Ambika Agarwal is a volunteer teacher at The Happy School Too in DLF 1, Gurgaon, which caters to children from lesser-privileged families. Here, Ambika speaks about her own experiences as a student and how these experiences have influenced her own teaching methods.
A few teachers from my student years have been very impressionable.
As I think back, I can recall an accented English teacher raising her arms, puckering her lips and taking sweeping rounds with passion – defying her age to depict swirls and twirls, romanticising the lesson and making it interesting. Another of my favourite teachers was a strict maths teacher whose name still sends chills down my spine. I appreciated him since he made maths digestible for me with the attention he gave us few weaklings. His strictness, repetition of formulae, and easy technique may have helped us improved our score. I was lucky to know a music teacher who would sway her head and pluck her lips in rhythm to Chopin’s symphony. I looked forward to the classes of a gentle and beautiful math teacher who read out sums which sounded like notes of music, although I struggled with the subject.
In all my student years, when education was very rote, strict and not so evolved, there were a few teachers who made learning a joy. They all were largely well-versed in their subjects, patient and encouraging, neatly turned out – and a few were strict, even resorting to strong corporal punishments.
Teaching has evolved a lot since then. We don’t resort to punishments but consciously try to make our lessons short, crisp and interesting. Efforts are also made to understand the child and be sensitive to their different abilities.
As teachers, our constant battle is to be or not to be strict. If strict, then how much? What are considered as punishments (a taboo word now), and what is a productive reprimand? Adopting inspiring, positive techniques is challenging but very effective, if you have a good methodology. A good story works wonders.
The school I teach in – The Happy School Too in DLF 1, Gurgaon – is a volunteer-based institute for the lesser- privileged. Often, we get volunteers with good intent who are unfortunately low on patience. If they are old and a bit slow, like all mischievous teenagers, our kids play pranks and try wriggling out of their lessons. This of course enrages the good samaritans.
While teaching my playful fourth graders, I read a chapter on ‘Grumpy Mrs. Brown’ from the “Wings Of Words” programme. The story talks about how a grumpy old lady becomes light -hearted and friendly after a little boy apologises for an accident that occurred due to the old lady’s impatience. The moral of the story is that even if you may be wronged by someone, you should not lose your temper at that person and instead make amends and benefit them.
After reading the story and regretfully reliving their own impish scenes with the elderly volunteers, the students of this class grade realised their mistake and started making amends. It’s endearing to see them apologising for lessons they have not understood. They also run up and help their senior teachers.
At this point, I would like to add that the Stones2Milestones team is a true educator for us, the teachers. Their much- researched and evolutionary pedagogy makes imparting lessons easy. They patiently try to address all our queries. They have systems in place – whether it’s the visually-attractive books and smartphone-guide apps or the variety of facilitators who efficiently execute their respective expertise. We enjoy their persistence, adaptation to the localised needs of the school and their emphasis on workshops and lateral communication.
A good education system is made of passionate educators who do constant checks on themselves and the organisation. They also indulge in good training programmes and pedagogy that are relevant to their students. This system churns out teachers who are role models and have the devout attention of at least 30 children each year. A teacher can feel like a hero each day!