Educator, Mother, Wife, Daughter, Daughter-in-Law, Sister!
I’ve always been a giver – whether as an entrepreneur to my staff, as a daughter & daughter-in-law to my parents & in-laws, as a mother to my daughter, and as a spouse to my husband. It gives me immense pleasure to contribute in someone else’s progress at personal & professional levels.
My purpose as an educator lies in creating an impact in the lives of children. It will give me immense satisfaction to be a part of the solution to the problem of education system in our country, initially as a teacher for students and with an ultimate aim of creating a multiplicative impact by mentoring other teachers.
Entrepreneur to Educator, and everything in between!
2019-Present: Elementary Teacher - Grade 5 (IB - PYP) at Ascend International School, Mumbai
2018-2019: Back to school! Pursued Post Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching from I Am A Teacher (IAAT). Simultaneously I learnt the practical nuts and bolts as part of the core team for Grade 6 as Student Teacher in American School of Bombay (ASB). The core team's focus is integrated learning of Math, Science, Social Science and English Language Art.
Key influences and learning from IAAT and ASB:
- Rishi Valley School (Krishnamurti Foundation), Andhra Pradesh
- River Institute – Teacher training and resource development wing of Rishi Valley Rural Education Centre (Multi-Grade, Multi-Level), Andhra Pradesh
- The Creative School (Blend of multiple philosophies, mainly Sri Aurobindo and Mother), Bangalore
- BeMe (Alternative Schooling), Bangalore
- Muktangan School, (NGO) Lower Parel, Mumbai
- B. D. Somani School, (IB World School) Cuffe Parade, Mumbai
- Next School, (Big Picture school) Mulund, Mumbai
- Gateway School of Mumbai (School for children with learning disabilities), Chembur, Mumbai
2015-2018: Career break for blissful experience of motherhood, made special by my daughter.
2013-2015: Mumbai city lead for Exchange For Change (EFC) – flagship cross-border peace project targeting school going children in age 11-14 years
2003-2013: Second generation entrepreneur at the age of 19, wherein I was the only female in that business fraternity! I had a very enriching experience as I learnt:
- Managing all stakeholders - from General Manager of bank to unskilled labor to shrewd and demanding customers and vendors
- Thriving in a cut-throat competitive environment, in which a unit price difference of even 1 paisa could take away business to a competitor
- Scaling business by venturing in to new products when the existing ones were rendered obsolete due to technological changes
My Philosophy of Education
Education Is Not A Milestone But A Constant Process Of Learning, And Can't Be Separated From Living
Learning begins right from birth and goes on till we breathe our last. For me, most important influences for education are, life and the child himself. Every child is born with unquenchable thirst for knowing what, why, how etc. Also, he is born with huge capacity to learn. Teacher can be the facilitator and guide for achieving child’s potential.
Following are a few intrinsic and extrinsic factors revolving around what I believe to be true purpose of education:
Find Your Calling
Shaji EK (Co-founder, Jodo Gyan NGO working on realistic mathematics education) said in his class, “Whatever you do, you should have a purpose, and you should be enjoying it". Also, Winston Churchill aptly said, “It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to have lived for something.” I believe, as an educator, my task would be to create an environment and provide a variety of experiences, which both help the child to realize this from within. Aiding the bud to find his/her true north and blossom will give me the greatest satisfaction.
Culture of Critical Thinking
Teaching-learning is a two way process wherein both students and teachers learn and grow together. For this to happen, sense of curiosity and eagerness & humility to learn in both persons are a prerequisite. “It isn’t just physical ability and average intelligence but an insatiable appetite for success and an unflagging will power that would texture the warp and woof of the fabric called human destiny” – MP Anil Kumar, Former IAF Pilot.
An important learning from my practice teaching and motherhood is that each child is unique and is born curious. Critical thinking ability generates deeper interest, creates rigor in thought process, and builds intellectual focus. It is the building block for learning. Teacher's job is make students think critically and in variety of ways which can also differ from that of the teacher's.
