Every teacher
more enabled,
more inspired!






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Safe and Sensitive Schools

The 2 ½ year long project, with eleven schools, focused on training the school and the teachers to promote positive relationships among all the stakeholders

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On our times turning eleven!

An 'adolescent' decade could be just the right time to make the social agenda of educational reform, a reality.

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Promoting Caring Schools!

“I could never imagine that a teacher can bring in such levels of energetic enthusiasm in classrooms and technically plant positive behaviours among the learners”.

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TSA: Learning Together

Through our time with the teachers in the last few months, we have noticed several things which we felt needed to be addressed formally, in the whole group

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The New Teacher: Bringing Talk for Writing to India

  • Tuesday, July 21, 2015
  • Bringing Talk for Writing to India by Gina Menon

    Every year I work for part of the summer holidays in India, with The Teacher Foundation, (http://www.teacherfoundation.org/) a teacher-training organisation based in Bangalore. In July 2014, I was asked to work with a cohort of pre-service teacher trainees, ranging in age from seventeen to early forties, on the content of the Indian primary English curriculum, and its interactive delivery, covering all four strands – listening, speaking, reading, including phonics, and writing – from class 1 to class 5. Not only had the trainees to grapple with the content of the curriculum, but also with an interactive methodology hitherto quite unknown to them.India 2
    The course was very intensive: six hours per day, for three weeks. Written homework was given every evening to consolidate material covered in class. The trainees could all speak and write English as a second or third language, but none was fluent. My portion of their nine-month course was preceded by an initial intensive six-week spoken English course to ensure access to the ensuing modules. All the trainees were being prepared to teach in what are known in India as ‘low cost private schools’.
    Read More...

    A Brief Report - Schools today at a cultural crossroads!

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2015
  • “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” Mahatma Gandhi's words in 1936 may have been written in the wake a crisis faced by nations battling for superiority in the international stage but might well be applicable to schools in 21st century India.

    This crisis is multi-layered and complex thereby promising a lot of uncomfortable questions and certainly no easy answers. How do schools cope with their role in the new age economy as technology breaks down the hallowed walls of knowledge? Can schools be the architect of a “culture” that presumes a single set of beliefs and values and remain immune from flux all around them? Who takes responsibility when a young life is lost amidst trying to make sense of what are varied interpretations of acceptable behaviour?

    The recent School Leaders' Collective conducted by The Teacher Foundation was an attempt to surface these latent issues through the voices of various stakeholders in the system.

    Roshan Menezes, Secretary of Carmel High School, Bangalore placed the school leaders' challenge as one having the unenviable task of bridging the personal and the professional. The need to navigate through different cultural sensibilities inevitably means that the school sets the tone of what is appropriate in public spaces. Acknowledging that the standards of discipline have changed today, he stressed the importance of a code of conduct that was fair, uniform and invested with parental guidance. He also called upon parents to be a part of issues related to behaviour, stating that “they are a part and parcel of school decisions, there should be no blame game.”

    This raised the question of whether one should or should not discipline a child. Roshan's take on this was that the school had “to lay down the law and the outcome”. However, this did not mean that teenagers should be shut up, a common folly that adults commit. Rather in today's age of digital connectedness, the contours of risk taking behaviour should be drawn out clearly.

    Perhaps his most critical insight was on being empathetic to the trials of adolescence by having open channels of communication. “We need to let go of the misconceptions of the past; the world will be a better place for them and all of us”, were his well aimed parting words.

    In India's post colonial era, the school had been vested with the responsibility of graduating young people who could readily conform to the needs of a modernising society and economy. But as Devyani Bagchi, parent of a 13 year old, pointed out, the role of the school today encompasses more than just providing academic skills. “There can no Band Aid solutions, bad behaviour is an expression of something deeper. Schools should give guidance and solutions and get to the root cause.”

    Adding that the school, society and parents are not islands, Devyani spoke of their need to be in a “reasonable relationship”. However, she also cautioned parents that they “could not become friends with their children at 13” and had to make the effort to listen to them everyday, giving them “parental presence not presents”. There is nothing that cannot be “talked out”, she added, saying that “children will make mistakes, they need random acts of kindness and we need to accept them the way they are.”

