Month: December 2020

Hope for 2021

From the Founder's Desk
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
As we welcome the new year with open arms, let’s look back to what an extraordinary year 2020 was.

None of us imagined 2020 to be the year it turned out to be. The gamut of emotions we felt varied from isolation, fear, helplessness, and confusion, to hope for a safer world. The month of March brought with it empty classrooms, silent hallways, lonely playgrounds, and countless challenges for the educators across the country.

Nearly every teacher struggled with – How do we switch to an online mode of teaching overnight? Our teaching and learning materials are at school, how will we manage without them? Will our learners know how to navigate online classrooms? And what on earth is Zoom?

Unfortunately, this lead to several teachers leaving the profession. For instance, many teachers reported quitting their jobs because of lack of digital skills or the right equipment and infrastructure to conduct virtual classes. Many could not endure the stress and loneliness of teaching online. Schools struggled to pay salaries. As a result, a significant number lost their jobs because schools struggled to pay salaries.

'Stories of 'Jugaad'

2020 exposed the many deficiencies and inequities in our education system. Meanwhile, the stories of hope and innovation kept us going. We saw several examples of teachers who used jugaads (hacks) to make sure learning doesn’t stop for their students. It showed how crucial skills like resilience, creativity, and problem-solving are for today’s educators. We recognized that along with digital literacy skills like motivation, growth mindset, innovation and perseverance, are imperative for teachers. 

Our Inception

With this understanding and a dream of a future where every child is learning with bold, innovative teachers; we started Tomorrowsmith Foundation in August 2020. Within a few months of our inception, we have made significant leaps–from research and development partnerships to skill training collaborations.

None of this would have been possible without the belief and encouragement of our supporters and the hard work of our interns, volunteers, and staff. A BIG THANK YOU for trusting us!

Our Commitment to You

To teachers, as you envision what your 2021 will look like, think of Tomorrowsmith Foundation as your co-explorer—someone who is looking for ways to empower and support you as you navigate through your teaching journey. In 2021, we wish for you, noisy classrooms buzzing with activity and questions from curious minds.

It’s impossible to say exactly what this year will bring, but we tread ahead with confidence and with many lessons we learnt last year – willingness to learn, kindness, compassion, perseverance, and resilience — for 2020 was an excellent teacher albeit a tough one.

Onward and upward!

Rashmi Sharma
Founder & CEO

#2021 #hope #qualityeducationforall #tomorrowsmith 

Essential Skills Every Teacher Needs

Essential skills a teacher needs
All the inventions, discoveries, technologies, the science and the arts that we see around us are a contribution of a teacher to society. However, to have such an impact on society, there are some essential skills that a teacher needs to have to set up a dynamic teaching-learning environment.

To become a teacher, an individual needs a thorough mastery of the respective subject. But is that enough? Does a mere degree ensure a fulfilling teaching-learning experience in the classroom? The most important thing that matters to students is their bond with their teacher. Therefore, to form an effective relationship, a teacher requires several specialized skills. Tomorrowsmith Foundation endeavours to train teachers on these essential skills that a teacher needs to excel in the profession.

Strategic Planning Skills

Every class that a teacher conducts is carefully and strategically planned. At the beginning of each academic session, the teachers set annual goals for their respective subject and learners. To do so, they study the syllabus, set specific goals for the year, and assign milestones for checking student progress. They assess the students’ learning levels, strengths, and weaknesses. Thereafter, they map the progression of teaching, decide teaching approaches and tools they would need during the year.

Behavioural Management Skills

In teaching, behaviour management is an essential skill. Teachers spend a significant amount of their time managing students’ behaviour. This is necessary to increase the possibility that students, individually and in groups, choose behaviours which are productive, and socially acceptable. They use a behaviour management strategies such as modelling, positive reinforcements, and setting group rules. They help students stay on task, reduce interruptions, and help learners form positive attitudes and behaviour for their future.

Performance Management Skills

One of the key roles of a teacher is to cultivate every learner’s capacity, enhancing performance and productivity, and driving continued learning. No amount of strategic planning would help if the teachers do not come up with effective strategies for measuring and enhancing student performance. 

To achieve that, once they instruct the lesson, they monitor their students’ grasp of the lesson through various methods, such as surprise tests, assignments, group projects, and yearly examinations. They analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their students and take measures to address them. Preparing reports of each student’s goals and progress also requires performance management skills.

