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An educator called Life

Walking down the woods on a learning journey

Author

pypwanderer

I am a passionate educator, who firmly believes in student centred, inquiry based learning and has been in the field of education for more than 20 years now. Eclectic experiences made me into the teacher I am, and the many years spent at Pathways World School, helped me flower professionally as a true PYP practitioner and a sound administrator. I have been working since July 2014 as the Head of Primary at the Singapore International School, Mumbai. More recently I have joined the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad as the PYP Coordinator. I also enjoy learning from other educators during my journeys (physical and virtual) as an IB workshop leader (face to face and online) and school visiting team member. I have travelled to different corners of the Indian subcontinent and to Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand, and UAE, outside my home country, having worked and interacted with professionals from more than 50 nationalities across the world. This blog is an online digital portfolio of my wanderings and wonderings. Each experience in life has helped me grow as an educator and each experience as an educator has helped me grasp the meaning and nuances of life a bit better. Hence, I start afresh on a new page, literally and metaphorically...after a disappearance act over the last 5 years. So does my blog, my portfolio!

An inquiry kind of day: Part 1

The alarm rings diligently at 630 am reminding me that a new day has come, waiting to be discovered! As I wake from my slumber with half closed eyes, the last wafts of a busy dream fade in the eyes of my mind. As I desperately try to remember all the action, I get out of the bed. At this time of the year, every night, the pattern of hot and cold changes. Is it cold when I wake up? I check the temperature and it is a cool 18 degree outside. I mentally prepare myself for the cold water that I am going to be splashing my face with!

A new day

After I refresh myself, it is time for the homely routine. I saunter down, part the curtains and open the windows, soaking in the crisp cool air that has secret smells of the flowers and leaves of the forest in a heady mix that reminds me how grateful I am to be alive… another new day! The best part of the morning awaits me as I step into the balcony to greet my plants.

Living colours

Some are radiantly green, some are half-wilted or struggling while many are dazzling with bright colours, so happy to bloom, like an eager student jumping up and down in his seat waiting to answer the question. How amazing is their story? A day or a few days old, their life exists to bloom, share their beauty with anybody and everybody. Who cares to watch? I do! Which plant needs a dash of water, which one needs a big drench, which leaves are drying, which flower is drooping, which stalk has new buds, or which buds are blooming radiantly! What a feast for the eyes to watch this colourful exhibition of nature! To add to the beauty a few peacocks with their brilliant feathers walk past pecking at the soil for food. They ignore me as if I don’t meet their criteria for friendship, with their proud necks, their snooty comb that jiggles every time they turn their heads and with the regality that nature has gifted them through their gorgeous feathers! As I am moved yet again by the design of nature, it is time to get the household kick started.

Flying colours

A blend of Darjeeling and Assam tea, brewed in volume in the carafe, while a honey blended green tea for my wife and a hot chocolate drink for my daughter. I am a master of beverages, healthy by day and spiked at night… aah that requires a blog of its own! šŸ™‚ Then it is time to put away the dishes, fill the water bottles, fill the copper urn with drinking water, air the room, and light some refreshing incense.

By the time the ambience of a fresh, clean, decluttered and organised home and kitchen are set for the day, my canine son Neo, my early morning companion, gallops down the stairs to experience the same feeling that I was steeped in a few minutes earlier. He wanders into the garden with an unusual haste, like a guard who has been alerted of some intruders. Neo too loves sniffing the air, and soaking in the sights and sounds, that are closer to earth from his eye level. He sits on his haunches on a cold and quiet morning, when the peacock family hasn’t yet wandered into the garden opposite us. On a sunny morning like today, Neo has an edge to his stance and sticks his nose between the grills to smell the living beings around. He smells the peacocks closest to him, feathery and musty; the neighbourhood pets in the distance, sanitised with a rouge coating of the dust they kick up as they trot around from tree to tree. Neo also smells the neighbours, instinctively using his olfactory yardstick to decide who is a good person and who could be a threat, a sense that triggers his barking. On most days, he mindfully enjoys the morning sights and sounds with me, till he can’t take no more waiting for me to finish sipping my tea.