    In the 1970's, the reigning Pink Floyd anthem exhorted adults to “Leave 'em kids alone!” Rahul Mansur, a young adult may have agreed with the rock stars. For a questioning teenager exploring the uncharted waters of adulthood, the “unpredictability of life” can “never be timetabled”. (You can read the transcript of Rahul's talk here) 

    In a searing account of his life at school, Rahul described the terror of having to be perfect, of “carrying an envelope containing a transfer certificate, hostility, fear, shame and rejection.” To the young school goer, respect had to earned, and this could be achieved by changing the way of communuication. “... it can change the way you look at things, what you believe in, it can make you less hungry and it can find you the confidence you never thought you had inside you.

    Phrases like “how are you feeling”, “it’s okay, tell me, I won’t judge you”, “don’t worry, we have your back”, “go have fun”, “we love you” were “small phrases; but can make a big difference.” Calling upon school leaders to be “superheroes”, Rahul asked them to reach out to children and “be among us, not above us”.

    So the answer may lie in moving out of the clearly defined lines that are drawn in school spaces. Dr. Neena David, Clinical Psychologist suggested that schools are actually very “complicated places” and more so for adolescents who are just embarking on “a fascinating era of growth and development”. Questioning if schools really believed that they were at the cultural crossroads, she pointed out the underlying fear of schools being threatened by things that shifted their “sense of order”. Dealing with this requires a dual understanding of ingrained teacher attitudes and adolescent behaviour.

    Teachers need to understand where they are in the development process and be acutely aware that this is a time when teenagers experiment, take risks and are therefore more vulnerable than other people. “Keep a sense of connectedness, teachers must listen without judgement.. this keeps (teens) safe” is Dr. David's expert opinion. Rather than fear becoming obsolete, schools themselves should foster critical inquiry, nurture reflective practice leading to high levels of collegiality and flexibility.

    In the end, one may seek solace in the words of the Buddha who said, “Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.” And so it is with schools at the cultural crossroads – to blow with the winds of change than get swept away by forces beyond its control. It just may be that the crossroads are an opportunity for introspection, a journey of change than Hobson's choice.
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    A former student's voice addressed to India's school principals!

  • Saturday, February 21, 2015
  • The Teacher Foundation organized a School Leaders' Collective on 19 February 2015, to discuss "Schools Today at a Cultural Crossroads." We had a parent, a school principal, a psychologist and a former student, along with school leaders from Bangalore and Mumbai, voice their thoughts on what schools can do to deal with the culture shift. We asked Rahul Mansur, a young budding entrepreneur, to give his voice to the millions of students across India! Rahul  is the founder of HolidayChai, a holiday startup. Here is his speech to an audience of school principals and heads at Chancery Hotel, Bangalore. You can read Rahul's original post here

    “I’m here you to show you the mirror;
    I’m here to make you cringe in your chair;
    I’m here to offend you;
    To tell you exactly what I feel”

    I must confess.
    I did not write this speech.

    This was written by a 15 year old boy.

    A boy who lived through his entire school life in fear.
    Always on guard, protecting himself from being caught on the wrong foot.

    A boy, who felt humiliated by his school.
    A boy, who felt discarded by his school.
    A boy, who never returned to his school,

    This 15 year old boy’s name is Rahul Mansur.
    He is an introvert. Public speaking petrified him. Still does.
    He prefers speaking to the mountains, rather than a group of human beings.

    Because he came from a school that told him: If you did a speech, it’s got to be perfect.
    He was told that looking into a paper while speaking at a public forum was a sign of failure. And he was not given permission to fail.

    Today I will read out Rahul’s speech.
    Today, I will read from this paper.
    Today, I will be the imperfect speaker.

    Let me take you into his school: a world where he was supposed to be taken care of, appreciated, encouraged and given the confidence to take on the outside world.

    But all he carried with him after graduating: was an envelope containing a transfer certificate, hostility, fear, shame and rejection.

    This is his speech.

     Respected madam principal,

    This is how every speech in my school began.

    I often smirked at the respected part.
    I would ask myself: Did I respect her?
    And why the respect?

    Because she is the leader of the school, they said.
    I would ask myself again: But how is she a leader?

    Is it because the school prospectus call her one?
    Is it because some staff member referred to her as one?
    Or is it because she is the guiding light that takes children to the shores of success.

