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A school that creates a culture where students are confident and hungry for change is doing its job…

“What I’ve learnt is that the school of the future is less about technology or technology at all; it’s about how we leverage the realities of the world. I think future schools need to build off the reality that exists”, says Anthony Salcito, VP, Worldwide Education, Microsoft

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At Bett Asia 2017, Anthony Salcito, VP, Worldwide Education, Microsoft, tells Ravi Santlani that a school that creates a culture where students are confident and hungry for change is doing its job, immaterial of Wi-Fi connectivity or computers.

Exciting times for Worldwide Education at Microsoft, as their foundational approach called Microsoft Flagship Schools will be launched mid-January at the Educational Forum in the UK. “We would be putting a Microsoft manager who would work through methodology and education transformational framework to make sure there is a great school. It’s not a commitment to use Microsoft technology and tools. There has never really been this global collaboration around new school design. We are building architectural blue prints and we will do research consistently across the schools,” says Anthony Salcito, who drives the worldwide execution of Microsoft’s vision for education.

Given Microsoft’s great relationships with governments around the world, preliminary conversations about this school concept have already occurred. “There is tremendous interest in it because our approach has been far more outcome-focused,” he points out. “The way in which data is used in schools today is not nearly what it should be. So we are trying to push the thinking. We would love to get involved in India with that concept and just figure it out.”

Shedding more light on the Flagship Schools he adds, “We are already in production with this. The plan, by the time we launch it, is to have some partners who are already committed. I would say that we would be in the range of 20 to 100 schools that we would have signed up with globally. We think we will be able to save in terms of energy, efficiency, effective management and also other resources like training across the world.”

As part of the company’s mission to empower educators and inspire students to achieve more, one of the things Microsoft seeks to achieve is to create the right thinking around how learning can be effectively transformed. “We increasingly recognise the opportunities for schools to leverage not only this new world of learning that exists fuelled by technology, but to do so in a world that has a new paradigm as a release to employability. So we have to not only support that change but be thoughtful as to how Microsoft can best serve partners and the technology we build.

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“The first thing we want to do is to deepen the connection of partnership with schools and educators,” he explains. “We consider ourselves successful when we can evidence the real advancement in outcomes. I’d much rather put technology to work to make kids more excited about learning and more effective in their development of skills and development of tools that will help them be employable in the future. We are here to celebrate educators and support, train and help develop school leaders for the change and serve the needs of students.”

Speaking of the role that technology plays in building critical skills for the modern global workplace, he points out, “The first thing to know is the way in which learning is shaped and has changed the dynamics of a classroom. The historical paradigm of learning is connected based on a limitation of content. The reality was there was a certain amount of books and materials to learn, resources from the classroom or educator. What you have now is a different paradigm of learning where limitation on content, time and place are no longer there. It creates an opportunity for educators to bridge the skills of the workplace in pedagogy. We can work more together on projects to bring new ideas into classrooms, like flip classroom methodologies or learning outside the space of the school and creating not only a new way to think about technology but also reinforce the way in which we work. This new approach to learning is very much connected to the skills that we need in the workplace.”

Discussing how the digital transformation of learning has changed education and improved lives, he avers, “I still think we are transforming in education. The work that we have done up until now, has been to largely bring technology to automate the experience for making learning more easy and efficient. I do believe some things have made the world a better place already; the ability to connect globally, share ideas and to learn about cultures. We have insight to make the world seem smaller because we are more connected digitally. We have a wealth of content that’s available now. The amount of resources available to extend learning is absolutely amazing and can make learning more immersive and rich. But I think the next shift is to really improve quality of life where technology not only connects to a life-long journey for a student or person’s development but also from a learning stand point. We are using data insight about student preference, career aspirations, accessibility needs, etc. to fuel a unique and personal learning path. When you do that you not only gain better outcomes, you can improve quality of life for all people.”

