Pranita Lele


Roosevelt once said: “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” He forgot to add “and get away with it”. If we look at the various scandals, corruption and chaos prevailing in the world we realise that the culprits are all well educated and belong to elite schools and colleges. Is there something missing in our education system?  In daily newspapers we read stories that show an absence of self-regulation and a lack of integrity or any sense of social responsibility. We have rudderless, isolated youth drifting without any moral anchor or structure to their lives. Despite their excellent education they let themselves and society down. One can improve literacy and numeracy scores, while the moral and ethical values deteriorate over time.

It is in schools that young people find themselves as a part of a larger society, form their own opinions about political, economic, ethical, legal and scientific matters. Most of the schools post moral values on walls and reiterate the importance of values in classrooms, during assemblies, and at other school events. All good schools emphasise the importance of role models, heroes, people we look upto. Young students are told legends of great people, stories with great moral values. Moral Science and Value Education classes have a prominent place in school timetables.

Concept of value based questions in question papers of all main subjects have been introduced by various boards. There are many opportunities to teach the principles of value education through existing subjects and topics. “Values-centered” pedagogy is still considered to be a worthwhile investment.

Inside the class rooms, the physics teacher dreams about the students contributing to the future technological development. Which teacher will think that beyond the classrooms the insight of physics will come ‘in handy to break a lock’? The knowledge of chemistry helps in the field of medicine, engineering, agriculture etc. Beyond the classrooms how can a lesson of chemistry ‘end a life cleverly’? The knowledge of mathematics helped in the development of civilisations, helped in giving order to society. Math teacher would take pride in teaching analysis, reasoning and logical thinking to the students. Beyond the classrooms how did math ‘help analyse how to hack accounts and plot a clever system’?

The challenge is not simply moral literacy. There seems to be a disconnect between theory and practice. In ‘Phaedrus’ Socrates said that true learning can never happen through written words. Books cannot effectively teach anything worth knowing. They can’t clarify or reply to objections. Only through discussions and practice can true knowledge be achieved. He says ‘Reading mere words in mind is akin to looking at a lake rather than swimming in it- or worse looking at a lake and thinking that now you know how to swim’.  The child understands the values but is unable to translate this knowledge and reasoning into virtuous action. This is why there is a gap between recognising and understanding virtue, on the one hand, and performance of virtues, on the other. It reflects in small instances. Like – Will a child be honest with a teacher as to why the home work is not done? Will the child not indulge in plagiarism? Will the child not cheat in exams if left without invigilation? Will the child return the lost money found on school grounds?  Will the timid students not be bullied? Will the students admit their mistakes?

Or could it be that while icons, idols and books teach one thing, real life playing out in the world among people in positions of responsibility and trust, tread the grey zone of impropriety? When companies misstate their assets to get larger loans for their businesses, when people in leadership positions misuse power to oppress others, when those occupying responsible positions resort to lies and deceit, when one State refuses to share natural resources with a neighbouring state, when on national TV young children watch bad behaviour among those they are supposed to trust, depend on, look up to.. How can we at school talk about integrity? How does a teacher tell a child to ‘behave’ when the outside world is so ‘misbehaved’? When a school bus driver abuses in high traffic, have you seen the first look of shock on the children’s faces? That shock means, ‘but you are not supposed to use words like that!’ And the next time, they join in the fun. By the next time they have learnt the words.

Schools need to acknowledge that young people encounter difficult moral questions every day, and they want guidance. They need to recognise that no subject is morally neutral. Education is not meant to “hurt, trouble, offend “Schools teach the students to be courageous not destructive, brave but not reckless, confident but not arrogant, bold but not a bully, insightful but not antagonising, humble but not weak, have humour but without mockery. Where do things go wrong once they leave the school premises?  Trust is built in the classrooms, but broken in the marketplace… in the nebulous zone outside the school and home.