    Doesn't that last line sound brilliant on marketing brochures?

    Now try selling that to a 15 year old who’s listening to Saadda Haq on his iPod.
    And he’s just learnt that it’s very cool to disobey authority.

    But how can you sell, if the only time you talk to the kid, is either at annual public functions or while you are suspending her?
    How can you sell, if you just don’t intend to communicate?

    Now when I say communicate, I don’t mean the literal definition.
    I am talking about reaching out, creating an environment with your words and influencing a budding life.

    I know a lot has changed in the communication department since I left my classroom.
    Schools have now become better with their PR and the communication has become more human, more moderate. But I feel it is superficial at best.

    Here’s an example: I found this passage on my school’s website.
    Now this is a message from the head of the school to the parents of future students including four year old kids.


    Now after the hi and hello, there’s a passage about a theory on holistic development and how that is applied in the classrooms. And I quote:

    “After a learning episode, the student would have acquired new knowledge, attitudes and skills. In order to achieve this, we have closely linked education in our schools with multiple intelligences, problem solving skills, creative and critical thinking, and technology integration.”

    Now as far as I remember, none of this really happened with me.

    I mean after a bell rang, I never felt an acquisition of skill and knowledge.
    It was usually panic and pandemonium related to the next class.

    A common conversation after the bell would be:

    “Hey did you do that homework?
    “Oh shit man, we’re screwed.”
    “I hope the teacher is sick and doesn’t show up”

    Not exactly on the lines of holistic development, right?

    What’s interesting to note here is the language and the choice of words used in this piece of communication.
    It reminds me of my days as a copywriter.

    So if we had to sell a 20 Rupee Rice and Dal for 200 rupees, we would package it as
    “Steamed white rice, handpicked from the quaint green hills of the Vindhyas, with golden lentils, simmered to delicious perfection."

    Just in case you didn’t follow, it is still Dal and Rice.

    Now this is what we do as copywriters.
    We screw with your minds.
    We make you read these fancy words that you really don’t want to understand, and your mind thinks – hey I don’t know what this is about - but it sure sounds good.
    And then we trick you into buying it.

    Now this letter to the parents, it is probably the work of an over-smart, sleep-deprived copywriter. But someone in the school management said yes – these words represent us – and signed it off.

    So what that communicates, to me at least, if I was the parent of a child, and mind you I’m no expert in understanding teaching techniques and the current jargon–

    It makes me say “Whoa! These are fancy techniques that this school is using.”
    It raises the bar so high, it feels like I’m sending my kid to this structured and controlled environment where she is definitely going to succeed.

    But is that what today’s schools want to communicate?
    I’d be damned if they did.

    Because the funny truth is, life as I know it, in itself is not structured.
    It’s not timetabled.
    It is unpredictable and very dynamic.
    And most importantly: it’s very emotional.

    So I search the rest of the letter that was addressed to the parents by the school, and I don’t see a single mention of emotional care.

    I mean care and love are one of the most important aspects that groom a child, right?
    So why is there no mention of that?
    And instead, why such complex language?

    Have you ever wondered how your complex thoughts influence the children?

    Now imagine if I printed these words of that letter onto a piece of paper and gave it to a four year old and told her – Hey this is what your new school says.

    Now a normal kid will probably make a paper plane out of that.
    And in the cockpit, she’ll place her dreams.
    But the words on that paper are so heavy – that her flight of dreams will never take off.

    Is this the weight, the school wants to place on the children’s shoulders, even before they begin to carry their own school bags?

    Instead if the schools just wrote –
    Hey! Send your kids to us. We’ll take great care of them, we’ll love them, we’ll protect them and groom them into confident and independent human beings.

    And then you explain how you will do that with your teaching techniques.
    Sold.

    You don’t even need a copywriter for that.
    All you need is some honesty and some intention to communicate better.

    Communication: I cannot stop stressing on the importance of it in our schools.
    The way you communicate, it can change the way you look at things; what you believe in; it can make you less hungry;
    And it can find you the confidence you never thought you had inside you.

    “How are you feeling”,
    “It’s okay, tell me”,
    “We won’t judge you”,
    “Don’t worry, we have your back”,
    “Go have fun”,
    “We love you”,

    Small phrases; but can make a big difference.

