“Teaching should help people live together.”
This interview is part of a project named Stories of Inspiring Teachers that aims to share innovative practices around the world and explore the benefits of teaching social and emotional skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, self awareness, critical thinking) at school.
I met Nituna in one of those many and pleasant meeting rooms at the Gateway School of Mumbai. She was one of my first interviews in that school, and I was eager to know more about her teaching as I was already very excited by what I saw in class the day before. We were in the middle of a “Bring a relative day”, during which children were so happy to take their relative on a tour and in their classrooms. During that day we also planted a tree in memory of a student’s father, deceased a month before.
She’s been teaching Humanities in The Gateway School for 4 years. Her career as a teacher started at the age of 18, in a governmental school. Unsatisfied with her practices she went to an IB school* and still felt that she couldn’t support children in their difficulties. That’s how she came in the Gateway School wich is a student-centered school for children with learning challenges.
“I’ve learnt progressively to get my teaching in keeping with children’s interest”
From a traditional way of teaching to what she is doing now, there’s been a long way to go. Introducing progressively relevance into teaching, she found her students more involved. Relevance means thinking about what do they care about ? What are they big issues ? How they can feel helpful and self-motivated ?
That’s how she got interested in Problem-Based Learning : an instructional method of hands-on, active learning centered on the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems.. While I was here, they were studying about a school nearby to understand how it was successful in conserving energy. The purpose was to find solutions to implement in their own school. This lesson had a lot in common with the “Design Thinking” approach in education. This other way of teaching is inspired from designers and globally spread thanks to Kiran Bir Sethi (the founder of the Riverside School) with Design For Change. It is a « a structured approach to generating and developing ideas » (designthinkingforeducators.com). It counts 5 steps :
- Discovery (how do I approach this challenge ?)
- Interpretation (I make some research or surveying to understand the problem)
- Ideation (I brainstorm new ideas)
- Experimentation (How do I create a new solution?)
- Evolution ( How do I evolve it?)
Nituna is experimenting and doing a lot of research in this field as she thinks it is a great way to introduce relevance into teaching.
She also believes strongly in collaboration skills as a major skill for the 21st century and she is working a lot to teach about it. Not only student will experience it in class but they are led to understand what it takes to collaborate : be open-minded, communicate, be ready to be wrong. That is why, out of the specific therapy slots Manika told us about, Nituna introduces problem-solving in her classroom : when a child has an issue, she gets everyone to find a solution collaboratively. In her class, kids are in groups and are each expected to be part of the lesson. Her instructions always engage every students as in the « two roupies games » : a work group in which every student had been given two coins and had to use both of them in a discussion, they would use a coin each time they add an argument to the group work. Collaboration is one of the 21st century skills (also known as the 4C : Collaboration, Critical thinking, Communication, Creativity), it is crucial to develop it with students, not only by encouraging it in class, but also by teaching the social skills necessary to collaborate efficiently.
Training is crucial
« I felt that I wasn’t able to support children’s difficulties ».
Motivated by this observation, Nituna applied in the Gateway school, underlining the fact that Indian teacher’s training is very poor especially in terms of social and emotional learning.
Improving comes with « reading a lot, watching at other teachers, collaborating, practicing and reflecting after class » reminds Nituna. In the Gateway School, everything seems to prove her right and leads to natural training : the atmosphere between teachers is very friendly, they have a “book club” to discuss about work-related readings, they are often several teachers during class who can give feedbacks, and finally, educators have space and time to meet after class. How often have I seen teachers working during lunchtime, because when you introduce collaboration in work, there is never enough time to meet !
« For a long time, I was looking for the best resource, the best curriculum but none is perfect, everything lies in the way you use it »
And for that, you need some training.
when I asked her how Nituna sees teaching, she answered : “I want to support my community : teaching and sharing my practices are one way of doing it. To me, teaching should help people live together.”
IB schools = International Baccalaureate. Those schools are famous for their open-minded pedagogy