Letting Children be – The Twins’ tale

– By Bindu, Teacher at Tejasvita Trust

It is the beginning of another academic year- a new start and a new window of opportunity  Though we teachers equip ourselves with elaborate training and relearning/unlearning, the children do not fail to surprise us, every now and then.  

As we Tejasvita teachers spend only a limited amount of time i.e six hours a week with the preschool children, it becomes very important for us to make this time very effective.  Sometimes, this “limited time” aspect can be stressful on the teacher, as we would ideally like to deliver all that we have planned within this time. But thankfully, since the children are oblivious to all these “limitations”, very often they teach us the important lesson of going with the flow, through their playfulness.  This happened to me recently during “Circle Time” with the children.

IMG_0325We always begin our session with “Circle Time”.  This is the time we use to transition children from their conventional classroom scenario to our Tejasvita ambiance. And during the beginning of the academic year, we ensure that children get comfortable with us and the transition, by singing out their names, using puppets and giving a personalized greeting. We teachers also get to know the children and their names during this time.

In a pre-primary class, we sometimes struggle to differentiate children if they have similar names, since children at this age do not take their names as seriously as we adults do.  But this year, our challenge became a tad more challenging – we have two identical twins in our class , Vaishnavi and Vaibhavi and nobody in school, including themselves, could tell us one from the other.  We tried calling out their names frequently to see who responded first, thereby giving us a small clue. But this effort yielded different results every time. Totally confused, we went to their class teacher hoping to get some help.  She told us that the only difference between them is that one of them wears an earring in one of the ears. But was the girl with the earring, Vaibhavi or Vaishnavi, we still had no clue. 

So, one day after class, when I took one of them aside and asked her if she was Vaishnavi, she said no. “Vaibhavi?”. She again shook her head in the negative.  As I wondered how a child could not know her name, I got an idea. This time I asked the child what her mother calls her at home. I was in for a surprise when she told me, “Vismaya”.  “What about your sister” I asked. “Vinaya”. I then realized that these were their “pet” names at home. Now I know the real size of the challenge that we were facing. Four names for two identical children with only one earring as a clue. 

Not willing to give up, the next day during Circle time, I called “Vaishnavi” out of turn to see who will respond.  The twins who were chatting and playing with themselves till then, looked at each other, passed a naughty grin between them and looked at me simultaneously.  It was as if they had a silent pact to keep this identity crisis, unresolved.  

As I closed the attendance register, I could not help smiling at these two naughty faces.  “Letting Children be” is an important part of our Tejasvita philosophy and these twins reminded me of that, once more. And they also reminded me that, logistics could always wait.

If life could be interesting as an identical twin, it is more so for a preschool teacher. 

What does it take to teach children to love learning?

– By Gayathri Tirthapura, Trustee at Tejasvita Trust

Arokya, a 5 year old boy was diligently working on the activity of the day – sorting pictures of fruits by both the type of fruit and the colour. As he sorted and stuck these 12 fruit pictures to his heart’s content on a piece of paper in a 6*2 matrix format, he seemed confident of what he was doing. He was also completely engrossed and seemed at peace doing this activity. He fearlessly got up to request for more glue and sat down to complete the rest of the activity. With great pride, he handed over the finished work to the teacher.

The teacher beamed at the finished work and having realized that there was a mistake in the sorting, gently asked Arokya, “What color is this?”, pointing to one of the fruit pictures.

“Red” Arokya answered.

The teacher then pointed to rest of the pictures in that column and before she could ask anything more, Arokya started laughing and took his finished work back to his spot. He had realised his mistake. He had sorted that one picture wrong. He corrected it, all the time laughing at himself and his silly mistake. The rest of the children doing their activity around him were engrossed in their own sorting battles and didn’t seem to be bothered by this episode.

One of the things I love doing every week is to visit a few of the preschool classrooms we work in, in the urban low income communities of Bangalore, India. It’s hard to imagine the kind of backgrounds these children come from. Being children of house maids, truck drivers and many other low paying and/or unstable professions, they represent some of the poorest in the country. Conditions are hard at home but their parents have decided that their children will have a better future. They have chosen affordable private schools (APS) for their children’s schooling where we, a non-profit organisation run our preschool supplementary program to support the existing early childhood classrooms. Our program is holistic and supports the cognitive, physical, social and emotional development of a child.

As I survey the classroom consisting of 36 children and 3 teachers, all absorbed in sorting, I can’t help but feel awed by how the teachers have accomplished this feat of engaging everyone in learning. Just 7 weeks ago when we started classes for this academic year, we struggled to set the classroom expectations with the children. Back then, they seemed to have very low entitlement, survival instincts were high, they were not willing to share or take turns and more than a few even resorted to aggression when things didn’t go their way. Back then, learning cognitive skills in such an atmosphere seemed like a far away dream.