    The same difference that exists between a yellow school bus and a white mortuary van.
    The same difference that exists between a confident 15 year old speaker and a petrified one.


    Speaking of petrified, my mother’s here in the audience.
    Hi ma.
    Last time she was around a principal, she seemed pretty petrified.
    I hope you are doing fine now, Ma.
    All of them seem like nice people.

    So all of us, we ask our kids what they want to be.
    Not my mother. She asked me who I want to be.

    So as a four year old, I looked around, thought of my favourite person and I said train engine driver.
    Why? Because I loved trains. I loved travelling.

    Today I sit in Mcleodganj in Himachal Pradesh. I run Holidaychai: a travel startup that promotes offbeat road trips and treks in the Himalayas.
    So today, some part of me has succeeded in living my engine driver dream.

    How many such kids do you know who’ve been successful in living their dreams?

    Schools often measure success by the placements their kids get.
    You know they brag on annual day functions when they receive heavy pay packages from huge corporate companies.

    But why don’t these schools talk about how hectic those people’s lives are;
    How they wake up every morning to a paltry breakfast;
    How they spend four hours on the road every day;
    How they don’t know what their kids are doing at school;

    How they don’t find time to spend that money they earn;
    How most of them are really not happy

    And how most of them don’t even talk about it.

    Because they are so used to bottling up their emotions and chasing their goals.
    Because that’s what they learnt at school.

    That’s what you taught them.

    So going back to who you want to be and what you want to do.

    The answer to: what you want to do in life, will give you a profession.
    Who you want to be will give you an identity; a persona, or a choice of lifestyle.

    And a profession is just a small part of this identity.
    Professions often change: sometimes radically.
    An identity doesn’t change. It evolves.

    So why are schools stuck up on concentrating on professional achievements?
    When they could help the kid with the bigger picture?
    And make something great out of herself?

    So respected madam principal, as my leader, who’s supposed to guide me to the shores of success, you’ve been putting me on the wrong damn ship all this while!


    Adults need leaders.
    Kids don’t. You know what kids need?

    They need superheroes.
    Superheroes – They are ordinary people just like you and me but they do extraordinary things.

    They fly, they jump buildings, kill the bad guys and they save the world.
    They inspire children to dream.
    They inspire them to do great things.
    Great things that make the world a better place to live.

    And shouldn’t that be the school’s aim in the first place?
    So you, heads of the school, I think you need to be your student’s superhero if you want to inspire her.

    Doesn’t mean you have to wear a cape to school every day.
    You’d be awesome if you would.
    But that would probably offend the Spiderman fans.
    So not a good idea.

    But no. Why would you change a successful formula?
    At least something that is commercially successful.

    If you ask me, our schools are factories – Where little kids are put in boxes and placed on an assembly line for 14 years where they are drilled systematically, then packaged uniformly and shipped to the next factory.

    So, respected leader, can I take my head out of the box and ask you:
    What have you been doing with me?

    I know a principal’s role goes beyond the school campus.
    He or she is responsible for a lot of things that I am not aware of.
    I don’t know about the burdens on your shoulder and the worries on your brow.

    But what about being my leader?
    And still give me a reason why I should respect you.

    Let me tell you a story.

    I was ten years old.
    It was 12:30 in the afternoon. It was our lunch break.
    I was walking on the ground, speaking to a couple of my friends.
    We shared a joke about how fat a teacher was and how many babies he had inside his paunch. We laughed loudly.

    Or if I have to exaggerate, in my school’s words, we were thinking and acting inappropriately that did not display exemplary behaviour and wasn’t on the lines that upheld the reputation of our highly esteemed school.

    So that laugh didn’t last for longer than a second.
    We simply bottled it.

    Because in the balcony of the higher floors of the school building, stood respected-madam-principal. Looking down like a vulture, with eyes that shot fear.

    As if she was waiting for her prey.
    As if she was waiting for her lunch.

    We bottled our laughs.
    Because we were simply shit scared of her.
    Yes, we were scared of laughing
    We were scared of openly being happy.

    I know.
    It sounds like I’ve had a horrid school life.
    Truth is, I’ve also had some fantastic times too.
    My school made me a stronger person.
    And without a bit of sarcasm, I honestly owe whatever little success I’ve had to my school.