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Inside the classrooms we have classic case of students who need differentiated instructions and special attention. The subject concepts unfortunately remain ambiguous, abstract, uninteresting text book pages for such children. Their grades start falling, and they ‘appear’ to be lazy, disinterested, underachievers. .. They just meander into class, indifference written all over their face and all over their work. That should be the ‘red flag’ for the parents and the teachers.

‘Everybody is a genius but if you teach a fish to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking that it is stupid’. In the domain of education this allegory has been employed repeatedly .Children are not gizmos or widgets .Each child is unique.  Parents and teachers need to respect their uniqueness, and their individuality. Differentiation is not just the work of   teachers, but educational leaders and test designers, need to differentiate as well. Core Curriculum fails to differentiate. There is no true differentiation until and unless assessments and exams are differentiated as well. Unfortunately we have not reached that level as yet.

Performance obsession’ from the side of parents and teachers puts the students in a ‘Pressure Cooker’ syndrome. Marks do matter for admissions but in the long run who remembers these marks? Over the years when we teachers look at board marks we find some scores to be too generous, some are too mean and there is no pattern. Exam marks have to be handled with care as they do not give a full picture.. People take different routes to get to where they are. In my teaching career I have seen students achieve tremendous success in life. I do not know what makes them successful. Is it their inherent capabilities, their luck, their fate, their confidence, their family support, their degree, their hard work, or is it a combination of all. But I know for sure what does not take them to the top – marks! Marks show perseverance, tenacity, luck, structured working, but marks do not and cannot define a child.

We see youngsters who find themselves unable to fit into a world the school seemingly prepared them for.  The teacher will say,’ I followed rules.’  The System will say, ‘we followed rules’. Then who failed these youngsters in life when they leave the protected boundaries of school? Is the world outside the school so threatening? The school leaders need to give frequent feedback on academic, social, and behavioural performance of the students. Coach the student in ways to organise, plan, and execute tasks demanded daily or weekly in school. Develop a home–school communication system to share information on the student’s academic, social, and emotional behaviour.

Making good human beings through character education is not an easy one-time project. Building character is the work of a lifetime. Otherwise, how can an excellent education let the young – and society, down?

Teaching is a profession dedicated to fostering hope. With hope comes obligation and responsibility, especially when, situations are complex. Those who are in the teaching profession commit their lives to protecting young people in their care.  They will not give up hope on any child. As a profession, we have many sleepless nights. We anguish over those in our care, challenge each other on the best way forward, hope and pray that a young person makes good calls, and do all we can to develop character, impart wisdom and lead with hope. Teaching should be intended to nourish the student for his or her own sake; not just for CBSE outcomes.

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Teaching during a Pandemic: THROUGH THE EYES OF A TEACHER

These are frightening times! Uncertainty is all around us. With our minds worried about the economy, employment, infection rates, death rates finances, relationships, physical and mental health, etc. we have forgotten all about the most neglected and underpaid section of our society – The Teachers.

Yes, I am a teacher who nurtures and leads the students in their fascinating journey of discovery. With the sudden closure of schools during the COVID-19 lockdown I am also thrown off the equilibrium like many others. Schools, colleges, and universities closed overnight and suddenly I had to unlearn a lot of things and learn many more new things. How I wished there was a handbook that could provide the most pragmatic approach and crystal clear guidelines to help me navigate through this upheaval, but there was none.

Dramatic changes in Education – From pedagogy to ‘panicgogy’ when ONLINE teaching becomes the order of the day.

Technology had always intimidated me. It was never my strong point. I was more comfortable with the whiteboard, marker, and a duster. But all this changed in the blink of an eye. Online teaching was a fancy buzz word which became a reality. I found myself grappling with a laptop, trying to update myself by searching for words like “how to teach ONLINE”, “ONLINE teaching techniques, “best ONLINE teaching platforms”, and “ONLINE teaching tools”. Planning for an online class requires a lot of re-learning. Though technologically challenged I had to take the bull by its horns.