He avers that one of the best features of the Microsoft showcase schools program around the world is how it has been modified to suit the dynamics of different regions. “It’s entirely not one size fits all, whether it’s in the same country or globally because the showcase school is not about Microsoft technology or technology at all, but it’s the thinking that goes into driving innovation. Great showcase schools are attuned to the needs of their community, their constituents, their educators, students, the employers in that country… We love that about our showcase schools. The showcase schools have given us tremendous insight, they inform us to be better at delivering technology. We always say that the showcase schools are just the beginning of what we need. We need to make every other school get to their level and we need to also challenge going forward. Showcase schools are helpful for us because that’s where we can invest the most to push the next boundary. We want to continue to accelerate. Showcase schools gives us an audience of schools that are open to change, innovative leadership and are pushing the boundaries of what exist today. Those give us a great place to continue to challenge ourselves of what’s possible to fuel innovation for the next generation of showcase schools.”

Regarding India, the standout point for him is passion of the leaders and the consistency, from the leader to the individual students and teachers. “I was in a showcase school in New Delhi and was greeted by a student who gave me the tour of the school. Students share the thinking and vision. I was asked questions: Why we are doing this. What is the design philosophy? What’s the change? I articulated the leaders’ vision of why they were doing certain things, where they were making investments in technology etc. I had a meeting with the school’s headmaster and the language was exactly the same, the feedback was shared etc. I then talked to teachers, they were on board. It’s amazing to see that kind of thread,” he marvels.

Yet the challenges are constant, more so when it comes to creating the schools of the future in countries that struggle with basic quality of life… “The challenge, I would say, is that when you think about the school of the future, the first thing you think about is the amazing technologies that are put in place to build something that’s modern using technology thoughtfully. For some schools connectivity or budget seems difficult. What I’ve learnt is that the school of the future is less about technology or technology at all; it’s about how we leverage the realities of the world. I think future schools need to build off the reality that exists.

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“If you can see the school as the hub to ignite a student on a path, that’s great!” he maintains. “A future school that does that – whether they are using technology or not – I think that’s where we are. So I would say to those communities with low budgets, ‘Does your school accelerate a student’s interest in the work that they are doing? Does it inspire their passion? Does it remove fear/ limitations? Does it remove lack of confidence?’ If you can have a school that creates a culture where students are confident, ambitious, and hungry for change then it is doing its job, whether there are light switches, Wi-Fi connectivity or a computer. I think that every learning space needs to be that way.”

It is encouraging to hear his thoughts on India, with regards to the STEM and science agenda across the country. “I think India has been driving a lot of thinking. There has been a lot of push and thought leadership about transforming in India as well as a very good STEM graduation rate. Other countries will be envious of what India is doing and that is reflective of the technology shift that has happened in India. So what we want to do is increasingly grow that to drive better entrepreneurship and have better gender balance across the technology careers. So, in many ways, I want India to continue being successful in the motion and drive leadership that we can share with other countries, build methodologies and models that other countries can leverage because a lot of the things that India has been doing are something other countries should be striving for.”

Salcito has often reiterated that despite the dominance of technology, educators will forever be the heroes of classrooms. Where does this belief stem from?

“Fundamentally, the role of a teacher will – and has already changed,” he explains, adding, “But I think that role enhances their value. The way in which I look at educators is historically because of the limitations of the places to learn and what to learn from. The teacher has had to play the role of a translator of learning material into a student’s brain or mind. Increasingly though, because of the prevalence of digital content for students to learn, teachers have to inspire and nurture a student along a journey. I see that role being far more strategic, important and impactful. The need for amazing innovative teachers is higher than ever before. So, despite the perception that technology will actually reduce the need for teachers, the opposite is true. Technology has expanded the potential for learning, pedagogy, personalisation and learning styles. So we need better and more innovative teachers to drive that change.”

The tech-driven education scenario also throws up several challenges for educators, which they need to keep pace with. “We need to shift the language of a school, shift the environment and uplift a student’s interest in using the school as a platform for their future. When you start with – ‘How am I going to get the most from every child? How do I inspire students to want to learn more? How do I give students the opportunities to overcome obstacles?’… In some of those answers you’re going to have computers and technology but that shift of paradigm is what brings success. What we need to do for teachers at this time is to celebrate their role, to increasingly believe that they have an important role in the future of learning, to encourage them, to be confident, to challenge innovations and status quo and have leaders who can create and nurture that in their schools. I think the problem is we have been pushing most of the focus on teachers and, from my experience, teachers are not the problem. We need to support and celebrate teachers, provide more help and support for training of school leaders around the world.