Compassion And Sensitivity
During the learning process, there can be moments wherein the student is interacting with his/her peers and displays arrogance. These would give me as a teacher opportunities to help the child connect with his/her peers with sensitivity and compassion. I can totally relate to what J. Krishnamurti said, “You know, if we understand one question rightly, all questions are answered. But we don't know how to ask the right question. To ask the right question demands a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity”.
In an ever-distracting environment, with an increasingly digital, less human-touch world, an education which imbibes the qualities of compassion & sensitivity will take the child beyond literacy and make him/her relate to someone else as a human, beyond just the person’s functional traits.
Engaging And Conducive Environment For ALL
The attention span of a child is limited. With the child’s innate nature of being curious and the need for culture of critical thinking, comes the necessity to create an engaging environment. It is possible that the child generates aversion towards a particular subject if he/she doesn’t find it interesting. Hence, it is imperative for a teacher to make the process engaging and interesting.
Teaching cannot have a one size fits all strategy. Lesson plans are structured on the basis of content and learning styles of the students (as described in Kolb’s framework). Also, I can relate this to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory which says that there are multiple ways in which knowledge can be gained and learning can be optimised. Further, the emphasis is on the child’s holistic learning and not only of the subject matter. Thus, a multi-layered approach will create a beneficial learning environment for ALL the students. Optimally utilizing every “teachable moment” to make it work best for the entire class is an important aspect of this approach.
Leverage The Power of Mistakes
“You must never feel bad about making mistakes as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons” – Norton Juster.
Typically, mistakes are considered as signs of failure. I believe that if someone isn’t making mistakes, the person isn’t trying too hard. Students should learn from their mistakes and understand pitfalls to avoid. And here the role of the teacher is to encourage students to think, try again and reflect. And this also builds confidence to experiment in future. I find this to be beautiful - we make mistakes, learn from those and make a permanent change in ourselves. And the best part is, this is an ongoing process. So the teacher’s job is to develop the habit of reflection right from early age and that stays with the child for life.
I feel happy to be part of middle-schoolers as they are at the age of the most important period in personal development. Teenagers are in fragile state; they have an urge for acceptance, engagement and recognition. Their hopes can be easily ruined with a wrong word or a disappointing outcome. These characteristics of a teenager bring a positive challenge for a teacher in middle school. I want to be a knowledgeable friend more than a teacher, a listening ear than a Ms. Know-it-all, a collaborator for problem solving than an antagonist. Also, I
Creating Future Citizens
Astronomer Clifford Stoll, when asked “How do you see our society 20 years from now?”, answered “I don’t know, you should ask the kindergarten teachers”.
Education has a significant role to play for creating a vital, sustainable community. Teachers act as facilitators in helping the little citizens progress and thrive. The purpose of education is to guide children towards realization of what it means to be a responsible human being. To create responsible and empathetic adults requires treating children with empathy and respect.
Further, our society needs people with growth mindsets than just literates with closed mindsets. Over the last 2 decades, the pace of change has kept on increasing. Every big change necessitates acquiring new skills for being successful. Since the skills required 5-15 years in future (when the school children will venture out) can’t be predicted with certainty, only the ability to adapt & learn fast can aid the person in the long haul. By providing a strong foundation, teachers can help the children be future-ready.
Working together with parents and creating a shared vision is imperative. Together, we can provide the pathway to being an adaptable, responsible, future ready citizen who will eventually help the world to be a sustainable community.
Lastly, I would like to quote Alexandra Trentor’s words, “The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see”
My Work - Peer Learning and Reflections
EXAMPLE OF MY CONTRIBUTION TO PEER LEARNING
Question by a classmate: Isn't explaining the concept (of multi-digit multiplication) a bit tedious and perhaps unnecessary? Won't just describing the steps be sufficient? And if we do believe that we need to explain the concept, why is it even relevant considering that in our daily lives we seldom pause and do multi-digit multiplications!
