Category Archives: Shwetangna Chakrabarty

Identity Texts: A Pedagogy for Self-Discovery

Image created on canva.com by Shwetangna Chakrabarty

In a world that is becoming more and more globalised, there is an emerging tension clearly visible in the definition of identity. While we have managed to travel around the globe, experience diverse cultures, food and fashion, we also seem to have developed an identity crisis. By ‘we’, I mean all people who identify themselves as global citizens but fail to identify themself. For example, my son represented Tanzania on International Mother Language Day at school even though he is an Indian citizen. Some argue, citing this as an example of global mindedness, the way students/children can adapt to diverse cultures and appreciate them. But on the flip side, these global citizens find it extremely difficult to develop a well-defined identity or a sense of belonging. I find students struggling with the idea of identity when related to language, culture, race and nationality, to the extent that they feel completely alienated. How do we instil a sense of belonging in our students when we want them to relate to every culture they experience? How do we identify a global citizen or how do we create an identity for a global citizen?

A simple idea that I recently came across is integrating Identity Texts into the narrative of global citizenship. Identity text is a way of creating a sociocultural space in the pedagogy and curriculum that can facilitate the learner to share their experiences and identify their natural inclination to their preferred cultural and linguistic context. Students get an opportunity to express their learning approaches and experiences by writing about themselves, their cultural identity, as developed by their experiences. Identity texts can be written, spoken or visual and even musical. They are pieces of evidence from a students cultural heritage, language, ethnicity and race. Identity texts help students to tell and share their stories with their peers and teachers. Identity text is not a pretence rather a prerogative. A simple example is asking students to write about their life journey, family and friends. Students are prompted to share this journey with the rest of the class in the form of a research study, this not only builds vocabulary but also makes the student feel included within a very diverse classroom. Being able to share their stories allows students to go on a journey of self-discovery, which in turn leads to developing an identity in the beautiful but chaotic fabric of diversity.

Identity texts can be used in any classroom particularly in a diverse inclusive classroom. In a diverse classroom, students are from different cultures, nationalities, socioeconomic background, hence they can use their context for learning to feel included. There are opportunities to include identity texts into pedagogy; while activating prior knowledge; when providing a rich contextual background to make the input comprehensible; actively encouraging comprehensible output; drawing the student’s attention to the relationship between form and function, developing learner independence. The whole idea is to make it an integral part of pedagogy, this will also have academic benefits; students will take ownership of their learning; improve communication; learn vocabulary. This is an approach to the holistic development of the student. 

Let me explain with a personal example, I speak four languages, but being multilingual has been very challenging. I think in one language and communicate with another, I even switch to a particular language when I am stressed or angry. Rewinding to my early years, I spent my childhood in the beautiful country of Bhutan, I started my schooling in school in a town called Wangdue Phodrang where the medium of instruction was English. After completing my primary and middle years in Bhutan my family moved back to India where I started school in the Indian system. Though the medium of instruction was English the methodology was very different, and I had to learn a new language-Hindi. Even though I was in my home country India, I felt like a misfit. This experience evoked a sense of wanting to go back into a very diverse classroom with friends who would look different, speak different languages and yet have a sense of camaraderie, belonging and understanding each other’s differences. I had to adapt to this new system without questioning or asking for help as there was no system in place that helps students to transition and adapt to a new environment. I struggled the first few years due to a lack of support for cognitive development and negative stereotypes towards students not fluent in Hindi. My parents hired a tutor to teach me the language, even though I picked it up I struggled with it even through high school. For most of my school life, I focused on improving on Hindi while I could have used that in subjects that mattered to me. I could have benefited if my curriculum included a provision for identity texts. If I was allowed to share my story, I would have felt more included in my school and probably learnt better. Identity texts did not exist in pedagogy or curriculum.

Respecting cultural identity improves teacher-student interactions and peer-to-peer relationships. This also allows the development of language, vocabulary, identity and self-esteem. The use of identity texts can improve cognitive engagement and identity investment (Cummins, 2001). Identity texts will help students in their journey of self-discovery.

