Monday, February 15, 2016

Putting it into Practice - ASB's Teacher Training Programme

On Saturday 61 teachers from 16 organisations in Mumbai and beyond graduated from ASB's Teacher Training Programme (TTP).    This programme has been running since 2011, and we have already had 3 batches of teachers pass through it - one of whom is now employed in our school!  In the first 4 years, we ran the programme as a 2 year one, but following feedback last year decided to try it out as a one-year programme this year, with teachers meeting more frequently (on Saturdays).  In this batch we also expanded our out-reach - so included teachers from schools in Pune, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh.  Out of the 64 teachers who started the programme this year, 61 of them graduated and around half of them had 100% attendance - even though for some this involved an overnight train journey or even a train journey of 18 hours to attend in one case!

Our final session was a reflective one, where the teachers explained how they had put into practice what they had learned.  I'm sharing some of their observations here.

Akanksha - this NGO was set up in 1991 to address inequalities in Indian education, in particular among children from low-income communities.  The aim was to maximize the potential of the children and their motto is "aspire, achieve, be the change".  Currently in Mumbai they have 8 centres and 16 schools.  The teachers from Akanksha identified the following things that they had put into practice during the TTP:

  • Responsive Classroom practices, in particular the morning meeting and energizers, and the reinforcing, reminding and redirecting language.  They felt the class meetings had really increased student participation
  • Non-verbal signals
  • Inquiry - having students frame their own questions and pose them to each other.  The teachers said they have noticed a huge increase in reading comprehension as a result.
Some practices they found harder to implement in their schools included the issues of having to tweak the timetable to include morning meetings - though this will be built into their school schedule next year.

Bombay Teen Challenge - this NGO works to rescue battered women and children who are victims of the Red Light district.  Their aim is to give vocational training to help restore their lives.  In June 2015 they set up the BTC Academy for students from Kindergarten to Grade 7, and next year they will go to higher grades too.  BTC identified many TTP practices that are now in place:
  • The morning meeting every day sets a positive environment.  
  • They have a weekly appreciation of students who are recognized by the whole school
  • They have embraced modern teaching techniques, with around 60-70% of their learning now being activity based.
  • They have interactive and responsive classrooms (that are definitely not quiet!)
  • They have set up differentiated reading groups
Leadership Boulevard is an NGO that designs curriculum for schoosl in Gujarat.  Teachers from this NGO noticed changes in:
  • Teacher language
  • More emphasis on the developmental stages of the children
  • English and Hindi being used as well as Gujarati
  • Differentiation in maths
Save the Children - was set up in Mumbai in 1988 and has impacted more than 200,000 children's lives.  Its aim is to prevent the exploitation of and discrimination against children.  Our local branch of STC runs a special care facility for children with hearing and mental impairments.  They have introduced a holistic education with a focus on vocational training.  Currently they work with 230 children.

Avasara - started as an after school enrichment progamme for Mumbai's brightest girls from poor backgrounds and has now opened a school in Pune.  The focus is on accelerating the academic and leadership potential of the girls.  It started as a 3 1/2 hour daily after-school programme.  Avasara has now introduced:
  • Responsive Classroom - with a proactive approach towards expectations and discipline
  • Differentiation by content, product, process, affect and environment to incorporate more kinaesthetic and visual learning
  • More meaningful student-teacher interactions
  • Students now seem more responsive to the consequences of their actions, which has led to better classroom management
  • Monthly PLC meetings which have led to customized teaching methodologies for the context of the school
Down to Earth - is an NGO that is now 10 years old which works in the Cuffe Parade slum area of Mumbai.  As well as the weekday educational programme, they also run a weekend sports and art programme.  Their teachers told us that they had:
  • Introduced ultimate frisbee in order to mix up boys and girls
  • Introduced PBL
  • Introduced peer learning, with students teaching others.
  • Prepared anchor charts and flashcards for all their activities
  • Used Responsive Classroom language with students, in particular reminding language to make students more responsible for themselves.
  • Grouped students for needs-based learning.
  • Used time-outs to calm students
  • Used morning meeting to greet and bond students
They noticed a big increase in students taking initiative as a result of all the above.

In my first year in India I often said I felt a very strong sense of karma - of being in exactly the right place at the right time - but I didn't know why.  The more I get involved in the TTP, the more I feel that this is my reason for being here.  These teachers work in the most challenging of situations, and often for lower pay than they would in the state system.  After the TTP Saturdays, they are going back to their schools, training their colleagues, and making a difference in the lives of thousands of students.  These dedicated teachers are building India's future.  I'm humbled to be able to help them in this journey.

Photo above is a brass tree of life statue, given to us by the Aarambh School in Raipur.  It's a traditional Indian handicraft from Chhatisgarh.

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