Tag Archives: #educator

Gurukool Waits to Open Its Doors to Students

Madhavi Prabha, a teacher with a vision, quit her regular teaching job after 10 years to start an After School Education Center for cultural enrichment, GuruKool, in 2018. An immigrant to this country and unfamiliar with the government system, her entrepreneurial spirit was met with red-tape. Frequently redirected from city to county to state regulations and guidelines, she was unsure if her idea would ever come to fruition.

After many queries, online searches, legal procedures, and authorizations, Madhavi began to recruit students for her classes. Her first class began with just one student, Anvika, who imbibed the education with glee. She learned Indian mythology, shlokas, Hindi, singing, dancing, and art. It proved the need for education derived from one’s culture. Slowly but steadily, GuruKool began to pick up traction and by 2019, Madhavi had a waiting list for her After School Education Center. Things were looking up and the business began to recoup the losses of its first year.

Then the pandemic hit…

Education Week reported that 6 out of 10 After School programs across the U.S. may have to permanently close their doors. After School programs, a valuable service, are finding it hard to adapt. GuruKool has had to stop its program and attempt digital, online learning.

Madhavi says, “Teaching the kids online is hard. I struggle with technology at times and the kids get bored. In person, I don’t just teach them visually but through sounds and physical actions which don’t come across on a screen. Its harder to keep them engaged and I worry they will forget what they’ve already learned. This is the time they need to remain engaged.”

Madhavi Prabha is less concerned about her business and more about her students – a teacher through and through. She asks her students how they feel during the pandemic – unable to go to school and interact with their friends. Children will grow up with the pandemic in their historical narrative and how they interact with it will determine parts of their future. What is the younger generation thinking and feeling? Madhavi guides her students through a series of questions to explore their emotions and understanding of the world around them.

Here are some of the student’s reactions:

Anvika Bhatnagar, 3rd Grade

Anvika’s Thoughts

On COVID…

I feel sad that people are dying and COVID-19 is spreading so fast. It is also not fun to stay home and get bored because there is not much to do.

Being at home…

I really like being home with my family because my family and I do a lot of fun things like playing games and doing crafts. I also enjoy playing with my brother and not having to do so much school work.

Being online…

When I do something online, I feel safe and happy I am talking to my friends and that no one is catching a virus at that time.

When the pandemic ends…

I would want to for a long trip and see cool animals and have a long playdate or sleepover with my friends.

Given power…

What I would do is I would fly up the sky and sprinkle some potion that will kill Coronavirus and I will go to the spot where scientist try and figure out how to deal with the pandemic. I will give them a potion that will make dead people alive and again and if you give it to sick patients they will get to normal in a second.

Aarav Saraswat, 4th Grade

Aarav’s Thoughts

On COVID…

I feel that this pandemic is not fun for a lot of people. You can’t meet other people in person, you can’t really play with a lot of people and you can’t really get out of the house. And it is not easy for parents either. They have to do their work, and now they have to cook for the whole family and they have to get a lot of groceries and they have to take care of everyone the whole day. But this lockdown is also very important because no one wants to get COVID-19, so I’m actually feeling good that we are in a lockdown from the health perspective.

Being at home…

Sometimes it is fun to be at home with my family but sometimes it can be a problem. For example, if I was playing outside then it would be fun because I can play with my brother and parents. But if that same day I am doing my work, but my brother is doing something noisy and I’m trying to concentrate, then it can be kind of hard having everyone home.

Being online…

Online schooling and zoom contact is good for me because that is one of the only ways to contact people, and that is something we all want to do; see people besides your family like friends! but sometimes you can get a little bored of that.

When the pandemic ends…

The first thing I would like to do when this pandemic is over is to go and meet all of my friends. I want to meet every single one because I have been isolated for 10 weeks now, which is 2 ½ months. S0 after I meet all of my friends I would play with water balloons and water guns because it is so hot. 

Given power…

If I had the power to change this situation, one idea which I would like is that we have a staggered schedule meaning that we go to school for example two hours and the rest of the schooling we do at our homes. And as things get better, we can slowly extend the amount of people coming to the school.


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Students of Color Take a Playground Slide From Schools to Prisons

Public education needs to be at the core of the Revolution.

Understanding the function of hegemony is critical in identifying why public education in the United States is the key factor in revolutionizing ideology and challenging power structures. The concept of hegemony as an enforcer of the oppressive condition is explained best by the metaphor of a ripple effect in the water after a single drop. While moving solitarily, a single drop of liquid into a larger pool creates a succession of rings around it. Liquid large distances away, echo from the agitation of the single drop at the epicenter.

