Day 67: St. Anger round my neck 

Why do you take everything so seriously, S?“, she asked, puzzled.

Because I did not give up a career of ten years and a steady, fat income, to not care, acting like it’s all OK. Ms. JK“, I retorted and an unplanned stream of tears trickled down my cheeks. Breaking point.

For the last year in college, I’ve been working with teachers to point out gaps in the syllabi and identify ways to make it tighter. During that period, I’ve continued to hear all the popular education-specific jargon in class. We’ve studied about everything, from student-centered learning, to individualized teaching, to comprehensive assessments and modern, innovative teaching methods. We’ve heard about all of this in theory.

Because, in reality:

  • We are still forced to study that same outdated syllabus because it seems to be etched in stone and unchangeable. “Your feedback will be incorporated into subsequent years’ syllabi“, I hear
  • That outdated syllabus is so spineless that teachers themselves comment about how the intended hours are not at all required. They’d rather have us sit in class and work on ‘something’ because there are many more classes to use up
  • In a class of three, we are still taught from an ancient PowerPoint presentation that some alumni must have made as a part of their assignments – poorly researched and outdated
  • Until I brought it up as a teaching method, most teachers did not even consider the option for us to research and present or teach some topics. It would have been 100% teacher-driven, if not for that
  • Almost every teacher on roll takes a defensive stance the minute a point of discussion is brought up. Questioning an ideology or stereotype is effectively looked as a questioning of their subject matter experience
  • None of the teachers have an educational specialization. Our sociology professor is a expert in History
  • We learn meaning, definition and all such synonyms of a concept for 4 hours, because apparently we are providing individualized instruction to the weakest in the class. What about the others that are ready to move on?
  • All instruction is limited to the four walls of the classrooms. We’re, after all, not English literature students to take the teaching to the garden
  • Experiences through workshops and seminars are awarded like candy to a diabetic. In measured and restricted doses
  • You’re expected to continue with your research and data collection, while they continue to have theory classes through the day. Data will magically appear if you pray hard enough.

The experience of trying to change the archaic ways used to deal with students, and content, especially of the Masters courses, has been demoralizing and soul sucking. In the last two days, I’ve questioned every single decision in my life that has led me to this point. I moved from an industry where we were pioneering BYOD and digital nomadism, to one where technology equates to PowerPoint presentations and nothing more. I moved from a group discussing through brainmaps and deciding their work-wear based on their day’s meetings, to one where concept maps ‘do not have the continuity of language’ and the dress code is set by a senile lady to not distract the Fathers on campus.

Every career has it’s pitfalls; my past life had enough for me to up and leave. So, maybe I’m just living the phase where everything in hind-sight is 20-20. But it does seem that as an industry, or specialization, the education department is the most resistant to change. We are tasked with equipping the bright minds of tomorrow, for tomorrow, and yet we are the most deep-rooted in the past. The content and the teaching methods are so aged that the student teachers graduating will be left in a state of shock when thrown into a class full of technology addicted 10 year olds.

11 years ago, my Civil Engineering degree did not land me a job in an IT multinational. My reading outside class hours did. Would this degree follow suit and be just another degree? Would all the learning happen outside, in my own time and under my own direction, again? If so, then what is the while point of having taken two years off to attend a full-time course?

“Relax, S. Sometimes it helps to go with the flow, enjoy life, and see what tomorrow has in store for us. 

Now, can you share some of that wonderful egg, please?” Scotch

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Day 34: New experiences, petting projects, and dreams

Petting projects

A normal Saturday took a turn for the better when we kicked off the volunteer group at Pet a Project. Ranga Shankara, the location for our meet, was a wonderful venue and I enjoyed a productive hour, working on my assignments, while the gang rolled in. And it was such an amazing bunch to talk to. The power of volunteerism is that you do not have competition or that innate human need to one-up the other. The six of us were almost instantly chatting away like we’d known each other for years. There was already some playful banter and teasing, reminiscent of thick friends. For an outsider, we could have passed off for a group of friends reuniting after years of being apart. And that says wonders about the team that we have now.

The project itself has gotten me excited for a few weeks now. It follows in line with our conversations over the summer, at Bhor, where as educationists, we agree that there is something critically lacking in our daily school curriculum, that is leaving our children incapable in real-life situations. While the Schools of the Future Program targeted middle-income private schools, that could in turn seed fund the project with government schools, and focused largely on making learning visible in schools, Pet A Project aims at working specifically with low-income government schools, and enhancing the life-skills in these school students.

Questions remain about the true nature of the curriculum that has been designed already, the effectiveness tracking mechanism and the sustainability plan. But for now, it’s project-go, and that has always been a fun and exciting time.

New experiences

 

The day got better when Sid and I lost and found our way to Tortilla House, a quaint home studio in the residential streets of Koramangala, where the day’s edition of the Playback Theatre would be. The Actor’s Collective, founded by a ChristU Alum professor, and itself consisting of a number of ChristU alums, is one of the forerunners in the country on the alternate theatre concept, called Playback Theatre. From our first hello there, we felt extremely welcome and warm, with the ambience and the actors and their smiles.

Unlike a typical play, where the actors are up on stage, almost playing god, and the audience sits below, with eyes of endearment, here we were all right there in one single room. The audience sat at one end of the studio, while the actors took another. The facilitator did a wonderful job bringing the two together, and the crux of playback theatre – of acting scenes based on the stories shared by the audience – was extremely intriguing.

My personal experience, watching them enact my Trust Circle Conundrum, was insightful. The trust circle in itself has been something that I think about extensively, and the questions of my readiness to get into it will always plague me. But watching the actors enact that conflict, especially almost hinting that I should get in there, was a powerful feeling indeed.

Dreams

 

While a number of us shared our stories and watched in silence as the actors brought them to life on stage, the one story that moved me the most was Vinu’s struggle with the true origin of dreams. As beautiful as his struggle was, the way it was enacted was equally powerful.

Do we dream dreams that are our own, or are they dreams that we are made to dream?

His narrative to the question was his struggle with his identity as a homosexual and a passionate man and his dream of having a loving partner, a child and a dog to complete his family. As the relationship went down under, his dreams haunted him and he repeated the question often to justify his need to move on or his lethargy to stay put. I couldn’t have related to another’s struggle like I did with Vinu’s.

An engineering degree, a stable job in a multi-national company, a few trips offshore to work from exotic countries, a steady stream of vacations to exquisite lands, an extravagant marriage by 24, a baby by 26 and another by 28. Whose dreams are we expected to live? Does the society have such an effect on our pysche that even our dreams mirror the societal demands? Did we grow up dreaming of vacations in ultramarine blue seas? Weren’t our dreams more rustic and basic then?

And more importantly, how many of us are dreaming the dream of others and fooling ourselves into thinking they are our own?

“S, seems like you had a lot of fun this Saturday. Is it true that you went to a café where people cut a birthday cake and you dint even get a piece? Couldn’t you have tried to sneak one out, at least for me?” Scotch