It is the first day of school and I am rushing to school with my bag and laptop. I arrive at 7:30 am, ready for students to start arriving at 8:00 am. I will be teaching 7th & 8th-grade Algebra and have planned out my first day: getting to know kids, letting them get to know each other, and some fun Math activities to get an idea of their academic Math level.
My goal is to foster a love for Math.
I am interrupted by the pressure cooker whistling and am rudely reminded that this is all a dream. I am close to turning 40, just standing in my kitchen, imagining what could have been.
Some people have dreams to change the world, reduce carbon emissions, find a cure for cancer, but I just want to teach middle school Math. It is a culmination of many things over many years that has led me to my purpose.
I was an average Math student in elementary and middle school. In fact, my parents feared I would do very badly in high school and hired a tutor. I think having my two dear friends with me in Math tuitions was a transformative experience. All of a sudden, my attitude towards Math changed. I put in hard work and reaped the results of getting a good grade in 12th. It was around that time that I also figured I enjoyed studying Computer Science and eventually, I started working as a Programmer.
I got married and moved to the USA during the dot-com boom. I was in a new country, in a new marriage, and with a new job in tech. Math was on my mind.
After the birth of my son, I stayed home and did not get much of a chance to practice Math or Programming – I had to trade it for storytime and park dates.
My son’s elementary school was a parent-participative school which meant parents could be in the classroom helping teachers. In 2005, I signed up when my son started Kindergarten and although at first, it was my way of learning the American School system, I soon found that it brought me fulfillment. I looked forward to the day where I would attend school with my son and would prepare for it. I knew that if I ever went back to work, it would be in a school setting teaching Math.
Once the goal was set, it was about continuously doing things to reach my target. With my husband traveling for work, I could not afford the time to go to college to get a degree or a credential in teaching. So, I continued to volunteer every single year and honed my teaching, communication, and lesson planning skills by observing and helping the teachers.
As I was helping my two kids, I came to a very big realization – that as fortunate as my kids are to have me teach them at home, not all kids have this luxury.
I shifted my focus to teaching kids who are falling behind or those that just need that extra help. I offered my services to teachers to help such students. It made me become patient and be a non-judgmental parent to my own kids. I definitely learned a lot from the kids I taught and I suspect, sometimes, more than what I taught them.
With my son in his senior year of high school and my daughter just a few years behind, I could not put the burden of another college degree on my family. Life is strange in that when you have time, money might be an issue and when you have money, the time might not be right.
I decided to start at the very beginning and when an opportunity came up last year to be a middle school Math Intervention Aide, I jumped at it.
This is my second year working and I love every bit of it. My goal is to take the Single Subject Math exam which consists of three parts. Passing this exam and getting a Master’s degree in teaching will give me the certification needed to be a full-time classroom teacher. I am keeping this one in the pocket for the year 2021, a year of new possibilities.
Now, I am in my Zoom classrooms in the morning and the pressure cooker is exchanged for an Instant Pot. Cooking and teaching can happen at the same time.
I have a long way to go to have a Math classroom of my own and but for now, I am happy. Math makes me happy.
Vasudha Ramanrasiah is an Instructional Aide in a public school and a mother of two. She enjoys all things food, hiking, and volunteering and is passionate about helping students understand math.
Children face myriad challenges with remote learning, as they are unable to meet with friends and follow a normal schedule during this pandemic. They become restless and unhappy.
You as parents may be in a conundrum wondering how to teach your child(ren) at home while balancing your work lives. Keep in mind that you have always been your child’s first teacher, You have taught your child to walk, talk, and learn many values. While you may be grateful to each certified educator in your child’s lives you need to step forward with confidence to help your child.
Here are a few suggestions to make your children’s schooling at home more streamlined. These are just starting points that you can adapt to your individual circumstances.
The first thing is to develop a weekly schedule and break it down into a daily structure that you can modify with your own work schedule and that of your children. Consistency is the key here. Wake up, have breakfast, and start the day. Regular sleep time brings about normalcy.