Cummins, J. (2001). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. 2nd Edition. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education. 

#ChoosetoChallenge GENDER GAP: Don’t just mind the gap, Mend the Gap.

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com.

8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It was first observed in the United States as a remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. This has evolved through the years into a plea for equal rights. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China declared March 8 an official holiday (scmp.com); in 1977 the United Nations declared March 8 to be the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace. 

As per the above evidence, we have been minding the gender gap since 1908. Its time to mend the gap. The pitch for international women’s day this year is to; celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, take action for equality.

This also means we have not made enough progress in the above areas, hence the need to challenge stereotypes. To choose to challenge is to come up with an action plan for every woman out there. This has to be done by women, as lack of the female voice and choice has increased the gender gap. All we have managed to do in the past century is to mind the gap, bridge the gap, but never to mend the gap. 

Interestingly our students are ahead of us, at least I have experienced multiple interactions where students have challenged stereotypes with passion and purpose. Recently while discussing ideas for celebrating International Women’s Day, there was a suggestion of a dress-up day- ‘dressing like a woman’. This did not go down well with most students, the idea was vehemently argued by almost 60 students in the whole year group (grade 11) as stereotyping what women need to or should wear. They even went on to discuss other gender stereotypes like the signages across the globe on every building that defines male and female. I am very glad that my students think this way, they are actually mending the gap by participating in discussions on gender equality; practising plurality of perspectives; preventing stereotypes and discouraging toxic masculinity or feminity. In fact, the Millenials don’t consider gender as a constant in the equation of equality and equity, they consider it as a variable that can change as they discover their identity. This approach is empowering and can actually reduce gender inequality and discrimination. 

As teachers and educators, we must tread cautiously as sometimes we tend to overlook sensitive issues related to gender. There are many characteristics specific to a gender that has to be acknowledged but it cannot be used to discriminate. As any inequality, in the large scheme of things, creates an imbalance. For example, a study in schools in America has alarming gender trends: 80% of high school dropouts are boys; 80% of all classroom discipline problems are boys; 70% of students with learning disabilities are boys; 80% of behaviorally disordered students are boys; 80% of students on medication for ADHD are boys; 44% of college students are boys (Coniglio, n.d.).

This is evidence of the negative impacts of inequality, inequality in the way we treat and teach. Surprisingly we have created a toxic stereotype of the male gender that has pushed our boys to behavioural, disciplinary and dropout issue. Celebrating International Women’s Day is about balance, balance in how we teach and treat all genders. 

Can we choose to change, yes we can, if we choose to challenge it. Happy International Women’s Day: Mend the Gap, Don’t just Mind it.

 Coniglio, R. (n.d.) Why gender matters in the classroom, the differences between boys and girls. TeachHub.com. K-12 Teachers Alliance.

The Changing Face of Feedback: Tools, tips and tricks.

Bitmoji Image
My Bitmoji for instant feedback to students.

Learning is an emotional experience and feedback is an integral aspect of the learning experience. It is a tool for knowledge construction and for making the emotional connection to learning. The hybrid learning model is changing the way we give and receive feedback, teachers need to learn to innovate feedback with the help of technology.  Feedback is the tool for developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills; there are many apps, extensions and tools that facilitate ‘on-the-spot’, ‘continuous’ and ‘formal’ feedback. Here are a few tools, tips and tricks that will help teachers manage the changing face of feedback.

On-the-spot feedback: This feedback focuses on one area only to help the student master one component. This is useful for students who need to master basic components of the curriculum, some tools which I find useful for on-the-spot feedback are:

  1. Pear Deck: This is a google chrome extension and a web-based application, a very convenient and easy tool for immediate feedback in a hybrid class.
  2. Evernote: Captures and organises thoughts and voice notes for immediate feedback to students on their digital notebook. A google chrome extension that can sync with multiple devices. Useful in giving instant feedback, for example, annotating works that are still being produced by students.
  3. Kaizala: Mobile messaging app, useful for users of MS Office 365 email groups in order to easily message, share photos, audio recordings and videos, and run instant polls. Students needing instant feedback on their work can just send a photo and teachers can easily provide feedback.
  4. Mentimeter: This tool helps to create interactive presentations to get instant feedback. Teachers can involve students to contribute to presentations with their smartphones and show the results live. Great for online lessons where students tend to be bored.
  5. Bitmoji: A Google Chrome extension and mobile application, Can easily insert your own emojis to show your feedback to your student’s work. Very effective for younger students.

