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29.5.20

Building school communities



How do we build school communities that develop the knowledge and competencies that are essential for living and learning in a globally connected world?

“With increasing diversity and difference in today’s education, schools now more than ever constitute a microcosm of our larger society”. (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir). Hence responsibility of a school community towards development of global mind-set. A globally connected world requires a mind that is progressively moving towards a global mind-set.

Global Mind-set

Ranker (2018) “It is the ability to step outside one’s base culture and to understand there is no universally correct way to do things”. In others words, everyone is right.

Keeping this at the heart, how do we them function as a community in a school, where everyone opines differently? It would require effort to cultivate some values and systems for the same. When I say values, I am taking it as a sum total of attitudes, skills and approaches to be developed. I am also suggesting some systems that can be used to develop each value.

Values and Systems 
Mindfulness

Value:

Getting started with mindfulness (2018) states, “Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others”.

Keeping mindfulness as the core value to be practiced in a school itself would lead to developing related values required such as Open mindedness, respect and empathy. For when we do not judge, we respect and empathize with others.

Several schools in India have ‘moments of mindfulness’ embedded during the day. A bell rings and everyone pauses to take some deep breaths. Over the time it becomes a natural habit.

Systems:

“Make mindfulness a part of classroom learning by integrating it into curriculum-themed activities through exercises in breathing, sensory experience, guided imagery, and movement” (Shardlow, 2015).
Community service within the school or communities around is another great way to develop empathy. Reminds me of an Australian student talking to a villager as they worked side by side to build a kitchen in the village school. They did not understand a word of what each said, but their affection for each other was evident and a lesson for adults.

Classroom Teaching framework 

Value:

If school is the microcosm of the society, then classroom teaching is the microcosm of the school. Classroom teaching needs to be completely in a framework of skills and attitudes of learning. The focus of classroom teaching needs to be building the intelligence to live life with clarity. Syllabus provides the content, the knowledge.

“Intelligence uses knowledge, intelligence being the capacity to think clearly, objectively, sanely, healthily”, (Krishnamurti).

Systems:

Several frameworks are available to ensure that the classroom approaches are inclusive of development of skills. The chief focus of all systems must be, “Global citizenship education refers to a pedagogical approach that fosters K to 12 students’ inquiry skills and their ability to be agents of social change”, (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir, & Broad)

Risk taking 

Value: Risk taking is defined by Ranker (2018) as “Letting go of the fear that comes from stepping out of what is known, letting go of an ethnocentric attitude to adopt a more inclusive mind-set, a learning mind-set.”. A school that wishes to develop a global mind-set must have global citizens in it as a crucible to develop the capacity of stepping out of one’s own zone.

Systems:

When I applied to work at my first IB school, I came from national curriculum in India. I did not expect to be accepted. When I asked the school director why she accepted me, her response was, “You are from a Krishnamurti school. People from there are very vocal about their thoughts. I want a mix of individuals in my school”.

National and international cultural mix of teachers bring their own energy in a school. As we work, play, live together we grow. I was fascinated by the levels of collaboration that experienced with the international fraternity. They were fascinated by some of our features.

I had in my class once students who spoke English, Hindi and Korean. I had to develop creative ways and means of ensuring that everyone learnt the material without losing my calmness! It was hard but developed immense creativity in my work. “…vibrant diversity provides abundant opportunity to explore global issues and realities within typical classrooms”, (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir, & Broad).

Lifelong learning

Value:

To be open to others is a lifelong process. One needs to keep growing as an individual. Considering the Corona crises today, the most important aspect that we need is to be able to face the uncertainty of modern time. I do not know if the way the world is today; it will be tomorrow too. For me, lifelong learning is about building adaptive expertise, that is “An expertise that is adaptable and open to be challenged. This is developed when one gets used to rethinking what one knows, allows oneself to be challenged and drop old views”, (Bransford).

Systems:

Everything in our curriculum and professional development points to it. If we keep the focus of each microcosm of school life as a space where the views are challenged in order to develop an independent approach to life, in my opinion school has done its job.

