Teachers’ Development Programs
Teacher support and development is considered to be the backbone of the work at Shikshantar. For a teacher to be effective, it is important that we recognize the factors that permit teachers to perform their roles effectively and those that do not.
Careful selection of trained teachers is followed by a strong teacher development and support programme. A well-designed in-service training programme provides opportunities for teachers to
• be informed about the latest research findings in education
• be in touch with their inner self and professional development
• develop interpersonal skills necessary for meaningful interaction with school-age children
• learn from the strengths of experienced teachers in schools in India and abroad
• upgrade their skills and knowledge levels as teachers of an integrated educational curriculum
To address the needs of the teachers at Shikshantar, members of the core team regularly conduct training and professional support workshops. In addition, workshops are also conducted by resource persons from accomplished schools of learning and universities of higher education. Intense in-service workshops are conducted around each vacation of the school calendar. These are supported by fortnightly workshops where everyday situations are discussed, analysed and resolved to create enriching environments for both teachers and the children.
Teacher’s Induction Program
Each year with the growing number of children and their learning needs, there is a requirement for more team members (teaching and non teaching). The recruitment process is comprehensive and includes various levels of screening and interactions.
A facilitator in Shikshantar establishes her first connect with the school through a walk in the school premises, absorbing the surroundings, understanding how each and every space contributes to enhancing the learning experiences of children. Thereafter there are days of making observations in classrooms, interactions with supervisors to share experiences and seek clarity. This is how they also build their initial linkages with the school philosophy and practices.
The teacher training programme in Shikshantar is an ongoing process, Induction Programme is a step in a continuum of professional learning for teachers. It empowers teachers to create an effective ‘teaching learning environment’ and also evolve as an individual. This year 38 team members were part of the Induction Programme. A well thought out plan was created taking inputs from the supervisory team members and the core team members. A holistic development of teachers is a pre requisite for the holistic development of children. Sessions were spread over the months of April and May.
Sessions included educational philosophies and work of educators and thinkers such as Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, Lilian Katz, Aurobindo and the Mother. There was an intensive planning and preparation for the facilitation of all sessions. Models for facilitation of sessions included sharing of classroom experiences, interactive discussions, reflective group work, case vignettes and power point presentations which reflected the application of theories and philosophies in classrooms. Children’s anecdotes and observations shared by the facilitators helped in widening the understanding.
As the programme progressed, teachers were able to analyse and draw linkages between different philosophies and their application in classrooms. What are the natural movements and changes which children go through as they move through different developmental stages, how we can address their needs through the curriculum and enable a sensitive and inclusive learning environment. As some of them shared, “Every lesson plan must address the three principles of learning and most important ‘near to far’, also to ‘awaken the psychic’ all three principles must be thoughtfully integrated in the lesson plan.” “Vygotsky’s theory is beautifully practised in Shikshantar through the facilitation of Whole Language Approach.” “I have seen the value of collaborative learning in the way we have been through group work and learnt from each other.”
Case vignettes were drawn from within the school context. Team members were divided into groups to reflect on the diversity of learners in the classroom and deliberate on questions such as ‘Where is the child?’, ‘What should be the learning goals for the child?’
Teachers were completely immersed during the soulful experience of “Awakening the Psychic”, it evoked their spontaneous and intuitive self, “I feel connected with myself when I look at my shadow, there is a mystery and I feel I am that mystery.” “I connect with myself when I am in the hills, there is greenery all around and the sky is blue and clear.” “When I am near the water, I become the water and the water is me. I experience bliss.” Feelings, emotions and memories found their forms through strokes of brushes and colours as soothing music played and calmed the senses. They summed up the experience as, “Awakening the Psychic of Children begins with being in touch with our own Psychic.”
Art, music and yoga sessions were organised and teachers created an understanding of their integration in the curriculum. They went through hands on experiences such as project work and later made presentations around project work for a week. The session on “Structure of the Day” brought clarity regarding the seamless infusion of our curricular practices with the structure of the day for children at various age levels.
The outcome of the Induction Programme was the development of the mental, vital and physical being of all team members and also awakening of their psychic being. It has also led to the expansion of our community of thinking and feeling individuals.
According to some of the team members, “Induction Programme has helped me grow as a person, brought maturity in understanding relationships, learning processes and connecting with my own self.” “We feel more empowered and ready to work with children, have more clarity regarding how to respond to situations.”
As Minoti didi shared towards the end of our induction Programme, “Each year the same session is very different and brings in a completely new perspective. The group dynamics and their learning needs are different. The plan for facilitation falls in place by itself. The Universe brings it all together.”