School Online : Way forward – Refining and Enriching – SPV school family endeavors

Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, for its approach towards wholistic development of children and child-centricity, is one of the best schools that I have come across in my life. Almost thirty-five years ago, in my youth (of course still youthful 😉), I got introduced to the school through friends of my brother, an avid cricketer – the days Ajay Jadeja (Jaddu), Subhash chowdhry, Gagan Khoda, Dinesh etc were in the school – when we used to be part of Cricket Guru Bishen Singh Bedi’s camp at National Stadium in 1985-86.

Glad that both our children, Mallika (now in class 12) and Svwara (class 4) have been part of this wonderful school, home away from home. And a blessing to know so many parents of the school who are authorities in diverse domains, and more importantly wonderful human beings.

Came Twenty20, and the world got into a game of a very different format, COVID19 induced, and everything migrated to online, schools being no exception. Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, like most of the schools, had to transform from being a completely brick-and-mortar school that has been child-centric, hands-on, experiential, collaborative school to Completely Virtual-remotely-facilitating school, yet keeping alive its core values of child-centeredness, hands-on, experiential, collaborative, cooperative, open learning environment.

These are the pics of SCHOOL DESKS of SARDAR PATEL VIDYALAYA for class 12 of Mallika and class 4 of Svwara, for the last 8 months, ever since COVID hit the world hard and schools had to rediscover themselves from ground zero. Both the kids have been very fortunate to have such a conducive environment, which unfortunately 70% of the kids in the country may not have, and are struggling for space and connectivity.

Indira and I, along with all the parents of the school are deeply indebted to the proactively facilitating Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in these trying times. As a person involved in education space for three decades and having facilitated many states in this space, more so in enabling the state education systems to adapt and face the challenges of COVID times (facilitating school-education), I can vouch for the way every Aunty / Teacher who has gone beyond their duties to work hard to make the learning environment very rich and enabling. Our deep respect and gratitude to the SPV family – Aunties, Principal and every member of the school and also to the extending SPV family – parents who have pitched in to make the environment healthy for collaboration and learning.

The COVID time, though unfortunate, has been transformational. I personally feel, when schools reopen, we are surely going to have schools that have jumped a few planes higher than what it used to be, in creating a richer learning environment. Except for meeting physical, shaking hands and hugging, the warmth and sukoon that personal touch and feel can give, and also children confining to the screen and desk, in every other sense there has been a great leap.

This morning, SPV invited all parents of class 4 for an interactive session that was anchored by the Home room Aunty of class 4C, Mrs. Hema Luthra and also co-facilitated by Headmistress of the Junior School Mrs Priya, and the Principal of the school Mrs Anuraddha Joshi. Every parent participated proactively to facilitate the school find ways to better the learning environment and ‘being’ environment, further. I am capturing the suggestions and feedback that came our way during the interaction. I am sure this could be of value to every school leader and administration too.

