Conclave @ Hyderabad
Another chapter of The Progressive Teacher Conclave, was held at Hyderabad, the ‘City of Nawabs’. The event was hosted by New Saraswati House India Pvt. Ltd. on Saturday, 10th December, 2016 at the ITC Hotel Kakatiya, Begumpet, Hyderabad. As always, the hall was full of enthusiastic teachers, principals and other educationists. The session started with a welcome note by Ms Jyoti Nanda, the Publishing Head along with a beautiful introduction about Hyderabad, the City of Nawabs.
Mrs Rita Wilson, Editor in chief,The Progressive Teacher Magazine took over the stage and briefed the audience about her 40 years wonderful journey in education. She expressed her emotions as a teacher that even after spending so many years in teaching, she still gets a high after teaching. She was overwhelmed while sharing the kind of satisfaction and happiness she feels after teaching. Mrs Wilson spoke about the changing role of a teacher to a facilitator and a learner. According to her, it is not the infrastructure that is important; in fact it is the teacher who is important. A good teacher will always keep learning new strategies to teach in a better way. Mrs Rita thanked the MD of S Chand Group, Mr Himanshu Gupta for his support in always facilitating and executing innovative ideas in education as a publisher.
Ms Jyoti Nanda welcomed Dr Prabhat Kaushik, Director General, Zee Learn for the Keynote Address. Dr Prabhat Kaushik is a renowned institutional strategist and an educationist who pioneered a wide range of innovations for gifted underachievers in education. He started the key-note address by sharing that he was not an outstanding student as a child; rather he was a student who was always asked to stand outside the class because of his over inquisitive nature. He expressed the reality that our current education system does not have answers to many of the questions. He spoke about a question raised by a student that why do we have to learn the alphabet in a particular order and not just in any sequence. He emphasized that our education policy is confusing and answerless. According to him, failing a child is murdering a child and he had set examples by having a no fail system at many of the institutions he worked in. He believes that teachers have to find ways to make students understand rather than giving them a pass or fail tag. He also shared a number of examples where he actually brought about revolutionary changes, a few of such examples were:
– Laying more emphasis on basic English language skills before going forward to any other subject like Social Studies, Science, etc. because all these subjects are taught in English. If students have command over the English language, they will be able to understand the other subjects as well. (Block Teaching)
– Discontinued working with experienced teachers and created a team of people who had never taught; trained them in his own way for a few months and brought about excellent results. (Syndicate Working)
– His thinks learning stops in the classroom so he initiated learning outside the classroom. According to him, it is not the teacher, it is the student who can make the difference so one should focus on the student and give him/her enough opportunities to show his/her calibre. To illustrate this thought he shared an amazing video- TOI- Lead India Tree: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR8i9p3pcPg
Dr Prabhat also shared the irony behind school teaching that children are forced to learn so much under pressure that they just cram things without any actual logic and many times during this process students find shortcuts or wrong means to just clear the examination. Also, many times the teachers are under pressure from the Principal and they resort to actions that are not right in respect to students. These observations and thoughts were demonstrated through another interesting video. Dr Prabhat emphasised that teachers should be flexible enough to unlearn what they learnt decades ago and adapt themselves to learn the new trends in education. Dr Prabhat suggested that whatever project work is given to students as homework should be covered in class rather than just giving them as a copy and paste activity from Google at home. According to Dr Prabhat, the learning objectives and outcomes are not clearly defined in our present education system, and teachers should first know the teaching objectives before practicing teaching. This session was followed by a number of questions from the audience which Dr Prabhat answered. Mr Himanshu Gupta, MD, S. Chand Group honoured Dr Prabhat with a token of appreciation for sharing his wonderful thoughts.
With many enthusiastic participants in the event, the event now progressed towards Panel Discussions.
Panel Discussion 1: Creating a Responsive Classroom through Collaborative Learning
– Ms Amritha Chandra Raju- English HOD, The Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, Hyderabad
– Ms Rani- Academic Director, Ravindra Bharathi Global School, Hyderabad
– Ms Jayanthi Venkataraman- Principal, Sister Nivedita School, Hyderabad
Lt Col (Retd) A. Sekhar made an interesting start of the topic with a number of practical and real life examples. He shared a few instances of some wonderful teachers who experimented with unique strategies to teach students and were amongst the award winning teachers. He emphasised that we do not need to necessarily force children to learn in our way, rather we can experiment with unique and different ways to make learning joyful.
Ms Amritha Chandra Raju said she likes to be introduced as a student of English language rather than a teacher, because to her, learning never stops and a teacher is a constant learner. She feels that we are all the products of the traditional classroom and should try to update ourselves wherever possible. We should celebrate the spirit of teaching rather than discussing what we cannot do in the present circumstances. According to her, we should create an environment of collaborative learning in class and try our best to find out ways how it can be done. To this Col Sekhar added that collaborative learning need not necessarily follow digitization; rather it is as simple as the collaboration between the mother and the father to bring up their babies; we have to find out ways to make collaborative learning happen in the modern classroom.
