Cultivating classroom conversations to engage the next-generation students

A school teacher in Bangalore tells us how to turn a classroom into an open forum so that both students and teachers can engage in continuous learning.

Amit Anand is a Cambridge International Teacher at Deccan International School in Bengaluru, India. When he completed his tenth grade, Amit knew he wanted to be a teacher. After his post graduation in biotechnology in 2013, he worked as a college lecturer before joining Deccan International as a teacher in 2016. He insists that joining a school after teaching college was an interesting shift and a Cambridge curriculum gave him room to explore school teaching at an international level, with some concepts being on par with the standards set by universities.

This cross-functionality is something that Amit believes really makes a teacher in the twenty-first century. “The first thing I always do in my class is to listen to each and every student,” he says.

“I want to respect whatever voice comes from their side because I believe that new ideas take shape when you listen to one another. This includes me too and I know that listening is in itself a form of inquiry. This is when questions arise and ideas are cultivated.”

Gaining a student’s trust

Amit’s fundamental motto as a teacher is to gain the trust of his students. Whenever he steps into a classroom, he disciplines himself to be a good listener. “I give students the freedom to speak and to put forth their points of view,” he says. “When I do this, I notice that their confidence improves tremendously and this leads to better performance in academics. This is one of my key strategies, something I have been doing since the first day in this profession.

Maintaining an even keel

Like many other teachers who have adapted to twenty-first century teaching, Amit observes that children have access to a lot of information. This makes it important for teachers to be prepared to learn from students too. “I believe that learning is a continuous process so you cannot say that I know everything,” he says. “Today, I have learned so many things from the children in my classroom!”

Amit says that this collective freedom does come with its own responsibilities. “As a teacher, I have to inculcate twenty-first century skills among children, skills like collaboration, creativity and critical thinking,” he says. “I see videos on YouTube put together by children. I read articles written by any children or solutions suggested by them to certain problems.

I then feel, why can’t my students have the same opportunities? Our children have talent but they need the stimulus to and the right direction to put their talent to use.”

Student engagement is key

According to Amit, the biggest impact on student learning is student engagement. “I always try my best to engage the children,” he says. “It’s not that I speak and they listen. Whenever there is passive learning, students lose patience after 5 to 10 minutes and invariably lose their interest. According to me, student engagement is the biggest impact on learning.”

How does a teacher encourage active listening? Students need to participate in class as opposed to sitting and learning. It is important for students to think and reflect on their learning. They need to understand what they are learning. To do this, a teacher has to constantly engage with the students. Amit believes that this is a way to assess the student indirectly. “You can ask them questions and they will immediately give you an idea as to how much they have learned or engaged with your class,” he says. “When you are doing some activities with them, you get immediate feedback. With constant engagement, learning happens fast and it is also long-lasting. Children are actually able to retain in their mind what they are learning in the classroom. This can happen when they are asked to think of different types of outcomes or different scenarios.”

Brainstorming is another great way to engage with students. Students should constantly grapple the what, how and why of their subject matter. “They need to question constantly,” says Amit.

“If I am not wrong, around 20% of jobs won’t remain the same after 10 years. The market will see new kinds of jobs and we need to prepare children for that scenario.”

An intuitive platform certainly helps

Speaking of Callido’s resources in the classroom, Amit believes that the platform has played an important role in his teaching success. “I can use different kinds of resources,” he says.

“I am also able to help students understand and apply critical thinking with these resources. I also notice that whenever I prepare my lesson plan, I always dig up the resources available in Callido and I can include that as part of my lesson plan. Another interesting thing to note is that the platform is so friendly and well-designed that learning happens automatically. It is also intuitive so I don’t have to break my head about what to include in my lesson plan.”

Amit also highlights that the platform has a lot of content that is not subject-specific, which means that teachers teaching different subject may use the same content in different ways. He gives an example from his grade 7 classroom. “I asked my students to do some research on COVID-19, including information on how they can stop spreading it, all the work that’s been done on the vaccines and the medication. Believe me, they came up with some great solutions. I hope to have this during the next academic year too because it is important that teachers are equipped and updated. Otherwise, we are paralyzed and we cannot sustain learning. When students come to school, they have different kinds of mindset and to get them to learn from us, we need to have these kinds of resources ready.”

Amit believes that a good teacher sets off a chain reaction in student engagement and commitment. “Out of a group of 40, if you can inspire even one child then you are making a great impact on our society,” he says. “A child who is directly benefiting from you can also inspire other people. We should always try to give the right platform to the children so that they can do whatever they want to do.”

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