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SHIKSHANTAR
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Best School in Gurgaon, Shikshantar School

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Teacher Development Programme

Kailash Ji

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सधर्म का अभ्यास कैसे करें- कैलाश चन्द्र बौद्ध

हाल ही में शिक्षांतर स्कूल में कैलाशजी आये। हम सभी दीदी भैया के साथ उन्होंने वार्तालाप किया । कैलाशजी परम पावन दलाई लामा जी के आधिकारिक हिंदी अनुवादक हैं। वे १६ वर्ष की लम्बी अवधि के रीमे गेशे उपाधि हेतु बौद्ध दर्शन का अध्ययन भी कर रहे हैं।

बहुत ही सरल भाषा में बात करते हुए, कैलाशजी ने हम सभी में वे भाव जागरूक किये, जो हम सब के अदरं कहीं दब गए हैं। या यूँ कहिये की हम जानते हुए भी उनसे अनजान रहना चाहते हैं। उन्होंने ये कहा कि हम सब शिक्षित हैं पर प्रशिक्षित नहीं हैं। इसी पंक्ति पर गौर डालते हुए उन्होंने कई उदाहरण दिए। जैसे हम सब जानते हैं कि, मूंगफली खरीदते वक्त २-४ मूंगफली यूँही जब हम ले लेते हैं, उन पर हमारा कोई हक़ नहीं है और ये एक किस्म की चोरी ही है। हम कई बार अपने दिमाग में किसी दूसरे के प्रति धारणा बना लेते हैं और क्रोध, ईर्ष्या के भाव से उन से पेश आते हैं। इसे भी उन्होंने एक किस्म की अप्रशिक्षता बतलाई।

हमारेस्कूल के सपोर्ट स्टाफ - गार्ड्स, हाउसकीपिगं , हेल्पर दीदी भैया को इस सेशन में बहुत आनंद आया क्यंकिू कैलाशजी हिंदी भाषा और सरल शब्दों का प्रयोग करके बात कर रहे थे। अपने आप पर निरंतर कार्य करने का प्रण लेते हुए, सभी उपस्थित लोगों ने ये महससू किया कि कैलाशजी हमारे स्कूल अक्सर आकर अपनी सच्ची व सरल बातें समय समय पर बांटते रहें।

Ven Damdul-Parents

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Shikshantar school was graced with the presence of Venerable Geshe Dorji Damdul, Director of Tibet House, the Delhi-based cultural center of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on a late afternoon of 27th October ’23. Geshe La holds an interest in varied topics related to science and philosophy, secularism and Buddhist philosophy, motivating him to co-author books on related topics sharing his knowledge and wisdom with the wide world.

Geshe La began his talk by first appreciating the school and its team for creating a space where children could express themselves with ease and comfort at all times. He spoke about the role played by facilitators, who are like parents nurturing ‘Little Buddhas.’ Geshe La elaborated on the qualities that will help children bring about a difference in the world- Good education - that which educates the heart and the mind Integrity Compassion

When talking about compassion that comes with integrity, Geshe La widened the scope of its practice to include all life forms. Addressing everyday situations in which we tend to override ‘integrity’ and ‘compassion’, he gave the example of when we boil pasta and then drain off the excess hot boiling water into the sink, thereby showing no compassion for the small mites that inhabit the area.

Geshe La offered practical tips to situations faced by teachers and parents alike. He spoke about school as a ‘temple of generosity’ in different forms - Of material resources Of affection and love Of protection Of advice and guidance

In a world where each individual is surrounded with abundant material resources, practicing generosity would mean guiding children to develop a large heart and share their resources with all. ‘Generosity of love and affection’, he said, is about creating an interpersonal space that allows change, trust and respect for each other, ‘protection’ is working towards lifting the ‘mind and the heart’. Finally, and gently he advised on allowing children to ask questions, on being considerate, shower love and affection and give them space. He also warned us all against being ‘helicopter moms’

While answering questions from parents on dealing with differences in level of intellect among children or dealing with situations when children feel socially left out Geshe La shared that children are like ‘rockets’ who need precision in terms of love and guidance to stay on track through their journey of growth. When asked for suggestions to help a ‘gifted child’ who very often feels socially lonely, Geshe La showed another way of looking at this exclusion - he said that the gifted persons are amongst us to fulfill a larger purpose in life for which they need to focus on their energies.

