“You win, I win - together we all win”

March 21st, 2020, Chief Minister of Pondicherry announces that schools will remain closed from 22nd March, 2020. Amidst the busy schedule, we did have a glance at news of Wuhan deaths, and deaths in Italy and had sympathised with the situation, not even for once thinking that we would face that situation. But the nightmare and fearful situation had become a reality in India with this announcement. And we were worried about board exams! What will our children do, if the exams happen suddenly after a fortnight?, was our predominant thought.

On 22nd evening, I stood near the assembly, called my teachers and brainstormed on the situation and with each one’s understanding of the situation (akin to the 4 blind men and the elephant story) we arrived at a solution. We have to somehow keep the learning going. We could have stayed at home and hoped for our top management to come out with a solution, but we thought otherwise. After a quick call to my son doing his doctorate in the US, I understood that zoom was the only platform which was offering services free of cost and could accommodate 100 participants. Until then, I had not heard of zoom. I knew skype as we had used it for collaborative projects, zoom was practically new to me. That is when a NEW PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT in me started and I learnt how to operate and connect via ZOOM from my teachers who were technically sound and more than that, not afraid to dabble and find out more. I looked at my colleague with renewed respect, for he was turning into my guru then. I understood then, that I was handling people with so much hidden potential that have not surfaced before due to lack of scope and opportunity. COVID period was when a new tech-friendly Sugandhi was born.

This bunch of teachers who stood with me then, introduced online platforms to my colleagues and students overnight and we started our online classes on the 23rd of March 2020. We learnt how to store in cloud, how to take attendance, how to schedule a personal meeting room, how to instruct students to use a nomenclature unique to the school, and truly this was a new skill set we were all learning.

Then, the issue of zoom arose, and our parents became apprehensive. We explored all sorts of platforms and then settled on TEAMS. We, as a team, were not afraid to explore any app. I taught online during the COVID pandemic too, (I teach offline too) for the very same reason - I need to know the hardships my teachers face and to provide solutions that I have experimented with and tried myself.

I realised as I was going through the recordings of my teachers that some of my teachers were exploring more and knew which free platforms to use, more than others. There was a plethora of free platforms and apps available that could be put to use and why not learn from each other. This is when we allocated one half day of the week for professional development and in house training. So every Saturday, a 3-hour training session happened and teachers shared their knowledge in the team, whether it was technical or pedagogical.

At a glance

Exploring existing skillset in teachers

Training teachers to reach optimal potential

Using digital platforms for teacher training

Refining the educational process together

Saturdays became something we all started looking out for, either to train or get trained. The interest for training would be expressed by the teacher on Monday or the previous Saturday and the agenda would be posted along with a poster on Thursday in our WhatsApp group. The link would be shared on Friday. We used our Microsoft teams app effectively and efficiently for two purposes - Training and team building.

There is a saying that we are all Hanumans in some way or the other. We do not know our own excellence that we hold. And our minds are trained to look for blemishes not excellences (more so in teachers in general who ‘correct’ papers.)

I could see the Hanumans in my teachers who remained shooshma (microform) take bhemmaroopam (macrocosmic form) and emerge from their shell of shyness to share their knowledge with others. As they started realising how much they knew and how much they needed to know, self conceptualisation started growing in them. We, as a team, were upgrading each week, we started reading to inculcate our learnings and share the outcome with others, we, as a team, understood why we all need to be on the same page, there was a competition to learn and share, a healthy one at that, there were sessions on Whole Brain Learning, Right Brain Learning, Collaborative Learning, NLP in learning, Seven Habits in Learning, Congruential learning, Teaming up team to teach and assess better, tracking student learning, hatha yoga, Meditation, Yoga for the mind, Chakra Dhyana, the list keeps growing every week.

No COVID or any Dread, nothing stopped us from learning and trying out new things. We took the Train the Trainers sessions to our other branches and institutions. And then the spiral kept getting bigger and bigger. We used the threat as an opportunity to connect with the outer world too by hosting webinars and conferences.

Ironically, we are now thinking, if the offline opening of schools would impede this professional development. There is so much excellence lurking in the outside world that could improve us immensely albeit bit by bit. Day by Day, Every Day, We shall grow, more and more…..

Well, we have understood one thing. We, as teachers,  are here as a team to develop and grow - all with the positive intention of imparting the best to our students. As the NLP belief of excellence says, “Each person is Unique; and Map is not the territory” and there are no good choices or bad choices, one makes the BEST choice available to them at the time of making it; - We made our choice to make friends with the situation and use it to our advantage.

I bow to all the minds who nurtured us, and all the situations that made us stronger as a team.