He ends with discussing the role that Artificial Intelligence will play in disruption, along with Mixed Reality. “Mixed Reality is a mix of augmented and virtual reality that creates immersive learning experiences that are important. Artificial intelligence is something completely different. You are actually improving the learning environment and giving students different content experiences that will be fuelled by AI. So AI is going to provide the orchestration of everything we know about a student, all their content and calendar, all the peers that they engage with. AI is definitely the catalyst for change that we are going to see in classrooms.”

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This interview features in our December 2017 issue.

Inspiration

This Young Woman From A Tribal Village Is Teaching The Children While Schools Are Closed

The only graduate of a Tamil Nadu village has volunteered to teach the children of the village while the pandemic persists

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Where the digital network failed these tribal children in the southern part of India, their own stood to support them. Sandhya volunteers in teaching the kids of her village, Chinnampathy in Tamil Nadu. She is a graduate of B.Com, she is the only person from her village to have graduated college. Sandhya told India Today, “If it rains, we can’t go to school. We only have one bus to our village and so after a certain age, people drop out of school.”

Having gone through struggles herself, Sandhya knows how important a teacher and school is for growing children. So she volunteered to teach the children by herself, so they don’t lag behind due to school closure. Sandhya said "When I was a child, I had no one to help me study. These children here have me to help them study."

One must ask the children from a remote rural or economically backward area, how it feels to not have the proper learning opportunities. The pandemic took more than the ability to roam about freely, it snatched away the ability to go to school for children on a global level. While it is easier for families with better income to support their child’s online learning, most rural and financially challenged families are struggling.

The Indian government did start many projects for such students, but even learning via a television channel or free online course needs some basic gadgets and network connection. Many remote villages, like the tribal village, Chinnampathy, can not find enough network strength to have their children sit in front of a television and learn via the education channels. 

On being asked how her classes are enduring she said, “The children come and ask me very freely all their doubt and they are not afraid of me. I see these children learning well and answering all the questions when I ask them.”

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Youth like Sandhya, who appreciate and signifies the work educators do and want to help the cause, are the future of the education sector!

 

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Inspiration

Gujarat Teacher Finds Television Sets For His Students During No-School

This teacher from Dahod, Gujarat got old television sets and had them repaired for his students to be able to learn during schools are closed

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The digital divide is affecting education all around the world, especially now when the pandemic makes it mandatory for children to stay home and learn online. Many projects by the Indian government have begun to help children from rural and economically challenged backgrounds to learn through television. But what if families can not afford a television set, should such children be left behind? No, Ravindra Prajapati, an assistant teacher from Dahod, was determined to not let his students suffer.

At Dablara Primary School in Fatepura taluka, Gujarat, students could not attend school due to lockdown and were unable to learn online since most families do not own television sets. Prajapati did not accept this and set out to find some TV sets for his students. He appealed to many Whatsapp groups expressing the condition of education and requesting donation of unused television sets, disc-antennas and receivers. 

Soon after his appeal to the general public, he received five TV sets and seven disc-antennas. He asked a television repairman in Sukhsar to repair those TV sets that didn’t work. These were set up at different locations and those who had televisions were provided with receivers and antennas to complete the set. Prajapati said, “At least five students and a maximum of 12 students now study at seven locations using these televisions. In two places where there were TVs but no antennas and receivers, we provided only antennas and receivers.”

The officials of the education ministry have been appreciating Prajapati for his noble attempt to begin bridging the digital gap. Dahod District Education Officer (DEO) Mayur Parekh said, “The effort is what can inspire other teachers as well. If others start making such changes, education will definitely start improving.”

 

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Source Credit: TOI

*The image used is for representation purpose only.