Continuous feedback: Also known as closing the loop feedback, it means providing students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning or to submit their work with revisions focusing on learning; from product to process to progress.

  1. Kaizena: An add-on for google suite products; teachers can attach a rubric and give voice feedback, students can listen to the feedback over and over till they reach the objective.
  2. Edpuzzle: This tool is available on the app store, has desktop and tablet editors. It helps to crop, customize, remix online video content with an interactive tool and complete formative assessments while watching the video to record feedback.
  3. Classkick: This is a web-based application that allows for real-time monitoring, feedback, and assessment on student work and can be a bridge to more personalized learning in 1:1 online classrooms. It can be used from anywhere by anyone-parents, students, teachers!

Formal Feedback: Being a business management teacher, I would explain formal feedback as Kaizen-“change for the better”. Formal feedback is a process of improvement, beginning with goal setting and reporting on the extent to which the student has achieved the goals.

  1. Spiral.ac: Spiral requires no integration with the school learning management system and takes seconds for students to actively participate in live lessons and assignments. Spiral is free to support remote learning and has a range of formative assessment apps in one platform.
  2. Screencastify: A google chrome extension that records screen video feedback that can be instantly downloaded, shared and stored as formal feedback.
  3. Thinglink: A Web 2.0 tool used to annotate text, images and videos and record formal feedback. Runs on the cloud; accessible anytime, anywhere, and has desktop and tablet editors. 
  4. Poll everywhere: Allows to receive formal feedback from a live audience. Student responses are shown on the screen in real-time. A google chrome extension, add-ins to keynote or MS PPT, or a web tool.

There are many other innovative ways of receiving and providing feedback through technology; choose the one that suits your context best!

Clientmoji
My Bitmoji reminding students to work on feedback.

Teachers burn out as they are burning alone

Teacher burnout rate has always been a concern. Teachers burn out as they carry the burden of the education system, policies, national ideologies, global perspectives, parental demands, societal pressures while doing their day-to-day job. Burnout is definite and drastic! Teachers burn out as they are burning alone, all other stakeholders in education are adding fuel to this burnout. How can important stakeholders help prevent teacher burnout?

Role of Society – Teaching is considered a noble profession but at the same time not a highly rewarding (monetarily) job. On top of that everyone has a say into the teaching business of teachers. Teachers groom the next generation of thinkers, doctors, sportsmen, artists hence they need the utmost reverence and respect. The respect in the profession will help in addressing the most important cause of teacher burnout-emotional or affective exhaustion, as teachers will feel valued and needed. A few things to be considered:

  1. Remuneration at par with other industries in terms of experience and qualification,  investing in education by increasing teacher salary will bring in the much-needed esteem and respect to the profession leading to self-actualisation for teachers
  2. Retirement benefits especially for teachers, this will keep teachers in their profession, and act as a retention incentive to prevent turnover or burnout.
  3. The societal value of the profession has to change, a country’s GDP is deeply connected to its literacy rate. Teachers have most of the responsibility for improving the literacy rate, hence society needs to invest in teacher well-being and value. As per World Economic Forum 2021, Finland has the world’s best education system as they invest in teacher training and value the profession (Colagrossi, n.d.); in fact, teachers has the same prestige as a doctor or engineer.