The sloped trail

Then, father and son, step out for a chaperoned walk. One often visualises a dog obediently following his master, trotting alongside, without tugging at the leash. Neo, as some people commented, takes me for a walk. After his first few splashes at his favourite bushes, he wants to explore the environment and races down the sloped road, regardless of the choking effect of his leash, as I fly behind him trying to balance myself!

He sniffs, every dry leaf, every twig, every fresh leaves… for pheromones… the magic chemical that contributes to the foundation of relationships between animals and even humans. Sometimes I wonder, whether he is marking his territory or just squirting a greeting of joy… ‘Hey Friend! I smelled you! You will smell me when you return to this spot!” Much like a missed date… and a post it left at the cafe table… ‘I was here… you can find me here again next time!’ We alternate between walking, jogging and running and what triggers and controls his movement choice is still a mystery to me. Neo enjoys his interaction with the breeze, the sun, the forest. He reacts more aggressively to the peacocks and any other campus dogs. He is nonchalant towards most humans except if it is a person dressed in a formal uniform…. guards, support staff, and the likes. But the main reason for his nonchalant attitude is because except for Neo, everybody else considers him a dog. Neo has serious identity crises!

Nothing canine about me!

Once, we return, it is time to get ready for the professional part of the day! Virtual school! More of that later.

Choosing the right PD

Professional Development is like the fertiliser needed for our mind, heart and soul, that nurtures and nourishes our professional profile and helps us broaden our horizons of possibilities. I have always been keen to grow and not always known the best course to do or afford the ones I could. Here is a quick guide to choosing the right PD for yourself!

Who is it for?

The PD is for YOU!

The first point to remember is that the PD must benefit you. You may be playing a multitude of roles, be it as a professional, as a parent, or as an individual with a distinct interest or passion. The PD is for you! The fact that it may look good on your CV or social media, is secondary and should not be the criteria for choosing it. Your colleague may encourage you to join a PD but will it meet your needs or fit your profile, is the question to ponder upon!

Why would you go for it?

Image by Tim Pritchard from Pixabay

Of late, I see a whole lot of buzz with professional development and people sharing their achievements online on social media platforms. It often gives me a window into the kinds of professional development people are choosing to showcase as valuable. How do we know whether it is valuable or not? Especially, with the lockdown everybody is online either training somebody or getting trained? But some of these ‘PD’s seem to be like sodas… all fizz, great taste but no good! As internationally minded educators, are we joining the rat race or following a herd mentality here?

You need to first identify for yourself your own needs and areas of interest as well as areas of improvement. Not to flash it on Linkedin! Would you be proud to have completed the training/course or having attended the webinar?

What will you gain out of it?

This is another crucial question to ask. On one hand we need to verify the authenticity of what we are doing and on the other, it must be meaningful and worthwhile.

A Professional Development I recently undertook that fit the criteria

It is always a good practice to seek or search recommendations for courses you want to take. It could be a colleague or you could just google the organisation or company offering that PD. What is their track record? Many companies have hefty names or titled to their PD but we must also find out how authentic a certification from them is. Another thing that I have been checking over the last one year, is whether the organisation is offering these courses only due to the pandemic or do they offer regular face to face courses otherwise, which have now been stalled. A bit of groundwork combined with a word of mouth feedback from a peer, always will steer you in finding out whether the PD will be of substance and value!

Once you have verified the authenticity, look at the focus area of the PD. Is it what you need or want? Good Professional Development sessions must build on your prior knowledge or experience, as that will give you always a degree of familiarity and comfort. At the same time it must extend what you already know and can do, unless of course, you are taking a refresher course if you have been out of practice. You don’t need to do all the courses available, even if you can afford it. The course is truly worthwhile when you are able to mull over it, soak in the learning and manifest it in your work life. This pause and reflect time needs to be accounted for before you sign up for back-to-back PDs.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

How can you follow up?