Working in the early childhood space for about 10 years now has convinced me that being a teacher for young children requires a big heart, patience and stamina more than any other skill. You may have a great curriculum and lots of training in pedagogy but it can only take you so far. This is especially true if you are trying to build lifelong skills and values in children. The child watches his/her teacher’s every move and absorbs the vibe – is she excited about this activity she is doing with me, is she angry that I made a mistake, did she get irritated because I kept calling her again and again without waiting for my turn, did she cheer the other child up when he was sad, did she help him when the other child hit him. These vibes in the classroom shape the child’s mood and hence the motivation to learn. The longer teachers can create a good vibe in the classroom, the more steady learners the classroom will have.

I think of all the different things a teacher has to do simultaneously in the classroom to create the right vibe. She has to engage children with the right level of challenges based on their abilities, scaffold each child’s learning, while at the same time handling challenging behaviours of children patiently and be cheerful and excited about the activities all through the session.

As Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist once said, “The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child” . It is this warmth that can shape the motivation of a child to learn. On this teachers’ day,  I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the teachers at Tejasvita and across the world for their passion, commitment and the warmth they carry in service of the holistic development of children.


A journey towards learning and confidence

– By Rewati Karmarkar , Teacher at Tejasvita Trust

In my four years at Tejasvita, so many children’s faces flit through my mind as I remember them with a smile on my face. Some I “meet” even now, as they have become “seniors” in their school- first and second graders. I say meet, but its more like being totally engulfed in little arms trying to encircle me to the point of being in danger of losing my balance. I just can’t help but reprimand… and laugh at the same time.

One of these children is a boy named Lohith.

Lohith is one of twins. When I first encountered him in our preschool program, he was a bundle of energy and both he and his twin would be running all over the class. It would be difficult to get their attention…and keep it!! They were a team – with his brother Likhith being the more energetic of the two and leading them into mischief. The only time both would sort of settle down was during “Free Play”.


Free Play is a process, we at Tejasvita, have once every week. We arrange different activity materials like puzzles, blocks, thinking games, beads, pretend play material like kitchen set, tool set etc. The children can pick up anything they want, explore, use, play and exchange it for a different one. This is the most popular activity for children and teachers alike. This is simply because of the informality of the process. Personally, some of my most memorable interactions with children have been during this time. Something to be said for responsibly used freedom.

Anyway, back to Lohith. Initially, he would pick up the tool set and his brother would pick up some blocks regularly. They would try to monopolize these during the complete session. In one such session, they didn’t manage to get the tool set. I offered the “Lion and Mouse” story book ( which was kept as part of the free play) to Lohith. He reluctantly took it. I sat with him and we started looking at the pictures. I asked him about them. The story had been narrated earlier in class using the same book. So he was familiar with the pictures and also the story. Initially he was hesitant but when we came to the part where the lion laughs, he laughed the same way as we did in the narration of the story earlier. He slowly began to get involved in the story. His brother, in the meantime, had secured the tool set and was calling him to join. I expected Lohith to immediately keep the book away and join him. But wonder of wonders, he continued sitting with me with the book. He would look at a picture and say a word he had heard in the narration associated with it. He finished the book with me. I thought, that was a good start. He would surely, go to the tool set now. But another wonder, he brought “The Thirsty Crow” book next and sat with me.


From then onwards, in every Free Play he started with books and then slowly started exploring other materials. He saw a 20 piece sunflower puzzle one day. It was a tough puzzle as there was no reference picture – just a bunch of similar looking puzzle pieces in a bag. He brought that to me and said “How Miss?” I sat with him.  “See, this has a brown part, but other is missing… which piece will fit? “ And we went on. After guiding him for a while, I got up to go to another child. I kept glancing to see how he was doing. I half expected him to give up. But he just kept at it and he was left with 2 pieces which were not fitting easily. I thought he would call me. But he continued to struggle and finally he finished!!!!

I still vividly remember that face smiling from ear to ear, so much pride in the achievement. He took my hand and led me to his place. I wished I could have kept that solved puzzle just like that.

Since then, while he still had his occasional “energetic” moments with his brother, somewhere within he had changed. He was more confident and was more involved. He started taking more care even in explorative tasks, planning and thinking.

He still grins from ear to ear whenever he sees me in school. Once, he held my hand as he walked with me and asked “How are you Miss?”  

What can I say? I am super lucky to be able to receive so much uninhibited love from all OUR children!!!

Where the mind is without fear

– By Karthika Vijayamani, Teacher at Tejasvita Trust

It was a Monday. A stations day for us. It is the day we give children a choice of explorative art activities to do. We teachers set up our stations as usual. One station had the vegetable printing activity. The station had a variety of cut vegetables children could pick, dip in colours and print on paper. Children enthusiastically came to pick their tray of vegetables and colours and set to work. Darshan (name changed) completed his first sheet of vegetable prints and went to the teacher to get a refill of paints and sheets. He then happily went back to his spot to resume his work but, oh no his vegetables had gone missing. I watched him, wanting to see how he will react. Will he make the choice to come up to the teacher and tell about the missing vegetables? Will he cry? What will he do?  


Darshan is a child who keeps very much to himself and is very reluctant to come to the teachers for anything. I was keen on seeing his response. I watched him from across the room, anticipating a response. Not bothering about the vegetables anymore, he started dipping his own fingers in paint and making prints on his new sheet. ‘Nice move!’ I thought as I went on with my work.

