B.D. Somani International School consistently invests in the training and development of its teaching staff to ensure that the school is always on the cutting edge of advancements in educational thinking and best practices. Programs are not only conducted within the school, but our teachers also attend workshops overseas with educators in other international schools.
We sat down with five of our teachers: Manisha Jain, Vidhi Jain, Anita Gupta, Tanaz Unwala and Minal Gala to learn more about the programs they participated in last year to understand their experiences.
What are the professional development programs that teachers have participated in?
Manisha: Vidhi and I participated in Understanding the Needs of Diverse Learners (and what to do about them) a workshop presented by Dr Keith Collins, Ryan Ruhl, Beth Sauers and Kate Kersey at the International School in Bangkok, Thailand.
Anita: I attended a Mindfulness in Class workshop at The American School of Bangkok, Thailand
Tanaz: I participated in Foundations in Math: Developing Mathematical Thinking and Conceptual Understanding in Grades K-5 at the Ruamrudee International School in Bangkok
Minal: I attended a Science workshop aimed at helping small to medium sized international schools adopt the NGSS (National Generation Science Standard) at an International School in Kuala Lumpur.
What did you learn at these programs?
Manisha: The workshop addressed Executive Functioning, Sensory Integration, Speech/Language Development and Social-Emotional Skills.
Vidhi: We learnt about the needs of diverse learners in a classroom environment and how we as educators can address these needs and help children grow holistically and learn strategies to manage their learning issues/disorders.
Anita: I learnt about the many mindfulness practices that help children become aware of their surroundings including active listening, enhanced empathy, positive thinking. You can read an informative post about Mindfulness on our blog as well.
Tanaz: We were taught an understanding of and practical experience in teaching mathematics. We explored the latest research in math education and the key elements of classrooms that develop students’ mathematical thinking and conceptual understanding. We were also introduced to a variety of instructional strategies that promote mathematical thinking and conceptual understanding for students in grades K-5.
Minal: I think I was pleasantly and secretly delighted that most of the things the presenter covered are already being implemented in B.D. Somani Primary. It made me very mindful that our curriculum is already driven by children’s interest and wonderings and not dictated by standards written down by people who don’t know them.
What new skills do they bring to their teaching experience?
Manisha: The workshop deepened my understanding of the neurological diversity underpinning common challenges that impact the social and/or academic success of some students and how these students present themselves in the classroom setting. I learnt strategies that have proven successful in classroom settings to meet the needs of students with these common challenges. I especially valued the information on what anxiety looks like in the classroom and how it can hamper students’ learning.
Vidhi: The interesting part of this workshop was that most of the strategies they shared are already being practised in our school, in our rooms. For me, these workshops provided an opportunity to meet educators from various other organizations and share great ideas and strategies they use in their classrooms.
Anita: We set up a committee and introduced mindfulness practices across B.D. Somani Primary this year so I was glad to get reinforcement of what we have done and how we plan to grow the program.
Tanaz: I learnt a number of skills to support students in accurately representing their mathematical thinking through various models and encourage them towards more sophisticated strategies and a vision of an effective classroom. I also explored the development of strategies that students use to solve problems and analyse student errors and how those errors can inform instruction. We have implemented various instructional strategies to promote the development of mathematical thinking and conceptual understanding.
Minal: Several actually. To start with, the importance of children’s wonderings and that education should be about children’s interest and curiosity with a focus on developing skills, all of which we already practice at B.D. Somani Primary. The importance of developing skills and seeing the cross connections between various scientific phenomenon. I also learnt that science needs to be seen from a three-dimensional angle rather than as a body of content to be ‘covered’. That science teaching should focus understanding of the science behind how our world works rather than dissemination of information through PPTs and chalk-talk.
What can you tell us about your interactions with the other teachers from around the world at these programs?
Manisha: I valued these interactions – they were all very positive. Sharing experiences with these educators meant we were able to bring back many tools and strategies to our classrooms. It was nice to look at what others are doing and see opportunities for cross-curricular collaboration. All participants came with a vision statement for their schools. We were proud to share the practice of mindfulness and other strategies that we practice in our classrooms and vice versa. The experiences of the workshop enhanced the understanding of our roles as teachers in our classrooms.