Role of School -The organisation that is responsible for educating the youth has to be responsible for the wellbeing of its teachers. Schools can play the most critical role in preventing teacher burnout. As a business management teacher, I am able to identify one of the main reasons for burnout is the lack of motivation, intrinsic or extrinsic. Here are a few things schools can do to avoid this:

  1. Invest in an experienced and supportive human resources (HR) department. A strong HR can ensure that teachers are supported with their basic needs, they feel safe, motivated and happy to work. The HR should also be responsible to create and maintain teacher professional development framework.
  2. A clear and detailed job description (JD) with an outline of expectations is another big necessity, this is also a requirement for getting an international accreditation. The JD should limit non-teaching duties and focus on the core skill of teaching. 
  3. A support system for teachers should be put together by the school, for example, hiring an adequate number of teacher assistants, meeting all software and hardware requirements, creating a culture of teacher appreciation and of course reviewing the salary scale to be fair to all teachers.

Role of Students – Students can act as a catalyst to break down a teacher. Disruptive, disengaged and disobedient students are a product of multiple failures of the school, society and parents; but the blame is always on the teacher. On top of it, teachers are victims of violence in the hands of students; from verbal abuse to physical abuse to being shot, teachers have experienced it all. Students need to foster a mutual relationship of respect and understanding as this directly impacts their future.

  1. Students should sign and comply with a behaviour agreement to be cognizant of their responsibilities in a classroom.
  2. Students should undergo orientation at the beginning of the year to be more accountable for their academic and non-academic performance in school.
  3. Students should be made to realise that their success is an outcome of a healthy partnership with teachers. 

Role of Staff – Teachers can get the most needed support from peers; #staffforstaff. Teachers understand each other’s challenges hence should offer solutions to common problems:

  1. Form support groups and professional learning communities to provide an open platform for discussing curriculum-related issues. Be a part of existing groups either within the school community or outside like social media groups.
  2. Create a teacher ready toolkit to ease the transition for newbies in the school or into teaching. This should have all necessary resources for effectively managing a classroom for a newbie, for example, a list of all staff with phone numbers or subject guides or past papers/assessments, unit plans etc.
  3. Encourage, motivate each other, a kind word goes a long way and comes back quickly; smile and say something kind to your peers and it will come back to you.

Teacher burnout can be prevented; if you are reading this, you have a part to play. Support the growth of the next generation by strengthening the foundation-the teacher.

Colagrossi, M. W. (n.d.). 10 reasons why Finland’s education system is the best in the world. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/10-reasons-why-finlands-education-system-is-the-best-in-the-world

What if we taught gender equality?

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Recently I was asked by students to audition for the TEDxYouth event they are putting together under the theme of ‘What if…’After critically reasoning, I decided to pick a topic close to my heart, gender equality. I framed my question ‘What if we taught gender equality?’ By teaching about gender equality we can aim to achieve it.

What impact would gender equality have? By gender equality, I mean equal opportunities. Imagine if women had equal opportunities in all aspects of life. A bit of research helped to answer this question and the results were astounding!

The Power of Parity: Women’s equality can add $28 trillion to global growth! If women participated in the job market the same way as men then US$ 28 trillion could be added to the global Gross Domestic Product in the next decade. If the next decade sounds too far, let’s see some present-day data. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 865 million women in the world have the potential to contribute more fully to their economies, for example, the Asia-Pacific region would make $89 billion a year if women had equal job opportunities. (Copyright © McKinsey & Company 2015)

So to begin answering the What if…question, just by including women in the workforce the world can get rid of poverty.

The World’s Largest Inequality: According to the statistics published by the United Nations (UN) 1 in 5 women experienced violence in the hands of a man they know; Global gender pay gap is stuck at 16%; 12 million girls are married below the age of 18. These are only some statistics, furthermore, decisions being made for women, are not been made by them; 75% of parliamentarian are men, 73% of managerial decision-makers are men, 67% climate negotiators are men, 87% of people at the peace table are men. This proves that one of the world’s largest inequality is Gender inequality! (Copyright © United Nations 2020)

Once again to answer the ‘what if’ question, we would solve the world’s largest injustice.

Further what if we taught gender equality: We would achieve success in resolving world issues. What if women had gender equality is almost like asking for permission, and this permission has to come from us, women. This all starts by educating our students to work towards a gender-balanced society as gender equality is the answer to all our current world issues.