Community development

Value:

“Classroom strategies, curriculum, and resources need to focus on the building of community, the valuing of diversity, and the inclusion of an international perspective”, ((Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir, & Broad).

Systems:

There are several communities such as teaching and non-teaching staff, students, parents and stake holders. Bringing all of them together is a part of community development. Too easy is for one part of community to blame the other. But if individuals learn to sit around a table and talk and get onto the ground and play, communities can be built up. Schools events are a great way to do so.

Reflection

Value:

Recently I started tracking the food I eat. I want to know what is going in my body and its effect. However, unless I have a framework that tells me the optimum nutrients that my body needs, tracking is quite aimless. Education communities also requires the same in order to continuously reflect over one’s progress in life to know where one is in comparison with where one is going. One needs indicators of success and growth points. “In combination with professional development and curricular resources, global competence indicators support teachers in creating classrooms that are open to the world” (Education).

Systems:

Education, V. I. F. I. (n.d.) has given a framework “…as part of its Global Gateway system: Understanding, Investigating, Connecting, and Integrating. For each grade-level pair of indicators, checklists are provided to support integration into everyday classroom practice”.

24.5.20

Teachers have to be reflective practitioners!

In order to learn and grow towards one’s goal, one goes through four stages (in any innovative order):

(1) Premise
(2) Vision
(3) Purpose
(4) Strategy. 

Examine your premise, the belief system that you carry. Focus on where you are and create a vision of what you wish to be. Connect it to a purpose, a reason to do what you envision. Finally develop a strategy to do the same. Then go back and reflect and continue the cycle over and over again. 

If the purpose is to develop students with global mind-sets, then first step would be to examine what it means for oneself. As an educator, my belief system was as traditional and narrow as it can be in the beginning. Education for a degree and a job. However, having moved from school to school in very differing environments has exposed my belief system to again and again, requiring me to adapt and grow. The purpose has been to create a learning space where ALL children can grow into self-sufficiency. My strategy has been reflecting, learning, inquiring and take risks in giving up working in schools where I was doing very well to move to new places. I have “…the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees ...”.

Hence without reflecting on who we are, envisioning what we want to be and making these central habits of teaching, the rest cannot be built. “A reflective practitioner builds and examines knowledge about learners, the culture and curricula of schooling, and the contexts in which teaching and learning occur; such a practice assists an educator to simultaneously renew, invigorate, and maximize the teaching process” (WLC).

My commitment is at 3 levels:

1. Working on my mind through mindfulness practice. “Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others”, (Getting started with mindfulness).

2. Working on curriculum through integration of best practices. "You can take any unit and change it a little so that students really start to see the world globally," (JSIS). This is by staying aware of new ideas in education and connecting them to classroom practice.

3. Learning to collaborate with others. “The reflective practitioner seeks to integrate previously learned information with the present experience in order to achieve future results. This quest is enhanced through collaborative efforts with colleagues, other professionals and community resources” (WLC, n.d., para. 4). “There is a ceiling effect to how much we can learn if we keep to ourselves”, (Fullan). I don’t think I can do anything without community support!

Conclusion 

A teacher needs to see herself or himself as a change agent, a crucible of critical changes in the fabric of the world itself. We have that as a responsibility. We often get caught in the soot of day to day stresses. But through mindfulness and creating challenges for oneself, one can shrug it off for our focus is “to make a difference in the lives of students”, (Fullan).

Teachers need to see themselves as change agents!


The human society keeps evolving. So does, as an effect, the collection of learners that we meet in the classroom. Every year it is different. The needs of the classroom also hence keep evolving. A teacher needs to respond to these needs on a continual basis. The only way is to take it as a challenge and follow the cycle: 

(a) Examine the situation
(b) Examine one’s ways of teaching
(c) Declutter the tool box of strategies and learn more
(d) Reflect and … back to step (a). 

But one needs a frame of reference as a base in order to avoid being tossed around by any thought process.

“I assume that amid all uncertainties there is one permanent frame of reference: namely, the organic connection between education and personal experience”, (Dewey).  For me, this frame of reference has been a multi-dimensional set of relationships for “We start our concern with the relation and not the individual”, (Randomactsofkindness). I have always believed that an interplay of individual and context is what leads to growth. In that way I am constructivist and “A core premise of constructivism is that cognitive processes (including thinking and learning) are situated (located) in physical and social contexts”, (Schunk, 2012). I am exploring multiple dimensions of relationships below.
  