The entire session was an opportunity for each member of the audience to descend to the essence of being a compassionate human being with integrity and values interdependence. There was food for thought and a reflection on one’s practices as a kind and compassionate individual in all situations.
Geshe La’s wealth of knowledge and wisdom, shared through practical doable tasks, resonated with the school's philosophy and practice of nurturing simple authentic relationships with every living form around.

Teachers’ Day Celebration

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A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils. —Ever Garrison

At Shikshantar Teachers day was celebrated in a ‘large circle time’ with all of us reflecting on all that we are grateful for in our lives. The simple joys of childhood and growing up years, the wonder and curiosity that children bring in our lives and the ability to reflect each day and set new goals with pure intent and warmth.

The facilitators immersed themselves in the activity of giving final touch to large and intricate rangoli designs using fallen/ fresh flowers, flower petals, and fallen leaves. The significance lies in remembering and being grateful for a student, a colleague, a mentor, a parent, or some experiences in our learning journeys as an educator.

It was a day of heartwarming experiences, especially listening to our resource person and a parent - Major Mohammad Ali Shah who kept us spellbound with his theatrical style of poetry recitation in English, Urdu, and Hindi of poems by Rudyard Kipling, Ogden Nash, Khalil Gibran, Zauq and Sohan Lal Dwivedi with genre ranging from human wisdom and depth to a child's world view and life’s learnings through love.

Then came Hemant Bhaiya, our very own first music facilitator at Shikshantar who took us through the beautiful journey of writing, creating, and giving music to songs together with children. He talked about the original intent of creating music in Shikshantar and how when children are given a chance to identify rhythm in nature and around them, music is created. We sang songs with tunes created at Shikshantar – ‘Ek beej chota sa…’, ‘Incy Wincy spider…’ and many more.

Teachers Day celebration at Shikshantar is more than just another day of celebration. On this day we take an opportunity to reflect on the bonds we make each day with children. At the core, the day is a reminder about the spirit of learning with and from each other. The day closed with our reflection on how teachers are like flower blossoms, adapting to the environmental conditions of each new year, blossoming by connecting with their students and reflecting and perfecting on their own work.

Taking care of our well being as adults in the lives of children

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After a restful summer break, didis and bhaiyas reconnected with renewed energy in a collective circle time on 3rd July 2023, a customary practice at Shikshantar. We always begin with a new thought to learn from the experienced practitioners outside Shikshantar as change makers. The day started with an absorbing and engaging session with Dr. Shelja Sen, a narrative therapist, and co - founder of Children First. As professionals working with children, it is crucial to understand how our own well-being plays a significant role in our ability to support children effectively.With conscious self-care we can stay calm in stressful situations.

During the session Dr. Shelija compared facilitators to a ‘Prism’ whose role is to catch the spark in each child and turn it into a ‘Rainbow’. We believe that when we look after ourselves our children get the best version of us. Dr Shelija's thoughts resonated with ours that often “The way we talk becomes the inner voice of our children and what we talk becomes their life stories.” Further into the session, the team shared the struggles each one faces as an adult in the lives of children. The team came up with genuine concerns like - “one feels emotionally unsettled if we cannot identify the stress in a child's day routine”, or “taking care of children both at the workplace and home can be taxing and overwhelming” and many more.

The suggestions led to a realization about the importance of self-regulation, referring to our ability to manage our emotions, thoughts and behaviour in a way that is adaptive and promotes positive outcomes. She went on to discuss in detail how a teacher's journey is like a ‘courage journey of life’. COURAGE being an acronym where each word expresses the steps in the journey to support the children to follow their dreams and at the same time stay in control of our emotions. As German forester Peter Wohlleben says, “A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it", laying stress on the culture of ‘collective care’. What we focus on, always grows. Therefore, staying positive will create positivity around us keeping an eye on the storm within. The takeaway was, to keep the P.Q.- Playful Quotient alive in all of us as adults in the lives of children.Emotions are contagious - true even for little ones who haven’t yet learned language – in fact, their experiences of the world often reflect ours. Our emotional well-being, therefore, has a direct impact on our children.

Venerable Geshe Legtsok

In continuation of the Buddhist teachings at Shikshantar, Venerable Geshe Tenzin Legtsok blessed us with his presence and wisdom through a Dharma talk on ‘Interdependence and Compassion in Education.’ A Buddhist monk, Venerable Geshe Legtsok was conferred with the title of Geshe in January 2023 by Sera Jey Monastic University in South India. He has studied classic Indian Buddhist treatises and their Tibetan commentaries in the tradition of ancient Nalanda University. He is in the nineteenth year of Buddhist studies. Venerable Geshe Legtsok was ordained by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in 2001. For the past ten years he has tried to make basic Buddhist teachings accessible to various audiences in India and the US through lectures, essays, and instructions for meditation.