1. In practical life we do have equipment and instruments to help larger calculations. They definitely give us the answers but from student’s perspective, he needs to have a deeper understanding. In the process of learning the ‘WHYs’ and ‘HOWs’ get answered. This is more important than to understand the ‘WHAT’ of the problem. This is connected to the critical and conceptual thinking ability of the child. Here, the student gets an opportunity to explore.
2. Understanding a real life example of estimation: imagine you are going for shopping and you have a shopping list and rough estimate of expenses. You need not take a calculator to estimate the cash required to carry along. This looks like a problem of multi digit summation. But, multiplication is in a way summation itself. Here, basic mathematical skills are enough to help.
3. Emphasis on the process of learning than the answer: mistakes are integral part of learning. While doing mistakes, brain synapses fire and help connect the pathways and hence the brain grows. That’s very important for learning and growing. Hence, why not build the muscle than to rely on calculators. Also, why stop learning at small multiplications?
4. And later in life why to be gadget dependent for fundamental skills?
ONE OF MY REFLECTIONS
Journal Prompt - Observe how your Collaborating Teacher (CT) in designing experiential learning for children - including the factors he/she takes into account and the decisions he/she makes. Keep in mind Kolb’s Learning Cycle.
My Response: I can describe the designing of experiential learning with example of an unit in Science in Grade 6:
My CT Ms. Jessica started with activating the schema related to water cycle with the help of an activity. Four stations were designed at different locations on the ground floor in the school, demonstrating all the stages of the water cycle. Students physically moved to all the stations for observations. Each of stations involved replication of each of the stage of the cycle. While observing, the students were supposed to write their observations on all the 4 stations on a pre-printed ‘See, Think, Wonder’ chart. Here, I believe students were activating their schema and also having Concrete Experience of how the stages operate in authentic situation.
In an interactive session the next day, students came up with names and their understanding of the stages and what observations they had in their charts. Here, students were reflecting on their observations. Students were also learning from their peers because all students could not get the connections and the terminologies. Jessica did this very beautifully by eliciting responses based her nicely framed questions.
Then, she moved to the concept of particle theory wherein students learnt about the state of water. Here, the connections of particles of water in different states and the energy of sun were made. The words were carefully chosen to show the connections. This also involves students having first hand experience in the laboratory experiment (active experimentation). Students performed their experiments and noted their observations relating to change of forms of water at different temperatures. Again, here ‘See, Think, Wonder’ chart was used. This involves both active and concrete experimentation for the students.
Then, Ms. Jessica discussed with students regarding their observations and the concept of particle theory. Students also made the connections of the water cycle to the particle theory.
Now students had to demonstrate how water flows through the earth systems using either physical or virtual model. For this project, students had to first individually think about how will they present their model (abstract conceptualization). Then students were grouped based on common ideas from the students. Again as a group students finalized their project ideas and were presented to the teachers. After the presentation, they were supposed to critique their own ideas (reflective observation) and also develop ways to make improvements based on that. Groups of students made their projects in the span of four days in school (active experimentation and concrete experience). Students were reminded of their collaboration agreements. They were also graded on their approaches to learning. I believe students went through all the stages in this single project.
In the final leg of the unit, students recorded or screen cast themselves on Seesaw explaining their understanding of how water moves through the earth systems using vocabulary and concepts from their understanding from the particle theory. This involves active experimentation with technology for students.
My Work - Lesson Plans
ONE OF MY LESSON PLANS
Lesson name: Coordinate planes – Lead Teaching Week Day 3
Subject area: Mathematics (Geometry)
Learning Targets - Students will be able to:
1) Use ordered pairs to name points in a grid and to locate points on a map
2) Understand the use of ordered pairs of numbers as describing the locations of points on a plane in various situations
3) Revisit the concept of absolute value and relate that to the concept of ordered pairs
4) Demonstrate both visual and verbal recognition of an ordered pair
My Perspective and Experience on 3 Rs
I presented my closing remarks at IAAT’s annual conference ‘Manthan’ on the theme of 3 Rs – Rigor, Relevance and Relationships in education – based on my experience as a student-teacher in ASB and resident of IAAT
As a student of IAAT and student-teacher at ASB, I am experiencing the best of both worlds:
– At IAAT, we are being moulded in to a person who has acquired all skills to be a great teacher viz. awareness & ability to reflect on self, understanding students, working with parents, curriculum development, lesson planning, use of responsive language in classroom, demonstrating inter-connectedness of one subject to others … the list goes on.