A School teacher holds online class during the Lockdown in India (Photo Credit: Educate Magis)

 Finding the right online teaching platform is just the first step. Teachers around the world wanted to know which platform to use. Is it Zoom? (Before the pandemic Zoom for me was something you did on a camera- that is change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa. Language change is a lengthy process but pandemic changed our vocabulary with surprising rapidity). What are Google Classrooms? Is that better than Zoom because it is an LMS? Now what’s an LMS? (Internet companies sure seem to like their abbreviations. They just sound so professional) what about Microsoft Teams?  How do I ensure interactive learning through several apps, such as Flipgrid, Padlet, Quizlet, Storyboard, and Pixton.

How is home school working out- What do I miss and what do I worry about

Oh, how I miss walking up and down the classroom, checking the progress in learning, and ensuring discipline. I now appear as a thumbnail on the screen. I have turned into a disembodied voice. Now parents don’t send their children to school but I have entered their homes through these online classes. Sometimes parents and guardians also sit for these online classes and judge my accent and my knowledge. This can be pretty intimidating at times.

I worry about internet connectivity. All of a sudden the screen freezes. There is a weird echo. Two dozen students stare at you when you don’t understand how to unmute the microphone.  I worry about how to keep the children attentive. I worry about how to ensure effectiveness and progress in learning? I find it interesting as well as daunting to teach students who are better versed in handling the features of Zoom and Teams than the subjects that are taught to them. I worry about the youngsters who are regressing to using the signs or emoji like the ancient cavemen. To teach them to write a proper sentence can be challenging. It is arduous to make question papers for online tests and discover a method so that students don’t cheat. Corrections have become extremely strenuous! This online shift meant lots of trial and error and I have tried my best to make peace with it.

On Line fatigue – Delays on phone or online meetings even by a few seconds make authorities perceive the responder as less focused

The familiar rhythms of school life have been disrupted. There is constant work. After the online classes, there are virtual meetings and presentations at all odd hours. This ‘online fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Can someone wake up to the fact that online meetings are more tiring than face-to-face ones? And then after the meetings, we get back to preparing for the next day’s class.

We find humour even in these difficult conditions as we need to maintain positivity and create a powerful mental health ‘safety net’

There can be some funny experiences about these online classes too. One day one of the students brought her Labrador to class and introduced the class to him…One day a student came in a full Superman costume and another day in a ninja turtle costume. One day saw a pretty girl put on makeup while using the computer as a mirror during the class… Another day a student didn’t realize her mic was on because she couldn’t hear anything and she proceeded to go on ranting about ‘this stupid sh*t’ doesn’t work!’  Once a student “forgot” to disable the mic. Everyone heard how the helicopter mother was coaching the student how to act- Sit straight, smile, pay attention. Another interesting incidence happened when a cool dude’s mic was unmuted and he started rapping but kept messing up while everyone was stifling a laugh. So just like in the classroom, distractions and disruptions are plenty

Education Boards and School Managements should shed ambiguity – Who said teachers don’t need resources, support and appreciation

The education boards also are indecisive about the curriculum and the way the content would be tested. This adds to the uncertainty. Additionally, the management of the schools can get unpredictable too during these pandemic days.  They also seem unclear about the rules and regulations that need to be adhered to once the schools reopen. All this increases the work of the teachers with little benefit to the school and the students, other than ticking boxes. The management of the schools need to ensure that they have the right hardware and good internet connectivity. They need to help the teachers to transition to virtual classrooms. Schools seem to be in a massive mode of triage.

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To add to the miseries, thousands of teachers in private unaided schools have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers have been forced to resign or pressurized to accept lower salaries or unpaid leave. The salary cut is as high as 60 to 70 percent. Teachers were never paid a good salary and now with this cut, it would be difficult for them to sustain. Online classes have increased the student-teacher ratio due to which many teachers are made redundant. These are the same loving teachers, dedicated gurus, who supported the students during these difficult times and showed them the way through this uncharted territory. Many teachers are quitting this profession. There will be a need for social distancing once the schools open completely and that would mean lesser students in each class. From where will these teachers come? Post pandemic schools will bounce back but teachers won’t.  There just aren’t enough qualified teachers so value those who are in the field.

