One Step at a Time
Author: Neelanjana Varanasi
As I stand at the close of another term, I’m still seeking answers. One question leads to another. I guess the thrill of it lies in unearthing new questions each time!
An entire school year and one year of the pandemic gone by, time indeed flies. With over four months of my fellowship journey remaining, I ask myself what whole-school transformation means to me. Is it a journey that begins and ends with the fellowship? Is it something that begins when the fellowship ends? These questions took refuge in my head and didn’t seem to budge. In attempting to figure out what it means to embark on this journey, I grew restless. My restlessness and impatience stemmed from not finding these answers. At one point there were more questions than answers and I was stuck in the same place.
Leadership is a key component of the Bhumi Fellowship. I’d see my peers try out different initiatives at their schools and that’d push me to try some of them at my school as well. I remember a conversation with my program manager about taking leadership at the school. While reflecting on my inhibitors, I realized that I was operating from a place of fear. Fear of acceptance, failure, and rejection. Leadership also requires trust, faith, and a lot of effort. I was sceptical of all three. I’d often find reasons for why something might not work. My manager said, “But what if it does work out?”. He told me that I should take the leap.
Reflecting on the last couple of months at school has made me realize that taking the leap means trying. Something I always tell my children in the classroom is to try no matter what. Try even if you don’t know, even if you’re afraid – you’ll learn much more from the process. It took me time to get there, to try, to take that leap when it came to whole-school transformation. What gave me that confidence to try no matter what is my children. Albeit a little difficult, they taught me what it means to take ownership and leadership. Watching them try in the classroom also gave me the courage to take leadership at my school. Whether it’s attempting to solve a question with a little bit of prompting, engaging in peer learning / attempting to blend and segment sounds during class, I’ve seen a lot of them display courage and take ownership of their learning as well as their peers’.
Working with different stakeholders in the system can be rather complex at times – different stakeholders approach the bigger goal in different ways. In my experience, all the stakeholders’ interests align at working towards what’s best for the child. I then learned that I needed to take a step back and reflect on one common purpose that all of us are working towards – the children. I realized that the final outcome of my initiatives was child/student development. What are components/key levers that need to be identified and addressed as a priority? As I stand at the close of another term, I’m still seeking answers. One question leads to another. I guess the thrill of it lies in unearthing new questions each time!
For children coming from underprivileged backgrounds, education is the only way to secure their futures. It helps them identify their voice and create the future of their dreams. The Bhumi Fellowship aims to do this through whole-school transformation.
About the Author
Fondly referred to as the ‘mirror’ of the group for how much she reflects, Neelanjana is known for her bad jokes and love for food! She’s passionate about making education and teaching trauma-informed.