- At ASB, we experience what a school should be: we experience what the mission statement says!! One that inspires all its students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.
Rigor is part of the ethos of ASB, which is evident from the many standards we hold ourselves to, for example: curriculum design, accrediting agencies, core values and the emphasis on approaches to learning.
When planning units, lessons & assessments, we think about how rigorous the learning will be, ensuring that the students are not doing just any work which keeps them busy, or straight memorization. I remember the discussion with my collaborating teacher while we were preparing an assessment for a topic in maths. We did not take too many multiple choice questions, nor did we take abstract questions, but the criteria was to select questions that will encourage higher order thinking and student agency.
Our mentors from IAAT are role models of a great teacher, and we are learning a whole bunch of relevant traits and skills with rigor! Our mentors’ ‘hidden agenda’ is to lead by example. They understand us, they learn, they persevere, they collaborate, they live those traits that they want us to learn. Recently we were learning how a unit of inquiry works and how to create one which is relevant for our students. We ourselves went through a unit of inquiry and experienced the learning from students’ lens and the way of creating one from teacher’s lens. On the last day of the unit we reflected on how things went. We thanked our mentors for working so hard for creating and helping us taste this magic. I was amazed by my mentor's comment on the whole exercise; that it was their hidden agenda to show us how much effort it takes to plan and design a unit. On a lighter note, I was scared having understood this, but I was inspired!!
In IAAT we are encouraged to think critically, creatively, and flexibly and reflect at each and every stage .... at each and every phase. We all are learners. And reflection is the most important part of the learning process. I realized during practice that whatever is not reflected upon is usually not retained. By harnessing the power of reflection, we open the doors of possibility, self-contemplation, and get the courage to be capable and confident life-long learners. Our learning experiences in IAAT are intellectually and personally challenging, and include the teaching strategies which we can use in our classrooms.
Students are empowered to take on their learning and demonstrate approaches to learning. The teaching and learning at ASB is very relevant, as we constantly stay well-informed of emerging trends, think into the future and read widely about best practices.
At ASB, students get the opportunity to move beyond grade levels and learn from their then stage of learning. And this flexibility is available to every student . Students learn to be agile and adaptable, critical thinkers, collaborators and problem solvers. Students are encouraged to try. We remind them that it is alright to make mistakes because we understand the neuroscience behind it. I don’t remember my teachers telling me that. Also, many a times I thank my mathematics mentor for helping me learn maths the way I had not even approached it while I was in school. We taught our students the visual way of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions. Which made so much sense rather than solving in only a specific way as I learnt in my school.
A very important learning while I was practice teaching was that managing the classroom is as important as the content of the lesson. We learn and practice the ways of improving our language to one appropriate for the respective age groups. With thoughtful use of language and tone, we engage our students for learning. As adults in the classroom we nurture the sense of belonging and emotional safety so that students feel safe and are comfortable taking risks and hence focus on learning. We recently had an enriching session on the power and art of responsive classroom. This made real sense to me, and I use this when I am in charge of my class.
We are going through the gradual release of teacher’s responsibility model- For a little while in the beginning of the course we learnt the theory and then entered the real world of teaching at ASB by observing our collaborating teachers and now we do theory and teaching both in parallel. We moved ahead by taking small class activities, mini lessons, then a whole class and now I proudly say that within five months into the course most of us have completed one cycle of lead teaching week. That is one week of taking continuous classes.
We plan and take the lessons, we organize the resources, manage the class, we check homework, we make the assessments and also put the grades into the system. And then we reflect on the whole process with our teacher educator Bindiya and the collaborating teacher on what went well and what needs improvement.