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Inspiration

Letter From This Karnataka Teacher Cheered Her Students During Lockdown

Geetha wrote letters to her students expressing how much she misses them also inquired about their health and academics

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The art of letter writing feels so real and personal by unfortunately it has fallen in the last couple of decades. Though Geetha K H had a different idea in mind, she wrote letters to her students to boost their morale. Having spent 10+ years in the same school, Geetha is one of the two teachers at the Government Primary School in Yalagudige village, Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka. The school has sixteen students from grades 1 to 5, who are stuck at home since the lockdown began in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

Only recently, the children lept with joy at the mail each of them received. A letter in their name by their beloved teacher, Geetha miss. She told Deccan Herald, “It’s been almost a year since I met my students. I had decided to surprise them with the letters when they are off the school and write individual letters to all my students checking their health and also congratulating them for being promoted to next grade.”

She also conveyed her wishes to their families, asked her students to follow covid practices and suggested using the gadgets only for academic purposes. She told them how much she misses them and how special they are to her. In the letters, she also dropped her number and instructed the children to call her if they needed any help, supervision in studies or just felt like talking.

In response, Geetha received 10 letters from her students, clearly, her happiness knew no bounds. Her efforts go beyond plain academia, being present for her students in a manner that uplifts their emotional well being is what every teacher wishes for. Geetha is getting much love on social media and Secondary Education Minister, Suresh Kumar also appreciated her. 

Educators like Geetha are the reason, students today are able to keep their emotional and mental stress in check in the current unprecedented times!

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Pune ZP School Educator Is Determined To Teach Instead Of The Adverse Conditions

This teacher found some ‘out of school’ children working in a nearby sugarcane field, she decided to not see a child go uneducated under her watch

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Rohini Lokhande has been a Zilla Parishad (ZP) school teacher at Nandor in Maharashtra for over three years. She brought the children of the nearby sugarcane field workers to the school soon after she began teaching at ZP. Even today when the world is facing a pandemic and the education field is suffering gravely, Lokhande is keeping strong and trying to keep the learning going for these children. 

When she initially joined the school she realised there were sugarcane fields nearby that had makeshift houses for the workers who would migrate there. The children of these workers would also work in the fields with their parents. Being a teacher, she could not imagine a child ‘out of school’ and not being able to study. She held surveys with help of her ZP school students and had these kids admitted to the school. They used education guarantee card to make sure there was no hindrance in the enrolling process due to lack of appropriate papers. 

The worker families would usually leave the area during monsoons, but some started staying back to ensure their children’s education. However, last year when the pandemic hit and the world went under lockdown so did the ZP school. Lokhande told TOI, “The lockdown meant that many of the students, who had enrolled at the school, could not be reached. Teachers were also put on Covid-19 duty and we had to teach regular classes online. Although, I did get help from volunteers to go and teach them whenever they can, it was not enough. Then I realised that most of the children were also made to work due to the severe money crunch faced by their families. All of this meant, education was the least of their priorities. That is when I thought of conducting the classes for the students at night.”

She approached a local volunteer, who is a postgraduate herself, to teach the night classes for these students. Lokhande paid this teacher out of her pocket and also made sure the children would have books and study material. The volunteer teacher would teach some 20 odd kids from 7-9 pm every night using workbooks in Marathi and Math books. She would also teach them about basic personal hygiene, cleanliness and discipline.

They procured some gadgets as well so the learning would not stop dead in the track if a lockdown is to happen again. She said, “From teachers in my school to people outside, I have found help everywhere. Even now, when I wanted mobile phones for the children of sugarcane cutters, a Kothrud-based housing society donated five phones. The 20 children can be divided into groups of four, to use one phone and study. People can do wonders.”

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*The image is for representation purpose only.

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Inspiration

This Gujarat Principal Mops His School Everyday Before The Bell Rings

A primary school, in a small district of Gujarat, has its humble principal mopping floors and sweeping the school every day an hour before the classes begin

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There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes. – William J. Bennett

While teaching children the lesson of 'Cleanliness is next to godliness' this principal 'literally' cleans his school. Girishbhai Bawliya is the Principal in a Government Primary School in the Vadod village of Gujarat. He has cleared his headmaster exam after being a teacher for over a decade. Girishbhai arrives at school every day one hour before time to see to the sanitation. Using brooms and mops he cleans the school himself for his students. 

One might think he probably does it because the school is in poor condition and has no funds to spare for cleaning. The truth lies far ahead, the school does receive several grants by the panchayat under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Girishbhai believes that the money can be put to better use and so he uses the sanitation grant money to create other facilities for the school and the students. 

