a half months now. I’m looking forward to spending some time here on my own when it’s quiet. That should be an entirely different experience.

Rediscovering Science

I’ve been away from blogging for quite a while now. In fact, I’m logging in to my account after months! I have been recording my thoughts in the meantime, in a journal(the paper and ink kind), which is why I haven’t felt the need to blog. Also the kind of things I have been recording are mostly personal experiences with kids- inside the classroom and outside- and thoughts related to teaching specific to my daily experiences here, so I felt that a blog was not the right place to put it. But I just thought I’ll keep the blog going, for those who may be wondering whether I’m still alive, or whether I’ve disappeared somewhere!

I’ve been having a great time of late, teaching Chemistry. I’ve been learning a lot while preparing to teach, especially the history of Chemistry. Well, I did know that the atomic theory was proposed by Dalton, or that oxygen was discovered by Lavoisier(well, Priestly discovered it earlier, but Lavoisier recognized it as an element), but these were just dry facts back in school. I’ve been learning about the fascinating stories around these discoveries, and the thought processes of the scientists in those days.

One resource I came across on the internet, which turned out to be very useful, is the BBC documentary series, “Chemistry: A Volatile History”. The whole documentary is available on Youtube. It’s extremely well made, and I have been using it in my classes also.

Another resource, is a book by the famous neuropsychologist(I think that’s what he is!) Oliver Sacks, called “Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood”. The book is about his childhood, when he was deeply into amateur Chemistry, due to the inspirational influence of his uncle who owned a bulb factory, and used to talk to him always about the qualities of tungsten. The book is in a way, his personal account of the history of Chemistry and his own journey in understanding Chemistry. It also gives you a glimpse into the life of a Jewish family in England during the second world war. The book was extremely helpful in broadening my knowledge of Chemistry and its history, and forming a perspective on most of the things dealt with in the syllabus.

A Day at Sahyadri

Here is how I spent my previous day.

6.50-7.30      Zero Period for 9th std. (Chem)
8.15-8.45      School Assembly
8.50-14.30    Had classes in 4 out of 7 periods + 1 period Science Faculty meeting
14.30-16.00  Working on crazy idea with kids, for the Mela- making a Rube Goldberg Machine
16.15-17.30  Weekly Staff meeting
17.30-18.30  Remedial class with some kids
18.30-18.50  Working on crazy idea with kids, for the Mela- making a Geodesic Dome
18.50-19.50  Prep Duty with 8th std
21.00-22.00  Practice with other teachers for Teachers’ Day skit

And to be pleasantly exhausted at the end of it, and to be looking forward to the next day eagerly- I guess I’m really lucky to be in a place like this…

Learning through Teaching

Three months have passed since I’ve started teaching here at Sahyadri School. I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I would have liked. It’s not that I don’t get any time, but there are so many things to be done, that I just don’t feel like sitting down and writing. But as my good friend Moulik put it, I should keep writing regularly- otherwise I would forget my observations, and also new experiences come in and replace the older ones, and I wouldn’t get to see their evolution. I hope I’ll start writing more regularly now.

This Saturday is the Teachers’ Day celebration. I’m really looking forward to it, as it is going to be my first Teachers’ Day as a teacher! On that day, the 10th std students take up the role of teachers. The teachers even have to sit in the 10th std classes and listen to them 🙂

I think being with kids is forcing me to be a bit more witty and talkative. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the amount of talking I have to do. It’s not something I’m used to, but I’m enjoying it because I see that I’m learning a lot about myself when I place myself in a situation in which I have to talk, I have to take charge.

I’m also learning that teaching in the classroom is not a straightforward, simple task. It’s not enough to know something, you have to really design how you will reveal that piece of information in a striking manner. And there are so many details which you have to keep in mind while teaching, like what and how you are writing on the board, how to steer a discussion in a particular direction, how to get everyone involved.

I’m badly lacking in many of these areas, but I’m very lucky that I have senior colleagues here who would visit my classes occasionally and without being judgemental, point out something which I had totally overlooked. I’ve also occasionally got some enlightening feedback from my students. I’m slowly learning how to teach more effectively. I really don’t know whether teaching is going to be my long term occupation, but what keeps me engaged right now is that this whole process is gradually revealing to me a part of myself which had never been given the chance to surface.