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Actioning a Positive Cultural Change in Schools

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  • Saturday, November 6, 2010
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    The Context: Problem of Schooling Culture in India
    The schools in 21st century India are still primarily concerned with teaching and completing syllabus. Many of our children are unable to speak spontaneously and/or listen; they are unable to take turns to share ideas or to contribute effectively in a group situation. All these are basic requirements for being well-adjusted future citizens of this world.

    Schools need to actively nurture the ‘human’ side of student growth and development. But it’s easier said than done - for many reasons. One reason is that we are a class-ridden society, with many biases that get perpetuated by our schools. Another reason is that teachers themselves have been subjected to such interactions while they were students. It is this reality that they replicate, wittingly or unwittingly. Unfortunately, no concerted attempt has been made nationwide to actually improve the culture of interpersonal communication that takes place in our schools even though the National Curriculam Framework 2005 makes detailed references to a policy of inclusion, nurturing an enabling environment and good behaviour through a policy of participatory management. Most educational reforms in India so far have been restricted to developing literacy, numeracy competencies or physical infrastructure development.

    This clearly suggests that the the quality of personal interactions taking place in the school amongst teachers and between teachers and students needs to become gentler and more positive in order to transform the way teachers teach and transact lessons in the classrooms.

    Safe and Sensitive Schools- A pilot project in collaboration with WIPRO
    TTF is working with teachers and other adults in schools on the Whole School Quality Circle Time Approach, currently implemented in 15 Schools in Bangalore & Mysore in Government, Lower-rung, Middle-rung and Upper-end Private schools...

    The Project supports the schools to actively nurture staff self esteem and students’ self esteem and put into place clear listening systems which can eventually contribute to a Whole School Behaviour Policy that is inclusive, positive, caring and assertive for students and staff so that all experience success in school - the gifted, the average and the special needs individuals.

    The Objective
    Making the selected schools safe and sensitive through embedding policies, spaces and interactions that are positive, constructive, nurturing and collaborative for all – students and staff alike.

    TTF’s idea is two-fold:

    • To contextualise and adapt the Whole School Quality Circle Time model developed by Jenny Mosley, the well-known teacher trainer, drama therapist and author from the UK and effectively use it in selected schools (both private and government, both primary and secondary levels). The model is highly flexible and can be adapted to various linguistic, socio-cultural and geographical contexts. It requires no additional expense for the school, apart from the investment on its teachers and school leader for being trained effectively for 3-5 days and thereafter being periodically supported and monitored across a suitable period of time. This is the intervention component. 
    • TTF explores and meticulously record if and how teachers change the nature of their personal interactions with students – once they have been trained and supported to deliberately adopt an ethos of respect and warmth in their interactions with students. This is the action research component.

    What’s Quality Circle Time?
    Circle Time as a structured group process teaches young people how to understand themselves and relate to others. The circle time method involves the teacher in a weekly half-hour meeting where all the participants including the teacher, sit in a circle and take an equal responsibility for solving issues the group members have themselves highlighted. The structures and techniques within Circle Time teach individuals to communicate more clearly, directly and honestly with each other strengthening their skills of speaking, listening, looking, thinking and concentrating . By learning to express their feelings in a clear way, they learn to develop positive relationships.

    The strategies involved for children include cooperative games, pair work, rounds, drama techniques, puppet play - each strategy appropriate to the emotional and intellectual level of the group. Through cooperative activities and discussion, circle time ensures that each child experiences success and, used on a regular weekly basis, it promotes a feeling of equal value and group identity.

    The Teacher Foundation has already piloted the Circle Time approach to fostering the social and emotional aspects of student development in several schools and hundreds of teachers across India – and we have found the response has been always very positive, owing to its intrinsically humane person-centred approach. The idea requires no additional infra-structural costs – it works equally well in a small rural school as well as an up-market urban school. The focus is on enhancing the personal skills and attitudes of teachers and other adults in the education system. It places the raising of morale and self-esteem of teachers, as a primary strategy for successful implementation in schools.

    Posted by Maya Menon, Director, The Teacher Foundation
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