Manorama, please introduce yourself!
I am basically a science post graduate and teach geography in upper grades. I am very interested in researching the significance of Waldorf education for India. I have been a teacher all my life and I work at Sloka Waldorf School in Hyderabad. I have an MSc in nutrition and a further MEd in Waldorf education from Norway. I like working with young students from 12 years old upwards. Thankfully, Waldorf education makes it possible for me to teach various subjects. I am also fond of telling stories, such as legends and biographies. The possibility of working with art and science for teaching is enjoyable.
My deep quest to know more about Waldorf education took me on a journey to Oslo to study on their masters program. I have become a Waldorf teacher for the freedom and the opportunity it offers to explore both the self and children in society.
Here at Sloka Waldorf School in Hyderabad we are trying to bring about necessary changes for the Waldorf movement, trying not to dilute the essence while catering to the government rules.
Could you give us an example of the kind of changes that are necessary?
We have noticed at Sloka that the Waldorf curriculum has an archetypal universal quality to it which we have retained, but we are constantly researching into finding similar images locally. For example, names of stars are connected to Greek mythology. But in India we have our own mythologies and the stars have Indian names. Further, all our Hindu festivals are celebrated according to the phases of the moon, so we try to include this aspect when teaching astronomy.
There is a mythical story about the moon. Daksha Prajapathi had 28 daughters. He gave them in marriage to the moon. The father told the moon to look after each daughter without any partiality. But the disobeying moon liked Rohini best and stayed with her more often. When the other children complained to the father, he cursed his son-in-law that he would waste away and die within 14 days of tuberculosis. But the moon begged Shiva to save him. Taking pity, Shiva altered the curse. For 14 days the moon would waste away and die, then he would come back in 14 more days to be full again.
That is how the Indians look upon the moon phases. I use this story to enrich my astronomy block.
What is your motivation to get out of bed in the morning? What keeps you from not giving up?
I am motivated by each new day and my expectations of what it might bring. I love to see how yesterday's planning is received today.
I am not giving up because I love the life I lead and because of the encounters with the youngsters.
Which challenges is your school faced with?
Just like every growing organism we are faced with different challenges at different stages of growth. Money, collegial hygiene, inspiration and new shared initiatives.
Our school faces challenges in developing methods for teaching our mother tongues as foreign languages because the medium of instruction is English. The alphabets in Indian languages are based on sound rather than on form. In the past, the pen was held in the fist and the wrist was moved round and round to form rounded letters. The rules of spelling are different as we pronounce what we write. There are no silent letters in Indian spelling.
We are also continuously looking for age appropriate literature. So teachers share their research in section meetings.
In science we investigate how crops grow and which industrial processes are used to harvest and use them. Social and financial problems rising from these developments are also discussed in upper grades, such as the wars of indigo farmers, cotton cultivators etc.
Our dream is to make the community a part of the school movement. We would like to establish a home for the elderly where children can go and look after elders and where the elderly can share their experience and biographies. Also, we would like to start a unit where challenged children can be looked after and educated. Further, we hope to adapt a nearby government school and inspire them to experience the essentials of Waldorf education.
What are your personal challenges? How do you stay sane and healthy?
My personal challenge is to be able to organize and realize my dreams.
I stay sane by balancing my private life with school life, by having healthy food and sound sleeping rhythms, by learning new art daily.
I enjoy learning art to keep being interested in life. I learnt felt art through internet tutorials. My previous skills of painting and embroidery helped me to learn felting. I will post some pictures of what I have achieved. Also, I spend time in the painting workshop trying to illustrate the story book that I wrote. Understanding the use of different media in art is very interesting and it also re-energizes my interest in life. It relaxes me and refreshes my joy in working with youngsters.
How does culture affect your school life, your teaching, your school environment, your school community, the work with the children and parents?
I think Indian culture places the teachers on a pedestal and in general cordiality is a way of life. The biggest challenge is to overcome social differences and to have reverence for everyone.
The children coming to our school are used to having domestic helpers at home. They grow up depending on servants. I grew up in such conditions myself. Caste is not such an issue these days. My concern is how to co-exist with domestic helpers. As we have a large population in India, it is a form of employment. But like computers are replacements for brains, these servants are replacements for our will to work. It is a task for youngsters to know how far to go in accepting help and how far to become self-reliant. How we treat domestic helpers is yet another social skill. This is one challenge in our society. Dignity of labour is very important.
Best wishes and thanks for your interview!