It was a packed audience of our school team and many school parents. There was absolute calm in the AV room called ‘Vajah Bevajah’. Venerable Geshe Legtsok enlightened us about how our existence depends on our interactions with others and is interdependent on the exposures and attitude towards life. Venerable shared that our minds are a clean slate and we are in an ever changing dynamic state, like plants that absorb and grow with exposure from our environment. We should always aspire for compassion and look to the ‘future’ to do things better. We as educators have to look at the child as a whole whose development is interdependent on the balance between her body and mind.

Venerable highlighted that we have a kind of interdependence on children too. We should be grateful and thankful to our children and students for having given us the opportunity to learn and be role models they can look up to. Interdependence and compassion in education helps us to understand that each child is different and unique. We as educators need to put ourselves in their shoes to realize that children often know what we as adults know simply because of purity and honesty of minds.Venerable spoke about making learning a two way process - we learn by ourselves, we learn from our peers and learn from each other all the time .We as parents and facilitators have to be like a friend to the children. If we are friendly as teachers and parents, children would be more happy and willing to learn from our experiences.

Facilitators and parents came up with thoughts and questions like- If we ponder too much to analyze our emotions, there is a fear of negative feelings getting magnified rather than ceasing. Also, How to manage that moment of anger with the children? Venerable Geshe Legtsok proposed that there are different strategies to deal with emotions like- ‘Do not think at all especially if it disturbs you.’ He also suggested that sometimes, ‘We have to think just enough to recognise the destructive thoughts and try deleting them from our minds.’ We have to keep trying to be better. As Buddha said, ‘It is inevitable that drops of water falling in the pot will eventually fill the pot’, it is therefore important to take pragmatic steps for the future. He closed the session with advice to all “Look at the future and you will make a difference. Make a lesson plan to understand situations that trigger anger and have a path for yourself to deal with them.Take small steps.”

Session on Education for sustainable development - Mr. Vimlendu.K. Jha Friday, 6th January 2023

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After the winter vacation, didis and bhaiyas reconnected with renewed energy in a collective circle time, a customary practice at Shikshantar. .

Nurturing, care and love for mother Earth is an intrinsic part of our curricular experiences for children at all age groups . We began the day with a thought provoking and immersive session by Mr. Vimlendu.K. Jha. A true environmentalist who closely works with children,the change makers of tomorrow.

Education for Sustainable Development empowers learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity.

During an interactive sessions with the members of Shikshantar family, he discussed how the problems of today- Sinking of an entire village in Uttrakhand, landslides, pollution of rivers leading to water and food scarcity, climate change etc are closely linked to excess consumption of resources like food, water and continuous demand by humankind for urbanisation and comfort. What we consume may be our individual need but the waste produced impacts the community and in turn our ‘mother earth’.

The take away was how we should continue to involve the children of today in simple activities like ‘knowing what goes in your dustbin’ or ‘first hand experience of reaching the root causes that pollute our rivers. We plan to make them more impactful. All of us felt more determined from within to reach out with our learners to isolated communities for sustainable development and universal access to basic services for all.

He laid stress on the fact that , “We are many but the Earth is One, there is no plan B.” It is important to map our resources and work collectively at the community level in a Public- private partnership.

Induction Programme 2022-23

Teacher support and development is considered to be the backbone of the work at Shikshantar. For a teacher to be effective, it is important that we recognize the factors that permit teachers to perform their roles effectively and those that do not.
Careful selection of trained teachers is followed by a strong teacher development and support programme. A well-designed in-service training programme provides opportunities for teachers to
• be informed about the latest research findings in education
• be in touch with their inner self and professional development
• develop interpersonal skills necessary for meaningful interaction with school-age children
• learn from the strengths of experienced teachers in schools in India and abroad
• upgrade their skills and knowledge levels as teachers of an integrated educational curriculum
To address the needs of the teachers at Shikshantar, members of the core team regularly conduct training and professional support workshops. In addition, workshops are also conducted by resource persons from accomplished schools of learning and universities of higher education. Intense in-service workshops are conducted around each vacation of the school calendar. These are supported by fortnightly workshops where everyday situations are discussed, analysed and resolved to create enriching environments for both teachers and the children.

