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Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Head of School, BD Somani International School, Mumbai: Need to focus on needs of students

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Dr Geoffrey Fisher

The demand to focus on the needs of students, the capacity to engage students in their own learning, resilience, care and good planning all are constants says, Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Head of School, BD Somani International School, Mumbai in a conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

In education, something changes but others remain constant. In our move to online learning, many things have changed but a few have not. The demand to focus on the needs of students, the capacity to engage students in their own learning, resilience, care and good planning all are constants. In our transition, we were and continue to be guided by these key requirements.

Our successes come from the quality of our teaching staff, our student-focused approach to learning and from our willingness to evolve as circumstances demand. We were ready with ‘what if’ scenarios two weeks before we went on Spring Break in March. Our Secondary School teachers were asked to put plans in place in case of an extended lockdown. They were trained on the Google Suite of tools to optimise their online classrooms. We also transitioned early to Kognity, a web-based application that supports preparation for both the IB and IGCSE curriculum. In Primary School, our teachers have conducted classes at different times with the whole class in attendance and sometimes with smaller groups. Many teachers also conduct one-on-one sessions with some students. Our teaching approach has evolved into a combination of the whole class and smaller groups at different times for optimum efficiency. In addition, all our specialist teachers – Hindi, French, art, theatre, music, Capoeira, IT, PE – conduct online lessons and activities in various formats.

Our school teachers have helped our students with their continued development throughout this period. Apart from live sessions, teachers have also given students a range of assignments, in curriculum and relating to the current circumstances. Students stay connected with teachers while also developing their skills of research and inquiry in a relatable context. Our learning approach has been to broaden our students’ learning, not just in curricular terms but also life skills. In Primary school, because students don’t have to worry about taking exams, they’ve been able to adapt better to a learning environment going deeper and wider into every topic. The submission of assignments has been flexible to accommodate complex household schedules. Our Secondary school students too are doing a fantastic job under the circumstances. We continue to maintain regular attendance and assessments and our students continue to impress us with their engagement, even under these trying circumstances. Our Student Council has also come together with ideas to continue to build a community with activities such as ‘B.D. Bingo’.

All through the lockdown, our leadership team and Board has been meeting twice weekly to discuss any concerns as they arise, and this has resulted in a near-seamless transition to Distance Learning. At B.D. Somani, we believe teaching and learning are taking place all of the time and a school is not defined by only by the classroom walls. We believe this period of virtual education will help our teachers become more creative in evolving the future of education.

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