The thirteenth issue of the Journal is in your hands. With the advent of the teen years, we editors were not sure what to expect from our young Journal. Rebellion? Or maybe mood swings? Or loud, garish earrings? To our delight, this adolescent appears to be handling the transition smoothly. Issue thirteen of the Journal is in some ways a typical thirteen-year-old: a many-sided jewel, its faces flashing exuberance, reflectiveness, practicality and maturity.
As we sat together to finalize this issue, we were transported from one world to another: a dance class in Bangalore, a government school in Tamil Nadu, a village in Turkey, and even the moon! With such variety, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the articles echoed each other in unexpected ways. In fact, this is something that happens every year, and this time we discovered that several pieces were about educating the educator in one way or another. The phrase ‘teacher as learner’ is one that rolls quickly off the tongue, but when examined closely and experienced firsthand, it represents a truly profound concept. We are too used to seeing teaching and learning as mutually exclusive categories. To break that mould takes, among other things, humility. Interestingly, while the authors make this point in gentle eloquence, the absolute and uncompromising nature of the demand comes through. O. R. Rao writes of the need to ‘clear up our inner incoherences’ while we nurture growing children: ‘Unless [teachers] themselves have attempted the task of being whole, they cannot guide another human being towards wholeness.’ Siddhartha Menon describes the subtlety involved in ‘reading a child’, drawing parallels with the way in which we read a poem for understanding and enjoyment. ‘Without this attention, ’ he says, ‘we would be lucky if our actions met the needs…of our children.’
The Editors’ piece addresses a crying need for us as adults to critically examine the everyday societal patterns we seem to accept so unquestioningly. Perhaps without our even realizing it, our silent ‘endorsement’ of certain trends may be giving our children powerful lessons for life. In a different vein, N. Venu points out that in many schools, teachers outside the classroom are as oppressed as their students are inside the classroom. When the teacher herself has more autonomy and creative responsibility, this will reflect in the classroom as well, and he suggests simple but radically new structures that may help such a shift to take place. V. Arun’s article shines with the palpable excitement of discovery in a teacher—if we are curious and wondering about why the wind blows and about the phases of the moon, surely our students will be infected with the same enthusiasm.
Other articles this year give us ideas for bringing music (Ruth Chandy) and dance (Shabari Rao) into our classes, and for giving our students the opportunity to interact closely with nature (Kanthi Phatak). R. Venkatesh removes some of the mystique associated with great teachers by giving us several important suggestions that any teacher can implement to be more effective. Two articles give us clues to supporting academic autonomy and fulfillment in our students. Keerthi Mukunda describes activities that make use of the child’s innate need to communicate meaningfully with others, and thereby improve the quality of their writing along several specified dimensions. And Tanuj Shah documents an unusual Mathematics programme for Class 5, where a combination of self-paced learning and taught modules allows the students to gain both competence and confidence.
Some stories tell of wider influences. Sumitra Gautama and Suchitra Ramakumar report on an extraordinary cooperative venture between an enterprising government and a caring school. Ashna Sen reports on a summer Mathematics programme in Turkey—more than just excellent Mathematics, the people gathered there experienced a sense of camaraderie and community that is rarely to be found.
Moving into a world of intangibles, Brian Edwards takes us on a historical exploration of envy and love, and Kabir Jaithirtha explores a profound understanding of beauty, order and freedom that goes beyond everyday meanings. An engagement with these keeps us alive and questioning. Kalpana Venugopal reiterates this need for teachers to be self-inquirers, in her essay on holistic education, bringing us full circle back to educating the educator! And finally, Stephen Smith shares with us the results of an extended dialogue with young people on ‘schooling for life’, presenting a model that beautifully echoes the sentiments of Kalpana’s article.
The contributors to this Journal are almost all teachers who have made the time to put their thoughts down on paper, so that others may share the benefits of their learning. Over the period of gathering and editing them, these articles have become familiar friends to us. We now present them to you, in the hope that you too, may enjoy them in the months to follow.