Our economic potential would be doubled, more people would have jobs, which would bring equality in many realms of society due to reduced economic insecurity and reduced poverty. There would be better socio-economic progress as the world would be better balanced with men and women, dualism and monism, yin and yang, enthalpy and entropy and in machine language binary off and on!

The world would be a peaceful place, as per statistics from the UN, 87% men sit on the peace table and we have only seen war in the past five decades, if only we change the statistics by 10% there would be better negotiation and meaningful decision making for keeping world peace. A recent example is the of superior decision making and impactful action by women to the COVID19 pandemic; most countries that handled this crisis well had women leaders like Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern and Tsai Ing-wen.

Our planet would be greener and would age slower, as clearly, the climate negotiations have not been effective. In spite of great will and united efforts from leaders of the world, where 67% were men, the collapse of the planet is becoming a reality. This has to be stopped and one way to do so is to give women equal opportunity to make important decisions. If Greta Thunberg in her teens can make such an impact imagine what our girls and women can do for this planet, if, given an opportunity.

Unconscious biases that become invisible enemies like racism could be addressed if women had more opportunity in the parliament. Clearly, a less than 30% representation in the parliaments of the different countries has only led to promoting discriminating based on sex, color and creed; exploiting religious beliefs for electoral gains; and changing women rights instead of changing the systems.

We are a world where female genital mutilation is a current practice; where women and girls cannot make decisions about their own bodies both sexual and non-sexual; where culture, religion, rules and policies justify segregation of women and prevent them from achieving their full potential and the world’s full potential. We have to teach equality for women and for women rights.

In summary, if there was gender equality, there would be an equal, greener and more peaceful world!

Happy New Year: Resolutions for Education 2021

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The much-awaited and anticipated start to a new year full of new hopes is here! As we step into 2021, we all will look back at 2020 as a year of the education revolution. Prior to COVID19, educators had been contemplating a change in pedagogy; discussing the skills required for a near future; training young adults for coping with artificial intelligence, but suddenly all of this changed as everyone woke up to a new reality-COVID19. A lot has changed since then, hence with the new year coming in, we need new resolutions for education 2021.

Well-done to Well-being

Learning is an emotional and cognitive experience; we achieve cognition if we are emotionally connected to the learning experience. Teacher and student well being is the urgent priority of the new education revolution 2021, physical well being and most importantly mental well being. With increasing pressure to adapt to a new normal, the stress level has skyrocketed, this can only be addressed by changing the teacher appraisal and student assessment objectives and strategies. The objective has to be well-being over well-done, process-oriented over product-oriented, personal growth over professional growth. Moving away from a culture of extrinsic motivation towards more intrinsically motivated teaching and learning culture has to be the number one resolution of education 2021.

Globalisation to Glocalisation. 

COVID19 has changed the momentum of globalisation; it has forced the businesses, organisations and people to think local. The education revolution of preparing students for a global world has suddenly being forced to change direction and this has left us with the question what next? Even though globalisation will not die a sudden death it has surely slowed down, this has compelled us to delve into the local culture, local knowledge and give it a global perspective; it has narrowed the vision of international mindedness in order to prioritise the immediate needs of the people within the community. This ability to integrate the global objectives into the local perspective and vice versa is glocalisation. The world is heading towards glocalisation hence education resolution will be to prepare a curriculum which integrates local and global perspectives equally into the curriculum. Glocalisation is the true identity and meaning of internationalism for 2021.

Infrastructure to Infostructure

Prior to COVID19 education institutions across the world invested in their physical infrastructure in order to recruit and retain students. In 2020 the physical infrastructures remained unused, teaching and learning continued in a new learning space, the hybrid and online learning space. Schools had to immediately invest into bandwidth, education software, technical support, teacher training and take to social media for communication. Suddenly the conversation changed from the effects of technology in a classroom to the effectiveness of technology in a classroom. The biggest resolution we need is to have a state of the art info-structure for teaching and learning. The education revolution 2021 will see us all investing in info-structure where a milieu of online collaboration, information exchange and artificial intelligence will be called school.