Relationship with Oneself
To build a relationship with oneself would mean to keep growing more and more aware of oneself and integrate the new knowledge into existing schema. This would require a life where one is constantly facing new challenges for “…an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs when new information cannot be fitted into existing schema (assimilation)” (McLeod). In order to achieve again the sense of equilibrium, we make an effort and learn new tools for the same. For example, after teaching only Indians for years, when I stepped into an IB school, suddenly I faced learners from Korea who had varied levels of expertise of English. I was uncomfortable and had to increase my tools to be able to integrate methods to teach them.

We need to develop a deeply reflective approach to education. “Reflective teaching means looking at what you do in the classroom and giving it a meaning by attaching the why question to what you go through”, (Gatumu). Being able to reflect is a life skill and a need for me.

Relationship with Subject
For some maths is god! For some it is mandatory to learn. For some it is a subject to teach. A teacher must explore his or her relationship with the subject. It is the teacher’s passion that flows through to the students.

What is maths for me? It is poetry, it is frozen patterns, it is something that gives me a sense of ‘wow’ that I cannot explain. When I share with the students something like, ‘motion under the force of gravity is always one of the 4 conic sections’, I feel the sense of ‘wow, this is so amazing’ and that is transferred to the students.

Relationship with the Student
‘So you can teach maths. What else can you do for the students?’ Our IB school director would ask again and again. As I explored this question, the process led me to see the students differently.

I learnt the core value of relationship with students is to learn to connect beyond the subject, as human beings. I see now that “… connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives”, (Brown). This has been the most beautiful journey for me and so well encapsulated by Brene!

Relationship with the Curriculum
I have a passion for maths. But I have a bigger passion for every student to maximize his or her potential in maths and in life. Hence for me, maths classes are a space where there is a positive learning environment that evokes all students to learn with joy. As maths brings in a lot of anxiety, I have “…an arsenal of strategies that would inoculate learners against the negative attitude by providing enough positive experiences”, (Gang).  I bring in a number of teaching methods to differentiate the curriculum and make it appealing to all kind of learners.

The new addition to my curricular expertise now is the realization that “A curriculum that makes intercultural competency an asset, rather than a deficit, can powerfully motivate…”, (Reimers). This is something I’d like to explore more as opportunities arise. I might, for example, check the cultural background of participants for a workshop and bring in streaks from the source.

Relationship with The Larger Community
Let us think “…about schools as systems of interdependent actors and processes, in which the most important outcomes, as in a symphony, are in the synergies that result from their interaction and collaboration”, (Reimers). We have colleagues, staff, leaders, management and parents as an extension. Technology has made it easy to collaborate with anyone across the world. I have, over the years, learnt the value of collaborating with the larger community and enjoy the synergy.

Relationship with The World
What is my place in the world and how do I create a better one? This is the new that I have learnt from this course. I see now the power of the IB schools to help build a relationship with the world that is based on a sense of open mind. This is the part that has made me feel a twinge of remorse at leaving the IB teaching. To be a travelling teacher, to give the space to be a part of an international eco system, to choose for oneself what one calls a ‘home’ in the world, this is so much more possible for an IB teacher.

The capacity to “…step outside one’s base culture and to understand there is no universally correct way to do things”, (Ranker) would be the ultimate freedom of being that one could hope to learn!

Conclusion
Relationship is the main frame of reference for me as explored above. What I have learnt from this course is how all the dimensions of relationships are multiple aspects of becoming and building global citizens through a global mind-set. That is the pivot that gives meaning to all that we do by integrating it around a core vision. To learn to live in harmony within any community anywhere in the world would be the point of omega that we are moving towards. The courage to develop “…the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…”, (Brown).

I am grateful for coming to the vastness of the vision and looking forward to sharing it with my milieu. “An organized, bottom-up, teacher-led movement can advance global education in ways that advocates have been unable to do so far” (Reimers).


