I am standing where I was… (An open letter to the society by a teacher)
I am an important person in your life, have given you and continue to provide your generations foundation for growth. I am sure in the professional hierarchy, even after 73 years of independence, I am still standing where I started. Even though I may have nurtured Noble Laureates, entrepreneurs, scientists changing the world exploring space frontiers, medical professionals pushing the boundaries of medical science, I am where I started.
Text by Sameer Arora, Vice Principal at Legacy School, Bangalore.
In the last two decade, we have seen the metamorphosis of private schools in India from being a philanthropic pursuit to an organised industry. With the inflow of large capital, we witnessed mushrooming of all kinds and levels of private unaided schools catering to the need of different social-economic sections of the society generating employment as well as exploitation opportunities. What still came good during the process was the establishment of international schools offering Cambridge International and International Baccalaureate Diploma programme leading to an increase in demand for good teachers and hence giving impetus to the pay scales sometimes at par or even higher than the corporate world. Now good Indian teachers are not only in great demand in their home country but are being the most sought out professionals in the Middle East, and Southeast Asian countries.
All was changing for the good until a pandemic challenged everything we believed in was true and of course, reshaped the economic status of millions around the world with the declaration of pay cuts, layoffs, furloughs or leave without pay.
In a country where there are no good or great training institutes for teachers both pre-service and in-service training institutes or even if there are almost 45 % of teachers feel that the existing training in these institutes is inadequate to prepare you for a dynamic role like teaching. Even if there are, they are a minimal number. It’s been estimated that India has a shortfall of 1 million teachers. As a professional, my community and I demonstrated agility and resilience and in no time learning for children moved from the real world into the virtual world. Amidst all the fear, scepticism, apprehensions and doubts, schools led new channels of innovation, creativity and systemic transformation. As a community, we were able to rethink our learning models, and build, test and pilot new structures to continue learning and adapted to a completely different reality far from normal.
I compromised on my sleep every single day to ensure I work towards equipping myself for synchronous learning for my children (you may not have heard this term before, but today suddenly the world has Googled it about 3,66,00,000 results in 0.50 seconds as I write this article) and also generate asynchronous learning opportunities for them so that their learning continues even if the schools are closed. Oscillating between my household chores needless to say we are still a patriarchal society and ensuring my students continue to learn, I compromised on my sleep, missed my toddlers first step from crawling to walking, forgot to give my aged parents their medicine in time, gave up my time for my pursuits like exercise, attended late-night calls from my colleagues and seniors to plan for a month and a quarter ahead in the most uncertain times. The next day when I woke up and got to have a glimpse of newspaper, I read news about parents filing a petition calling online/virtual learning a hoax to collect the fee. I froze in time, oscillating between decades if not centuries, I realised I am still standing where I started.
Of course, I have heard of my peer around the country being asked to take pay cuts too, go for leave without pay, have been part of laid-off man-force during rationalisation, and I am ok with it. However, what disturbs me the most is our inability to prioritise our and our children’s learning, and indifference towards the teachers who leads it. A colleague mentioned to me during the times of Pandemic that Maslow’s before Bloom is a way forward, in complete agreement with the statement, I also know as educators our role has been way beyond giving children what they probably can achieve from Khan Academy and that is the ability to have a safe space to learn, make errors, learn from their errors, share their stories, their dilemmas, their dreams, their hopes, and their disappointments.
While I look at my watch and write down my to-do tasks for tomorrow, which have been carried forward from the week before last, I smile and realise I am still standing where I started.
Customary as I quickly browse through the phone I came across the news that the state I live in collected Rs 45 crore on the first day of opening liquor shops during the lockdown, I knew as a nation we have misplaced priorities. I smiled and from my playlist in the SoundCloud listened to a song “I am the light of my soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am I am I am…” Of course, all my cynicism has bled on a piece of paper and I need to sleep well, cook two meals for my family of five and start my online classes at sharp 8:30 am. While I go over my plan for tomorrow’s classes, I slip into a deep sleep with dreams for a better tomorrow.
About our Writing Program Student
Sameer Arora, Vice Principal at Legacy School, Bangalore.
A natural leader, a collaborator and an educator with 18 years of school experience with 6 years of entrepreneurial experience, ranging from teaching across all levels of school i.e. upper primary, middle and senior secondary; integrating pedagogical innovations in curriculum, creating a favourable environment for the students and faculty members, fostering partnerships with educational organisations and community, administration, supervising staff and resource management.
He loves travelling and has travelled to over 20 countries. Other than starting travel-based startups for school children, he has also worked with National Geographic Channel as a Project Lead India for their school project Unlock Hour. He is presently serving as an honorary Chair for the Scholarship, Inclusion & Diversity Committee for IC3. Of all the projects he has carried out, SAANJH Amritsar- Lahore festival is the closest to his heart where he conceptualised and executed 7 chapters of this festival focussing on music, theatre and sustainable dialogue with youth in both countries, reaching out to more than 30,000 children, youth and artists across borders.
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