Games to Gamification

Learning by doing is changing to learning by simulations. Thanks to school closure and social distancing, physical games have been replaced by online gamification. By gamification, I mean the use of simulations and games like Minecraft that help students to apply knowledge in virtual reality. Education revolution 2021 will need more gamification software for schools along with firewalls for protection against harmful content and context. Hybrid and online learning will thrive on the gamification of education. Learning through play is a pedagogy currently practised by teachers worldwide, the mode of play has changed hence forcing games to gamification.

We need to step into 2021 with a new set of resolutions for education and new hope for mankind we thank 2020 for ushering the education revolution.

Hierarchy of Needs: the Student Version

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In the time I have been in education, which is almost 15 years now, there has been a constant focus towards addressing student needs. To date it seems we have not met these needs, as they keep increasing and are becoming more and more demanding. Hence there needs to be a structured framework to address the students’ needs in order to provide an inclusive and holistic education to students. But even before creating a framework it is necessary to find out what do students in today’s classrooms actually need.

Recently while teaching motivation theories to the grade 11 students in my business management class, we created a student’s hierarchy of needs very similar to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This hierarchy is based on the student’s perspective of needs, hence, what is coming next, take it with a pinch of salt!

  1. Physiological needs: International school students have demanding physiological needs, it is much more than just food, shelter and clothing. A few examples cited by students themselves; the canteen needs to serve at least 5-6 types of international cuisine; the internet needs to be high speed preferably 5G; there has to be access to world-class facilities like a multi-function gym, heated swimming pools, etc; the freedom to wear anything but the uniform; the devices like laptops, phones, ear pods, have also made it to physiological needs that need to be satisfied.
  2. Safety needs: In a school, there cannot be any compromise with safety, all safety needs must be met. Access to counsellor, nurse, doctor, health and safety guidelines, fire drills, are some of the needs met by the school to ensure child safety and protection. While schools are sweating it out with the ever-increasing need for safety and security, it still isn’t enough. As for the student’s perspective safety means no bullying, no discrimination, no negative body image, no cliques, no harassments, and no ragging. These needs are more demanding and urgent for students.
  3. Belonging needs: Probably the most important need from a student’s perspective is the need to feel needed; a sense of belonging. It is no longer limited to having confidence and good relationships with peers. Students said they need to ‘fit in’; their attitude, attributes and actions need to be ratified by peers and teachers alike, even so, because it is a diverse, multicultural environment. But the dominant culture of the international school decides the fate of the students. I use the word ‘fit in’ as that is more important to students than doing ‘the right thing’. What matters most to students to have a sense of belonging is to be accepted by student, staff and school just the way they are and not the way they have to be.
  4. Esteem needs: These are developed over a period of time when students realize their potential. In the milieu of a school, it is still necessary to perform academically above average to gain self-esteem and confidence. Even in this century after having discussed and debated and researched the purpose of schooling, esteem is still linked to grades. This level is almost impossible for many students to describe and they feel it is hard to achieve. They have varied talents and may not aspire to get the highest grades, but they do aspire to gain a sense of accomplishment. In this vicious circle of achieving high grades, self-esteem and confidence are overlooked, hence students beg to differ when esteem needs are linked with academic performance, they would rather experience accomplishment with their unique abilities in their area of interest, not limited to academics.
  5. Self-actualization: Self-actualization is required to meet 21st century needs. Students need to have critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurship to be able to survive the next paradigm shift. Hence students feel they need to have all the physiological, safety, belonging, esteem needs to be met to reach the best of their potential.

Hence for students to reach the highest level of self-actualisation, international schools need to meet all the needs as per the students’ perspective. It is time to prioritise student’s hierarchy of needs while creating policies to provide a truly inclusive and holistic education experience for a diverse community of international students.