    But these feelings, they overshadow every pleasant moment I’ve had.
    And they form the package of every memory I carry from those grounds.

    Now my words may not be theoretically or politically correct.
    But I’m not here for correct.
    I’m not here to make a point or inspire you.

    I’m here to tell you things you already know.
    But you choose not to hear.
    Because of which, you choose not to change.

    I’m here you to show you the mirror;
    I’m here to make you cringe in your chairs;
    I’m here to offend you;
    To tell you exactly what I feel;
    What we really feel.

    So to answer that question of whether I respected the ‘head of my school’ as a 15 year old: If you want honesty, the answer is no.
    Why?

    Because a leader in my words is an example. Not a title.
    And you will not get my respect if you are just a title that demands respect.
    Respect needs to be earned.

    But all my school and its respected leader earned, was my fear.

    So as a principal, or as human being, is that how you people want to be remembered?
    Someone who incites fear?
    Because one pretty famous guy did that really well. They called him Hitler.

    The next time someone addresses you as respected-principal, I hope you feel uncomfortable in your skin.
    Ask yourself if that speaker really, honestly, meant it.

    And the answer to that question may be uncomfortable.
    But you need to open your windows and let the storm come in.
    You need to stop staying in a closed room where the truth is tweaked to your comforts.

    Accept the reality. And deal with it.
    Deal with this real world where teenagers today use the F-word like a punctuation mark, smoke, drink, take drugs, watch porn or indulge in unprotected sex.

    Don’t ignore it.
    Or don’t think that that this happens in other schools.
    Or the kids from your school are morally and culturally more upright and they would never indulge in such “unsavoury behaviour” because the rule book considers it inappropriate and does not allow it.

    Right now as we speak.
    Somewhere, a 14 year old kid is desperately texting his girlfriend about how much he loves her and cannot live without her;
    One of his friends is probably smoking a joint for the first time;
    One of them just discovered beer.
    This is happening.

    So how do we deal with this?

    A girl hugs a boy in school. Suspended.
    A student uses the word “prostitute” in class. Suspended.
    A student is caught smoking off campus. Suspended.

    Does the school state rules and tell kids how cigarettes are bad because they damage their lungs? And just suspend to punish them.
    And what makes the school think that the students will not smoke during that suspension period?

    Where is the teaching in this?
    Where is the so called lesson for life in this?

    So my suggestion? Reason with them.
    Don’t just reprimand them because they didn’t follow the rules.

    “To hell with your rules” / “rules are meant to be broken”
    That’s the thought process these days.

    So how does the school fix this?

    Now I would not stop at just telling them that smoking is injurious to health.
    They know that and cigarette packs explicitly state that.
    It’s boring.

    So how about taking a road trip.
    Right here in the outskirts of Bangalore, there is an organisation called ‘Karunashraya’. It is home to last stage cancer patients who prefer spending their final moments in peace instead of desperate and painful medication.

    What your suspended student will learn over an hour’s game of chess with a cancer patient about the ills of smoking: Now that’s something the school will never achieve with even a year’s suspension.

    As a head of the school, deal with these issues head on.
    Don’t wait for an incident to happen to start talking.

    Don’t give us long speeches like I am now. They are boring.
    Tell us stories, have discussions.
    Invite ex-students for a fun chat with the juniors.
    And they don’t have to be a Mark Zuckerberg to qualify for an invite.
    Just average, naughty ex-students, who might have just scored 75% in their exams or less.

    Invite them to share their version of school;
    Let them talk to the kids about how they faced the same problems that today’s children are facing – and how they got over it.

    As a head of the school, talk more and talk human.

    Children are white canvasses.
    Teachers are not just guides. They are artists.
    Give deserving teachers the freedom to change, to shake things around.
    And give them the room to make Monalisas.

    Go to random classes, have random chats.
    Ask the kids whether they’re playing enough or not;
    Express that you truly care for them

    Write open letters to children in a relationship.
    Tell them it’s alright, it’s natural,
    But explain to them, in their language, why they need to keep it on the backburner.

    Be a leader, but not above us.
    Don’t just stand in a balcony and play vulture.

    Come down,
    Be amongst us,
    Be a friend,
    Be an inspiration;
    Be our superhero.