22.5.20

Judge a man by the questions he asks!



Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. (Voltaire)

All our lives, we have been told that our smartness is measured by the answers that we have. And here comes Voltaire who says the opposite! My initial reaction is, ‘What does this mean?’ However, since it is Voltaire that says it, I think it must have some meaning and I dig deeper!

As a listener, I may learn more by the questions I ask instead of by the quiet judgments I make. As a reader I may gain more by my questioning the text instead of believing what I read blindly. As a human being, I may contribute more to society by questioning the traditions than blindly following them.

“The questions do mean a lot in life, not just for the sake of saying it, but for the sake that they define where your life is headed and how you are going to shape your life”, (Inspire99, 2019, para. 5). As I read this blog piece, I felt pieces dropping in my mind and a change in the way I approached questions. Questions as a way to change your perspective to life is a new way for me. For example, when students ask, ‘Why am I bad at maths?’, I could change the question to, ‘what am I best at and how can I be even better?’ Or ‘How important is maths in my life, and am I giving it enough importance or too less or too more?’

I recall during practice teaching, when I to a class of grade 9. I taught Geometry and asked a lot of questions to begin and carry a lesson. End of the class, I asked the students how they found my teaching. 8 out of 30 students said that they liked it. A student who did not like it said, “You asked more questions than gave answers”. A student who liked is said, “That is the right way to teach”.

Post my lesson I asked my supervisor if I was okay. He said, “You were great!” If it wasn’t for him, I would have quit my teaching course for I did not know the value of my strategies. Over the years, I decided to be open to every question that the students may ask me. If I did not know the answer, I asked them for 2 days to get it for them. Sometimes I would go far and wide in search for answers. And I always got them.

Maths lends itself to strictly single answer questions. However, one can ask open ended questions such as, ‘How would you add decimals? Explain in your own words’. Such questions allow multiple answers. ““Always ask if there is another perspective, another point of view, another explanation, another way to solve a problem, to stimulate critical thinking.” (Asia Society/OECD, 2018, pp.23, para. 6).

“To provide opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of mathematics, teachers need to encourage communities of mathematical discourse in their classrooms”, (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir & Broad (Eds.)). Hence I would organize group discussion around problem solving in maths. These problems would be a mix of hard and easy and chosen in a way that entails a discussion. I would also have groups created from multiple cultures and maths levels.

I would have structured debates around issues related to maths. For example:

· ‘How useful is maths?’

· ‘Is maths fearful?’

· ‘Is there a math gene?’

· ‘If most of the world has moved to metric system, why do think some countries still prefer the imperial system for measurements?’

· ‘How is maths a universal language?’

· ‘As per Indian culture, girls do not need maths as they would eventually run a house – agree or disagree? Give justifications.’

‘Why are we learning this?’ is a question I have heard over and over again in my years of teaching maths. I’d encourage it more and answer it for the students. I would even ask them, in case they do not ask me! I would ask questions such as (a) who needs this topic? Or (b) who would suffer if this topic was not there? Or (c) what is the use of knowing this?

“Project-based learning is an important pedagogical tool for developing global competence”, (Asia Society/OECD, 2018). I would organize group projects around questions such as, ‘How do I find the height of this building without climbing it?’ I would give the students space to explore the problem and strategize the solution themselves. The product would be turned in the way they wish to, bringing in differentiation.

I would ask them to investigate any topic with a group using online tools. This could be around ‘what is pi?’ or ‘what is scientific notation?’ They create their own questions and then research for the answers. Their submission would be original and in the way they prefer.

None of this is possible unless there is a learning environment that allows students to feel safe to ask any question. “To foster global competence, teachers need to create classroom cultures in which students feel safe to express their opinions, safe to speculate, and safe to disagree with their fellow students or even their teacher, without being discourteous”, (Asia Society/OECD, 2018). I would work to develop an unconditional acceptance in myself towards all cultures present in the class, in order to cultivate the atmosphere of acceptance. I want “…students to feel that they can “communicate their ideas directly to others, without hesitation, and without hurting anyone”, (Asia Society/OECD).

