Rajshree Doshi is the coach for Senior Programme Managers at Teach for India and also coaches principals of Akanksha Schools . She has worked in the field of education for almost 28 years now. Rajshree has worked with Sadhna School for differently abled children, Akanksha and ISLI. She was instrumental in the design of the Akanksha Centre curriculum and has set up youth programmes in Akanksha like SLP – Social Leadership Programme (now called Service Leadership programme) and ATF – Akanksha Teacher Fellowship. She supports organisations like Manav Sadhana in Ahmedabad, TVS schools in Madurai and others.
Rajshree is one of the panelists at the National Education Conference of Don Bosco Schools, 2014 and will be speaking on Leadership for teaching and learning and curriculum on November 7th, 2014. Adhyayan Asia is the collaborative partner for NECDBS 2014.
Below are excerpts from a conversation between Rajshree Doshi and Swati Gupta, Adhyayan’s Research Lead.
Swati: What has been your journey in the education sector so far? Could you discuss it briefly?
I have been working in the field of education for 28 years now. Initially, for several years I worked in urban schools as part of my work with organizations like Akanksha and Sadhana School for differently abled children. The turning point came when I paused and asked myself, whether this is all that I want in order to achieve the impact I envision. That is when I decided to also work with schools in rural parts of the country. I started working in the Indo-Pak border area in Kutch. It a critical phase in my journey as a teaching and learning coach. I started trying out what I already knew and what I always do with the schools in the area and soon enough, I realized it was not working. As a coach, I believe it’s really important to constantly review your steps and strategy when working with school leaders because each individual is unique. My first question to myself was, “Do I know their reality? Do I know their needs?” This is when I decided that I am first going to observe people to understand their needs rather than doing what I think should be done. I think this is the most crucial lesson for a coach. Education is all about people as they are the driving force of the system.
Swati: How would you describe your style of working with people?
The field of education is mostly dependent on people i.e. teachers and school leaders. To me, education is so much more than just literacy. Education, according to me is a self-driven process to achieve critical thinking and decision-making skills. Therefore, for imparting education, the teacher’s role is merely that of a facilitator/ guide who enables the student to drive this process on their own.
Swati: How can curriculum enable good teaching and learning?
Curriculum is a process, which has the overall development of the child as its prime focus. It entails different tools like dance, drama, language, poetry, etc. that one can use to achieve the roadmap laid down by the curriculum.
Swati: What is the role of a coach/mentor?
I believe in working with the person. Therefore, I often spend the first few months with a mentee teacher building our relationship and ensuring his/her wellbeing. I focus on letting them know that I am there to support them and not evaluate or assess them. “I am here for you and your wellbeing,” is the most critical message the coach needs to communicate to the teacher.
Swati: How do you coach teaching and learning?
My focus, throughout the coaching period, remains to be there for the teacher. Therefore, my initial classroom observations just focus on strengthening and celebrating the quality of the teacher. To some I might say, “You are struggling with this particular aspect but that’s okay. We will focus on it later. Let’s focus on your strengths and the positive in your class, for now.” Later, I begin to include areas of improvement for the mentee teacher and the focus of this conversation is to discuss the support systems that he/she needs in order to improve. It is most important that your feedback is based on what you saw and heard (body language) and not on any judgment or pre-conceived notions. For further simplicity, divide it as what was teacher action and what was student action.
“How you give feedback is the essence of how will it be implemented.”
I help the mentee teacher find out and understand the root cause of existing problems, if any, to work towards the best interest of the children. Believing in potential of every child is the key to all the feedback and support systems. I role model the same in my mentee- mentor relationship.
I share strong relationships with my mentee teachers. I continue to maintain and strengthen my bond with them. As a coach, when I focus on understanding the background and struggles of the teacher, I gain their trust that I am here for them, always.
Swati: What are the most easy-to-implement strategies for improving teaching and learning?
Developing a clear action plan and support plan is the key to any improvement. This must be done together with the mentee teacher, involve all relevant stakeholders. I see whether he/she is struggling with the lesson plan. Lesson plans are the most tangible means, and indicate areas of improvement effectively. So lesson plans is another area, which I will work on as this significantly improves the teaching and learning.