Your school may teach online or provide assignments and a structured curriculum. This can be very useful for you and your child(ren) to structure your days around it. If you have a teen consider empowering them to work out their own schedule so they will feel more inclined to follow it. Share the duties of household work, teaching, so that each one gets some time and doesn’t get frustrated.
It is likely that you are not the only one dealing with this and there are others at work who are in the same situation – so find a way to discuss this either as a group or with your manager to come up with a plan that allows you to reserve certain hours to help your children with their classwork or homework.
A recess or break time for your child and yourself is necessary. Every person whether a kid or parent needs some time for themselves between tasks. At this time one can unwind, run, jump, have a snack, or just relax.
Sometimes your child may get upset and angry, unable to understand a concept. Do not push them hard or have expectations that everything will work smoothly. You as a parent are new to this and should not be hard on yourself or them. When you hit a roadblock, take a break and return to the concept with a fresh mind.
Try and work according to your child/ren’s personality. Some children like a rigorous and planned schedule while others prefer flexibility. Be aware and pay attention to their feelings and wants. Showing compassion is essential in these times. They will always learn and grow but you as a parent need to be by their side in these times. Life will get back to normal one day and they will go back to school but this time of learning at home will make them realize three things; the bond they have with you, the joy of being back with their friends, and holding their educators in high esteem. Till then have patience and stand by them while keeping them positive and productive.
Technology can play a big role at this time with teaching from home. Choose quality content via the abundant resources for science activities, math, reading, art, music, and also physical education. Do reach out to your children’s teachers and your children’s school parents for more help.
You may like to ask your child to solve the task in a more creative and exciting manner. Let them be able to imagine, think out of the box, discover, innovate, and design.
Nutritious food is a part of keeping the family healthy and happy. Plan the week’s menu so you all can sit down to dinner and catch up on the fun, unwind and talk together. Simple, quick pre-prepared lunches would be ideal during this time. Remember to get the children involved may be in setting the table, loading the dishwasher.
It all seems so overwhelming but you got this!!!!!! Look within and tell yourself that you are competent. We have been given this time to introspect and bond with our families, care for ourselves, learn, and grow. It is time to do our bit to help society and the world come together as one. At this time being a parent is empowering and I know you are doing your best. Thank you from all of us for making the effort to keep your family and ours safe too.
For today’s art and creative writing summer workshop for elementary school kids, our lesson is titled ‘The Emotional Arc Of Storytelling’. Through the theme of roller coasters, my colleague, Pavani, and I plan to bring to light how good storytelling needs to have ups and downs, twists and turns, and loop-de-loops in the plot for a more complete experience. As I begin to chart my lesson plan, the innocent faces of some of the younger students in our class come to mind. Would they be able to grapple the concept of infusing emotion into their narration? Maybe, ‘Emotion’ is too strong of a word for them. Would it be easier to use the words ‘Feelings’ instead?
Then doubt creeps into my ever curious mind. Are emotions and feelings synonymous?
As is the norm these days I google the difference between emotions and feelings and I find my answer in a study from Wake Forest University.
Feelings arise in the conscious mind while emotions manifest in the subconscious mind. They are not interchangeable terms. Emotions are universal bodily sensations while feelings are personal interpretations of emotions. Love, hunger, pain are feelings while anger, happiness, and disgust are emotions. The article is complex and even before I finish reading the article, my mind sucks me into an ever turbulent black hole of questions. What then is depression?
“Is it an emotion or is it a feeling – a personal interpretation of sadness, of unworthiness?
Depression is rampant now and the current state of our seemingly apocalyptic world with its chaos and uncertainty has only made sure it stays entrenched in our society. Naturally, another question pops up. When will all this end? Will life ever return to normal again?”
A ping on my phone brings me out of the everlasting loop of thought.
“We closed on the house! Finally!!!” texts my friend.
