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‘Be open and unbiased, you never know what you may learn’

In 2014, Jayshree Oberoi, Principal of the Late Anantrao Pawar Memorial English Medium School in Pune led her school self-review team when they undertook the Adhyayan Quality Standard (AQS) programme in 2014. Later, driven by her curiosity to see other schools and their practices, she started on her journey as an Assessor with Adhyayan.

“During a visit to a school in Arunachal Pradesh, I saw a little 7-year old boy who was completely covered with mud. He had just come back from a game of football. Back in my school whenever I saw kids soiled after sports, my reaction would, ‘What is this!’ When something looked dirty it was unacceptable. But away from my school and my world, I became more open and receptive. I kept looking at him and thought, ‘Oh wow, he has had so much fun!’

3A shift like the one Jayshree went through is one of the reasons why Adhyayan invites school teachers and leaders to join The Assessor Programme. Since then, whenever she sees a child covered in mud, Jayshree says, “Seems like you’ve had a really good game!”

A humbling experience…

In March 2016, Jayshree visited Palin, Arunachal Pradesh, to support a school through their first school review process. The first thing she found out was how far the children walked daily to attend school, in some cases as much as 5-6 km, showing true investment of time and effort to learn. Jayshree also met an alum of the school, who is now working and simultaneously helps her mother with household chores, with plans to go to the UK for further studies.

There were 90 boarders with basic provision of food, clothes and other resources at school, but this doesn’t limit them from experiencing the joys of learning – from singing class to enjoying music at the end of the day to playing with punctured football in the mud.

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“We thought we worked in an underprivileged community, but I started putting it in perspective that there are people in this country working with even fewer resources and they are still trying their best. Some of the children there are doing much better than in schools with more resources. Then what are we limited by? We acknowledge the hard work everyone puts in but we should also acknowledge and appreciate what we have and make the best use of it. It may not have to do directly with what happens in the classroom but it certainly changes the way we can look at children and how they can look at life,” says Jayshree.

Collaboration

On a visit to a school in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Jayshree met teachers who were finding it difficult to grasp how to use technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning practices. When a group of students offered their support, she observed the beginning of a collaborative relationship of mutual learning between teachers and students.

“Understanding that kids will be better at certain things than we are and then thinking about it constantly, we started exploring possibilities. For example, when it comes to making announcements, many adults may feel shy and don’t want to hold a mic, but children are not like that and love doing it. We just need to tell them and they are ready to take it on. It helps you to reflect on those things. Smaller or bigger pieces, mindshifts, changes and all those aspects, you don’t plan them, but they just come to you because of such experiences and somewhere you connect and then can apply.”

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Regular reviews for improvement

As an Assessor, Jayshree’s involvement in reviews across Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra provided different experiences. “What certainly helps you bring back learning is being open and not going with any biases. You never know what you may learn. Whatever comes, see, filter and take the best.”

Jayshree values regular reviews, underlining why Adhyayan advocates assessors’ contribution back to the school’s self-reviews: “Doing a review once helps you do certain things but doing it regularly helps you do them better. I realise that if the learning doesn’t go to the stakeholders, I may not be able to make changes I would like as a school leader in terms of taking the school forward. When we look at the school in isolation, it’s different and when we include all the stakeholders it’s different. It’s like looking in the mirror.”

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