With these strategies in place, “The educator’s role becomes one of facilitator, questioning and prompting students as they participate in mathematical conversations”, (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir & Broad (Eds.).

I started by a weak meaning of the quote and ended, through the research, with a deeper meaning that is for a me tool to improve my perspective to the world. I also realize that with clever adjustments, global issue scan be integrated with maths in the classroom easily. Perhaps that would give maths a wide enough perspective to be appealing to all students.

17.5.20

What do you believe about yourself as a Teacher?


What you believe about yourself as a teacher and what you believe about all children are closely related. (Harris, 2005)”
What is the purpose of teaching?
When a teacher can grow into giving the student such a non-judgmental space, teaching happens and is not an effort.
I believe that teaching children is an art that may use some aspects of science. But broadly, it is an art. “Art does not confine to logic; it is an expression of feelings” (Chandra, 2013).
Hence it may use pedagogical structures, but by and large its base is emotions. It is subjective and requires a level of autonomy for the teachers. Trust, accountability and freedom is where teaching is expressed best.

“The bottom line is that if we expect certain behaviours from people, we treat them differently — and that treatment is likely to affect their behaviour,” (Ellison, 2015).
Personally what I expect from students is a space where we can have a dialogue. This need not be an intellectual dialogue, which is boring, but one with emotions involved in it. Hence I find most at home with the very emotional age group of teenagers.
I can’t handle aggression or shouting. When they lose their control on emotions, I need to protect myself from them. But I keep maneuvering and waiting to have ‘that special point of connection’ when we can have a dialogue.
I expect them to back off! It may sound very demanding, but I feel they need to back off, unless invited into the zone of teacher-taught. I may not know everything about what I am doing, but I have all good intentions. So please do not get anxious when I make a mistake. Give me some space to find my way back to the student or your child. Let us find our way towards building a relationship.
There are parents who have done this and I have had incredible relationships with them and their children too.
Yes. I firmly believe that. However, having said that, I also believe in ‘to each to his own’. We need to give each student the space to develop, but develop to his or her best. As a Maths teacher, I found students were at peace when I focused on their best and not at Maths. Ironically, my approach calmed them and they actually performed better in Maths.
My job is “…to provide the optimum conditions for it to do that, to allow it to grow itself”, (Robinson, 2007).

How a Learning Management System can change a Teacher's life!





        Someone asked me a question, “How did you use technology to change communication when you were teaching?”

And I went down memory lane. 

      I thought of the biggest challenge for us at an IB school, LMS or a Learning Management System?

    When I was teaching, I got a job with an IB school in 2006, Pathways Word school (School, n.d.) and it was a turnaround for me. One of the things I was introduced to was the learning management system, (veracross, n.d.). I embraced it fully.

    For students, it was a channel of communication of their homework and upcoming assessments. I did away with the school diary and uploaded religiously all classwork and homework on it for them to check. The students were not used to such self-efficacy and would want me to write the homework on the board, like it was done for centuries. I refused and stayed consistent with my approach.

    “When teachers express their feelings with “I-messages”, students are able to understand how they feel and what problems are” (Hue & Wai-shing). The focus was to teach them independence. And I communicated that to them with clarity of thought. I understood that they had to unlearn old habits and gave them space for the same, while staying firm on my methods.

    Eventually it worked as they saw the benefits of it. If they were absent, they could refer to veracross for work done. If they lost worksheets, they could download. I put up past papers and all required study material on it. Soon they un-plugged from me and plugged into veracross! That left the space open for us to develop relationships that did not run around ‘What is the work Miss!’

    Veracross also was the space to upload the assessment scores. Since all calculation was done by the algorithm, I could take as many formative as I wished to and upload them. This changed the curriculum. My assessment turned into continuous as I had no worry of sitting hunched and calculate to find the average!

    Since parents had access to veracross, my updating it regularly helped them to see what was happening in the Maths classes and that helped develop relationship between us. They had the data with them and could reach out anytime they had queries on the same. This gave me the space to learn professional relationships with them. Veracross permitted me to write individual mails to parents with the assessment score.

