“Teaching is like a nice rainfall : it brings life, growth and joy”
Meet Fozia, teaching maths and accounts at the Riverside School (India).
Can you tell us a little bit about the educational system in India ?
When I was a kid, it was much more traditional. We had around 50 children in our class, the teacher would walk in, do the session and leave. We’ve had considerate teachers, I haven’t been exposed to violence or trauma, only remarks because I wasn’t doing that well compared to my two sisters, but nothing unusual! My parents would never come at school. But I realized that some teachers in the traditional system were not worried about wether the children were learning, nor about the cild’s mental condition when he was sitting in the class.
When I came to Ahmedabad, after my marriage, that’s when it stroke me, that the children needed more than knowledge. I was helping some of the children of my neighborhood with their homework and I realized that the educational system was asking fixed answers and I wasn’t very good at this. In this city, a lot of the children saw their parents struggle with financial issues or cultural ones and very few managed to succeed in this educational system. Most of them, as adults, came back to their routine and reproduce what they saw at home, creating a vicious circle. I think, the aim of educated individual is to break mindset and to be open to learning. Learning and not just knowing. This children seemed to be graduates but they are not graduated in their thinking, their ability to ask questions, to communicate, to understand another person. That is very intuitive.
If it was nurtured at school, it would build a society much more tolerant. I always felt the educational system was falling short in terms of making people understand , it is just the passing of knowledge that has happened over the years.
Has it changed ?
Effort has been made to recognize that there are flaws in the system which needed to be repaired. Many educationists have been waken up to this understanding, and a lot of young minds are coming to the educational field to see how we can add on to it. And the private colleges offer now a lot more freedom in teaching and in learning, students get the chance to chose what they want to study. I feel and I hope that the next generation will be more open and will stand up for what is right and against what is wrong.
Do you thing that building a character at school could help reducing social inequalities ?
I definitely feel. If you allow a child to have knowledge about other things not just his own culture or not just his own awareness it will lead to a better society. Learn to respect individuals, as they are, not make them think the way I want them to think. Be comfortable with my own thoughts, my own beliefs, my own way of doing. This is what we should teach in every school.
I love the Riverside idea of allowing flaws, and cultivating goodness in people. Let’s learn to forgive, let’s learn to forget. Take a pause. We keep asking us and our kids to pause, calm down before looking at something. Start reflecting about our own self before reflection on others. Its easy to give a critique, but am I as easy to take critiques ? Those ideas build humanity as a community.
Giving them the power to accomplish important things allows them to not feel helpless. Intention are useless, unless you dirty your hands. Action leads to joy because you can change what is wrong, you can give to someone else. You live in this life not for yourself but for the joy you can give to others.
Can you describe an hour of class?
It would involve setting of the tone (classroom management, children discipline, picking up on students who haven’t been there previously..) to understand what is the pulse of the class. Then I let them know what is coming. I present them the concept, and then I let them work together and I’m moving a lot in the class to check on conversation. I have always an eye on the time and finally we get back together. I write something on the board for them to focus on. I know which are the group I need to start with, the ones who are done with, to let those who were struggling understand by themselves.
Relevance is at the core of my teaching : why did we do certain things ? For instance we learn the concept of sequences so I put it in parallel with the purpose of finding patterns in our lives also : I can identify patterns in my behaviors, in my daily routines and it reveals certains things, I can change some patterns. So it’s not about just maths and numbers. The relevance of the content is crucial.
And I would add that te ability to have a plan B is essential as well as humour !
If you had to describe teaching with one image, what would it be ?
It would be a nice rainfall : the wind is cool, the atmosphere is very pleasant, there is freshness in the air, there’s beautiful aroma of the earth getting enriched and nurtured with what it needs . And everything gets back into his cycle. There is happiness, there is life. It would be nice, slow, cool rain. There is lush greenery that allows flourishing of life, of growth. There is growth. It’s beautiful and sweet.
What resources do you use in class and want to share ?
I use many « how to videos », as those from the Khan Academy, that I send to my students and that they watch before or after class. But those videos are only the « how », the lesson has to provide the « why? » .
I also show a lot of Ted Talks to inspire the children and build a character.
I love reading newspapers so I bring that into my classroom. It is passion that drives you. So if I can’t take them to the world, I get the world to them.