Teachers the Change-Makers: Three lessons from Mahatma Gandhi

In the recent AIELOC (Association of International Educators and Leaders of Colour) conference I had the opportunity to discuss an issue that requires immediate attention. The teacher diversity ratio in international schools has never been a priority until recently when the Black Lives Matte’ global movement took momentum; there has been an intentional and significant shift in the way teachers of colour are regarded in international schools. I would like to explain the need for this shift with the help of three quotes of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Future Depends on What You Do Today

The future of globalization depends on how we as educators groom the global citizens of tomorrow. Hence the future depends on how we teach our children/students to value the rich cultural diversity around them. The future needs teachers to bring into our workplace, our curriculum, our attitude and our attributes, the different shades of our heritage, culture and language. This is only possible if an international environment has people from all over the world driving its mission of internationalism; hence a bit of time and resource investment into recruiting teachers of colour, teachers from diverse backgrounds and teachers with diverse experiences will up the ante for tomorrow’s world to be peaceful and better.

Be The Change That You Wish to See In The World

Probably the most known quote of the Mahatma; it has clarity in the way it appeals to all of us. It is simple, if you wish for change make it happen. Hence as teachers of colour, the burden of starting the conversation, taking powerful initiatives and building a strong case for improving teacher diversity in schools is our burden, there is no Mahatma to lead the change, we are the change-leaders. Doing a bit of research and educating our community is the first step. Table 1 is research done at Stanford University, it will help you to make a case in your environment and give you the conviction that this is the change that will benefit future individuals, institutions and societies. And, we teachers are the change-makers.

Milem, J. (n.d) The Educational Benefits of Diversity: Evidence from Multiple Sectors. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/~hakuta/www/policy/racial_dynamics/Chapter5.pdf

In a Gentle Way You Can Shake the World

Social justice can only be achieved through social service; the world is in a fragile state, in need of repairs and it will only happen with our gentle actions. Anger, confrontation, disputes only create divide not decision. A decision has to be made by gentle means more powerful than any weapon, the Mahatma showed us an example by making ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence his greatest weapon. Similarly, during the Covid19 pandemic, the gentle actions of educators around the world have changed the way we teach and learn; the gentle actions of teachers around the world have created a sustained environment for learning to continue; the gentle action of school leaders around the world has made it possible to improve access to education. All these gentle actions by educators/teachers have actually shaken the world, changed it for better as now the dream of access to education for each and every child can become a possibility with the help of the Covid19 model. Similarly, a social movement as a social service is required for social justice and this time the movement is to improve teacher diversity in international schools; in a gentle way.

An Open Letter to Those Who Voted for Trump

8th November 2020 will go down in history as the day that defined the future of the world; a day that restored our faith in humanity; a day that gave hope to millions of people who aspire to make a change and a day that disappointed millions who voted for Trump.

Hence, I am writing this letter to all the disappointed people who supported and voted for Donald Trump. The intention is to convey a message to reassure and reinforce the goodness of being humane.

Many of you voted for Trump as you felt, your jobs are being taken away by migrants and Trump will give it back to you. Please know that it is not a unilateral world; there are jobs and employment opportunities available globally and many Americans are living and working in other countries, where they are welcomed with open arms. It’s the 21st century and it’s a multilateral world, hence go out to explore the opportunities and free yourself of the vicious promise of manipulating politicians that jobs can be created by snatching them from others.

Many of you voted for Trump as you wanted to make America great again. A country does not need a saviour, a country protects, nurtures and feeds whoever considers her a mother. In that sense every country is great so there is no need to feel it has fallen off a pedestal or needs to be placed on a pedestal for being great. A country is its people; people need to be great in their care, love and approach, that is what makes a country revered and respected which unfortunately was not the case when Trump was in power so think twice if you feel Trump would have made America great again! In fact, it would have been quite the opposite.

Many of you voted for Trump as you wanted the economy to revive; inflation to reduce and employment opportunities to improve. But this was not possible if globalization is threatened by a man who thought democracy is a right to legalize corruption under the pretext of financial growth and economic stability. A man who thought less about other countries in the world, a man who spoke his opinion, not the facts, a man who promised to make America great at the cost of discrimination and dehumanisation.

