A Mermaid in TSRS

If you heard that a child of just 5 years 9 months, studying in Upvan Class was diving in to the pool to race against children of Class IV, you might think that was a bit unfair. That is unless you happen to be little Vedika Amin of Upvan -F at Aravali.

Vedika has been competing in DLF Golf Club competitions for the last 2 years. In the most recent competition on 8th August she bagged 8 awards, not just in the Under-6 age category, but also in Under-10’s.

Her performances won her the chance to swim in the District Swimming Competition that took place over the weekend. She swam in the Under-9 years category, despite her tender years. In freestyle she was pipped out of third place by just a couple of seconds, but won the bronze medal in breast stroke.

This is a superb achievement for one so young and I am sure indicates that lots of success lies ahead. So, well done Vedika and keep The Shri flag flying.

Applauding Gurgaon Police

Where I come from, almost every town or city centre has at least one one-way system – because they work! Journey distances may get a bit longer, but the volume of traffic that the system can realistically carry is vastly increased, meaning that time taken is reduced significantly (along with frustration and accidents!)

Gurgaon saw its first significant move in this direction around Cyber Greens and there’s no question that it’s made a big difference in that area. So, I am so pleased to see a brand new one-way system coming in to effect – one that we in The Shri Ram School have been advocating for over 2 years.

Credit must go to Police Commissioner, SS Deshwal, DCP Maheshwar Dayal (Gurgaon East) and DCP Bharti Arora (Traffic) for moving ahead with this. Responsibility for now making it work now passes to the citizens of Gurgaon and especially members of the TSRS community.

As you will see from the newspaper cutting below, the impact is substantial:

The Shri Ram School has always wanted to be a good neighbour. We never took any pleasure in the difficulties created for residents of Regency Park II or Hamilton Court at the times when children are arriving at the school or leaving in the afternoons. I believe this one way system really represents a win-win for everyone. With the traffic flowing smoothly even at the biggest times I’m hopeful it will be a biog plus for quality of life of residents. I also believe it will be a lot safer and smoother for the parents and children of our school. If or when they need to cross the road, they will only need to contend with traffic from one direction. Hopefully they will all get dropped on the school side of the road now.

A little self-discipline to make the new system work will be in everyone’s interests.

Raksha Bhandan @ TSPPS

Here are some really nice photos showing how the children at the new campus celebrated Raksha Bhandan:

IamGurgaon – ‘1 Million Trees’ Gets International Recognition

Whilst those of us who live in Gurgaon can quibble with the suggestion that we are a “Delhi Suburb” (what a cheek – how about Delhi, the suburb of Gurgaon?) it was great to see this New York Times article referring to the inspiring initiative of IamGurgaon to target the planting of 1 million saplings to positively influence the ecology and future life in the ‘Millenium City’

New York Times Article

The Shri Ram School has already started playing its part as lots of our students got involved in planting at the Biodiversity Park. Even more exciting are the plans for a major plantation at our new campus, The Shri Ram Police Public School at Bhondsi. Planning is in the final stages for a big, fun get-together at the campus to plant trees and have some fun whilst thinking about how we care for our environment.

More details to follow ………….

Education World Conference

Last weekend saw one of the biggest education conferences of the year take place at the Westin Hotel, Gurgaon. All credit to Dilip Thakore, editor of Education World magazine who had brought together a really interesting line up of speakers for the day. The morning saw a data backed keynote from Geeta Kingdon followed by a very lively debate on the Right to Education Act.

After lunch, not only was I privileged to share the stage with Ashish Rajpal (iDiscoveri Education), Amy Seefelt (Woodstock School) and Sarvesh Naidu (Pathways Schools), but for the first time i had the privilege and pleasure to work alongside my predecessor, Abha Adams.

The final session was a thought-provoking session exploring the scope for the private sector to support change and improvement in the government schools system, chaired by Madhav Chavan of Pratham and including a TSRS parent, Jerry Almeida.

Here’s the write-up from Times of India on Sunday:

Success in Badminton

Since the rise of Saina Naiwal, Haryana can lay claim to be the heart of badminton in the country.

Mallika Anand, VIII F and Kaumudi Malviya, Class VII of Aravali, as a team, have won the Gurgaon District School Badminton Championship. They were representing TSRS in the tournament. Now they have been selected to represent the district in the School State Tournament. Looking at Mallika’s performance, in particular, the selectors have expressed hope that she can compete at the national tournament as well!

Congratulations to both Mallika and Kaumudi. We will follow your achievements with interest.

Here is Mallika and her coach, Mr Gaurav Kapoor:

Now I can update, as we have a fresh photo of Mallika and Kaumudi:

Also, there’s further good news as Mallika is plainly ‘on a roll:

An ‘OPEN DISTRICT BADMINTON TOURNAMENT’ was held from 11th to 14th August by the Haryana Badminton Association. Mallika has created a record of sorts by winning gold in all possible categories that she participated in. The categories were under 15, under 17, under 19 and 15 doubles. She was conferred a special award at the closing ceremony, that of being ‘Player of the tournament’.

Today, Mallika and family have left for Panchkula for the State Level School Championships. She goes with our best wishes and fingers crossed.

Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

Over the last few months I’ve posted a few pieces related to the ways in which teacher performance is evaluated. There are many who say that they want to see a scenario in education that promotes excellence in standards and that this will never really happen without ways to differentiate according to the standards and quality of teaching, and to differentiate rewards and recognition for teachers. In the most extreme, can there ever be excellence in a system that fails to identify and address issues of chronic under-performance?

The earlier articles focused upon the debate in the US about the relative merits of evaluating teachers on performance of the learners (in standardized State level tests), value added and through classroom observations. Whilst we can all see the perils of focus on test results, there have long been criticisms from teachers that classroom observations were open to appraiser bias, favouritism and undue subjectivity.