Ms Rani believes that different children possess different skills and abilities and they should be put together in heterogeneous groups. For example to create a project in SST on pollution, if we have children from heterogeneous groups then children can come up with a variety of ideas. According to Ms Rani, 95% of learning takes place automatically during collaborative learning. Teachers only give collaborative learning a formal shape.
Ms Jayanthi Venkataraman believes that teachers need to create a healthy environment to make collaborative learning possible. She shared a very practical classroom example that whenever we as teachers ask students, have they understood the concept, the immediate response from the students is the nodding of their heads expressing that they have understood everything, but, actually it’s is not the truth in all the cases. There are a number of students who have not understood anything but still they just nod their heads. So to enable collaborative learning, the relationship between student and the teacher is very important.
The first panel discussion was very interactive and the audience was asked to share the challenges with collaborative learning in practical classroom teaching. The audience raised a number of questions like what is the practical possibility of having collaborative learning in the classroom; how to tackle the noise in the classroom while practicing collaborative learning? It was suggested that teachers be patient and keep trying their best to achieve results and spend more time with children to get the desired results out of collaborative learning. Ms Amritha Chandra mentioned that the Principals and the teachers should be re-invigorated to deal with the 21st century students to get effective results. The panelists summarised the discussion by concluding that collaborative learning needs to be designed very carefully; it has to be meticulously structured before taking it to the classroom for effective learning. The panelists were presented tokens of appreciation at the end.
– Tippy Tippy Tap- Pre Primary series launched by Mr Murli Dhar Jhawar, Director, ALPAKS Schools
– Connections- Social Studies series launched by Ms Padma, Primary Academic Director, Chaitanya Group
– Semester Plus- a semester series launched by
Mr Sanjeev Rao, Head, School Programme, Podami Group of Schools and Mrs Rita Wilson.
Panel Discussion 2: Critical Thinking for the 21st Century in Your Classroom
– Ms K. Lakshmi Rao- Academic Director, Jain International Group of Schools, Hyderababd
– Ms Raghu Kumari Kolli- Executive Director, Akshara Group of Schools, Hyderabad
– Mr Prem Shankar Dubey- Principal and Correspondent, Shanthiniketan Group of Schools, Hyderabad
Mr T. Sathish Kumar aroused the interest of the audience by relating a very appealing anecdote about a father and son regarding critical thinking. Thus, he brought to fore the fact that stories are an excellent medium for teaching and ‘if you put the man right, the world becomes right’.
Ms K. Lakshmi Rao considers critical thinking as a child’s ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood. To her, critical thinking is related to a child’s intellectual levels. She also believes that a teacher needs to unlearn and get prepared for the new things to be in sync with the students of the present times. The teacher should not be just the information provider rather should be proactive to trigger the thought processes of the child. According to Ms K. Lakshmi there are a number of stages in the thinking process of the child in which he/she is involved as an ignorant beginner, a practitioner, an advance learner and a master.
Ms Raghu Kumari Kolli felt that critical thinking in the life of a child starts from the very morning in his day to day actions. Critical thinking enables students to make critical decisions. To her, collaborative learning and critical thinking should go hand in hand. To facilitate critical thinking, the facilitator should encourage children to think beyond the curriculum. Teachers should involve students in brain tickling exercises and activities to bring out the critical thinking skills in them.
Mr Prem Shankar Dubey spoke about the four C’s in the process of learning ie Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking. According to Mr Dubey, if the child is not able to understand the concept taught, then the methodology is of no use. He emphasised that children should be given enough freedom to raise questions and teachers should resolve all the issues and queries raised by the students. Mr Dubey felt that the child can be involved inside and outside the classroom. Teaching should be effective so that children are able to relate to it. He concluded by saying ‘how you say matters more than what you say’.
After the discussion amongst the panelists, there were interesting questions raised by the audience. A few of the questions were – How far are we killing critical thinking when we focus on digitization and smart classes. The panelists responded that we have to maintain an appropriate balance between the two. There were more questions like all students are not same so how to cope with students with different abilities. The answer was different learning styles have to be used with children with different capabilities.
Mr Sathish summarised the session through a number of interesting stories based on the prevailing topic in his own special way that was appreciated by everyone present. The panelists were presented tokens of appreciation.
As a whole the entire session was very well organised by the Sales Team of New Saraswati House at Hyderabad headed by Mr G Hariharan and the Marketing Head, Dr Nisha Singh. It was an interactive and knowledgeable session with everyone looking forward to more such events. Mr Himanshu Gupta thanked all the participants whole-heartedly for their meaningful contribution in making the event a success.