Arpitha Rao: "Importance of Professional Development For Teachers: How Can We Elevate The Status Quo?"

Arpitha Rao 

Instead of a one-size-fits-all chalk and talk in schools, what I’ve observed is that both young and experienced teachers require high-level of training. This training must facilitate and inspire teachers to understand that methods and techniques that work for other teachers, other students, or in other subjects may not work for them.

This I believe is the basis for giving teachers lots of autonomy to choose what methods works best when imparting a lecture on a particular topic. My first two months at ILP has been to help put together a comprehensive program on providing high-level training for master teachers. Before I dwell into the details…

Arpitha Rao: A ‘Lil Background about Me

I completed my Engineering from SJCE, Mysore and spent the initial few years working for Deloitte Consulting. I very soon realized that my calling was not IT, but working with children. I quit my job and joined Teach for India (TFI) as a fellow committed for 2 years to teach children in a low-income school and to become a lifelong leader in eradicating educational inequity. As part of TFI, I led a group of 60 children to attain high levels of growth in English and also led strategy based language instruction by coaching and mentoring teachers.

  After 2 years at TFI, I moved on to a different challenge as the project lead for Multi-dimensional Learning Space (MDLS) program.

MDLS has been leading the effort to bring about a change in the way children learn and teachers teach in and outside school. That’s an area that’s been very dear to me and important to me, even before I joined India Literacy Project.

I lead a team of 13 motivators tasked with finding ways to encourage teachers to experiment with new tools and new forms for delivering holistic education.

First Brush with the Mammoth Task

It was the perfect first opportunity on joining MDLS. I along with my peer, Harish, was invited to conduct one day Science training at the district level training program. The invitation came directly from Principal of District Institute of Education and Training, (DIET), Tumakuru, Mr. Gopalakrishna H N.

I quickly realized, this task meant we have the unique opportunity to equip master teachers at the district level with multi-dimensional methods to conduct effective classroom lessons. I kept thinking this was mammoth task ahead. We had to train over 50 master teachers in one day on low cost science experiments kits, graphical organizers for classrooms, and CCE implementation using projects.

Reality Check, Complete

The day the training day arrived. Teamed up with an army of 13 Motivators, Harish, and myself, we began the unfamiliar territory of training the trainers. After all, if we succeed in this program, we can empower teachers with the knowledge and awareness to train other teachers in their taluks. Sort of like a chain reaction.

The Training Day!

The training room at the DIET office at Tumakuru was full of eager master teachers from 10 taluks of Tumakuru district.

As we introduced our low cost equipment kits and one early surprise was how seriously the masters took to the changes we were proposing. I encouraged them to have a mindset of experimentation and try CCE implementation through graphic organisers.

Through numerous activities, we minimized the gap in teaching methods for academic year, 2015-16. In fact, the opportunity to train over 100 more master teachers at the taluk level came from Block Resource Persons (BRPs) almost instantly. Our next assignment was to cover the same program in Gubbi and Turuvekere taluks.

This time, we expanded the scope and included computer training as well. This program was led and delivered by our volunteer Deepak Shivamurthy. Every participant was also provided with reference copies of Arvind Gupta Toys’s video collection motivating the master teachers to come up to speed as part of our vision to introduce Constructivist pedagogical teaching practices taluk level.

Signing Off

As my first note to you ─ ILP supporters, am glad to be part of this effort you’re making. I believe the encouragement we got from the master teachers and the repeat invitations from govt. stakeholders is an amazing start for a newbie like me.

We went from teachers knowing how explain complex math equations using just chalk and board to teachers using low-cost science kits, video tutorials, and graphical project organizers to explain that complexity. To me it’s the first signs of change. Much like seeing a bud of the flower just before it blooms.

I am helping change the “unqualified teacher” status to “best equipped teachers” Tumakuru has ever produced. I’m glad to be part of the propelling force in shaping that bud.