A walk through memory lane brought history alive for more than 30 high school teachers at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) on June 10, 2011. The Teacher Foundation had invited the participants for a fascinating glimpse of India's nation-making process through the eyes of Homai Vyrawalla, the country's first woman photo journalist. In lieu of Afternoons with TTF, the teachers were treated to a visual discovery of stunning photographs and were 'navigated' through this journey by the facilitators for the afternoon – Cecily John Mani (Senior Teacher of History, Valley School) and Tejashvi Jain (Assistant Curator, NGMA).
The facilitators urged the participants not to let the textbook limit the interactions in class, but rather encourage critical thinking among students through the use of images. Images are an integral part of human stories and narratives – starting from cave paintings and seals, to shards of pottery, monuments, coins, statues and currently print and electronic media.
The issue of perfection versus spontaneity in dramatization/role play had teachers engaged in a lively discussion. Some of the suggestions put forward were to imagine a historical figure writing a letter to a family member on that day's events; connecting history of the past with current day political events; and participating in decision making for school elections. Personal experiences would also help internalize the concepts being taught, for example, Cecily pointed out that The Valley School students had observed a period of silence and walked to school whilst studying the lesson on satyagraha.
The cultural contexts of the time period and the facial expressions at historical moments bring an interesting dimension to history. Activities such as photo stories, giving interesting captions and observing the 'body language' of history makers were enjoyed by everyone. It also reinforced the importance of sources as an instrument of historical reconstruction.
The day ended with a feedback session by the participants. While some of the teachers voiced the concern of lack of time and the pressure to complete the syllabus, others pitched in by pointing out that a hands-on approach kindled the natural curiosity of children and therefore would make the work of teachers much easier. It was a unanimous opinion, however, that bringing children to such events would enrich them and promote a positive learning experience.
Posted by Firoza Maneksha-Sinha, Sr. Centre Coordinator, The Teacher Foundation