I almost started talking about this in the previous section. There have been professional development sessions that I have taken in the past, which I don’t recollect because it never was relevant. When a course is authentic, relevant and purposeful, you will cherish your notes and the connections you build with your peers. You will revisit the concepts and strategies that you learnt. This cycle of pause, reflect, manifest, is a good one to follow up the course with.

Good, well-designed PDs always have a follow up course that supports you either in practice or builds on the previous learning.

Credit: crosswordlabs.com

Summary:

In the end, I just wanted to emphasis on the 4 Rs of PD that can help you decide on which one is right for you:

Relevant

Resourceful

Rejuvenating

Reflective

Looking back. Looking forward.

I never thought I would be sharing a post on transitioning into a new job in 2020, during the global pandemic… but the emotional upheaval has been great enough, accentuated by the way life has turned out in the last 12 months! The transition to a new job, a new city and a new life, swept me off my feet in a way that could be blamed for the delay in publishing this post. But I cannot embrace the new year, without having expressed my gratitude and letting go of the year that was an unforgettable one for a melee of reasons. And hence, my post comes at the end of a year that most of us will never forget!

Picture credit: Just Being Center

LOOKING BACK

My journey began in the pre-covid times when I secured my new job with the Aga Khan Academy. It was a perfect fit… a return to residential life, an accompanying full-time job for my wife Chandreyee (who teaches English and TOK in the DP), and a place for my daughter in MYP Year 3. We really wanted her to have an unbroken experience with the IB continuum having been immersed into the PYP since Day Care. As the icing on the cake, a move to a campus accommodation meant safety and comfort for my pet dog too!

However, as India got caught in the whirlwind that Covid had already unleashed in the world, from March 2020 our lockdown began. It was hard to overlook the insecurity and instability in our daily lives that each passing week, exponentially brought about. And amid all of this, began work from home. Initially, we were naive to think that life would return back to normal in a month or so, but soon we realised this was for the long haul. Which meant that I had to transition without physically having said my goodbyes and without physically meeting my new colleagues at the Aga Khan Academy.

There was a lot of letting go I had to do… an arduous process, because letting go is not always easy. I was walking through a forest of emotions, things, work, relationships, aspirations, successes and failures to determine which trees to keep and carry and which ones to axe! I needed to clear the overgrowth and not miss out the undergrowth. What is essential in life? Covid 19 had definitely turned us outside in and armed with my belief in Buddhism, I realised that the ‘treasures of the heart’ are the most important and can’t be let go!

Farewells are never easy!

To add to that what made the departure so special and the walk out of the forest bearable, was the farewell I received from my colleagues. The showering of love, respect, adulation, fondness and support was overwhelming and helped me realise that the true treasures are the bonds we build. At the same time, I had to experience a declutter in all these aspects of my life:

Letting go of a city: moving from the epicentre of Covid 19, Mumbai to a new city, where I have lived briefly a few decades back, had its pros and cons. It was emotionally reassuring to know that my brother and his family were living there for more than 2 decades. The city wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but alien to my family. Moreover, we missed Mumbai greatly and carried the heavy heart of abandoning the city when it was on the verge of a mammoth infrastructural collapse in the face of Covid and its unique pulsating spirit at its nadir!

Letting go of a job: having invested my heartfelt time, sincere efforts and loving dreams in a school with incredible potential, leaving my job was like plucking an organ out of my body. But it was time!

Letting go of eternal bonds: leaving a city, a building or an organisation is still less emotionally demanding compared to leaving people with whom I have grown eternal bonds over time. Be it from my workplace, or from my Buddhist practice, some ties and relationships are best nurtured when we are together sharing life’s challenges, experiences and journeys together. It is not the same thing as preserving that relationship long distance. So though it sounds like an oxymoron, it is not easy!

