When I went to school today, I had no clue about how amazing it is going to turn out. As usual, I went for rounds and interacted with a few teachers. They shared their challenges in the class and wanted me to assist them. The day seemed quite ordinary until one of the teachers came running to me and asked me to meet Rashmi Ma’am, Grade 6, English Teacher immediately. I was really scared that something terrible has happened. So, I ran to her class immediately. Little did I know that what awaited me was going to create a shift in the way I see a classroom.
When I reached the 6th standard, I noticed that the classroom arrangement was different than usual. The children in the classroom were divided into groups and completely engaged in an activity. This is an unusual sight in the context of classrooms that we work with where children sit in their respective seats in rows. I was in awe of what was happening in the class because it’s quite rare to see a 100% student engagement in a classroom. In one of the corners, I spotted Rashmi Ma’am looking at me and smiling. Her smile conveyed a sense of accomplishment and pride. I could not help myself from hugging her. I congratulated her for successfully executing peer learning in the classroom. In her words, these classes “Worked like magic for children” and it was quite evident how much she enjoyed it.
I was excited about my post-observation discussion like a child on Christmas Eve. When we work with schools and teachers, the only thing that we aim for is change readiness among our stakeholders. This is a brilliant example of that. It was the result of our sustained efforts and motivation over a year. For me, this class spoke leaps and bounds about the kind of change that is to follow in the coming time.
In our discussion, Rashmi Ma’am enlightened me with the process and the motivation behind piloting “peer learning” in the class. She mentioned that she was struggling in the class to cater to the needs of the children at different learning levels. One period is too less a time to focus on all children. Hence, she thought of leveraging the strengths of the children and build a culture where children are not necessarily dependent on the teacher. She first identified the children who were struggling in her subject and paired them with students who were fairly good. Like any initiative, it was a bit difficult to implement in the beginning but when the children saw value in it, it became very effective. She shared how peer learning has led to immediate success points like completion of classwork and homework by children.
She said and I quote, “It is a huge jump from last year or even last month, I could never imagine that Dhanush or Harish would finish their work and keep their notebooks clean. But what I see now is just an inspiration for me to not give up on my kids.”
She also observed that students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. They develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning.
While sharing her experience, she went on to say that “it is easy to blame the student for all the bad results and incomplete homework, but as teachers we need to introspect about it. It is our fault if the children are unable to gain any learning in the class.”
By the end of this discussion, I almost teared up. It was wonderful to see the effort that Rashmi Ma’am put in her class. Teachers like her deepen our faith in the fact that change is possible irrespective of the size or type of a school. She has inspired me to keep working hard and set high expectations for our teachers and our schools. This day indeed was Magic for me!
-Written by Ms. Vasundhara, School Transformation Lead, Mantra4Change