Collaboration Skills

Teamwork is of utmost importance in the teaching profession. Using teamwork skills inside the classroom, a teacher makes the class understand that they are together in the learning exploration. The teacher is not their opponent, but one amongst them. Outside the classroom, teaching involves coordinating with the administrators, teachers, and other staff to ensure smooth functioning of the school.

Safety and Crisis Management Skills

School should be a haven for children. Away from their parents, children should feel sheltered, accepted, and comfortable in schools. To build a safe environment, teachers should be able to identify and respond to emergencies arising on their school campuses. Teachers must have the skills to act spontaneously to preserve the health and well-being of their students.

Coaching Skills

Skilled teachers have great coaching skills. Such teachers help students to stay focussed on their goals. They hold effective, meaningful conversations that spark their soul and bring about meaningful changes. These teachers do not believe in spoon-feeding information to the students. Instead, they constantly support them to think for themselves.

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”  ~ Sir John Whitmore

Leadership Skills

An effective teacher leads by example. Students learn from such teachers, admire them, and try to copy their way of conducting themselves. Children learn from teachers who show determination in face of difficulties. When the actions of the teachers are consistent with their words, children regard them as credible leaders who they can trust.

Deep understanding of diversity and inclusion

Successful teachers know the diverse needs and backgrounds of the students. They constantly remind their students about their equal foothold in the world by creating a classroom environment where each student feels valued, heard, and loved. It creates a sense of belonging among the students.

These were just some crucial skills required by the teachers. Teaching is a highly specialized profession, and to get ahead in that, teachers need these sets of special skills. How far the teachers can aid student learning in this specialized job completely depends upon what choices they make

#teachingskills #leadership #mindset #21stcenturyskills

Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Teachers?

Artificial Intelligence in Teaching

In his, The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics, Roger Penrose gives the literary folktale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, a twist. The citizens of Penrose’s undisclosed region are all awestruck by the launch of a supercomputer, ‘Ultronic’. With 1017 logical units, which is “more than the number of neurons in the combined brains of everyone in the entire country”, ‘Ultronic’ is the most intelligent entity ever. But a 13-year-old boy, Adam, challenges its invincibility. When the creators invite the audience to ask ‘Ultronic’ any question under the sun, they hesitate, afraid to seem stupid before the crowd-and before the New Omnipresence. However, Adam dares to ask what ought not to be asked-how the computer feels about being a computer. To this, the computer comes up with an Error-404-Not-Found response, and its invincibility topples down within minutes.

Anything new sparks our interest and opens the floodgates for debates. Naturally, when scientists introduced the idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) taking over the education domain, many people felt that this might be the end of in-person classroom teaching. 

They overlooked a central concern- does AI have what it takes to understand the emotional needs and feelings of the students? It sure might be the “New Omnipresence” and can answer just about everything under the sun in no time. But is it equipped to build a warm relationship, like that of a human teacher? 

Here are five reasons Tomorrowsmith Foundation believes the rapidly advancing Artificial Intelligence technology can never totally replace human teachers.

AI knows content; A human teacher knows its application in real-life.

Hardly anyone can match the intelligence of the AI entities. They are accurate and can even outperform the most knowledgeable of all human beings. This is the primary debate put forth to replace teachers with AI. However, educationists understand that no matter how accurate the content is, students forget it when they do not get to apply it in their everyday lives. Human teachers come to the rescue here. They know that the purpose of education is to prepare young minds for life. Through various teaching strategies, they make the students aware of how to go about life by practically implementing what they have learnt in class.

AI understands ‘where’ of learning gap; A human teacher ‘why’

Apart from presenting the content to the students, the aim of AI-based learning is also to produce data-based results of the students’ progress. AI finds out what a student knows. This way it provides a personalized study experience to each student by finding out their strengths and weaknesses. But human teachers investigate the ‘why’ aspect of it-for example, why a student is not getting good marks? Their ability to put their fingers on the reason of their students’ weaknesses makes the learning experience worthwhile.

AI follows scripts, A human teacher improvises

Despite rigorous planning, if you are a teacher you know things will not go according to your prepared script-be it mental or physical. At some point, you need to improvise. For teachers, merely knowing content does not suffice. To make their students understand the concept and retain it a long time thereafter, teachers constantly look for inventive ways. One way of doing this is by connecting dots between the content and real-life scenarios. AI may know a lot, let’s just say everything, but human teachers improvise a lot so that the content becomes comprehensible to the students.