LOOKING FORWARD

Mid 2020 brought in the rains and with it a refreshing reinvigoration of the soul and being, as the world was reeling under the fire of the unprecedented Covid 19 cases. We soon realised that the universe was looking after us as its own children, having extracted us from Mumbai and planted us in this paradise of a campus. It was not just the space of 100 acres, the greenery of forested land with its peacocks and snakes, the layout of beautifully planned buildings, but the overarching freedom and protection from Covid we received.

A walk in the woods

Our children, human and canine discovered the land with newfound freedom. Each step they took on the winding paths and the grassy greens, were a step forward to a surreal sense of peace, serenity and ‘normalcy’ while the world outside was grappling with the infection. We stayed home and stayed safe, with every breath laced with gratitude for the environment that was nothing short of divine!

Neo … one with his environment

At the same time, the workplace embraced me, my ideas and my experience like a mother embraces a long-lost son. It was the best part of my healing process. Being acknowledged and appreciated, loved and respected… that too through the thick barriers of the online environment, restricted social interactions and limited access to colleagues and only online access to students. Above all working with an exceptional leader like my current boss is like a dream-come-true!

With Latha Kumar

As an icing on the cake, amid all the turbulence of lockdown and social distance, the opportunity to meet my brother and have our kids interact and engage with each other on a regular basis is a seed that will flourish into sibling plants of precious and special love in their lives in the new future. We are building wonderful memories, that will help us look back at 2020 with acceptance and look forward at 2021 with hope! I am reminded of the Gosho lines from ‘Happiness in this world’ (Nichiren Daishonin), where he says “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chantingĀ Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens.”

As I am at the threshold of a new year, I know many things will not change and there will be new ups and downs. But with family and friends (old and new) by my side, I look forward to a year of hope and victory, as it is time to pay back to the nourishing environment with meaningful thoughts, words and deeds. May hope and peace blossom in the muddy waters of an unknown adventure of a year… 2021 here I come!

5 reasons why I miss my corridor!

A tweet by Rima Singh got me thinking about how the COVID 19 outbreak has so deeply impacted our lives. Around the same time, I was responding to a FB post by my childhood friend on “What is the first thing you will do when this lockdown ends and the threat is over and who is the first person you want to see?” and we had an interesting debate on why for me the answer was simple… “Would love to get back to work! My corridor, my kids and my school campus!”

These two reflections got me to introspect as to why I was missing work so much and why the online version of it was not as gratifying or fulfilling! So here I list down in the order of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, 5 reasons why I miss my corridor!

1. My campus – Physiological Needs

I have been fortunate to work at a beautiful campus. Spacious, open and with nature being a dominant element in the design. In a crowded city like Mumbai, my school is one of those few spread out over 8 acres of land and bordered by the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is home to beautiful trees and birds and bees!

A campus like this for a workplace is a dream come true and a gift from life itself. The green surroundings, the lotus pond, the Koi pool all breathe beauty to what we do and also soothes our nerves on a stressful day! The multi-sensory engagement with my work environment is what I miss so much!

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Beautiful campus

I am deeply grateful for where I work!

2. Teaching and Learning – Safety needs

I was born to teach and discovered the path early in life. Being with books, students and engaging in learning is what comes naturally to me. Interacting with the curriculum, planning engagements and learning activities with teachers is what gives me a sense of security and safety… as this is what I am best at!

Being in the classroom or in my meeting with my colleagues gives me a sense of comfort that nothing else in life can provide. Teaching and learning is not just work, but a calling, and I have been locked in a cage, hands tied, voice choked.

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Being a learner

I am deeply grateful for what I do!

3. Learner Agency: Voice, Choice (inquiry) Ownership (strategies) – Love and belonging

I have been fortunate to study and teach in schools that believed in giving freedom to its teachers, nurturing creativity in students and empowering the community to achieve great educational goals. Be it the spiritually charged learning environment at The Future Foundation School, open learning atmosphere at Sahyadri School, the innovative work environment at Rewachand Bhojwani Academy under Madhavi Kapur’s guidance or the empowering Pathways World School. As a pedagogical leader in my current school, I have striven to apply and incorporate all my past learning experiences in my school, creating a cohesive team. I believe in feeling a sense of ownership where I work and with my team, we have developed a strong team bonding and a sense of belonging.