“Congratulations!” I reply back, genuinely happy for her. She has worked hard to make this happen, managing two jobs and a family. She’s moving to a house bigger than the current one. Selfishly, my happiness stems not just from friendship but also from relief. People buying bigger homes, moving up the socio-economic ladder gives a semblance of returning normalcy to the present situation. Isn’t that what we all strive towards? Bigger dreams encompass an abundance of health, wealth, and happiness.
Six months ago, when the world began to shut down, fear prevailed. I was grateful to have a roof over my head, two square meals a day, and people I loved safe. I listened to spiritual greats every day and meditated without fail. Nothing else mattered. I was content to be alive with what little I had. From that gratitude stemmed the realization that I do not need much to be happy, that sitting in stillness and being in touch with that deeper part of myself makes my life complete.
Yet, here I am now, with the fear of the virus slowly dissolving. I have returned to my pre-pandemic definitions of success and happiness – a bigger home, vacations in exotic locales, and a great looking body. The lessons learned in the pandemic have been transient. Why else would SSR’s suicide shock me? And why else would a friend’s increased purchasing power make me happy? After all, in the interim, I had learned that material wealth and fame does not guarantee fulfillment. Yet, just as quickly as I have learned, I seem to have also forgotten that untainted joy stems from within.
“Om Poornamadah, Om Poornamidam Purnat Purnamudachyate,
Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnamevavashishyate.”
(That (the source) is complete, this (creation) is complete as well. After completeness is taken away from completeness, only completeness remains. )
In essence, the divine source is within me and by my very nature, I AM COMPLETE.
The phone rings.
“Hey, How’s the lesson plan coming along?” Pavani asks.
Ah – It’s time to get back to ‘The Emotional Arc of Storytelling’.
“Just starting, I’ll ping you once I’m done,” I say.
As I go back to my lesson plan, Pavani’s words in the document bring a smile to my face – “Roller Coasters are a great metaphor for life. We go up, we go down, but we don’t have to crash. We can learn to enjoy the ride.”
In just a few moments I have, like a roller coaster, gone all around the twists and turns in my mind, from emotions and feelings to depression to joy and completion. I am yet unsure of whether depression is an emotion or a feeling or why it is so rampant and if life will ever return to the way it was before the pandemic. But, what I do know is – I do not need anyone or anything to complete me and knowing this is the anchor that will steady me during the turbulence.
Vidya Murlidhar is an essayist and children’s book author from Charlotte, NC. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Mothers Always Write, Grown & Flown, India Currents, and other places.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
COVID-19 has posed a major learning issue to students, parents, and educators. In the face of a sudden paradigm shift, online learning now finds itself at the forefront of mainstream learning. For the first time, students everywhere are completely dependent on digital methods to fulfill their daily learning needs.
“The pandemic has become an inflection point for education, and you can see this in how different stakeholders have responded to the crisis. A majority of educational institutes are conducting their classes online, parents are encouraging their children to learn from a screen, and students themselves are experimenting with new methods of learning from home. While I don’t expect things to remain 100% online or even 100% offline on the other side of the pandemic, I believe certain aspects of the ‘new normal’ will make their way into the ‘Classrooms of Tomorrow,” says Divya Gokulnath, co-founder and teacher of BYJU’S.
Few trends we will see post the pandemic:
Blended learning will be the new normal: In the post-corona era, we will witness the rise of a blended form of education, with seamless integration of the best of both online and offline learning. The proliferation of smart devices coupled with the democratization of the internet will fasten this process. With teachers now understanding the advantages of online learning tools, we will see tech-enabled learning gain importance even in a classroom setting. The ‘Classrooms of Tomorrow’ will have technology at its core, empowering students to cross over from passive to active learning. The future will see us take a leap from the traditional one-to-many approach to blended one-on-one learning experiences, providing students the best of both physical and digital worlds.
Interactivity will take center stage: Given the prolonged exposure to online learning tools during this period, engagement and interactivity will emerge as a priority for students, parents and teachers. Newer dimensions to quizzes, interactive games, story-based Q&As, engaging lessons that strengthen concepts, will see greater inclusion and adoption.