So, I was very interested to come across this interview with Charlotte Danielson who is considered to be one of the leading experts in this area in the US. She provides a good starting point for understanding the framework that she recommends and talks of some of the positives and perils of utilizing observational techniques to gauge teacher effectiveness:

Edweek Blog – Interview with Charlotte Danielson

I found Danielson’s approach refreshing, sensitive to the anxieties that teachers can experience around such practices, but also bold and clear in taking as a ‘given’ that whatever happens in every teacher’s class all the time is the business of the school, the parents and the education system. We have an education system that is crying out for real, genuine accountability. The best teachers have nothing to fear from such accountability – in fact they stand a better chance of having their work recognized.

The only one hesitation I have is that such systems imply that all the learning in schools (and all the responsibility of teachers exists) only in the classrooms during defined lesson periods. In fact, I believe we need ways that evaluate far more holistically the impact that teachers are having on pupils. For this, we may need more ‘professional’ style appraisal and performance management systems like in companies that take a far more holistic approach towards an individual’s overall performance.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Revisited for the Digital Age

The internet inspires a level of free sharing amongst educators that is really something quite exciting, especially for educators who work in situations where their access to top quality learning materials may be limited. Here is a perfect example – a revised Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy from Colleen Young on the Livebinders website.

Livebinders – Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

With all the rubrics and other downloadable pdf documents in this binder it provides a great resource for teachers.

A big ‘Thank You’ to Colleen for sharing.

Who is Responsible for Learning in the Classroom?

Is it the students, the teachers, even parents, school management? It seems like such a simple question at first, but is actually very thought provoking. This can be seen clearly from this Edutopia piece written by US education consultant, Ben Johnson.

Edutopia Article

The comments and feedback inspired by the short article are also interesting.

My own take on this is that, as educators, we are better off not engaging in this debate beyond a point. I feel it’s better that we say – “I take 100% responsibility for whatever happens in my classroom”. This leads me to question myself and what I’m doing if there’s a student who isn’t learning effectively or if there are classroom management issues. I take the responsibility to inspire every student, to reach out to every student (where they are), to understand students’ issues of motivation, drive and interest in the learning.

This is consistent with the perspective taken in adult training environments where the trainer takes 100% responsibility for the learning experience of all trainees/ course participants. One effect this has, is that when a trainer is working with a group they are continually ‘antenna up’ scanning for body language, comments or any other signals that provide clues about audience motivation (not as a mass, but individually). The best trainers and speakers maintain an innate ability to be flexible and to vary what they’re doing according to this critical feedback from the audience.

To me, this is a fundamental part of the ‘process mastery’ that great teachers are continually aspiring to.

Make Educators the Bad Guys – Children Will Be the Losers

Civil libertarians might consider that bringing examination papers under the ambit of the Right to Information Act is a victory for transparency and fairness in society. However, I would suggest we stop and think through the implications for a moment. What other professional can have their work pulled out and ‘dissected’ by others to such an extent? Will it be assessed by a panel of the educator’s peers and fellow professionals? No, the public will be judge and jury, accompanied by some court judges.

Imagine a scenario where a student commits suicide because they are disappointed with their result in an examination (not that anyone SHOULD fix so much of their self-worth on an examination, and ought to have a healthy attitude that whatever result they produce is to be lived with). Now, the parents demand to see the young person’s ‘offending’ examination paper(s) and perhaps those of the class topper. Said parent concludes that their child should have got more marks, that there was something ‘unfair’, that perhaps some human error existed. Could the educator now face charges for abetment of suicide?

All this appears, to me, almost certain to lead teachers and educational institutes and examination bodies to go even further down the route of vacuous, objective answers only examinations that truly test nothing but the ability to regurgitate mugged up, rote learned factual information. And, so, 100% in English, Art, Physical Education and other silly nonsense will be concreted in to the system, while the tertiary education sector and employers will cry themselves ever hoarser about the unemployability of the youth. It will be impossible to ask students to write essays because the marking of essays is not an exact science. What right will we have to ask any educator to make themselves so potentially vulnerable?

If we had any doubt about the lack of trust in schools and educators, there was further evidence yesterday with the Delhi High Court declaring that private schools must be controlled in the issue of setting their fees. Despite being private, independent and autonomous organisations operating in a system of supply and demand they cannot be trusted. In the case of our school, we have all our accounts fully audited (on an accrual, not cash basis) by reputable firms of accountants. The audited accounts are shared with Managing Committees that consist of reputable figures from society and include members of the Executive of the Parent Teacher Association. They, in turn, have had all information shared with them.

Times of India – Court Mandates Panel on Fees

This issue harks back to the 6th Pay Commission. Staff salaries are typically 60 – 80% of the running costs of a private school. Therefore, when salaries are raised by 25 – 55% this inevitably represents a massive rise in costs. Somehow, the suggestion of government was that this increase should be ‘absorbed’ by the schools. Since the sixth pay commission costs for schools have continued to escalate rapidly. Inflation doesn’t just hit the public in their personal lives, it hits organisations in all their expenditure. It also feeds through in further salary rises including big DA increases. In the last 12 months alone teacher salaries are up typically 15% at least. Where are schools to find this money if not through fees? Are we such a unique group of people that we are to provide a service and charge less for it than it is worth out of some ‘commitment to society’? How does that help society if schools curtail vital expenditure in the future; less inclination to spend on teacher professional development, ICT, infrastructure enhancements, facilities for special needs children etc.?

I agree that there are some schools whose actions and services provided may be cause for concern. But, does that justify tarring all with the same brush, bringing in to doubt the financial probity of every school?

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