    But does it hurt your ego and title if you are nice to us?
    Or do you prefer the mafia style of create fear and rule because it’s efficient and easy.

    When I hear schools speak, I feel it’s like you people live in a make-believe world where you actually think you are going to lead the kids into some kind of righteousness that further leads to perfect life excellence.

    So for example as a teenager, if you don’t want me to indulge in unsavoury behaviour like, god forgive me, get attracted to a girl, or talk inappropriate stuff like sex and porn, I won’t.

    But when exactly am I expected to indulge in such unsuitable behaviour?
    Can you imagine what will happen if every kid actually fit into this mould that schools are trying to fit them into?

    We’d be machine products that can only churn perfection and excellence; and not know anything about trivial things like human relationships and making kids.

    Can you imagine how horrible that would be for you?

    No making kids!

    How will your schools run without kids?
    Who will buy those overpriced uniforms?
    Have you thought of that?

    But you know that will not happen.
    We’re India. We love making kids.

    And you will continue to take us for granted, won’t you?

    Which makes me wonder, does it make sense to be a parent these days?

    Because don’t you think it’s better not to have a child, than to put her in your hands so that she can be judged at every stage of her life; ridiculed in the name of discipline, and go through all that shit.

    Simply because you don’t want to adapt and change to the requirements of the real world outside?

    I am the 15 year old boy you disappointed.
    My name is Rahul Mansur.
    And I wish I had had a better school life.


     - Rahul Mansur
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    Announcing School Leaders' Collective: Schools Today at a Cultural Crossroads

  • Thursday, January 29, 2015
  • We are a society at crossroads, where traditional customs, beliefs and family structures, especially in the metropolises are breaking down or evolving other identities. And our urban schools today are part of such a society.

    While most schools take pride in being at the cutting edge of technology and educational practices, adult mindsets are far slower and more resistant to changing norms. So besides the usual generation gap that exists between young students and their older teachers and principals, there is a growing cultural divide that's getting manifested even in our best schools.

    Owing to this, schools today are increasingly finding themselves in situations where they are unable to respond appropriately to the needs that are felt by students and /or their parents. Many questions surface – what do parents expect from you when they send their children to school? What do students, especially in their adolescence, want and need from schools? How does a school decide which of these expectations are reasonable and which of them are not?

    As a part of our ongoing commitment to enhancing the schooling experience for children across India, we are organizing our first School Leaders' Collective in 2015. It's appropriately titled - Schools Today at a Cultural Crossroads. We are inviting a carefully selected panel of speakers to lead the discussion and shed some light to this contentious issue.


    We look forward to having you at what promises to be a powerful session on 19  February 2015.
    Following are the details of the School Leaders' Collective:

    Date & Time
    19 February 2015 at 2.00 -4:30  pm

    Venue
    The Chancery Hotel, “Lavelle Hall”
    No.10/6, Lavelle Road,
    Next to Reliance Jewels (Mitra Towers),
    Bangalore - 560001,

    Hand outs, tea/coffee and snacks will be provided!

    No Registration fee! 

    Do confirm your participation by writing to Nancy at nancy@teacherfoundation.org
    or call : 95918 24944 / 80955 87430  
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    Announcing School Leaders' Collective II: Sane Ideas for Safer Schools

  • Wednesday, November 12, 2014
  • In the wake of increased reporting of alleged sexual abuse of young children in schools, The Teacher Foundation, in collaboration with Times Foundation, is organising School Leaders' Collective II to offer Sane Ideas for Safer Schools Part 2!

    What measures can schools take to evolve into safer spaces for children? Are the guidelines issued by the government helping schools in this context? Do you have a better idea you would like to share with us?



    On 18 November 2014, at 3.00 pm
    At Army Public School K Kamaraj Road, Bangalore 560 042.

    Special Invitees
    Mr. Mohammed Mohsin, 
    I.A.S (Commissioner for Public Instruction)

    Ms. Rohini, Katoch Sepat 
    I.P.S (Deputy Commissioner of Police South-East)

    Contact 9591824944/ 9591824945/8095587430. for registration or mail to info@teacherfoundation.org. No Registration Fee.

    You can use the following form to send us a request to register your name for the event. Our school relationship team will get in touch with you to confirm your request.
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