Personalization will be the need of the hour: Students are looking for learning solutions customized to their own style and pace and a majority of innovation will be geared towards making personalization as effective as possible. Data and analytics will play a major role in making this a reality. Virtual mentoring for personal guidance and tutoring will also emerge as a key service.
Early learning will become more innovative: As the importance of formative learning and early conceptual understanding gains more acceptance, we will see a lot more innovation in products, tools, and ideas to help young children get learning right from the beginning. From storified concepts to their favorite cartoon characters playing teachers, kids will experience a highly engaging form of learning from their early years
Vernacular learning will gain importance: As internet penetration and smart device adoption continue to increase across India, learning will become more customized. To cater to the huge student population outside metros, learning programs will be effectively created and delivered in all key vernacular languages.
Digital learning tools will see greater adoption from teachers: The on-going pandemic has caused teachers to become digitally empowered. Even teachers who were hesitant to adopt digital tools are now using them in different capacities. This has enabled them to see the advantages of digital learning. Because of better awareness, the coming year will see teachers/educators increasingly adopt tech-enabled learning tools to support their students’ learning needs. This could be in a classroom or in an after-school learning setup.
Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 10 books on different subjects and translated around 130 books from English to Hindi.
Can schools safely reopen though the pandemic shows little sign of waning and educators stumble towards the first day of school in the absence of a clear cut strategy?
The answer is uncertain.
In early July President Trump demanded that schools “open quickly, beautifully, in the fall” for normal, in-person instruction.
The CDC responded with guidelines instructing school districts to build supportive community infrastructures to counter the onslaught of COVID-19 as schools reopened. They urged school officials to implement hygiene and social distancing practices and develop ‘proactive’ plans with health departments, parents and caregivers to deal with potential outbreaks.
A snapshot of the ‘new normal’ for K-12 schools.
Keeping active kindergartners apart; keeping their masks on; fewer students on school buses; limited class sizes; keeping staff safe; sanitizing; PPE; social distancing; online SATs; remote learning; iPads or computers for all.
For many schools, adjusting to the new normal would be a complicated and expensive endeavor.
School systems which struggled with pandemic restrictions would face even greater logistical and financial burdens meeting the new CDC requirements, leaving them with no other option than to continue with virtual classes moving forward.
President Trump tweeted his displeasure at the “very tough and expensive guidelines for opening schools,” and, under pressure, the CDC retracted its message, effectively relinquishing the decision making to school administrators. At the behest of the White House, the CDC emphasized the “importance of reopening America’s schools this fall,” and warned that extended school closures would “be harmful to children.”
What is certain however, is that a safe return to in-person school comes with a hefty price tag – a whopping 200 billion dollars or more, or about $490 per K-12 student. At a panel discussion on how to safely reopen schools hosted by Ethnic Media Services on July 31, Domenech explained that the costs would cover laptops for students and an array of preventive measures that include sanitizers, masks, PPE and safe busing, before schools could consider opening their doors to staff and students. The expense would place an unprecedented financial burden on overstretched school district budgets in the next academic year.
So, a safe reopening would need a huge injection of federal funds (that the Council of Chief State School Officers projected would cost between $158.1 billion and $244.6 billion,) but the government is threatening to cut funds for schools that don’t fully reopen.
Many school districts cannot afford the expense, so policymakers at state and local levels are choosing to wait before making a decision on whether to reopen schools, based on assessments of COVID-19 threats in their region.
Is it safe to go back to school?
In a press briefing, the White House pushed the idea that the greater risk right now is to children’s learning, rather than to their health and wellbeing, announcing that, “We don’t think our children should be locked up at home with devastating consequences when it’s perfectly safe for them to go to school.”
Till recently, the common belief was that young children were not affected by COVID-19 and were unlikely to spread the virus. In fact the CDC reiterated that children pose no risks, stating that, “The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.”
However, new research from a pediatric hospital in Chicago that published its findings in JAMA, indicates that children carry high levels of the virus in their upper respiratory tracks and may efficiently spread infection by sneezing, coughing or shouting.