AI provides 'interest', A human teacher 'inspiration'

While spending a large part of their lives in school, most students develop unbreakable bonds with their teachers. They feel safe, heard, and valued and regard their teachers as friends. Students feel comfortable having conversations around various topics with their teachers, which they might find hard to have with others.

Through their interpersonal relationship, skilled teachers motivate their students and empower them. Students remember them not only for their spot on teaching practices, but also for the way they ignite the minds of their students. These are only possible because humans have deeper qualities like love and compassion. Students might find robots interesting, and can even turn them into their playmates, but robots are incapable of understanding the students the way a human does.

Content is inbuilt in AI , human teachers learn the content themselves

Robots are pre-installed with content by their makers. They know it because the installed programs allow them to know it and conversely, what is not installed they do not know. There is no learning process involved. Human teachers, on the other hand, have been students earlier. This makes their relationship with their students all the way more special. They gain the knowledge from their teachers and pass it on to their students. By sharing insights about their own experience of their student-hood, teachers help students to navigate through the learning process.

Put simply, AI might become potent aides to human teachers. They can supplement the work of human teachers by carrying out the more technical tasks like grading, data-based assessment of a student’s progress, and keeping a record of their attendance. For teaching and learning experience to be effective with a proper balance of the two.
#artificialintelligence #teachers #education #technology #learning

Pandemic and Teacher Shortage

Teaching in the pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted everything, and education has not escaped unharmed. Social distancing norms have forced schools to close their campuses and shift to digital mode, making online classes the “new normal”. This shift, of course, has been difficult to adjust to, for both students and teachers. According to UNESCO, the COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized the education of 1.5 billion learners across the globe. Likewise, for teachers, the change is unprecedented, inundating them with things they never expected. This, in turn, has aggravated the teacher shortage in India.

Transition to Digital

The pandemic forced open the facade of digital advancement and exposed the bleak conditions of educators globally. Overnight, the pandemic imposed a radical switch to remote teaching and learning that adversely affected several teachers who were not unprepared for such a challenge. While some of them, usually a concentrated and privileged proportion, could seamlessly shift to online mode, several others battled and are continuing to battle to stay afloat.

For online teaching to be a success, the teachers need to be adept at operating the digital modes of teaching, but that is rarely the case. The teachers lack the skills to use online teaching and assessment tools. Most of them are not familiar with real-time communication apps as Zoom and Google Meet. They find online instruction and assessments to be a laborious task. Technical glitches and patchy internet connection also remain impediments in e-learning.

Despite everything getting online, school and government authorities have not taken adequate steps, such as providing suitable equipment to teachers to conduct the classes, training them to use certain apps, or to educate the teachers about online teaching tools. The pandemic has also compelled teachers to retire early, for the growing fear of contracting the virus and passing it on to family members who belong to high-risk groups.  All the above factors exacerbated the already existing teacher shortage in the country.

Effect on Mental Well-being

During this time, what teachers seem to miss the most is the atmosphere of the schools and classrooms. Complaints of burn-outs by teachers have doubled over the past few months. Low and irregular attendance, lack of attention by students, the fear of technology, poor internet connectivity, and in most cases, the added pressure of household chores, have made online teaching a dreaded activity for many teachers. Learning this whole new normal has left teachers feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious.

Loss of Existing Teachers

The latest employment data published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) suggests that over 6.6 million white-collar professionals, such as engineers, physicians, and teachers, lost jobs between May and August 2020. According to a report published in Deccan Chronicle, over 40,000 private school teachers were rendered jobless in Karnataka amid the pandemic–many of whom have changed their profession because of uncertainty over reopening of schools and fear of risking the health of family members when schools reopen. This threatens to increase the teacher shortage  further.

Impact on Supply

This is also a testing time for teaching aspirants with very few opportunities to practice their teaching skills. The new cohort of teachers will be devoid of practical teaching skills, which will severely affect their self-efficacy beliefs. Insufficient hands-on experience with students in a classroom would stifle the self-confidence and trust that are essential to perform the job successfully. The absence of motivation for teaching will cause new teachers to trickle out soon.

