My Teaching Story

For as long as I can remember, I have loved reading and writing. I was three when I watched older students at the daycare center reading words and sentences effortlessly. I couldn't wait to go to school and be like them. I was four when my mother prepared for her bank exams while I played quietly, trying very hard not to disturb her, and watching her in awe. I wanted to know what was in the 'fat' books. I wanted to study like her with what I couldn't name then - sincerity and concentration. My earliest games involved making fake grocery lists; I was desperate to write as fast as my grandmother: oh, how her sketch pen glided on paper!

As I grew older and entered school, my love for reading and writing evolved to include teaching and learning.  It only got more exciting as I taught every doll and pillow at home alongside my little sister, using a small blackboard in my room. I learnt everything  I ever had to learn for school by teaching an imaginary student. Teaching made learning enjoyable. 

The National Service Scheme at my engineering college gave me the perfect opportunity to teach at nearby government schools. It was the first time I experienced flow outside of reading, writing, and studying. Nothing seemed to matter for the thirty minutes when my feet were firmly planted on the classroom floor. It was clear as day: I belonged in the classroom. 

Four years later, in 2012, I found myself moving from a high-paying job in Computer Science to teaching at a school serving migrant students from urban slums in Bangalore. My teaching and learning journey ever since has been a blessing: it has been excruciatingly difficult, deeply rewarding, incredibly exciting,  and greatly enlightening, all at the same time. I continued to teach in schools that served students from low-income families for the next eight years.

I was an insufferable rookie when I began but was lucky enough to find my gurus from afar through their books, courses, and the Internet.  This time, I wanted to be like Marva Collins, Nancie AtwellDonald Graves, Glenda Bissex, and Gina Cooke among many other extraordinary teachers. My largely auto-didactic education in teaching and learning continues to this day with the help of a few supportive colleagues and a wonderful family.  

Every student I have taught has in turn taught me how to teach better. Everything I have learnt about teaching and learning has been in the context of a child. When I witnessed bullying in my class, I learnt all I could about tackling bullying. When I found my students needed better writing instruction, I immersed myself in Writing Workshop. When I discovered that 'struggling' students had learning disabilities, I began my education in what it takes to be truly inclusive. When I got the opportunity to teach 5 and 6-year-old students reading, writing and spelling, I studied everything I could about early literacy and English Orthography. Instead of pursuing formal degrees, I continue to allow the students I teach to steer the course of my education.

I don't subscribe to ready-made programs, teaching methods, curriculums, and progressions that claim to work for all children. Even parents who are fierce advocates of their children are left defenceless when they are told that a 'method' worked for 100 other children. Regardless of whether it is stated explicitly, the parents hear, "If your child is not learning, something must be wrong with him/her." 

I am interested in the 101st child. Each child's unique context and needs are at the core of every long-term plan, progression, and lesson plan I make. 

In October 2020, I took a break from the formal school system and began my private practice. I have since been lucky to teach several students with and without learning difficulties and disabilities. I partner with parents and consult with teachers and school leaders in their learning journeys with their children, students, and teachers. I write about my insights into teaching and learning.

While teaching in schools created the foundation of my teaching career, I am now enjoying the newfound freedoms of teaching and learning outside the constraints of the school system, grateful to wake up every day with the same excitement I had as the four-year-old who had waited an eternity for the first day of school.