The principal along with another teacher from the school, Jigneshbhai Dholakia, used up the vacation time to paint beautiful and captivating murals on the school walls for the children. These educators wanted to beautify the school campus with art while motivating the students.

On being asked, why he chooses to clean the school in spite of being the principal, Girishbhai said it was his duty to not just teach children about hygiene and sanitation but also show them. He believes in doing as he says and that no work is substandard for any dignitary. In his own words, “some lessons in life can only be learned through actions and not words.” 

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This educator who has not taken a single day off since he took over the position of the principal, is an exemplar of the kind of educators our great nation yields.

ScooNews admires and salutes the humility and virtue of such educators and feels proud to share such brilliant stories!

Source Credit: The Better India

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Inspiration

Read About The Teacher Who Set A New Record In Cycling

Gurpreet Singh, a teacher from Jalandhar cycled 32,000 km in the lockdown

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3 June is known as World Bicycle Day since the United Nations declared it in 2018. Apart from being a world-class sport cycling is also considered a good alternative to no pollution transportation. This physical activity is known for supporting a healthy way of living while also backing emotional and mental well being. 

Gurpreet Singh, an accountancy teacher at Apeejay School, Jalandhar, is an inspiration to us all. At the age of 48, he has set a new world record by bicycling for over 100 km daily for 300 consecutive days. In his own words, a ‘teacher by profession and a cyclist by heart’ Singh is one of the most active members of the Jalandhar Biking Club.

Singh told The Tribune “From May 19, 2020, to March 14, 2021, I cycled 100 km to 400 km every day. I have cycled more than 32,000 km during this period. During this journey, I had faced scorching sun, dense fog of the nipping weather, strong thunderstorms and rain but never gave up. I used to cycle four to 15 hours a day, come what may.”

He applied to be named in the Limca Book of Records and India Book of Records, for his accomplishments. Apart from that Singh is also a three-time Super Randonneur having completed rides of 200-300-400-600 km in one season.

He was not a health fanatic all his life, rather weighed a lot and has many medical conditions. His decision to begin cycling came from his son who had an accident and eventually feared riding two-wheelers. The dawn time cycling became a thing for Singh and soon he realised he loves to ride. Aside from becoming fit health-wise, Singh found a new way of living. Today he is being celebrated for his dedication and resilience.

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Singh is an inspiration to all the educators who find it difficult to take some time out for themselves. This World Bicycle Day, educators must promise themselves some individual time and maybe go cycling once in a while to promote their mental, emotional and physical wellness.

 

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Inspiration

Thimmappa Kodlady Teaches English To His Students Without Alphabets

This primary school teacher does not begin with teaching the alphabets while teaching English

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Thimmappa Kodlady is a Government Lower Primary School teacher in Malethodi, Karnataka. His experience in being an educator reflects in his teaching style that he has developed for a decade. He is popular for using an unusual way of teaching English to the primary children of his school. Thimmappa does not begin teaching with the generic ‘A for Apple’ in fact he does not teach about alphabets at all in the beginning. He teaches his students via phonetics, he believes that learning how something sounds is way more effective than being taught how to spell it. 

The reason Thimmappa decided on developing this unique way of teaching English to his students stems from his realisation that students in higher classes find it difficult to learn another language. He told edexlive, "A lot of kids drop out of high school or college because they don't understand what is being taught in English or because it is difficult to learn the language. But what if we teach them English when they are in lower primary or primary school? The fact of the matter is, it isn't a big deal to learn English. That's why I decided to train my students in English in a unique way so that they don't feel bored to learn the language."

Thimmappa worked hard for his teaching style development. His undying dedication to his students led him to attend any and all workshops for educators that he could find. His method of teaching clearly works since his students can read and understand complex words and phrases. He also makes sure to analyse the learning along with his students at the end of every lesson.  "I teach them the sounds of these letters first and once they are perfect with the sounds, I move to the letters. Children will learn it faster if we teach them the sounds first. While this is achieved, what children learn easily is to write the spellings. Even long and complex spellings are written easily by children."