“In several countries where schools that have opened prematurely, such as Israel, we have seen a rise in cases,” said Pedro Noguera, Dean, USC Rossier School of Education.
As findings like these make parents and educators uncertain about reopening schools in a pandemic, it may be prudent for school districts to first assess the threat of COVID-19 infections in their area before making plans to send children back to school, suggested by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, in recent interviews with PBS and the Washington Post.
Inequities in K-12 Education
As schools juggle in-person classes versus online learning and hybrid models, some wealthy families are resolving their uncertainty by creating private learning pods or ‘micro-schools,’ with hired tutors to educate their children. It’s an arrangement that reflects the inequities experienced by less privileged students from special needs, disadvantaged and low income backgrounds. Without tutors or pods, and limited access to internet and laptops, these children are likely to fall further behind and “experience tremendous learning loss,” noted Noguera.
The current education crisis stems froma lack of leadership, said Noguera, adding that “The real questions facing the US is when will leadership emerge that can provide the guidance that schools need on how to manage instruction…safely … and how to reopen appropriately, in a manner that does not place lives at risk.” He called on local and community leaders to step up in the interim. It will be up to local and community leaders to create innovative ways to deliver education and support children and families, in the short term, said Noguera.
Moving forward into the future will be challenging for schools because the scope of funding required to make changes is not forthcoming from the federal purse . Without adequate funding for health and safety measures in place, Noguera stated that school districts will have to contend with, for example, teacher unions who recently announced they will go on strike over unsafe conditions.
Eleven million children do not have the laptops they need for remote learning, said Domenech. So, even though technology offers valuable learning platforms, it can be a double edged sword, when teachers are ill prepared to use it effectively and students who have little or no access to technology lose out on their learning.
Schools will have to show teachers how to close the “digital divide,” advised Noguera, by training them “to use the technology to deliver meaningful instruction to kids.” But, whatever devices students use for learning, without access to reliable Internet and Wi-Fi, low income and disadvantaged students would face inequities of digital access, warned USC Professor Shaun R. Harper. In LA, school districts have invested in making screens and hotspots available within communities so children can access learning; but children in rural areas have even less connection and risk being left behind.
Noguera suggested that instead of trying to adapt curricula to cell phones, another option would be to go back to “old school approaches to education” using pencil and paper, adding that “they worked before technology, and could work again.”
“For now, whether our education looks like mini learning pods, pandemic pods, micro schools, or collaborative tutoring with college students….that’s still going to provide inequity in our educational system.” cautioned Eddie Valero, Supervisor for District 4, Tulare County Board of Supervisors. He was referring to economist Emily Oster’s prediction that clusters of home schooling families are going to happen everywhere regardless, and “that will create an economic divide.”
Re-envisioning the future of schooling
Panelists offered several perspectives on when and how schools should reopen.
In working with school superintendents on reopening of schools based on CDC guidelines, said Domenech, the future could feature one of three options – the popular hybrid model, with students on weekly shifts between online learning and in-person classes seated 6 feet apart, total remote learning, or returning to school full-time as before.
However, the continuing rise in infections across the country means that most schools may open remotely. It may be possible for students to return to school only in areas where the rate of infection is below 5%, advised Noguera, suggesting that less risky, outdoor learning may be one way to address the problem. However, places experiencing a surge in cases such as the Imperial Valley in southern California, will have “to rely on community organizations like non-profits to support families and deliver education to children in concert with the school district,” he said.
Noguera’s view was echoed by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, USC Associate Professor at the Brain and Creativity Institute and Rossier School of Education, who suggested tapping into the “huge cohort of college-ready high school graduates” and using their skills as a resource for tutoring younger students. Engaging young people as a ‘brigade of community tutors” could help solve the shortage of people in teaching and learning, and give them a sense of purpose,” said Yang.