Vidhi: We also discussed how important it is for a homeroom teacher to identify the diverse learning styles of a child and help them, especially those with learning disorders. We shared great ideas and strategies and also talked about the level of comfort a child could achieve while working in groups.
Anita: It was great meeting people from different cultures and from different fields. All of them shared their need and experiences of mindfulness in today’s world and how useful it can be in the classroom.
Tanaz: Sharing strategies with other educators from all over the world is a very useful experience and one I am very grateful for. Through my interactions, I learnt of the difficulties faced while teaching mathematics in a class with students having different learning styles. Whether they are still following conventional ways or do they give students an opportunity to explore and come up with a variety of strategies? How do they deal with students who are stuck on one strategy? How do they integrate math with real-life scenarios?
Minal: The most interesting thing to come out of my interactions was the sense that not all international educators are as progressive as we are at B.D. Somani. Some of them were more traditional than the teachers we find in India. I spent a half day visiting elementary classrooms at the school hosting the workshop (Pre K to Gr 5). As an administrator and teacher, I was taken aback by the intense workload and pressure on the teachers to meet the various frameworks the school has adopted (Readers and Writers workshops, FOSS Kits for Science, the transition from AERO to IB, Guided Reading, etc.). These teachers had way too much to do and so little time, primarily as they were bonded by the unseen shackles of the standards they had adopted. It seemed like they felt the need to address each and every strand mentioned in a particular framework. Sometimes in our enchantment to adopt standards, students’ wonderings take a back seat.
What has the feedback to the B.D. Somani way been?
Minal: For me, the entire experience was a validation that what we are doing is more than what other international schools are doing and not just those in India. As an educator, it has strengthened my belief in the philosophy and pedagogical approach I can relate to and the one we have adopted at B.D Somani.
What is your message for parents?
Vidhi: Parents should try to understand the needs of their own child and not compare them with other children. Let them try, learn and explore on their own and not set superficial goals for them based on mere comparisons with other students’ abilities or their own preconceived notions about the child. A child can grow and learn better when teachers, parents and students work together as ONE TEAM.
Anita: Mindfulness practices are not related to any religion. Regular practice of it helps us to regulate and manage our emotions in a positive way. Today, children are exposed to a variety of technologies which in turn is causing various behavioural issues, and the daily practice of mindfulness will help enhance their concentration and their ability to empathize with others.
Tanaz: Whenever your child is trying to solve a math problem, encourage them to at least try it by themselves. It’s absolutely okay if your child gets the wrong answer. The process and perseverance are what we give importance to. So, no need to worry even if the final answer is incorrect. When they explore it further in class, they will find the strategies to reach the answer. Let them be independent and think for themselves whenever there’s a need to. Don’t help them directly with their math homework. Please take a step back and let your child come up with various strategies for solving the problem rather than teaching them the conventional way. Even when children make mistakes, they are growing and learning. Never tell children they are wrong; rather, ask them to observe and convince you that their answer is right. Always remember, when in doubt, draw it out! Whenever your child is stuck with a problem, ask them to draw it and figure out the solution to the problem
Minal: Trust us. Your children are in safe hands. They are learning in a school that uses developmentally appropriate practices and student-centred pedagogical approaches based on latest research that shows us how children learn.
B.D. Somani International School will continue to invest in upgrading its teachers to ensure our teaching methodologies always embody the most relevant advancements our field has to offer.
The school also ensures that in addition to attending these workshops, teachers get a couple of extra days – one before and one after the workshop itself – so that they have time to explore the city they are in and take in the culture of the city so they can share these experiences when they return with fellow teachers and students. The ones who have gone to Bangkok were given a custom itinerary of what to see and do by Ms Zoë herself – Bangkok is a city she loves. Ms Manisha and Ms Vidhi won the prize for doing the most on the suggested itinerary!