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Collab is fun!

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Learning Environment

Collaborative Meetings allow each teacher to freely express their opinions and thus, share their voice. The process of inquiry gives our students the choice to co-construct the Central Ideas and Lines of Inquiry, plan assessments, pursueĀ their own inquiries and lead the community in taking meaningful action within the school, the local and global community. As a community of learners, our teachers and students work together on making learning engaging and meaningful by integrating technology. Learning is not imposed, teaching is not directed… and everyone is on the journey together taking proud ownership of both the process and the product.

I am deeply grateful for the way we learn!

4. Learner Profile – Esteem

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”, said Aristotle. I truly believe that education must build character. The Learner Profile is that tool and also the yardstick to measure how well we are building character in our students. It also extends to educators, to assess how well we are role-modelling the attributes, reflecting on our own personalities and working to polish our human character by nourishing our heart.

I get the chance to inculcate these values through various interactions throughout the day. When I ask a student an open-ended question, I am making him a thinker. When I see a tree on my campus and ask its scientific name, I am being an inquirer. When I discuss a lesson plan with a teacher, we are both being reflective and good communicators. When I have to introspect and accept or negotiate differences of opinions or intervene in inter-personal conflicts, the experience challenges me to be more open-minded. As a result of being mindful of the ten attributes of the Learner Profile, we are constantly building our character and developing our multiple intelligences.

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Building relationships

I am deeply grateful for the tool I have to reflect!

5. IB Mission – Self-actualisation

I work ultimately for the IBO, in my many roles! It is an organisation that has evolved over the last five decades since its founding in 1968, from being merely a body that coordinated internationally-accepted school-leaving examinations to an educational organisation that believes in developing citizens ready for the future. We can see from the way the world has been rapidly transforming over the last couple of decades, that the needs of tomorrow are very different and often unknown, as we are all learning from the current pandemic crisis.

At these times, when global leaders are fumbling to take the right actions, people across the world are united by their common cause of suffering and the future of the global economy is walking a thin line, the Mission Statement of the IB seems extremely significant:

“The International BaccalaureateĀ® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”

Thus, it fills me with a great sense of fulfillment, pride and passion to be an educator working with the IB, not just in my school role, but also as a workshop and school visit facilitator for the IB as a part of the IB Educator Network (IBEN).

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I am deeply grateful to be able to fulfill my mission through my work!

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In my corridor

As my nation extends its lockdown to May 3rd, leaving us as a learning community to stay in touch with each other through online tools only, I can’t wait to be back in my corridors!

 

PHOTO CREDITS:
Abhimanyu Das Gupta, Yogesh Patil, Sonia Kedia, Mahua Roy and Liliana Bandini
Thank you Meena, Clancy and Saloni!

 

5 OL Habits that can turn Bad

Student Behaviour in an OL environment

As many of us are gearing up for our 4th/ 5th/ 6th week of #OnlineLearning, I have been closely observing student behaviour while hopping in and out of classes.

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Photo Credit: IBO

The IB has also published a comprehensive guide (needs MyIB log in) on Online Learning in March 2020 titled “Online learning, teaching and education continuity planning for schools”. This guide not only shares ideas for planning and implementing online learning in the context of IB schools, but also guides schools with resources on screen-time management, and guidelines for ensuring student privacy and online safety, but also talks about transitioning back to a face to face classroom model, as many schools in China are moving that way.

A section from the guide on ‘transitioning from online back to face-to-face learning’ helped me join the dots with my observations in OL classes at my school.

“Learners may have:

  • become accustomed to more independent learning and will need time and guidance to transition from it. Some learners may have preferred learning remotely and will find the constraints of school difficult to accept.