A little while after, two very excited kids who were walking  about in the classroom came up to me and very enthusiastically guided me to Darshan. They pointed to Darshan and said “Ma’am see, see” pointing to his fingers, which were all covered in different coloured paints. They went on to point how messy it was and trying to bring to my attention that Darshan was doing something totally different from what he was meant to do with paint, paper and colours. They looked at me with wide mischievous eyes, with a hint of pride like an alert citizen who had warned the policeman of a trespasser, waiting to be applauded for their act and also waiting for me to admonish Darshan for his. Darshan stopped his work and looked at me. I looked at him and encouraged him to continue his work. Two things happened then. One, a big smile of relief from Darshan. Two, quizzical smiles pasted on two highly bewildered faces of the other two boys totally surprised at the turn of events.  Soon, everyone was back to doing their work.

After the class as we were packing up the things and were about to leave. Darshan came up to me and said,  “Bye ma’am” and waved a good bye. That was the first time he had ever approached me by himself and said something. Class had gone on like usual and the above incident would have gone unnoticed as a part of usual class if not for that small wave of hands and that smile of confidence from Darshan. It was such a small incident and maybe it took all of 5 minutes but it made a difference to someone’s confidence. I am hoping that it also helped Darshan’s friends to realize that they are also free to explore.  

Exploration happens when the mind is free – free of boundaries, free of fear and free to soar. We strive to keep our classrooms that way. And sometimes if we are lucky, we get to see the baby steps happen on an ordinary day, in the usual hustle of the classroom, in a smile and gentle wave of multi-coloured fingers.




A story of transformation through art and empathy

– By Bindu, Teacher at Tejasvita Trust

It was a usual day when we teachers went to school, bags loaded with materials and our minds full of ideas for the session that day.  As we entered the school gate, we could see children eating their snacks and playing around.  There were always a few of them who would spot us from far and come running to hug us.   This greeting would be enough for us, to forget the weight of the baggage that we carry, the physical and the mental one.

That day, as I hugged them all, I was surprised to see Vishu’s (name changed) face in that group.  He usually belonged to the indifferent few.  Vishu had a broad smile and looked at me as if he wanted to tell me something.  He then held my hand and took me to the class room.  I decided to follow him.  


When we reached the class room, he pointed upwards to the peg, where we regularly hung the Children’s art work.  He pointed out to one sheet, which was his and said, ‘tree’.  I took the sheet and decided to sit with him for a moment, as he excitedly tried to tell me what he had painted on the sheet, while the other teachers were setting up the class.  When I looked up, I could see Poornima’s (name changed) eyes welled up with tears. Poornima was Vishu’s mother, who worked as the teacher’s help in the same class. Poornima would have sure realised what I did just then, that Vishi had come a long way in these couple of months.

I could not forget the sense of pride on Vishu’s face the rest of the session that day.  Never knew that a small act of exhibiting the children’s work, can do so much to their sense of self-worth.

I was reminded of the initial few days of our session, when it was difficult to get Vishu to sit in one place.  There was a lot of aggression on his petite face, too much for a face that is only four years old.  He would always be walking around, pulling and pushing his peers.  I could never get him to make eye contact, while I spoke to him.   Whenever he was given a choice to select a toy or an activity, he would always choose to snatch what someone else had taken.  His span of attention was barely a few seconds.  His mother’s continuous lamenting and yelling at him in his mother tongue, only made matters worse. Though I could understand her insecurity as a mother, I donned the teacher’s hat and told her not to hover around the son or admonish him while we are around.  Thankfully, she withdrew.

IMG_8291.jpgI was confident when I expected a gradual change in him and we three class teachers worked towards the unsaid agenda.  The first time we took paint to the class, was when I noticed Vishu spending a few uninterrupted minutes on his work.  I still remember the look of glee on his face when he dabbed his hands in paint and looked at me.  Gradually I could see a sense of anticipation in him, as we took something novel to class, every day.  He would eagerly peer into our bag as we did the initial circle time. He must have realised that he enjoyed the colour pencils, the play dough, the sticking, the cutting and the colouring also, because I could now see him engaged for most of the time during our session.  I was rest assured, that art was giving him the much-needed ventilation.

The day we took the play dough, he came and asked me for the star mould, which was used by another kid.  I told him that I was very happy that he asked me for it, instead of snatching it from the other kid and that he had to wait for some time.  He went away after a while, since the other kid did not show any sign of returning the mould.  I got busy with the other children, when Vishu came running to me again and said ‘star’.  I was about to tell him once more that he had to wait, when I happened to look at the writing pad that he held up to show me.  He had made a star without the mould and was smiling from ear-to-ear.  I held him close and both of us looked at the star for some time. Other than making a star without a mould, he had also learnt the skill of patiently waiting for his turn, I told myself.

The sound of the school bell brought me back to the present.  I just could not stop smiling that day.  I realized, once again, that our small gestures for these small lives, is making a big impact, most of the time.  Thankfully, we are being given these opportunities every day.