A classroom in Vidyaniketan School Chennai, transformed into a style show. His pupils split into groups of models, choreographers and designers, and shot them. However, why bring fashion into the classroom?
After graduating from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Nathaniel spent three years in the fashion market. As he moved from designing clothing to providing creative direction and style forecasting to brands, his interest shifted to procedure style. Mulling over chasing his Masters, Nathaniel chose to try his hand. “I had been taking a break, so that I applied for the Fellowship. Because how I looked at it, instructing was a process. If I didn’t like teaching the plan was to get back to my own Pros and design. However, I fell in love with all the work that happens here and the creativity and design that takes place at Teach For India,” he says. “Design has got a great deal to do with difficulty. We are educated to reach the best solution given the constraints. At Beloved For India, I had a lot of kids, we had a lot of problems to solve, and it had been all about thinking seriously and being imaginative,” he states farther.
During the summer gap between both years of the Fellowship, Nathaniel was a resident volunteer at the sadhana woods in Auroville. Apart from taking up environmental protection activities at the book, the volunteers spent four hours on weekends with children practising a technique known as ‘unschooling’. “The kids were given practical, hands-on expertise with the surroundings. A few days they had been instructed to grow pineapples or take care of baby rats! In addition we had sessions to talk about topics such as politics, to encourage an exchange of ideas,” explains Nathaniel.
His experiences at Sadhana and in the mainstream schooling system formed his vision of creating a legitimate middle-ground by choosing the quality of schooling to the scale at which mainstream schooling is functioning now. After his Fellowship ended in 2015, Nathaniel spent six months as the Chennai City Coordinator at Youth For Seva, an organisation that mobilizes volunteers in health, sanitation, education, environmental protection and women’s rights. “I realized that each sector is massive and has multiple battles to fight. So I decided to focus on schooling. I felt like we could impact all these other sectors via schooling,” he says.
In January 2016, he has been there for the past year and a half and moved back to use Vidyaniketandozen. Early on from his Fellowship, Nathaniel had begun to understand that the schooling system was not broken as it had been lopsided. “There were kids in my group who had been academically inclined — ones who have been great with numbers, or languages, or at memorising things; and the system catered to them pretty well. However, I felt like there were these other kids, with all different skill sets, that the system just refused to watch,” he explains.
It was this imbalance that fix and he went back to try. After conducting research, he discovered that ability exists in 3 pools — both artistic, academic and athletic. “The reason academics is taken so seriously is because it is evaluated,” he says. His objective is to move towards a system — one at which 3 pools help spot possible, be evaluated and might be at level.
That is, obviously, a complex job. It was at this time the Nathaniel came across RASA: an organisation in Chennai that functions with special-needs individuals through theater. He collaborated with RASA to devise an evaluation rubric, dividing each pool to. The arts have been categorised into drama, visual arts, music, and movement. “With music, for instance, we broke it down torhythm, speed, shape, and other elements. We analyzed each aspect to find out the student’s ability.” The school conducted this pilot program to get its fifth and fourth grades, and explained to the parents that their kids are getting three report cards annually — one each for academics, athletics, and the arts. “We wanted the parents to understand that their son or daughter should not wind up getting a poor engineer when he could have become an excellent something-else!” Says Nathaniel.
He managed to reschedule the pupils’ timetables to be able to devote more time to athletics and arts. He considers that“to your system to be truly honest, we have to work towards exposing youngsters the exact same or similar amount to athletics and arts as they were to academics.”
The goal of his job would be to create rubrics that they focus on, produce more transparent assessment procedures, and design a solid arts program in consultation. Through this initiative, they aim at providing aid to artists who want to educate. Orchestrating such change was not an easy task. “My biggest strength is ideation and planning, and that I feel as the Fellowship contributed a great deal for this,” says Nathaniel. “My execution was comparatively pathetic. I’ve now begun to appreciate the people around me; I realized that I couldn’t do all of this alone.”
This soul of collective activity is what’s helping Nathaniel and others like him function to provide every child an opportunity!
Written by Ananya Damodaran — Communications at Teach For India.
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