 The world Asimov depicted has come crashing forth- An opportunity for the technophiles due to the pandemic

Isaac Asimov’s story, The Fun They Had, set in the future in the year 2155 now belongs to the pantheon of classic science fiction, filled with an elegiac nostalgia. In today’s context, though, it rings uncannily true. It first appeared in a children’s newspaper in 1951. It’s a story about two children who stumble upon a “real book”—a relic from a distant past they have never encountered before. Tom, the older one, informs the younger Margie that the book is about a school where human teachers, unlike the mechanical teachers they have at home, educate children. All their learning was at home, on a computer. They didn’t know what a human teacher was. Their mechanical teacher “taught” them and graded their responses. Children had to assemble in a building every day.

Margie wanted to know about the old schools they had when her grandfather’s grandfather was a little boy. All the kids from the whole neighbourhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of the day. They learned the same things, so they could help one another on the homework and talk about it….And the teachers were people…

The screen was lit up, and it said: “Today’s arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions. Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.”

The mechanical teacher was flashing on the screen: “When we add the fractions 1/2 and 1/4…”

Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the fun they had.

In this pandemic year, it is interesting to note the eerie resonance of Isaac Asimov’s short story “The Fun They Had,” While online classes have allowed the creation of at least a semblance of an actual classroom, the give-and-take and the personal relationships among students and between students and teachers is glaringly absent. It is common to hear a teacher who has been doing lessons online complain that a large percentage of students absent themselves, and the results of this will be dreadful. Potentially millions of students will be promoted to the next educational level without having the requisite knowledge or skills. The result will be that, by 2021, vast numbers of students will be nearly a full year behind in their knowledge and skills. Teachers of all educational levels must find ways to deal with this potentially disastrous situation.

I would love to see the students walk up the paved walkways and into their traditional classrooms where they are loved for who they are, among friends and caring teachers and whiteboards and labs and frog dissections and math equations and recesses and music and …

I would love to see all this because I love these children as my own!


The World looks brand new to me…

I was quarantined inside the womb for 9 months and now I face another quarantine in this world. My name is Ved and I am eleven months old. I have gone out of my house hardly thrice. Corona you have locked up a happy social baby!!  My Nani says this is a long, strange interlude when the world has been interrupted. It will become normal soon.

As I grow up I do not want to recoil from a firm handshake, would love to play in the mud, touch my face a hundred times, and I do not want to wash my hands every hour, I want to lick them instead like any normal baby. I don’t want to be a hygiene freak and warily eye people around me as vectors of fear and contagion. I want to prevent falling down rabbit holes filled with anxiety-spiking news. I am too small for this!!

I would not want full or even a partial ‘homeschooling’. I would want to be with the kids of my age group as adults can be a very boring company. By the way, can someone let me know if suspensions and expulsions still apply in schools? And did the high schoolers of this year get a chance to go for prom and dance for a few hours? Or did they miss that ‘rite of passage’? I want to sit in a yellow school bus with the other kids and scream ‘BUS BUDDY’ when another Yellow bus passes by.  

Baby ‘Sia’ who lives in Canada, depicts Coronavirus as a Monster

My 5-year-old sister was not too happy to stay at home during the summer vacation. She says Corona is a monster that has encircled the world with its big tail and it is making the people gasp for breath. Even the sun, moon, and the stars are crying.  She says that there is a potion called ‘Sanitisers’ that will protect us from this monster. We need to wear our masks while going out to scare this monster and chase him away.