  • Collaborative learning
    • Reconfiguring the teams for every subject periodically, by the HRT and subject teachers, will help children evolve more socially as they will get opportunity to work with co-learners of different caliber, skills and behavioural orientations; Else the children usually have tendency to be with the same set of children.
    • Themes as they emerge in curriculum, Ideas as they evolve the Aunties can raise the micro-macro issues within, brainstorm with children to ignite possibilities and sources of exploration beyond google and online to, facilitate children become more independent in learning yet collaborative in the groups formed by the Aunty.
    • There could be a Class theatre group, with all children involved, that could work towards staging as we progress towards the end of the academic year.
  • Teachers attention – Every child wishes to have the teacher’s attention, but
    • Due to the technical limitation of the platforms – multiple screens that accommodate whole class, at times even with two Aunties there could be challenges
    • A few children are naturally capable of grabbing the attention even when Aunty is striving to facilitate every child to participate
    • Quite a few keep waiting for the attention, their hands raised, through the class. At times days on end, and then some feel really dejected as they did not get the opportunity.
    • A couple of parents also felt that the endeavour and effort that the Students are investing to gain attention itself is a great learning experience. Sure they will gain a lot for life, from these experiences.
  • Break-out classes – with some monitoring by the Aunty / Parents
    • A few subjects like math, where the class focusses on Smaller groups – first half of the class, role number 1-18; second half, role numbers 19-38; at times reversing the order of flow – perhaps brings greater child-centricity and attention to every child, and could be adapted in all subjects
    • Also possibly at times, additional times can be allocated to smaller groups with Aunty being there, to facilitate, every child to open up and participate. But these questions need to be asked
      • Are we adding more screen time to the detriment for children?
      • Will it be possible for already stretched Aunty to handle more, when each of the aunty needs to take care of their own children and home?
      • Can a few parents volunteer to facilitate such Break-out classes?
  • Reading list – books both in English and Hindi
    • There is a tendency of children to limit themselves to a genre or two; can we facilitate with a reading list to broaden the horizons
    • Can we have “Assigned reading” from the list with specific sessions dedicated to Book reading discussions on a particular book given as the assignment
    • Can we invest more thought to facilitate “Critical thinking” while making a few book choices?
    • Can we create “Reading Along” along sessions?
  • Interactions on the personal level (Groups beyond the class)
    • Open classes without Aunties was done a few times, to some extent this was good but,
    • These free rooms have a disadvantage – Zoom picks up only active speakers and others again will lose out; we need facilitators here
      • When an Aunty is present, she knows that such and such students know and participate more and the aunty facilitates others to speak; But in open free sessions, the session may turns into chaos
    • Need to be sensitive and protective, even these sessions that are intended to fostering social skills
    • Zoom etiquettes – We need one home room session, at least, dedicated to help children understand the how to behave while attending the classes or break-out sessions over the zoom; How to care and empathize with others in the class and also Aunty.
  • Learning Environment – Project based – cooperative learning
    • Can we work towards integration of multiple Subjects, based on the themes picked (eg: currencies, geography, math all can come together)?
    • Can we create Cooperative mindset along with being collaborative with all (Students, Parents, Teachers proactively involved)?
    • More Worksheets can be shared around the activities for children to be engaged, and to understand deeper.
    • Projects – Most of the assignments are ending to be video creation based, rather than reading and written work. Most children end up exploring on Youtube. Kindly have a relook at the assignments, so that it encourages reading and writing skills and lessens the screen time.
    • Can we have activities integrated to “Build scientific temper” – we had only one such activity where children had to create some contraption. More such will help them to read and work with hands. We need to encourage more ‘With Hand” projects.
  • Screen Time
    • At times, the classes extend beyond the assigned schedule that could be disconcerting
    • And may become stressful
  • Mental Health – Since the children or not in the school and mostly in front of the screen, we need to invest on
    • Yoga and related activities that can facilitate their mental health
    • Physical activity / Sports – can we somehow integrate physical health / habits that stoke better health into the regular schedules. Yes, homes need to play greater role, still can we?
  • Advance notices will help – If school can give advance notice to parents on various things (eg. This meeting itself..) will help in our schedules. Work From Home too adds a lot of pressure.
    • We can schedule our own Meetings better without any disruptions, as we all want to be in school meetings
    • Activities to collaborate and facilitate children need time – larger the group, greater the coordination and time needed (the games activity given now is a good example, we have been told ten days in advance. That helps all)
  • COMPENDIUM : Can we all, as a team – the school, aunties and all parents – create a compendium of best practices, activities and resources that we all are using at home – which could be of great value to everyone.
    • Activities (could be classified based on multiple intelligences, for easy categorization)
      • Linguistic skills – Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing – Book list and activities
      • Physical activities (kinesthetic) – games, easy to create at home activities / infra
        • Work at home activities suitable for them
        • Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation
        • Swings, Hoolahoops, climbs, throws…
        • Dancing – individual / family dance time
      • Nature intelligence
        • Gardening and allied
        • help in the kitchen around vegetables / cooking
      • Musical intelligence
        • Good resources to facilitate
        • Any discoveries and simple practices to stoke the intelligence
        • Family singing time / Karaoke
      • Creative and Spatial intelligence
        • Painting, sketching, colors
        • Weaving
        • Origami / designing (kabad se jugad)
        • Model building with blocks etc
        • Globe and Geography games
        • ….
      • Mathematical / Logical intelligence (age specific)
        • Regular, class specific
        • Puzzles and games – Hand used
        • Puzzles and games – on paper
        • Logical reasoning – pictorial or other wise
      • Intra-personal intelligence
        • Regular, daily habits and routines – from the time they wake up to heading back to sleep – that can be of great value for life
          • Hygiene – daily, weekly – regular
          • Regular up-keep of their environment (bed, books, tools, resources)
          • Brainstorming on issues of relevance to their age
          • Scheduling their class work / homework / interests
          • Being disciplined to adhering to the agreed
      • Inter-personal / Social skills
        • Engaging with family / siblings – parents – grandparents
        • Engaging with friends over the zoom
        • Engaging with cousins….

Principal Mrs Anuradha Joshi along with Hema Aunty (HR), Priya Aunty (HM) shared a few thoughts towards the end, after listening to all the suggestions and feedback…

  • It does not look like Schools may open any soon – Not before the next June / July (2021)
    • Even if vaccines come, we need to be doubly sure that that they are
      • accessible to everyone and
      • are safe and children are secure.
  • How can we then enrich the learning environment more
  • Advised reading
    • We shall share links for resources including books
    • “Picked books” – will share common 10 books from time to time – to engage group activities
    • We can create a “Books at the gate” in school that any one can drop by and pick
  • Need to create a routine at home
    • That can create a sense of Comfort and discipline
    • Routine helps in many ways
    • Physical activity needs to be incorporated in the morning
  • Engaging with all children
    • Different approaches needed for each age groups – we are evolving, your feedback helps
    • Google Classroom and Zoom – how to use – we have a video we will share
    • Let’s allow the children to make mistakes; that is the way to learn and grow
    • Allow them privacy too and not encroach upon their time, since they are in your vicinity 24X7
    • Cyber bullying – watch with family and children, the video on the Youtube channel of SPV and discuss
  • Mental health issues – In either of the follow cases, kindly reach out to Aunties and school immediately
    • Zoom fatigue
    • Tantrums unwarranted

Last but not the least, you can get your children to school to feel their playgrounds and classrooms, that they are missing badly, whenever you wish them to bring. Only request is, kindly intimate in advance, so that the school can make sure that we maintain all the requisite precautions – numbers, distancing, hygiene etc.

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