We have exposure to great books & philosophies, theories, online resources and more importantly relevant human resources scaffolding for our learning. A strong network of able professionals helps us understand the nuances of being an educator in today’s world. In our journey of being educators, among others, we interacted with Shaji - the founder of Jodo Gyan and Steven Levy - the guru of expeditionary learning. Some of us visited few stellar schools in Bangalore. Purpose of the visit was to get exposed to different philosophies in action. These experiences are relevant directly to our personal aspirations, interests and to the real context of teaching.
Relationships are of utmost importance at ASB, which is evident in every interaction amongst teachers, amongst students and between teachers and students.
Collaboration is non-negotiable at ASB, where teachers work in teams to develop units and lessons, often bouncing ideas off each other and ultimately planning an experience for students that is rich and rigorous and making it the best as a team.
I believe, by influencing on positive peer to peer relationships, our mentors at IAAT, promote stimulating, supportive and engaged learning. This helps in pro-social behavior and also a sense of belonging and community. With a positive sense of community we are encouraged to be transparent, be authentic and assume positive intentions. When we worked in groups for the first time in a big project, exactly after that our mentor planned a session on Johari window. This is a model to help people understand relationships with themselves and others better. I had studied this in my management studies in theory. The connection to its application was brought alive by bringing it up in the discussion at the right time with appropriate context.
The overall result is that the classroom becomes a rich place for collaboration with us actively helping each other learn and grow and make a difference in our students’ lives.
In this video, Shana Sewalt crisply captures the 4 Cs - Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity - that I resonate with, which should be developed in today's children for them to be future ready
The Poet In Me
My gratitude to my IAAT mentors
Thank You Prerna & Bindiya!!!
Thank you for being there,
For your warm and sincere care!
Continue being your natural best,
An approachable teacher for student’s quest!
You are an inspiration,
We admire your absolute dedication!
Each word, each lesson, each class,
Has never been so intriguing in the past!
You taught us to reflect,
And now we are habituated to inspect!
You are such a wonderful human,
Tender, caring and with unusual acumen!
Teachers like you are truly rare,
We just want to thank you for being there!!
My State During Reflections
Quiet is, as quiet stays,
Drizzling, pouring into each little nook
Coppery sunset shines out there
While I stare blankly at the open book
Quiet is not my state of mind
Hurricane thoughts galore
The evening tip toes out there
As I sit wanting more
Quiet is all I want sometimes
Quiet is what I never get
The might of reality surges together
While I simply...wait
Night quietly tip toes in now
Evening passed just like a dream
Quiet sits silently waiting
But all she does is scream
Because quiet is, as quiet stays
Pouring into each little nook
Nightfall and darkness out there
While I stare blankly at the still open book
Prerna is Academic Head, I Am A Teacher (Mumbai). She has been in the field of education for more than 13 years and in the area of Teacher education since the last 7 years. She has worked with some of the progressive schools and organizations of the country such as – Shikshantar School, The Heritage School (Gurgaon), Azim Premji Foundation and The Teacher Foundation, Bangalore. As an educator and curriculum developer, Prerna worked extensively with the Pre – Primary and Primary age groups. As a teacher educator, she has been designing and facilitating experiential training programmes for diverse groups of teachers. She has experience of working on the Pre- service, the In – service as well as Online Teacher preparation programmes.
Dr. Bindiya Hassaram
Bindiya is teacher educator and my mentor at I Am A Teacher. She is founder of Learning Differently. She has a Ph. D. in Multicultural Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin. She has held the position of Middle/High School Learning Coach at the American School of Bombay, India. Here, she consulted, collaborated and co-taught with teachers from Grade 6 - 10. She also worked with students identified with learning differences, and those at-risk. She has taught students of all ages (from Pre K - 12), in international schools in Indonesia, the UK and the US. She has supervised and mentored novice special education and EAL teachers, and provided professional development in various topics including differentiated instruction, inclusion, and culturally responsive instruction.
From My Mentor
From My Collaborating Teacher