Many of you voted for Trump as there was no worthy opponent or presidential candidate; I would like to defer, anyone who has not been charged with rape, anyone who has not insulted women in public, anyone who has not celebrated white supremacy and anyone who has not been bankrupt is and will always be a worthy opponent! If you earlier voted for a corrupt businessman, alleged rapist and unapologetic racist, insensitive and insecure man, then I would say you could have easily voted for anyone who is not all the above.

Hence take a moment to let the feeling sink in, it is actually a victory for everyone, even though your vote is lost you have actually won as America without Trump is already great again. It sends out a strong message that a great country of diverse people will not be broken by the selfish wants of a discriminatory, profit mongering and megalomaniac egotist and that it will rise even when there is very slim hope and do it over and over again!

Also, make sure you realise the power of your vote. Vote for what you want not for what others want for you. If you vote to make a wall, you should not expect to get a health care plan; If you vote to discriminate, you should not expect to get employment. Exercise your rights carefully so you get what you want. And finally, celebrate this moment as the country got back it’s self-respect, esteem and greatness all because a man lost the elections. Hence you have won, it’s only Trump who has lost the elections.

Long Live Humanity, Long Live Justice!

The Pygmalion effect: the power of high expectations

To raise the bar or not to raise the bar? To have high expectations or not to have high expectations? This has been a constant discussion topic in many schools. Many believe in order to be inclusive one should lower the expectations to suit the student’s ability while others strongly disagree. Some even confuse it with differentiation as they think giving students work that they can complete as per their ability is differentiation. I strongly disagree, I believe in The Pygmalion Effect (Rosenthal,1987). which simply states that high expectations lead to better achievement levels hence low expectations will lead to low performance.

Diagram
The Pygmalion Effect (source: https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/)
Image source: https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/

This is very true for higher secondary students, they tend to reciprocate the teachers’ approach towards setting expectations and then they perform accordingly. A simple experiment I do is announce that the upcoming test will be very challenging, and surprisingly students come better prepared and perform better than those tests taken casually or informally. Another example is the students’ approach towards formative assessment and summative assessments, they usually do well in summative as the expectations are higher.

Teaching for so many years, I have always set high expectations for student outcomes and designed challenging assessment tasks, sometimes this does not go down very well with many stakeholders in education as some believe that expectations should be as per student ability. Hence I always suffered the conflict whether I should raise the bar or lower it to suit the student’s ability. I never got a clear answer and the conundrum grew until I read about The Pygmalion Effect.

I will briefly highlight the key factors that helped me resolve my conflict regarding expectations. The article Being honest about the Pygmalion Effect, (Ellison, 2015) explains that various researchers have observed when managers have high hopes for their employees, the workers become more productive; when military instructors believe trainees have superior skills, the trainees perform better. The pygmalion effect states that high expectations lead to better achievement levels, hence I strongly promote this strategy in my classroom.

Furthermore, there are seven ways teachers can change their expectations by watching, listening, engaging, experimenting, meeting, reaching out and reflecting (Pianta, 2003). Ironically the last step is most effective, to reflect on the whole process by questioning our personal experiences. This is very insightful if I apply this in my context, I do work better as a teacher if my supervisor has positive expectations of me, hence I should apply the same to my students. This has been a learning curve in terms of setting expectations for students. Hence by following the seven steps teachers can set a high standard without having to worry about the outcomes. But this requires training since teachers need to ensure that the expectations are made challenging for every student at their individual level, it requires deep knowledge of both approaches to learning and differentiation.

In summary, even though the strategies for improving student self-efficacy have been under the spotlight for the past decade, it has not reached its fruition as teachers are neither expected nor trained to set high expectations. In many schools, usually, the expectations are kept low in order to have a greater number of students and low turnover. This has become an ethical dilemma hence must be debated extensively to put together a set of rules and procedures to promote student self-efficacy.

 Ellison, K. (2015). Being honest about the Pygmalion Effect. Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2015/dec/14-great-expectations

Rosenthal, R. (1987). “Pygmalion” Effects: Existence, Magnitude, and Social Importance. Educational Researcher, 16(9), 37-41. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1175728

Pianta, R.C. (2003). Handbook of Psychology  Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/0471264385.wei0710