Consider interpersonal racism. One is taught biased and discriminatory ideas (often at young and formidable age) about anti-blackness, which then becomes cemented in ideology through experience, choice of social circles, and participation in the capitalist economy (jobs, buying/selling goods, etc). While beliefs and bias socially may impact the narratives one is exposed to, with the addition of the institution, those beliefs become rooted in power structures of politics, ultimately reinforcing them into tangible and measurable oppressive actions intersecting with gender, sexuality, class, ability, religion, and age. This is how a concept or thought of otherness, or anti-blackness, transposes into a ripple that now is rooted in the environment. This practice, often measured through economic means (part of the problem because we center conversations around capital and not humanity), shows a clear institutional racial bias that has rippled into every industry of our society (military, health care, sports, education, etc).

As someone who has dabbled in many areas of community organizing, I realized my calling was with the youth. I know, without a doubt, that my purpose on this earth is to work with and give space for youth to validate themselves. Working within the system is a concept many have discussed. To fix something within implies you have the power to flip a structure rooted in hundreds of years of oppression. As a 21-year-old, I was naive. I was a public school teacher at a  “low income” school with a majority being students of color, for 10 years. I taught 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade. I know for a fact that I was able to spark ideas, shift thought, and validate hundreds of students over the years. But did I change anything from within? Did I fix the cog in the gears that weren’t working properly?

No. Instead, it broke me, and many others with bodies and minds like mine.

I’d argue too that after gaining all of my experience and this knowledge that there isn’t any validity in attempting to “change” or “fix” something from the inside. Especially when schools are the core of the perpetuated hate. It’s 2020 and several people were hanged from trees in California. Nothing has changed, because the schools haven’t changed. They are functioning exactly as intended, and it’s working. People are dying.

ASHA educating through poetry.

My story is not dissimilar to others. I could reach kids in ways that others couldn’t, and students found safety in my classroom regardless of enrollment. I taught histories that exposed institutional bias, we held space for healing, and students developed agency in a matter of months. Each year the impact of my teaching improved as I focused on my craft, but so did the impact of how the district targeted and abused me.

And without the support and allyship, the mission to “change the system from within” just isn’t sustainable.

My career started by just doing my own thing in my four walls. I would literally close the door, turn the blinds, and talk to the kids with authenticity and honesty. They saw me for that too. Even young students knew I was treating them with more respect than education had ever provided and that felt affirming to them. They knew they could take risks with me. Then I was challenged by a coworker to expand my practice and offer to train others, allow peer observations, and train the staff, because then the impact becomes exponential. I was certified through Teaching Tolerance and did several trainings when admin found it useful for their public relations. Even though there was occasional push back, I felt like I was doing good work.

Slowly the admin write-ups and reprimands began to add up. Essentially the “radical” work I was doing at the elementary level validating students’ identities was “not age appropriate”. I was being pushed out. Because I didn’t want to continue to fight against my admin, I decided to move up to the middle school level in the same district. Since I taught 5th grade at the time, that meant following my students to middle school. I was so excited to continue to do the work and build, and now, I had confidence that I could start on some institutional practices as well.

The first year there was amazing. I facilitated several trainings both at my site and regionally, including one for administrators on restorative practices. I felt validated and affirmed. But with a change of administration brought a change in leadership ideology and now, the new mission of the person in power was to cut off my mic. They immediately let me know that the path I was on was not going to continue. I fought. Hard. Union. Grievance. All of it. I won, too. But I didn’t realize the toll it took on my mental health and that the road was only going to get harder.

The year after, I watched student after student be criminalized, marginalized, suspended and expelled, and some, locked up. The same students who had found refuge with me for a decade. I stopped having anything positive to say to them. How could I tell them it was going to get better? I realized very suddenly, it wasn’t. Then, the district really waged war against me when I spoke out, and sought media attention, because atrocities against students were being ignored. They isolated me, silenced me, and removed me from the one thing that reassured me of my purpose, my time with students.

Speaking out against police abuse on a school campus was like trying to call the cops on the cops. Participation in the public education system requires complicity in causing harm against the most vulnerable. Teachers of color become sacrificial to the cause of supporting youth of color as they navigate the system themselves. It’s just not sustainable.

The concept to describe the relationship between the success of students of color in schools and the prison industrial complex is the school to prison pipeline. However, in 2020, it has undoubtedly turned into a playground slide. The increase of police presence in schools whether as an SRO, community partnership, or some fake notion of safety like with the “Safe Schools” program, has exponentially increased the rate at which students of color are criminalized. The pipeline has been shortened into the slide and even painted a bright color to attract youth. Any teachers that stand in the way are subject to severe injury.

Defund and dismantle the police. Abolish prisons. Abolish ICE. But honestly, without a complete overhaul of teacher staff, redlining, curriculum, anti-racist training, restorative practices, school design, libraries, and community resources, the single drop of racism will continue to ripple throughout society; through friendships all the way to board rooms. If we don’t directly focus on rebuilding public education in the United States, none of this will change.

In Hindi meaning hope and Swahili meaning life, ASHA is an Artist, Educator, and Revolutionary. Through her decade of teaching, performing poetry, and speaking at community events, Asha consistently uses her platform to voice out against injustice and to speak up for those who have been marginalized and silenced for centuries.