    And here I found a huge learning area. I would randomly inform parents of scores, great or low, and only when one of them made a panic call that I realised that these are individual who are working and in the middle of their office. Imagine getting a mail in bold “Your child has got a 1 on 10 in Math test!”. This led me to change my way of writing mails. I wrote mails at the end of my day and always started with Dear “…”. It sensitized me. I used veracross to “build a platform for teacher-parent collaboration”, (Hue & Wai-shing)

Conclusion
Veracross was not a learning management system. It was a channel to increase communication with parents, build self-sufficiency in students and learn to be efficient yet sensitive for myself!



Testimonials from my students




When I wrote my book, after quitting teaching, I asked some of my students to send some testimonials as I felt that they are the best judge of me as a maths teacher!

Here they are....

SARA YOGIN

PATHWAYS WORLD SCHOOL,
 ARAVALI HILLS, 
HARYANA

Monica Kochar was my Mathematics teacher from the 6th to the 8th Grade at Pathways World School, Aravali. Before being admitted into Pathways, the thought of solving any kind of Mathematical equation was a daunting prospect for me. To be honest, I had developed a mental block in the fourth and fifth grade at a different school, and thus was not able to look at a sum logically attempting to solve it, but instead would skip sums, and sometimes attempt to bunk my maths classes.

All of this changed once Monica Ma’am assigned a project to us which enabled me to play around with what I knew best- creative writing. The project was easy; we had to create a magazine or a newsletter with explanations of what fractions were and how they operated. Using Microsoft Publisher, I created a magazine, with several fictional fraction characters, and their stories, in an attempt to explain who they were and where they came from, and what their ‘jobs’ were. Much to my surprise, she loved it, and had pinned it up on her board for months.

She also introduced one of the most interesting methods of practicing maths, by having us bring our iPods and mp3 players to school to listen to music while solving equations. For many of us, this was a significant and exciting prospect, as we’d want to solve more equations, and yet we wouldn’t feel the strain of doing complicated sums, as we would be listening to music that appealed to us and thus relaxed us. This idea didn’t come without rules though, and that’s what made her such a brilliant facilitator, as she trusted us and at the same time, knew where to draw the line between trust and taking advantage of the benefits she was giving us.

Aside from this, she encouraged peer-to-peer teaching and learning, which was different, as one wouldn’t feel the pressure of a scary teacher breathing down his or her neck to solve an algebraic sum under two minutes. I also remember her once sitting on YouTube searching for videos about geometry- how to draw an equilateral triangle without a ruler, by using a compass. It was these videos that made her classes all the more interactive.

In a world where technology is developing rapidly day by day, I personally feel that students feel more comfortable using technology to facilitate their learning. Of course, this facilitation must be controlled, to some extent for those children who take advantage. However, being around technology doesn’t mean that one is taking the “easy way out” when it comes to learning. It means that one is just trying to find means to make the monotonous day to day classes more interesting, so that students are able to absorb more during their classes, and thus perform better during their exams. Out of all the teachers that I’ve met in my life, I feel that Monica ma’am grasped this idea very quickly, and instantly knew that making the classroom more interesting, fun, and interactive, would enable us to say “Maths is my favourite subject”, furthermore diminishing any mental blocks that we’d created towards the subject.

Thank you Monica ma’am, for one of the best teaching experiences I’ve ever had.

PRACHI AGGARWAL

THE VALLEY SCHOOL; 
BANGALORE

Monica Aunty ala Moke taught me maths in 11th and 12th in The Valley School, Bangalore. Maths as a subject was never special to me. It was like just an essential subject we need to study for good higher education. But after being taught by her, certain “joy” got attached to maths. It became fun as instead of just mechanically solving a problem we actually understood the method behind it.

After school hours we used to self-study maths with her, which was more of an interactive session where we learnt maths in a very informal environment. We were left at our pace to do the sums with no hurry or pressure.

But the best memories I have with her is the time spent with her at her campus house, where a bunch of us used to come with the purpose of music, food, discussions and maybe…maths!

