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Lessons Learned: Angelina’s Reflections on 35 Years in the Classroom

Shrimati Angelina Vinod Bhakre

Situated in the bustling Rajgurunagar neighbourhood of Pune, the Khed Taluka English Medium School is a knowledge bastion. Leading the way is the veteran teacher with more than thirty years of expertise, Shrimati Angelina Vinod Bhakre. Equipped with a Teaching Training Course credential and a passion for moulding young minds, Angelina's journey from the classroom frontier of the 1990s to national scouting is evidence of her unwavering commitment.

Come along as we explore Angelina's experiences—a voyage that goes beyond classroom walls to reveal the larger picture of education. Her insights provide us with inspiration as well as a strong sense of purpose, serving as a reminder of the transforming power that education has in forming the leaders of tomorrow.

Can you tell us more about your life, including your early career and some of the challenges you faced? 

I started my teaching career at the age of 20 while completing a Diploma in Physical Education (DP Ed), a Leader Trainer course, and a Teacher Trainer Course (TTC) course. Balancing work and family was challenging—I used to attend college after school and return home at 7 p.m. My first child was only 3 years old, and I had to leave her at home to work for two years. One of my proudest moments was when a group of my students received the prestigious Rajya Puraskar from former President Abdul Kalam, who has now become a doctor, engineer, or police officer.

Could you describe your current job roles and responsibilities? 

Currently, I serve as an assistant teacher for the primary section. I am also a Leader trainer at the national level for scout leaders.

What innovative teaching methods or projects have you implemented or observed in your classroom? 

I emphasise role modelling, phonetics, and 'learning by doing'. In the primary section, I use activities and games to enhance learning, and I've taken students out into nature for hands-on experiences.

What challenges have you encountered in your role, and how did you overcome them? 

I faced challenges with school support for camps and from higher authorities like principals. Travelling was also an issue, but I received immense support from my family and school management.

How have you adapted your teaching style to meet the diverse needs of your students? 

In rural areas where parents and children lacked education, I provided detailed explanations. Today, I use modern teaching techniques that cater to students' curiosity and involve extensive activities.

When do you reflect on your teaching practice and assess its effectiveness? 

I attend re-orientation programs every five years at the trainer's level and learn new techniques from younger teachers to continuously improve my teaching methods.

What changes have you witnessed in education over the past decades? 

Education has evolved significantly, with higher-level content now taught at secondary levels. Today's students are more curious and require in-depth explanations and engaging activities compared to previous generations.

Why do you continue to pursue continuous professional development and growth? 

I have a great passion for my students and aim to complete 50 years of teaching experience. It's crucial to stay updated with new techniques to provide better understanding and support to students.

Is it important to balance academic rigor with social and emotional support for students? 

Yes, it is essential that children receive social and emotional assistance in addition to educational training. Since their families don't always provide emotional support, students may look to their teachers or peers for help. These days, teachers also help students overcome financial difficulties by helping them locate scholarships for better college possibilities or putting them in touch with NGOs for part-time work options. Realising that each student is different and needs comprehensive help outside of the classroom is crucial. Students need emotional support, especially during difficult times like the pandemic, where emotional well-being is as important as academic success.

What is your opinion on Physical Education?

Physical education is important for more than just physical fitness. Students benefit from it by developing their leadership abilities, creativity, critical thinking, cooperation, and respect for others. Students practise and acquire vital principles that are not typically taught in the classroom through activities such as leadership exercises, collaborative challenges, and other physical activities. These activities also help students learn significant life lessons. Furthermore, physical education improves mental health by giving children a constructive way to release tension and by assisting them in realising how facing physical obstacles may lead to personal development.

How do you view the rise of esports and its impact on students, especially during the pandemic?

Esports have grown in popularity, especially since the pandemic when students started using computer games for social connection and amusement. Even while playing video games can be fun, playing them too much might be bad for kids' mental health and amount of physical activity. In order to strike a balance, parents and educators can encourage more physically demanding hobbies like football or dancing, which foster social connection and collaboration in addition to good physical fitness. It is the responsibility of parents to steer their children toward physically and mentally stimulating activities such as dance, yoga, or karate. Avoiding an excessive dependence on screen-based activities is crucial as it may result in less time spent outside, restricted development of motor skills, and a detachment from the natural world. Promoting outdoor games, hiking, and trekking can help pupils develop their motor abilities and promote holistic growth.

Angelina's observations shed light on how education is changing, showing how creative, technology-driven approaches are replacing more conventional ones. Her time at Pune's Khed Taluka English Medium School gave her a deep appreciation for education's wider benefits outside of the classroom.

Her experience emphasises how important educators are in forming the next generation of leaders. Think about the ways in which Angelina's experiences speak to you as you analyse her path. Do you think that comprehensive assistance and ongoing development are important in education? As we reflect on the changing educational system, fueled by liberal reforms and technological advancements, we must continue to celebrate and support dedicated teachers who remain at the heart of this transformation. How can we further empower and equip educators like Angelina to navigate these changes and continue making a profound impact on the lives of their students?

What additional measures can be taken to enhance professional development opportunities for teachers and ensure they have the resources needed to thrive in a dynamic educational landscape? Let's continue to explore these questions to ensure that every student receives the best possible education, guided by passionate and committed teachers.

Written by Nuzba Shaikh

Nuzba wrote this article as a participant of the Media-Makers Fellowship's April'24 cohort.

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