  • become accustomed to shorter activities, asynchronous assignments, more freedom in their work and less face-to-face collaboration.”

5 OL Habits that can turn Bad

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Ready for Online Learning

As our students are mostly learning on their own, using a digital device, and using non-human-contact methods aka through virtual learning environments, what impact was it having on their learning style? Based on my observations, I have listed 5 habits that are forming in digital learners, which could well turn out to be counter-productive by making students disrespectful, discriminatory or isolated in the real world.

Habit 1: It’s OK to mute somebody.

Why is it not ok in the real-world: We are trying to develop Communication Skills in students and part of that is listening and allowing each member to speak their mind. We strongly discourage a bully when it comes to group discussions… don’t we, or keep the vociferous child under control and allow the shy ones to speak? Could this habit turn that value upside down?

Habit 2: It’s OK to turn off the video cam when we want to.

Why is it not ok in the real-world: A student may turn off their video camera during a virtual class for a range of reasons. Somebody else may have walked in at home, they may want to take a refreshment break, they may not be ready for class and even worse, they may be just marking their presence online but totally distracted or even asleep in the real world scenario. This is tantamount to a social, mental, intellectual and emotional absence in class. What is worrying is for students with learning needs who may not want to show their faces or raise their hands to respond to the teacher, as an outcome of a complex mix of negative or depressive feelings and emotions.

Habit 3: It’s OK to be in any setting and in any kind of attire or be late to join a virtual class.

Why is it not ok in the real-world: Well every work and school environment has its own norms and guidelines for behaviour and appearance. In the real world, we need to be on time to attend a meeting/class or dress in the school uniform, and dress neatly or not carry our pets or our nanny to class. How do we balance the relaxed norms that online learning has set forth into our lives and make students discern these fine differences between what is acceptable in a virtual viz a viz a real classroom?

Habit 4: It’s OK to run parallel chat or private chat during the virtual meeting.

Why is it not ok in the real-world: I have often noticed students enjoying the chat feature greatly. As humans, we all crave to socialise and interact, and the daily chitter-chatter about inane topics adds vibrancy to our socio-emotional health. However, in virtual classrooms, children and students seem to maintain equally fine control over the live interactions and the conversations in the chat rooms. Some apps even allow private chat which is difficult to monitor by a teacher. So, while class is on, do we allow students to be private chatting with each other? Should we?

Habit 5: It’s OK to leave the virtual room/meeting when we want to.

Why is it not ok in the real-world: Many students leave or rejoin a virtual classroom. Sometimes, it could be that they may need a washroom break, or they are being roped in to do something else at home, or there is a genuine issue with their internet connectivity. But would this be acceptable in a real-world face-to-face classroom? Are we simply accepting knowing the many challenges of working/learning from home during a lockdown like we are all experiencing? Maybe. But it is important to be mindful of this aspect too.

What have we done at my school?

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Online Hustle Bustle

So as we look towards transitioning back into real-world, face-to-face classrooms, how can we make sure that these habits do not cross over into the real world? Though, we have had a relaxed approach in student conduct we harped on a few essential agreements. Some of them are:

  1. Habit 1: Student mics must be on mute when somebody else is talking. Students cannot mute each other or the teacher… the rights have been disabled. A teacher can mute the class or individual students though.
  2. Habit 2: Students must be visible on the video at all times. This is easier followed by younger students and needs reinforcement for older students who may already have concerns with their appearance on a camera in a social setting.
  3. Habit 3: Students don’t need to wear their school uniforms (though some still do for the comfort of familiarity), but they need to be ‘ready for class’! Students must be ready in an undisturbed room, with enough light, with stationery, water bottle and anything else they may need for the class. Student attendance is being marked half an hour into the first class and shared and monitored with parents.
  4. Habit 4: This is a hard one to tackle, as sometimes productive discussions happen in the chat room regarding the ongoing lesson. Teachers monitor this frequently to remind students who are using the Chat Rooms for informal and unrelated discussions. As we use Google Meets, there is no facility for private, one-on-one chats.
  5. Habit 5: With younger students, the most common reason is network issues. We have rarely had any child leave the class either out of disinterest or in protest. In lower grades, parents are encouraged to be around to support the students’ learning and to help them with IT skills, as appropriate.
Gr 3 Class dojo

What can we do now?

