In our pursuit to assist the youth to make the Right Academic/Career Choices, we have interviewed several successful individuals.
This is our interview with Meena Chandavarkar- Ex-Principal, Abhinav Vidyalaya English Medium Pre-Primary School and later Superintendent of Abhinav Vidyalaya Pre- Primary, Primary and High School until 2003.
Having finished her primary education in a One Teacher Village school in Konkan and later on graduation in Kolhapur and Pune (Meena Teacher as she is fondly addressed) she is happy to call herself “GHATI Konkani!!” a mix of adventure and affection.
After having a long seven year stint at Hindustan Lever Ltd, Times of India and IBM World Trade Corporation, she found her true vocation with Young Children at the behest of Mrs Rajini Date who invited her to Abhinava Vidyalaya English Medium Pre Primary School.
Meenatai joined the preschool in 1973 and held on to it steadfastly and with all her mind and soul mainly because of her innate love for children.
Tatyasaheb (K B Virkar) the president of Adarsh Shikshan Mandali inspired her with his love for language and work culture. He is the first Maharashtrian to open an English Medium School in Western Pune. He was the first person to write both English into Marathi and Marathi into English Dictionary.
Meenatai, a pioneer of many new ideas and concepts in child education says “Learning through love has now become her philosophy in Education and her life as well!”
CB5: Meenatai … Thank you for giving us this time for an interview…
We are sure that our readers will enjoy reading about your experiences as a Teacher and Pioneer in the field of Education..
Can you tell us how you came into this profession of teaching and education after working for corporates in Mumbai?
Meenatai: Well…All those lovely jobs were really in search of decent earnings due to financial constraints and responsibilities. In fact I have been at it in small ways (tuitions, small jobs etc.) since my age of 18.
And like most, lower middle class people in those years (1955 onwards), I took pride in helping the family. I got my first proper job at Hindustan Lever (HUL), in Market Research that I did for about 2.5 years. After that I joined Times of India (TOI) and IBM followed. These years I enjoyed working and grew in maturity with responsibility while being happy at the same time.
CB5: But in TOI were you involved with Journalism?
Meenatai: I did some bit of journalism. People were trained on the job. In those days there were no journalism colleges (1960-61). But I was not the reporter, I worked in the information bureau, interestingly Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Arun Gandhi was our boss! He told us a lot about Gandhiji. I also wrote the ladies and children’s page with Navbharat times. And occasionally contributed to Dharmayog- a Hindi weekly. I had the good fortune to interview Smt Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Maharani Gayatri Devi.
It was a lot of fun and hard work which later made it easy for me to work in Abhinav Vidyalaya for over 13hrs a day.
CB5: You are known as a Pioneer in the field of Child Education….Can you tell us about some of the initiatives introduced by you in Abhinav Vidyalaya and New India School (2003-12)?
Meenatai: I guess things happened to me. The basic reasons are because some things came to my mind to start with, due to the unconditional love I had for my students. Another and extremely important reason is ALL teachers I worked with, Tai’s, Dada’s and my seniors accepted me absolutely wholeheartedly. Their contribution to all these programs, initiatives happened due to the loving (and often due to the logic and reason) and understanding, bonding and trust we had amongst us. One other reason I dare say is that I am instinctive and highly perceptive person. The other BIG reason is “MY” school where I studied 5th -11th in Kolhapur, which gave me many lessons for life. Abhinav and New India School where I worked are “OUR” schools. I never indulge in mentioning My school, My teachers and My children. They are always OUR school, Our teachers and Our children… because the onus of ownership in any school lies upon the TEAM – “All for One and One for All” is also something that we believed in. Further, my corporate experience contributed in acceptance from all.
I must also mention that almost each initiative and program that we engaged in had a solid basic driving principle behind it. Maybe I chanced upon it after it’s rolling in well and proper! Therefore I mentioned that I play a little more by instinct than intellect.
Let me enumerate the programs and the principles behind which were also at times for sheer joy and fun. And all of us at Abhinav Vidyalaya and New India School think that creating joy, fun, laughter and wholesome entertainment is one of the most important facets to engage in education.
Also let me clarify one thing, people often say that I undertake a lot of experiments….
No please! Please NO!
Because of the kind of love I have for kids, I kept on getting different ideas, but I have never experimented on kids. I never treated them as guinea pigs.
We have always discussed and brainstormed in our TEAM at length, any new concept /idea that we decided to implement.
We enter into any new initiative, with thorough planning and forethought and of course with butterflies in our bellies!
The following are the various initiatives that we pioneered!
- No donations
- No Interviews for students until STD 2
- Earlier the parents were interviewed but now the Parents interview the Teachers and the Principal in an effort to find out whether the teachers in the school know about the 3-5 year olds, their psychology and their problems. PTA members are present to watch the process of admission.
- No competition, exams, ranks or numbers in Preschool and Kindergarten.
