Part 6 of the series “Voices from a Path Breaking School” divulges the secret recipe of Isha Vidhya – the passionate teachers! Over the course of this series, we will present you with the insights and experiences of an Isha volunteer intent on sharing the stories of transformation brought about through Isha Vidhya.
“The focus of education should not be on suppressive information but on kindling the thirst for knowledge.” – Sadhguru
The Recipe of Isha Vidhya
1. Passionate Teachers
Upon asking the students (including some who had graduated) “What do you like most about Isha Vidhya?” I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the word “TEACHERS!” was the most enthusiastically spoken! The children say: “We love the teachers here because they speak to us softly and don’t punish us like they do in other schools.”
70% of the Isha Vidhya teachers don’t leave the school despite the low salary.
“I can’t even dream of moving to another school, no matter what offer I get!” Sridevi Akka, teaches English and has been with the school since its inception.
The Principal, S Thilagavathi, M.Sc., Microbiology, is renowned in the Erode teaching community. She has often been offered much higher salaries in other schools. A few years ago, she did go back to her previous school as an expression of gratitude to her mentor who was the principal there. However, she missed Isha Vidhya so much that she came back within six months. She works tirelessly and is one of the teachers who are responsible for shaping Isha Vidhya. Her two children are also studying in the school. Thilagavathi shares, “Once we enter the school, I don’t see my children at all. As I often work late, children go back home also on their own.”
“We told out parents to find grooms for us in the areas near enough of us to travel to Isha Vidhya,” said two young (looked more like students!) teachers of 2nd Grade students. Nandhini & Kokila
2. Teachers Illustrate, Not Instruct
“I noticed that our teachers pick up trash, arrange shoe racks, and do other things in the classroom without preaching to us about it. Slowly, many of us started doing the same on our own. Now instinctively I pick up any trash that I see lying around, not just in my school, even at home or on my street. – Gokulan.EA, Student, 11th Grade.
“Whenever a child falls or gets hurt, I see my teachers, Venitha Ma’m or Jagdeesh Anna, run to bring the first-aid kit, then nurse the child with their own hands gently. Their caring attitude touches me a lot.” – Priyadharshini.P, Student 11th Grade.
“Once, my foot was hurting. The teacher immediately took the foot in his hand and massaged it. In other schools, teachers don’t touch the feet of their students.” Tamilselvan.S, Student 7th Grade.
“During our six month extended-study hours period in the school last year, I suddenly came down with high fever. I felt so sick that I started crying. Jagdeesh anna and two helpers took me to the hospital and stayed near my bed till I slept, at around 1 AM. Later, I found out they didn’t have dinner that night, because they didn’t want to leave my side. And as soon as I woke up, the teacher was there to comfort. I feel overwhelmed by their love every time I think about it.” Priyadharshini.P, Student 11th Grade.
“During my six-month stay in the school last year, one student didn’t have a clean shirt to wear. One of the two shirts he had was drying after a wash, and the other accidently got wet. Jyothilingam sir, whose house is nearby, immediately went to his house and brought a brand new shirt for this child to wear. The teacher scolded him lovingly when the child asked if he should ask his parents to pay for it.” – Saravanan, Student Grade 11th
3. Teachers Are Students Too!
“The best thing that happened to me in this school is that students teach me too. They are at liberty to question teachers on any topic, subject or act. This brings growth for both us and the students. I suffered a lot when I was a student; we were not encouraged or allowed to ask questions. The fear of punishment was constantly looming over our heads. This system, though it makes me more vulnerable each time I stand in front of the children, pushes me to prepare better, know better, behave better. Sometimes I feel I have 900 teachers here!
Bhoomika, one of my students last year, taught me how to be joyful in difficult situations.” I have never seen her distressed. She often corrected me when I would get impatient, angry or frustrated!” – Jyothilingam, Social Sciences Teacher.
4. “Children’s Space” in Every Session, Every Fortnight
As per the policy, the last 10 minutes of every session is given to children to ask any questions, say anything about the lesson or any other related issue (in addition to what they might ask during the session).
Further, during “Home-Room” (a unique concept among Erode Isha Vidhya schools), once every fortnight, children choose a topic to discuss with the class teacher.
5. The Way Children Question Things
“Non-stop questioning of Janardhan keeps me on my toes and makes me a good teacher!” – Sridevi Akka
“What you are teaching, I can google it and learn, what is your value addition?” said one of the students who wants to invent a time-machine someday. I feel proud to have such children who have the temerity to question the basic fabric of our education system. – Jyothilingam
6. Correction not Punishment!
All Isha Vidhya teachers are oriented not to use harsh methods to correct a child. Instead, innovative discipline measures that benefit the child are employed.
“I used to get scolded badly and even slapped if I scored low, when I was in just 4th standard. Here, if a child scores low, the teachers always counsels rather than scolds.” Abinidi
Editor’s Note: “Innovating India’s Schooling” is a conference, designed and conducted by Isha Vidhya, Isha Home School and the Isha Leadership Academy to bring together concerned individuals and thinkers from the fields of education, government and industry. Through a series of lectures, debates and discussions, the conference seeks to redefine education as a tool to not just create a highly productive workforce, but also shape an inclusive, responsible and joyful society. The event also marks the tenth anniversary of Isha Vidhya, the rural education initiative of Isha Foundation. Learn more. Follow #10YrsOfIshaVidhya on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.