Professor Harper, who leads the USC Race and Equity Center warned that ‘raceless’ reopening policies from school districts would “yield racially disparate outcomes”. He suggested that more consultation with communities of color was needed to “racialize input” into the K-12 reopening strategy. That would involve considerations like providing proper PPE, testing and contact tracing for essential workers in schools who are more likely to be employees of color and are disproportionately exposed to infection, as well as trauma and grief support for staff and students of color, who are more likely to have experienced loss of a family or community member to the virus.
The panelists called on the private sector, specifically high tech companies and philanthropists, to step up and help avert the crisis.
Big tech firms like Amazon said Noguera, which have accumulated huge profits during the pandemic, have a responsibility to assist.
Harper described this timeframe as an opportunity for philanthropists and foundations who want to close racial equity gaps by helping finance “accessibility to learning pods for poorer students who cannot afford it.” There is also a role, he suggested, for nonprofits, youth organizations and college access providers to add to their agendas and recreate pod-like experiences for disadvantaged youth during the pandemic.
Schools are relying on Congress to pass funding that will get K-12 education back on track safely, and Domenech predicts that the majority of schools in America will start the school year with remote learning because, ‘in order to bring any children into school, dollars will be required.”
Valero closed out the discussion by inviting policymakers to re-envision what school should look like for the future by thinking “in creative ways that disrupt our everyday normalcy for something different,” but he urged, “honestly it begins with access, opportunity and fairness for all students.”
“We need to model our classrooms with our most struggling students in mind.”
Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents
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.
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.
Ankita Jain, a senior at Cupertino High School, attributes her stress free high school life and her success in getting good grades to her yoga family and her yogic upbringing. Both of her parents have taken Yoga Teacher Training with Yoga Bharati more for their own self-growth than to become teachers.
Ankita grew up doing yoga since she was 5 years old. She says that this has taught her the discipline to sleep by 10:30pm on most nights, even as a high school student. She believes yoga has taught her to focus and be aware of her priorities. She says that students in her age group spend a lot of time on social life, both online and in-person. This is because high school creates so much stress that they need to de-stress by socializing. But Ankita says that she herself is under relatively less stress because she has developed a sense of acceptance towards how things will turn out in the future: be it her grades or acceptance into her dream school for her undergraduate studies.
Chinmay Surpur is now a high honors graduate with a Bachelors of Science from UC Santa Barbara in Biopsychology (Neuroscience). He attributes his success to yoga and the yogic nurturing he received as a child from his parents who are both yoga teachers. He wants to pursue a Ph.D. to conduct research in clinical psychology and yoga.
He decided to work at Yoga Bharati during his gap year to develop education courses and to bring research projects in collaboration with UC Santa Barbara, his alma mater. He says yoga has helped him build a strong work ethic, undying discipline, and a toolbox of practices to help him work through any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual difficulty he faces. He believes that yoga is the ideal form of holistic health care and that humanity should be moving towards a preventative model of healthcare using yoga as the primary method of self-improvement. He is hoping to empower communities across the world to maintain positive health through utilizing the ancient practice of yoga.
Gregory is a student at a juvenile-recovery charter school in Los Angeles. He is now completing his high school diploma. He wants to be a yoga teacher but did not have the support to pay for the training, so Yoga Bharati offered him to train him for free. He said this training was transformational. The lecture on Karma Yoga, as explained in the Bhagavad Gita, was inspiring and changed his view on life. Two weeks after listening to the lecture, he said he forgot what anger and frustration was; whereas before that, a day would not go by without getting angry and ruining his day.
Swami Vivekananda said “Education is a man making, life making, character building assimilation of ideas.” The Yoga Bharati courses are designed to systematically train students in the techniques of yoga and to help increase self-awareness as they begin their own journey of self-development. Yoga Bharati believes in practicing before preaching.
There are many benefits of taking this course: you will develop the ability to integrate your body, mind, and soul through yoga techniques; stress management and the prevention of stress-related ailments; improved memory, creativity, and calmness through the use of pranayama and meditation; empowerment to serve society through teaching others.