Last years training sessions occurred in the wake of the announcement of the first lockdown, and this year they’ve happened in the aftermath of the second wave. However, after a year of being online, there are considerable differences.
In 2020, the training sessions ensured teachers’ comfort with using digital classroom platforms, navigating the functions and enabling them to do the same with their students. However, this year the mentors have more insights that have allowed them to prioritise certain aspects of teaching in a digital classroom. These insights will hopefully multiply the positives of last year. For our mentors, three things were the primary focus – the teachers’ academic knowledge, personal growth, and professional growth.
The focus on the teacher’s academic knowledge expands their basic understanding of the discipline and the curriculum in the books. The emphasis on personal growth is to take stock of issues in individual teaching practices like documentation and communication. Our mentors were flexible in their availability and guided the teachers whenever teachers expressed any such concerns.
The focus on their professional growth centred around looking at teachers as researchers. For this purpose, colloquiums were held based on concepts in art (e.g., landscapes), and they were traced through time – from their existence in European artworks to contemporary depictions. These discussions enabled teachers to push the boundaries of the definitions of such concepts while also allowing them to experience the liberation of coming up with a self-informed understanding of the same.
This focused approach is anchored in revising pedagogical tools and artistic concepts through lesson demonstrations. With our year 4 and 5 schools, we also began the discourse on arts integration, from looking at more extensive case studies to comparing the textbook’s table of contents across subjects.
As our team expanded, we standardised our approach and engagement with teachers across all schools, continuously enabling teachers to conduct self-studies to deepen their understanding of the tools.
As we continue into 2021, another year of online teaching, we take with us the best practices of the previous year and continue to adapt our lesson plans keeping in mind the availability of materials and spaces to children. The adaptations combined with the renewed focus on teacher abilities creates unique digital learning environments that enable child exploration. For instance, while discussing Van Gogh’s bedrooms, we bring the conversation to the bedrooms where the children have been spending most of their time and encourage them to look at the space with a different eye. Similarly, while learning about portraits, we help children reflect on how spending this time with their family has been and how they can express those relationships through abstract family portraits. We promote using different spaces in their houses and materials readily found in the home or the kitchen.
Looking forward, we aim to continue ensuring a higher standard of teaching relevant to our times. We also hope to continue to expand our curriculum and its implementation to those who lack specific resources and don’t have spaces accessible to them in the same manner. We also intend to identify how we can innovatively use all the resources the internet and digital platforms offer to make our work more collaborative – with people, subjects, communities, and mediums.