ANIKET KRISHNA

THE VALLEY SCHOOL; BANGALORE


It is futile to attempt a mental description of the ideal qualities that a teacher must possess, for when faced with the practical challenges of the student’s struggle in the midst of worlds that are presently lit dim, it is the Teacher’s grace that shines forth through the disciple’s own inner being. Experts of intellectual theories are to be found in abundance in today’s knowledge oriented world and sitting in their lofty abodes with their one sided mastery of the truth, they seldom capture more than that faint and distant admiration of the student. Monica is a teacher in the above sense. Infinitely more valuable than her more than adequate mastery over mathematics is her sense of grace and guidance. She was to me at times a disciplinarian mother, at others a friend in whom I could trust and confide. When I look back at my times with her in the The Valley School, I remember a teacher who knew how to nourish the seed of mathematics, come whatever the weather.

AVNI RAJA

THE VALLEY SCHOOL; 
BANGALORE

There are very few teachers who left a lasting memory in my life and Monica (or Moke as we affectionately called her) was one of them. She taught me business mathematics in the 11th and 12th grade in The Valley School, Bangalore. Maths was a subject that had tormented me ever since I can remember. I had what they call a “block” against the subject. It became such a stress factor in my life. As soon as you enter 11th grade, the ISC exams slowly and steadily start looming over your head. As time went by, I began fearing the subject more.
As luck would have it, I had Monica as my Maths teacher. From dreading Maths periods, I slowly began looking forward to it. Her classes were so much fun. She took the effort to make friendship the base of our student-teacher relationship. And that made all the difference in the world. Her classes were never only about studying maths. We went for walks, talked about various issues we had (both related and unrelated to Maths) and of course learnt the subject. Eventually I became so comfortable with her, and as a result my fear of the subject started drifting away. She explained things, that seemed impossible to understand at first, in such a simple manner. She knew exactly when to be firm and push us and when to be easy going. Although I may not have scored traditionally high marks in the exams, but my fear of the subject reduced significantly. And that to my mind is a bigger achievement. Ever since, Maths has in some way or the other been a part of my life, be it in higher studies, my career in journalism and today successfully maintaining accounts of my entrepreneurial venture. I don’t think any of this would have been possible had I been fearful of Mathematics not been erased!

ANINDITA CHATTERJEE

THE MOTHER’S INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL; 
NEW DELHI

Mathematics was the worst part of my growing up years. But there was no escaping it, unfortunately. As the years passed and trigonometry and complex algebra robbed my sleep, my school hired a young, feisty, edgy teacher, who turned everything around. It's been nearly 16 years since I left school so although I don't have very clear memories of what transpired inside those four walls of the classroom , I remember Monica ma'am slowly helped me battle my fears of numbers, eased me into the subject, got me remotely interested in it and finally made sure I reigned in the marks too. She connected with the wires in my head, helped me untangle them. She remains a constant source of encouragement.

BHAVNA GUPTA

PATHWAYS WORLD SCHOOL; 
NOIDA; UP

I've always been the loud kind of girl who loves life. But when it comes to maths I'm more like the opposite of my real self. I get shy and I hate life. Well let just say I have this big phobia of maths since I was only 6. As you all must have heard a teacher can make you hate or love a subject. But in my case it will be legit to say that I got this one amazing teacher who made my maths class the most fun one. This happened when I was in grade 9th. It was my first day in a new school and I was terrified. Terrified of the fact that I will make a fool out of myself in maths class. So as I entered the class, I straight away went for the last seat. And then I saw the "MATHS TEACHER" Ms. Monica. And she was giving out test. That was the moment I wanted to run away because I didn't knew a single thing in maths. But somehow seeing my expressions Monica ma'am asked me to meet her after class. So when the class ended I stayed back. She came to me and told me that she will help no matter what and I should take extra classes from her. And after that day I can't believe I'm saying this but maths was the only subject I use to look forward in school. Her class use to be so much fun. She use to take us out for maths classes and every child In my class was so free. We had no fear of asking a silly question. And till date she is the one teacher who changed my life not only because of maths because she also made me a better person. She made me believe in myself and that is something I would have never done without her help. The connection I have built with her over maths will always be there. So after all maths is an amazing subject if you get a teacher like her who goes out of her way to help her students.





Building school communities

How do we build school communities that develop the knowledge and competencies that are essential for living and learning in a globally...