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Teacher Development Programme - Induction 2022 - 23
“Your legs will get tired. Then comes a moment of feeling the WINGS you’ve grown.”
- Rumi

Induction Programme – 2022- 23 has been a celebration of coming together in the physical space. An opportunity for exchange of thoughts, reflections, ideas, and insights into the quest for self-development. An opportunity to deepen and renew connections with vital principles that hold up Shikshantar philosophy and progressive education.

A facilitator in Shikshantar establishes her first connect with the school through a walk in the school premises, absorbing the surroundings, understanding how every space contributes to enhancing the learning experiences of children. Thereafter there are days of making observations in classrooms, interactions with supervisors to share experiences and seek clarity. This is how they also build their initial linkages with the school philosophy and practices.

The teacher training programme in Shikshantar is an ongoing process, Induction Programme is a step in a continuum of professional learning for teachers. It empowers teachers to create an effective ‘teaching learning environment’ and at the same time evolve as an individual. This year 25 team members were part of the Induction Programme. A well thought out plan was created taking inputs from the supervisory team members and the core team members. A holistic development of teachers is a pre requisite for the holistic development of children. Sessions were spread over the months of May and June.

Sessions included educational philosophies and work of educators and thinkers such as Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, Lilian Katz, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. There was an intensive planning and preparation for the facilitation of all sessions. Models for facilitation of sessions included sharing of classroom experiences, interactive discussions, reflective group work, case vignettes and power point presentations which reflected the application of theories and philosophies in classrooms. Children’s anecdotes and observations shared by the facilitators helped in widening the understanding.

As the programme progressed, teachers were able to analyse and draw linkages between different philosophies and their application in classrooms. What are the natural movements and changes which children go through as they move through different developmental stages, how can we address their needs through the curriculum and enable a sensitive and inclusive learning environment? As some of them shared, “There has been a process of deep thinking and rebuilding
ourselves.” “I feel peaceful and evolved at the same time.”

Case vignettes were drawn from within the school context. Team members were divided into groups to reflect on the diversity of learners in the classroom and deliberate on questions such as
‘Where is the child?’, ‘What should be the learning goals for the child?’

Teachers were completely immersed during the soulful experience of “Awakening the Psychic”, it evoked their spontaneous and intuitive self, “I feel I am a rainbow and that the colours make me
happy and free.” “I connect with myself when I am in the hills, there is greenery all around and the sky is blue and clear.” “I connect with myself when I sit near the water and close my eyes. The water washes away all the negativity and I continue to flow.” Feelings, emotions and hidden memories found their forms through strokes of brushes and colours as soothing music played and calmed the senses.

Art, music and yoga sessions were organised, and teachers created an understanding of their integration in the curriculum. They went through hands on experiences such as project work and later made presentations around project work for a week.

The outcome of the Induction Programme was the development of the mental, vital and physical Being of all team members and awakening of their inner worlds. It has also led to the expansion of our community of thinking and feeling individuals.

According to some of the team members, “Induction Programme has helped me grow as a person, brought maturity in understanding relationships, learning processes and connecting with my own self.” “We feel more empowered and ready to work with children, have more clarity regarding how to respond to situation

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‘Literature in Action- Impact of Stories’ session with Paro Anand on 8th January 2022

After the winter vacation, didis and bhaiyas of Shikshantar virtually reconnected with renewed energies in a collective Circle Time; a customary practice in Shikshantar. What better than Stories! Stories are closely embedded in our curricular experiences for children at various ages. An engaging session with Paro Didi ‘Literature in Action- Impact of Stories’ widened mind sets with exchange of perspectives, listening to stories and reflecting on our experiences.

Paro didi shared her own story and journey as a writer, stories behind the books authored by her, the impacts of stories on the minds of the children, adults and their responses. Importance of exposure to stories on real situations and topics closer to children’s context to provoke a closer thought, understanding and discussion. Providing a non-judgmental and space of trust for children to relate and respond; observing their responses through their questions and body language.

Creating opportunities for children to choose books that they connect with. Enabling young minds to question and think beyond…Paro didi read aloud excerpts from few of her interesting books such as ‘The Other’, ‘NomadsLand,’ ‘Like Smoke’, ‘Being Gandhi’ and ‘Unmasked’. Stirring deep emotions and reflections, stimulating the impact of stories with her remarkable story narration.

She also inspired us with her initiatives to reach out to children with limited exposure to books. A Bal Sahitya Puraskar winner, Paro Anand is an Indian author of books for children and adults including novels, short stories and plays. She is also a part of Shikshantar’s Governing Council.