Addressing Teacher Shortage

The government and schools must plan together strategies to lessen the ordeals of the teachers–providing them the right training and granting them more autonomy in the teaching-learning process and in discussing their working conditions. Since threats of contracting the virus are looming large, schools should give teachers a provision to continue with online classes, even when the schools open their campuses. Conducting special well-being sessions and scheduling low-pressure days for teachers would help them manage their stress and keep them motivated. To ensure the supply of skilled teachers in the education system, the teacher training institutes need to think of novel ways to provide practical training experience to their trainees.

Although the pandemic has ushered the education system into a technological path, a seven-inch gorilla glass screen can never substitute the warmth and care of a teacher. Teachers touch lives in ways that are beyond measure. They make students laugh, encourage academic passion, mentor, and for many, they are an essential support system. In absence of adequate infrastructural, technological, and moral support to them, Indian schools will be devoid of their teachers pushing the country into another crisis–‘teacherless’ schools.

Through its programs, Tomorrowsmith Foundation aims to help the country recover from teacher shortage by make teaching an aspirational career. 

#teachershortage2020 #pandemic #teachers #teacherpopulation #Indianeducationsystem

Motivated Teachers and the Power they Hold

Taare Zameen Par Teacher

Remember John Keating of Dead Poets Society and Ram Shankar Nikumbh of Taare Zameen Par? What made them such endearing and inspirational characters was that both were motivated teachers. They not only showed a great zeal for the profession but also tapped into the inner psychological needs of the students by assuming the role of an ally. They identified, vitalized, and developed human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and relational capacities such as love and friendship in their students.

“An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” – Carl Jung

Inculcates a Growth Mindset

While students walk into a classroom with a host of latent potential, a motivated teacher enters with a growth mindset. They know that every learner can grow. To label them as ‘slow’ or ‘dull’, would be to limit their possibilities for growth and progress. In a task, when students experience difficulty, the teacher encourages them to view the problem differently or use a different strategy for solving it. When learners receive the right support and guidance, their performance improves and they attain their true potential. By employing a growth mindset in the classroom to teach, the teacher models it to the students, who later imbibe this outlook to other realms of life.

Stimulates Student Motivation

It is essential for teachers to adapt teaching strategies that invite the participation and curiosity of the students. A motivated teacher uses real-life scenarios and makes lessons enjoyable, relevant, meaningful, and stimulating. This is an effective way to capture and keep a student’s attention and interest. They encourage students to think beyond their scores and view learning as a continuous process.

Uses Supportive Language

“I have noticed that you are being aloof in the class. You are not following the lessons of late. Do you want to share what is bothering you, so we can work out to find a solution?”

This is one of the many conversations an inspired teacher has with the students. They use unprejudiced, adaptable, and constructive language while reaching out to their students. This gives a sense of autonomy to the pupils in selecting and taking part in an activity.

Encourages Persistence

Successful teachers recognize that deep learning takes time and requires painstaking effort. They view themselves and their students as co-explorers in this journey. They motivate their students as they investigate different parts of a topic, set learning goals for themselves, make mistakes, and start over. Students who learn with such teachers show high classroom engagement, improved attendance, strong conceptual knowledge, better grades, and emotional, mental and physical well-being.

Shows Acceptance and Understanding

Motivated teachers are aware of a student’s struggle with inner motivation and behavioral problems. A student may express them in forms of abrupt sulking, irritation, agitation, and repulsion. They understand the importance of addressing a student’s inner conflicts, as these conflicts may stand in the way of a student’s learning opportunities if left unaddressed. They investigate such behavior to pin down whether it is a reaction to confusing lessons, restricting the environment of the school, baffling rules, imposed demands, lack of harmony between classmates, or dysfunctional family background. By respecting and embracing all such emotions, teachers can provide motivational support to their students.
Motivated teachers have immense power to influence the learning process of their students. They show enthusiasm in the learning process and create conditions under which learners can motivate themselves. This way, they empower the personal autonomy of the students. When students learn with such teachers, they approach their work with greater enthusiasm, passion, and commitment.  They believe that their success is their own doing. They feel excited about learning, sense safety, and know that with the effort they can learn and succeed. Tomorrowsmith Foundation’s Inspire program works towards igniting motivation in the teachers for the profession. Learn more about the program here.

#teachermotivation #inspiredteachers #joyofteaching