We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience. 

-John Dewey

Corporation Girls High School & PU College, Mathikere, Bangalore

2009

Well, this doesn't count as experience, really. I was 21, still an engineering student, eager and open to experiences. I was hardly a teacher, much less a good teacher. This short stint in the classroom, however, sowed the seeds for what was to come later.  I loved the experience so much that I wanted more. 

Government Kannada Higher Primary School, Murphy Town, Ulsoor, Bangalore 

2012-2013

I was still in Netapp in 2012 when I joined Nirmaan and began to teach at the government school in Murphy Town on weekends. I taught English, Basic Math, and Science to the students of 4th and 5th standard under the guidance of Malathi ma'am, the headmistress, and Selvarani ma'am, the class teacher of 5th standard. 

This was my first introduction to long-term plans, lesson plans, classroom management, getting to know individual children, and bone-deep exhaustion. 

In that year, I organized a field trip to Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium for 50 students, established a collaborative environmental sustenance initiative at the school with ReapBenefit, raised 45,000 INR in 3 weeks for the same, organized the NetApp-Nirmaan Sports Day Event in which two other government schools in Murphy Town and 50 volunteers from NetApp participated, and was promoted to the post of Project Coordinator at Nirmaan for the school. 

I found myself wanting to bunk office to visit school during the weekdays. I learnt how much I hated field trips and fundraising, and how much I loved the classroom despite failing at teaching every weekend. When I was nominated as an Executive Committee Member for the Bangalore Chapter of Nirmaan, I turned it down because it involved work outside the classroom. This decision has guided me over the better part of the last decade to stay in the classroom despite opportunities that offer more money and power.

At the beginning of the academic year 2013-14, I knew that the classroom is where I wanted to be full-time. I resigned from Netapp and began to look for teaching opportunities. 

Parikrma Humanity Foundation, Koramangala, Bangalore

2013-2014

Without a B. Ed. degree, my opportunities were limited to under-resourced schools desperate for teachers. The year at Parikrma was without doubt the toughest year of my teaching career. I taught Science to the 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th grades. I was part of multiple school initiatives such as making the curriculum human rights friendly with the help of Amnesty International, coordinating for Science clubs (Nature club, Space club &Environment club), and being part of the Parikrma Curriculum Development Team which was involved in designing a CBSE-based curriculum for the academic year 2014-2015. 

I was lucky to meet Radha Ramaswamy from CCDC and, I began learning Theatre of the Oppressed. When crying for an hour as soon as I came home became a ritual, I learnt that teaching in difficult schools can end my teaching career even before it begins. A dear friend and colleague advised that I must go to KC Thackeray Vidya Niketan in Pune. He said that's where I can learn how to be a teacher. 

K C Thackeray Vidya Niketan, Pune

2014 to 2018

The friend was right. KCT was where I needed to be. I joined the school through the Teach For India Fellowship, and under the extraordinary leadership and guidance of my principal, Shalini Sachdev, I not only learnt how to teach, I learnt how to wrestle with my limitations, draw on my strengths, step up, step back, and do whatever it takes to ensure student learning. 

I taught English to 7th and 8th graders for four years. I also led the English cluster (English Department) for 3 years. Among myriad other things,  I piloted Akanksha Foundation's reading program, BURP (Buckle up and Read for Pleasure), piloted Riverside's Design Thinking Guide which won an I CAN award for the school, taught using TO tools, set up a reading room for students, learnt how to teach reading and writing workshop, collaborated with Reshma Valliappan for 3 years on comprehensive sex, gender, and anti-bullying education, began and maintained a class blog, served on the core team of the school, conducted Professional Development for teachers of KCT, Akanksha Foundation, and Teach for India, simplified the English assessment structure, ran an Academic Support Group for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, ran a girls support group, and used check-ins to stay on top of each individual child's needs. 

The work at KCT consumed me, gave me my teaching identity, and helped me find my voice. I had chosen my subject, my long-term goals, and my Everest. I had faced insurmountable realities and triumphed over enough to believe in myself. 

Avasara Academy, Pune

2018 to 2020

I moved to Avasara Academy in 2018 to focus on teaching reading and writing using the workshop method, but little did I know that I was going to meet and have the privilege to teach and learn from arguably the most dedicated and studious girls in India. 

With resources and support from the school, I was able to solely focus on curriculum and pedagogy like never before. In the quiet hills of Lavale, I was able to make significant contributions to the English department's library, and to middle-school curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. I collaborated with wonderful colleagues within and outside the English department and contributed as a Grade Level Team Lead for a year. 

I grew most, however, in the area of identifying students with learning difficulties and disabilities. I created a screening toolkit, screened multiple students, and wrote screening reports which helped identify the hitherto unidentified learning needs of many students. I also conducted intervention for a few of these students. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit home, I had to make the difficult decision of moving back to Mysore. 

Private Practice, Mysore

2020 to present 

Leaving the familiar school environment and settling into my new office at home was new, puzzling, and difficult in the beginning. Now, two years later, I'm proud that I have done some of the best work of my life at this very office - over Zoom and in person. 

Independent practice has opened up teaching and learning contexts and opportunities that wouldn't be possible in most school systems. I feel especially privileged to be now able to learn and teach Kannada alongside English.  It has given me the freedom to be extremely particular about teaching only a small number of students and uber-selective about the adults and projects I engage with. 

My clientele includes 

My days are invigorating. I go from teaching the direction of the letter 'J' to a 5-year-old to discussing the application of  UNCRPD to make a school inclusive to a writing conference with a teenager finding agency through the protagonist in her short story - all in a matter of hours. 

 Cover Photo from my life-changing trip to CTL, Maine