Author: Subhashree Pradhan, State Project Officer-TESS India, Odisha
“When they say,“Ama Lipi didi (our affectionate teacher)” I feel honored and satisfied of my accomplishments as a Teacher. It took me a long time to get this space in the hearts of my children and now that I have got it I will always want to keep it.”– says, Lopamudra Panda – popularly known as Lopa, while she narrates her journey from serving as a Contractual Teacher at Kendra Vidyalaya to an Elementary School Teacher currently working at Mahulbereni Koilipangi Upper Primary school of Kakudibhag cluster in Dhenkanal district of Odisha.
It is just another Indian summer day and I am on my way to Mahulbereni Koilipangi school. This 15 kilometers stretch from Dhenkanal town has always been one of my favorites. One can enjoy traveling through the beautiful coverage of lush green farm fields, surrounded with mountains as much as relishing upon the freshly plucked farm produces being sold by the roadside. I just finished my last slice of melon, collected from the roadside vendor, and while I enter the school campus, I see students rushing to their respective classrooms after the mid-day meal break. Surprisingly, I see Bibek and Sheela- the duo who were continuously absent from the school, as learnt from my previous visits. To my curiosity, Lopa joyously exclaims, “They have started coming to school again and now they are regular. Finally, I nailed it.!”
I could not wait any more to listen to the story behind and while I wait to hear sipping my cup of tea, I see Lopa assigning a task (something about rolling the dice to solve an equation) to the mathematics class of seventh standard and comes back to entail the story. She elaborates, “It happened few months back. I observed that two students of seventh standard were continuously absent at school and whenever they came, they sat idle. I wanted them to come to school regularly and bringing them back was not an overnight job. For that I had to struggle for months together. I tried almost everything- starting from convincing their parents through motivational story telling to exploring possibilities over the Internet to encourage them to get back to school. However, little did that work. This did not demotivate me and rather persuaded me to feel that, I ought to make my classroom a joyous place to learn, which would encourage my students to come to school regularly”.
Playing with numbers through a student centric approach…
“In this new venture, my students do most of the talking and I listen to them”- says, Lopa, while explaining her method of learner centric mode of teaching. I am just a facilitator who assigns the task, instruct them what and how to do and watch them performing. I guide them wherever necessary. Whether it is a group work or pair work or story telling or role plays or any other activity, my students perform and I enjoy as much as they do”.
Very interested to see the work in practice, I approach towards group-I (as the teacher has named it). Simali- the group leader, introduces me to her group members- Priti, Shravani, Bibek and Vikram while they sit together to perform a task, “throwing the dice to solve an algebric equation”. Priti explains the activity to me -“all the members of our group will throw the dice one by one. Our group leader, Simali will jot down the numbers in her notebook and she will assign these numbers against the variables, X, Y and Z. Together we will solve the equation after discussing with each other. If any member of our group is not able to understand, we will help him/her. Our group will then present the answer before the class, upon which the teacher as well as our classmates will provide their feedback.Sneha and Nandini, doing the same task, but sitting in pairs, adds to the conversation by saying, “earlier we used to do it alone and now we do it together and it is so much fun”.
Soumya Ranjan, a student suffering from health issues, is also seen involved in the classroom activity, silently observing what his friends are performing. “There has been remarkable changes in Soumya’s behavior-the student who made noises and disturbed the class, earlier, is now an observant”-Lopa smiles.
Bibek’s come back to school….
“Bibek is very fond of fishing and he helps his family in selling fishes too. I learnt this on one fine day when he came to my place to sell fish. To my surprise, when I handed over the cash to him, he quickly calculated them without the support of a pen and paper and returned back the remaining amount. This struck my mind and I realized that he could do well in the mathematics class too. My students started talking about the classroom changes with their parents, friends- outside classroom, and this message did go to Bibek as well. Acknowledging Bibek’s interest in fishing, I assigned most of the exercises to him, which were related to fishing and gave him examples, which were of interest to him. Gradually, I saw him getting deeply involved in the classroom activities. After Bibek’s come back, soon, Sheela also joined the classroom”- says Lopa
The motivating factor…
My eagerness kept on increasing and I became more interested to learn what motivated Lopa to think that way. Lopa answered my curiosity by thanking the TESS India Open Educational Resources and the Key Resources, to which she refers as her “Encyclopedia”. “These have provided me a plethora of knowledge and have answered to my queries on how, when and why”-she says. Whilst acknowledging the TESS India Key resources (print and online both), most of which she has been using in her classroom transactions, Lopa also mentions that, “I was familiar of all these resources prior to undertaking TESS India training for mathematics class-VII, in August 2015. However, there is some difference in the way I used to practice earlier and now. For instance, I did tell stories to my students earlier, asked them to sit in groups, planned my lessons, provided feedback to students etc. However, with TESS India Key Resources, I became aware of using the methods in a systematic manner”.
The ups and downs…
While this conversation gets into depth, this success story unfolds the challenges, Lopa had to tackle through. She highlights, “it was a daunting task to get the boys and girls sit together while assigning group/pair work but I realized this was important. My children did not accept this change initially. Similarly, I struggled to meet the syllabus while keeping in pace with my lesson plans. I also found difficulty in assigning a common activity to my class which had mixed level of students. Amidst all challenges, the remarkable positive changes that I have seen have created win-win situations. When asked about the most significant change Lopa has witnessed, she proudly mentions, “16 students out of 25 students (as compared to 10 earlier) in my class stand above an average mark today.”
More hands join together…
Meanwhile, Binodini Mohanty, the head teacher of the school, delightfully mentions, “You can see most of the teachers of this school practicing them in their respective classrooms”.
Binodini was one of the participants of the school leadership development workshop
conducted by TESS India. In a conversation with her, she opines, “As a school leader, I feel it is my responsibility to spread the good work to all my classrooms and students so that all are benefited. And after the workshop, I decided to encourage all teachers of my school to follow TESS India Open Educational Resources and Key Resources and execute in their classroom transactions. And three other teachers-Manasi Das, Sushmita Sahoo, and Sujata Sahoo, have also taken part in the scale up training program of TESS India and are practicing it. They were also a part of the Massive Open Online Course on “Enhancing Teacher Education through Open Educational Resources”.
Learning and Sharing…
“To make this process effective, all of us sit together once in a week with our head teacher to discuss over the lesson plans, reflection notes, classroom experiences, the progresses/challenges and learn from each other of what can be done better.”-say, Lopa, Manasi, Sushmita and Sujata, over a discussion.
It is indeed impressive to go through all of theirs reflection diary, where they write down their good as well as bad experiences from the classroom. All of them stress upon the importance of reflection diary by saying, “through this diary, we are able to evaluate ourselves and come out with a far more effective plan for the next class which results in an improved classroom”. While saying so, they appreciate and acknowledge the continuous support and on-site guidance they have received from their Head Teacher and Mr. Manas Sahoo, CRCC, and their peers.
Rise of new hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow…
The school bell rings and I bid goodbye to children and teachers, but my conversation with Lopa has still a way to go. We walk down to Lopa’s residence which is in the neighborhood. I have come here to see Lopa’s dream which she has often been talking about- the building, under construction which is going to be a coaching center in near future. The 30 year old Lopa aims to run this center for the underprivileged students of her village who are deprived of taking up coaching classes for preparation of competitive examinations.
Speechless and so much satisfied with this visit, I wish all her dreams to come true and travel back to share this story with my readers.