I often wonder about the word ‘Patriotism’. Dictionaries need to change the meaning of this word and redefine it. In this COVID world, real patriotism is recognising the great work of the front line workers like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, caregivers, store clerks, utility workers. Why should we build statues of only the political leaders? Why can’t we build statues of these frontline heroes and have public holidays dedicated to them? I would want to shower flower petals on them and applaud them. Nationalism and patriotism are more about building health, education, and the good life of your country. It does not mean attacking, destroying, bombing, and blowing up someone else’s country.

11Months old Baby ‘Ved’ looks out of his apartment during Lockdown.

I would love to see airplanes flying high up in the blue sky. Would love to experience a visit to a zoo, park, restaurant, or a mall, eat ice-creams … would want to splash in a swimming pool, play soccer, go on a hike, have sunset picnics at a beach. My list is endless… and till then I look out of my window… THE WORLD LOOKS BRAND NEW TO ME…

The World looks brand new to me…

Three pigs came to a big town on a warm summer’s day…
They thought of making ‘moolah’ and build a house to stay.

They made their plans to work very hard
And build a house that was ‘Avant-Garde’

They used straws and sticks and bricks…
And they paid attention to all the fiddly bits.

Kangana Ranaut shared her photograph in Marathi Attire

They slogged and they toiled till they couldn’t labour anymore.
They worked so hard that their trotters became sore…

With beautiful curtains on the windows and carpets on the floor,
They painted the ceiling and they painted the doors,

Then early one evening came a knock on the door,
“Little Pigs, little pigs, let me come in.”

They knew it was the wolf with a bait.
As he had been all over the News headlines as of late.

They replied with a chuckle, “Not by the hair of our chinny chin chin.”
Their faces were beaming and had a wide grin

Newspapers, Magazines, TV and social media circles, this wolf guy had shaken
He was the tour de force behind “Send Migrants back Home for their Bacon,”

“Little pig, little pig won’t you let me come in?”
“No, no, no, by the hair on my chinny, chin, chin.”

“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.”

So he huffed,
And he puffed,
And he huffed,
And he puffed,
And he huffed and he puffed but it did not blow in

He scoffed at their home design…
And said he would still not resign

He reprimanded them for being pig-headed (which may be true in many senses)
And he will see to it that they are shredded


So Mr. Wolf explained that due to pigs the neighbourhood was getting spoilt
These pigs bring their culture and make so much noise

They promote illegal construction and understand no instruction
They cause so much disruption and are of no use during the election!!

I have been working on being a better person and not gobbling neighbouring friends
But these pigs always engage me in ‘war of words’ and push me over the edge

These lowly, non-entities who held no position of consequence ever in the history
Now get ‘Y-plus’ category of CRPF security by the Home Ministry

File Photo: Kangna Ranaut with her Y+ Security

They build ‘THEIR’ homes on ‘MY’ land..!!
‘MY’ blood boils with anger and this ‘I’ will not stand

‘I’ will move ‘THEM’ come what may.
If it does not work, I’ll eat ‘THEM’ as ‘THEY’ should not stay

‘THEIR’ agenda I need to stamp and completely erase
MY People’s (‘Manoos’) pride is at stake and they are my voter base

He went humming his favourite, “Dirty Paws” song
And send his army with bulldozers to demolish what he felt was wrong

Wolf is a bully who works with malice and believes in persecution…
He ignores laws and throws aside the constitution

The miffed motor mouth will lead to wolf’s Sena’s complete ‘Raut’
People around have absolutely no doubt.

Kangana Ranaut expressed her anger in this tweet-

For the wolf, this demolition was a ‘SELF-GOAL’
And the ‘SHAH’ OF POWER and ‘PAWAR’ OF ALLIANCE definitely played a big role.

Day in and day out, from their bully pulpits
TV anchors keep spreading venom through divisive debates,

The hate-filled diatribes and cheap dramatics

If we prefer to keep silent, we are equally at fault,
Just wait till they come for us and assault!!

BUT …When they come for me— there will be no one left to speak for me

(NOTE – I am not a Kangana Ranaut fan ..but still… Citizen of India.)