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A government teacher’s story of inspired innovation in trying times
While our new ‘Social and Emotional Learning’ (SEL) module was focused around student well-being, we did not anticipate how it could capture the attention of our teachers as well. A conversation with one of our teachers at Khatoon-e-Pakistan (KPS) revealed how important holistic education can be in motivating educators.
Ruqqaiya started teaching at KPS in 2017, after being transferred from another government mandated teaching post. She started off as an Urdu teacher for primary students, following which she also became a Section Coordinator. In addition to this she is also teaching the (SEL) module, developed as part of the Social Studies classes.
When she started out, Ruqqaiya did not have much faith in the government school education system. To her, teaching there was a cut-and-dry job with minimal need for being innovative. At least until she started teaching at KPS...
Before joining KPS, I’d only been through a standard government school education and followed that up with a government teaching job. In my village, an ideal school only existed in the books we used to read. It wasn’t until KPS that I realized it could be a reality.
Things started to change when she encountered the idea of SEL classes. The SEL platform encourages students to engage with their emotions and social behaviors through art-based activities, in order to develop life-skills.
When teachers were initially being trained to conduct these classes, our Social Studies Lead said she saw a spark in Ruqqaiya to learn more about SEL, she would actively engage with trainings and ask frequent questions.
Despite the SEL module being shifted online, Ruqqaiya did not give up and took it upon herself to learn how to use a smartphone (provided by Zindagi Trust as a separate initiative) to gather data and share it with her students. She has even gone the extra mile to find relevant videos online, translate and then dub them into Urdu so that her students can understand them more easily in their own teacher’s voice.
When we asked Ruqqaiya about this she mentioned that she had never seen a government school take on curriculum that put it on par with private schools According to Ruqqaiya this module has encouraged students to become more contemplative and genuinely focus on their internality.
I saw how well students at KPS were learning through the SEL module, they were more focused and could better understand their own emotions. I wanted that for my own children, so I made videos for them too. They can speak English as well as me now and they understand and apply SEL concepts in their own lives.
According to Ruqqaiya the difference between KPS and her prior experience with government schools was as apparent as “zameen aasman ka faraq (the difference between the land and the sky)”. When asked what motivated her to push herself further at KPS, she responded that despite the fact that this was harder work, KPS was her ideal school.
Ruqqaiya now observes how students react to innovative methods of teaching. Based on these observations, she fine-tunes her own style of teaching.
Ruqqaiya’s journey showcases the many ways that a holistic education can impact lives – through innovations in the classroom, yes, but also through a transformation in the attitude and self-belief of a teacher, a mother and a child.