- First Day of child in school is a great experience with a lot of fun, flowers, cultural programs and mother/grandmother sitting inside the classroom until the child is used to surroundings and people. No trauma of an unknown place and/or person.
- To enhance the experiences and creativity the children are patiently and lovingly introduced without force to a broad spectrum of activities including – Art, Drawing, Colouring, Sports, Puzzles, Blocks, Dramatics etc. In fact we believe that children are born with all these talents, Teachers have to be the facilitators to make children feel free to experiment with these.
- Freely conducted unbiased PTA meetings, workshops and games with the parent community- encouraging cross learning.
- Grandparent visits to pre-school. All 4 Sambandhis meet on this occasion at the school to watch their grandchild’s gimmicks and engagement in the school activities. This also impacts family integration apart from learning, respecting and helping the seniors at home, on the streets etc…
- Tai-Dada Day.
- Every child to participate in Annual Day on Stage. Also no speeches/guest lecturers or prize distribution on Annual Day.
- Lectures from eminent persons for students class wise.
- Mind and Body development training including Sex education from 5th STD onward.
- Senior KG sendoff for STD 10th students to bond between senior and young students
- Dolls wedding
- Celebrating various diverse Festivals and National occasions. Greeting Cards for Mothers & Teachers on Guru Pournima day
- Performance from famous and well known artists, musicians and dancers to inspire and encourage such pursuits.
- Similarly informative talks from Medical and other professions to expose our children to variety of possibilities in their later life.
- Tabla (percussion) training by masters
- Mensa workshops for Gifted Students from Std 5th, 6th & 7th.
- We used to teach shapes to children in their K.G. It is because very young children have a great capability to remember shapes. We also know how 8-10 year olds are able to solve the Rubik’s cube faster than adults
- I am a person who worries about OUR Nation, Patriotism and such related ideas and I have always wanted our children to be aware of this. We always have a MAP of India in all our classes.
- We also made children from Sr. K.G recite 1-10 numbers in various languages. In that class they have a good concept of number up to 10. Apart from such programs, our school made conscious effort, that we had mother’s name in our registers. We would also write girl’s name first on the catalog followed by boys names. Most schools despite having many women teachers , write boy’s name first.
- You will find that all our teachers and students say “PLEASE”, “THANK YOU”, “MAY I”, “SORRY” whenever occasion rose. Language is the vehicle of your thoughts. If you use the words often, the meaning follows and you think the thoughts genuinely.
CB5: Wow! Meenatai, your experiences coupled with your energy and lots of new, well thought out initiatives! Must have been a task to roll them out? Where did you find the support?
Meenatai: I had colleagues who were very supportive throughout and enthusiastic about everything we were planning to do. No one ever resisted me. I give them full credit of whatever success I have achieved; one person can run a factory but not a school. I am very grateful to them. Even Tatya Saheb never questioned anything I suggested.
Here is one anecdote of our Team work…
Once, a Principal of another school came to meet me. All our teachers were covering books, some 400 books were to be covered. She was surprised to see and commented about it. So I told her that I am here because you have come to meet me. Otherwise I was also with the teachers covering books!
CB5: You were completely dedicated to the school. What were the sacrifices you had to make?
Meenatai: I did miss out looking after my family, specially my son, and I do feel bad about it now. I now feel that I could have given him more time!
CB5: What would you say are your Success factors?
Meenatai: People around me have to be happy, anyone – my colleagues boss or anyone who meets me shouldn’t feel – “Oh why did I see this women today!” They should always feel – “Oh I am so happy I met Meena today”.
Happiness is success.
Respect for others… first for children.
Equality – believe and practice in equality.
All of us make mistakes…learn from them.
Must not hurt others and try to understand others perspective.
CB5: And Meenatai can you share with us some of the achievements that you cherish?
Meenatai: Happy students of Abhinav and New India schools.
The biggest encouragement and support came from the unconditional love children and parents offer me even today.
The “Meena Teacher! Meena Teacher!” chants of all the little children as I arrived in school moves me to tears even now as it did with onlookers and parents.
This is my greatest reward, award, achievement, success, happiness and fulfillment!
CB5: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Meenatai: “All for one and one for all” is my favorite line.
Try and have Affection for everyone around you
“Learning through love” is our motto in New India School and my life philosophy.
But more than students I would give advice to teachers don’t yell, don’t hit the students and don’t talk rudely to them. If you want to touch a child, do it with love.
Remember how much your own children and your students have FORGIVEN you. Learn it from them.
CB5: Meenatai…As always listening and talking with you is not only enriching it is inspiring!
We are sure that our readers will enjoy reading about your experiences and choices and some of them will be motivated to choose a career as a Teacher and Educator!
We Thank you deeply for the interview and sharing so openly with us and our readers!
Until our next Blog on another interesting profession…
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