Agency comes to play a strong role in the way students are learning in a virtual learning environment. Voice, choice, and ownership are promoted not just through synchronous interactions, but also through collaborative/social engagement using a range of technology-based applications like Kahoot, Flipgrid, Weebly, Canva, Mentimeter, and the likes. We need to sustain the levels of Learner Agency we have achieved and get students and teachers to reflect on how these norms of conduct will be similar or different when we get back to the real world and engage in face-to-face classrooms.

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Photo Credit: IBO

Will we merely have to manage our rediscovered learning environment, sans the concept of physical distancing and with the introduction of more hard copy work? Or will we need to address the emotional rewiring and social reprogramming first that all of us will need to stagger back to a life of regained freedom? Only time will tell… but let us get thinking about it, sooner rather than later.

Till then the clock keeps ticking clockwise or anticlockwise, depending on which part of the world you are in. Stay safe! Keep learning!

 

Time Table of Lockdown

After 4 years, my professional landscape and circumstances have forced me to get back to my Blog. I have refrained from Blogging for a variety of reasons:

  1. I was waiting to find my own voice in the din of so many thoughts and reflections.
  2. I was waiting to find time and space, that this lockdown has finally given.
  3. I was waiting to take ownership of my learning so that I could confidently advocate the same.

I revived my Twitter and Linkedin pages recently and have been actively posting there for the last 6 months. I was continually thinking of my blog, as I love to write.

In the last 2 months, we have been hit world-wide by the Coronavirus Pandemic, leading to school closures and the advent of wholescale online learning. Most schools are travelling on a similar, often, steep curve of learning and navigating similar challenges. Reading about all of this has got me thinking of what it is doing to the educator inside me.

As an educator, we have the responsibility to have the strongest immunity, not just physical, but emotional and spiritual. We are dealing with young minds and how we communicate with them virtually, is a matter of great significance without a whole lot of research to support us with pedagogy. On the other hand, many of us are struggling with parental expectations and disappointments, or management pressures in implementing our virtual classrooms. But what are we doing for ourselves?

I suggest this time table for lockdown, that we can adhere to in our effort to preserve our intrinsic qualities as an educator. So, hope you enjoy going through my suggested time table and going through the different subjects, in light of the lockdown!

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I look forward to hearing from those who have followed a similar time table or are intending to follow. Please share your thoughts and experiences, so that we can learn and grow from each other’s experiences.

Till then #stayhome #staysafe!

Warming up to the new year!

The new academic year has rolled in for most of us! It is a time to start afresh on a new plate. Some of you may have moved to a new school, eager to enjoy the new adventures. While some others, may still be in the same school/job and wondering how to do things differently.

How best can we start?

This question had me wondering as to how best to could we start the new year? Should we look forwards, backwards or look forward AND backward? When we think of the Backward by Design model, isn’t looking backward actually enabling us to look forward? So I decided to have everyone reflect back!

Letter to myself

In fact, a year back we had written a letter to ourselves, with our goals mentioned for the last academic year! So this time, we decided to read those letters, exactly one year later! Here is an extract of a letter by a colleague!