Other than inside the classroom, the school has high-frequency word posters in the corridors for children to keep learning all the time. The students also get divided into groups that take minutes of all the school activity related meetings, these students need to present with a report after the said meetings. This is Thimmappa's way of making sure his students learn inside as well as outside of his classroom. Educators like him are the soul of the Indian Education System, they do not let the lack of resources in the rural areas distract them from their goals. 

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Inspiration

Education Minister Tweets About Teacher Using Mahabharata Comic Strip For English Lessons

Lakshmy Ramanathan an English teacher is using epics to teach her students about COVID and grammar

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The Indian Education Minister, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in a recent tweet, from his official Twitter handle, applauded a teacher from Bengaluru for her commendable teaching technique. The teacher developed a style of teaching using Hindu Mythology Epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, to teach her students about COVID while teaching them grammar lessons.

 

Lakshmy Ramanathan an English teacher at Sri Kumaran Children’s Home, Bengaluru took to creating a comic strip that would use scenes from the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. These scenes will have fact-based and thought-provoking questions, as well as, COVID related queries. 

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Ramanathan said, "Right now, it's like a misfortune has befallen us. So I was wondering if the situation we are facing right now as humans, does that have a parallel in the past? At the same time, as an author, I have always wanted to write about the epics. You know, as they say, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata contain all the stories in the world. So soon, I was convinced that this is the way to interpret the epics — through the lens of the pandemic.”

Ramanathan was helped by her former student Dipra Trehan in putting together the comic. Her student researched traditional art forms of India, like Thanjavur, Madhubani and more for use in the doodles of the comic. The comic strip came out beautifully and the teacher-student duo could not be happier.

In this unprecedented time of distress, especially for the education sector, significant inspiration lies in such small victories. ScooNews admires and cherishes such teachers for their hard work and relentless efforts!

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Inspiration

Teacher Detects Fire During Virtual Class & Helps Her Student

This Washington DC elementary teacher has become a superhero by saving her students from a house fire that she detected during the online class

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Christian Powell and his family owe their lives to his elementary teacher. Christian is a grade 1 student from Washington DC who was saved by his teacher, from a fire in the house, during the online class. 

Like any other school, DC Prep Anacostia Elementary School teachers are also taking online classes for their students while the pandemic endures. During one such virtual class, Christian's grade 1 teacher realised that there is smoke in Christian’s background. She immediately asked her student to turn the computer so she could see clearly. As soon as she realised that a fire was starting in the house she asked Christian to go to his parents. She did not stop there but also called the fire-fighters, which is why the fire did not damage the house in a worse way, nor did anybody get hurt. 

The teacher also brought two laptops, some food and clothes for the family, since her student lost some of his belongings and the family have to live elsewhere until the house is mended. This teacher’s efforts are being appreciated by the whole community even though she has decided to be anonymous. 

This shows how educators are vigilant even during a virtual class. Many parents must be wondering and speculating how virtual classes are only increasing their child’s screen time and not helping them learn. Surely, an incident like this will help them be reassured that, no matter what, teachers care about their students. Let there be a pandemic, let there be social distancing, a teacher will always do right by their students.

 

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Inspiration

This Teacher Converted His Scooter Into A Mobile Classroom

A teacher from Sagar, MP rides on his mobile classroom turned scooty to villages to take classes

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Chandra Shrivastava is a government teacher from the Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh. Recently, his efforts towards teaching his students were appreciated nationwide. Regardless of the pandemic school shut down, he kept trying to come up with ideas that would help the children from lower-income society or rural areas in learning better.

Since these children could not afford mobile phones or digital devices for online classes, their teacher made it happen on his scooter. Initially, he downloaded videos on his phone to show to his students but later realised that it was not enough. That is when Shrivastava began riding down to different villages in the Sagar district on his scooty that he turned into a mobile classroom. On one side of his mobile classroom, there is a chalkboard to write and on the other is a library that contains books and notebooks.

Shrivastava also likes to give away educational reads and storybooks to kids he comes across. His efforts have made it possible for children of rural background to continue attaining knowledge despite a worldwide pandemic that has somehow put a stopper to the education sector everywhere.

Teachers like Chandra Shrivastava are a benchmark of morals and duty towards being an educator, making the community proud!

Source Credit: ANI

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