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Letter to myself – courtesy Kamalpreet Mangat

Warming up the ice

We loosely use the term ‘ice-breaker’ or ‘warming up’ as friendly opportunities to mix around with familiar and unfamiliar people. However, I had my team ‘warm up’ the ice in a more mindful manner! We used this mindfulness technique (inspired from the original idea shared here) along with a creative visualisation led by me to have everyone feel an ice cube melt on their open palms, along with some Zen meditation music playing softly in the background. As the teachers closed their eyes to become increasingly mindful of the melting ice cube and all its associated sensations, I guided them to release their fears, doubts, anger, apprehensions and insecurities, before they planned to envision the year ahead. As I was engrossed leading it, and all my staff members were ‘frozen’ in their mindfulness exercises, no pictures unfortunately! šŸ™‚

holding an ice cube DBT
Image Credit

Bone Diagram

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Bone Diagram…courtesy Namita Devgan

This is a wonderful ‘thinking.planning.reflecting.goalsetting’ tool and more can be read about the same here! I love it, as it is similar to a tool that my aunt had taught me to use as an adolescent before planning any significant life event, and hence, was something I was always conceptually familiar with! Teachers, having reflected on their achievements, then set forth charting their goals for the new academic year using this graphic organiser!

Well, this reflective exercise helped all of us to pause, ponder, critique and predict… and thereby, create a blueprint of the path that lay ahead of us! There will be many twists and turns, and wondering and wandering, which will make our reflections that much more interesting at the end of this year!

Till then, let us enjoy this wonderful PYP Learning Journey!

 

 

Collaborative Planning

In a recent session with my teachers on Collaborative Planning, I had a few important insights about the process of working together as a team.

Who all?

All members of the team working with students in the PYP need to work collaboratively. I have always believed in the Buddhist spirit of ‘Many in body, one in mind’ which also applies to working collaboratively. So it is not about just structuring groups, and getting them to meet, but also looking at the needs of the curriculum. A collaborative group can merely be the teachers of a home room and their PYP coordinator. Or it could be a larger body of all teachers working in that class. Or it could even be just the specialists with the Home Room Teachers, as per the subject focus. Or even still, it could be the specialists together, to establish interlinks and design a balanced curricular map and a well distributed interaction across a grade through the year!

How much?

How much collaboration is needed and/or acceptable? This was a question that bothers us most of the times. Are we doing enough? Is it properly structured? Through my experience and based on my discussions, I realised that CP is not about just time tabling it but about its worthwhile-ness! What is the outcome of the CP? Is it furthering students’ understanding of the conceptual understandings in the UOI or in single subject areas? If yes, then it is just right. If not we need to review our purpose in the first instance. A teacher shared with a great sense of joy and satisfaction that for a unit under the theme How we express ourselves, the specialists pitched in genuinely making authentic connections across subject areas without much physical time and space allotted to CP! To me this is successful CP as the learning experiences were enriched greatly and more importantly authentically. It is thus, not about how much but about how well it worked!

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Leading a session with my staff

In the end, WHY?

I don’t think that CP should be looked as a standard merely that has to be met. It needs to be the backbone of the PLC at the school. We can collaborate not just to strengthen our units but also to even engage in school celebrations, or organise school visits. Working together as a team, helps us as individuals display the attributes of the LP thereby, role modelling them. At the end of the day, we are all ultimately responsible for developing the attributes of the LP in our students. By working together, we are fitting in the jigsaw pieces of this understanding in the mind of the child…the more the pieces and the myriad the colours, the richer the mural and the more wholly developed will the child be. Ultimately life is in techni-colourĀ and rich in its interconnections. So why should teaching and learning in the classroom be any different?

I read a book

This was my comment in verse on the post by Lindy Buckley almost 2 years back!

I READ A BOOK

I read a book, on comets and stars,
On galaxies near and far.
Lazing on my sofa, reading on the bus,
Reading anytime anywhere, without a fuss!

I read a book, as it has many thoughts to share,
Of unknown people, who become heroes because they dare.
Sometimes, many new facts I learn,
Sometimes, brownie points I earn!

I read for pleasure, or for critical information,
I also read for appreciating the authorā€™s imagination!
Sometimes I read two a week, sometimes fourā€¦
All that my mind says, ā€˜Give me more, give me more!ā€™

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My daughter’s Little Free Library at home!

By Abhimanyu Das Gupta
25th November, 2013

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