Writing suffered in the second half of 2014. This has been an overriding concern. But at its cost I could give a start to my teaching career. It gives me a mild kick every time I think of myself as a high school teacher. Teaching sociology and economics to high school kids for the past six months has been a very satisfying experience. I now teach three days a week in an alternative school. The students I teach will appear for their senior secondary exam – NIOS board of India and the British IGCSE A Levels.
As a rookie teacher I have had a good deal of adventure trying to introduce specialized subjects (sociology & economics) to learners who have chosen to study these right in the high school. While it presents a big canvas to experiment and design interesting lesson plans with the students, it is also a fair deal of responsibility to do it well, so that the learning experience doesn’t leave them bored, disinterested or harassed and which might have a bearing on their choice of subjects when they reach university. We have been on metro rides in the city doing unstructured observations, gone around modern art gallery exhibitions, conducted small consumption surveys and similar such exercises which helps in connecting with daily life unfolding of the social and the economic realms. With them, I am watching the world in a slightly different way than I am used to as an adult.
I started the sociology introductory class by a reading of two unusual thinkers – M N Srinivas (Introduction chapter from his book The Remembered Village) and Margaret Mead’s fieldnotes from the Samoan Islands. In retrospect, they appear a decent choice because launching off from written works in sociology, the students could associate keen (and structured) observation of things and people around them a key aspect of sociology. I could see them applying this in their written assignments. The other thing which is remarkable about teaching sociology and economics at high school level is that at this level the students are not prisoners of theories. Neither are they writing to please the reader. They write what occurs to them. This I strongly feel is the first step towards original thinking. During my grad program, I could see many students slapping theories left and right into their essays and thesis. Often, it felt as though they have nothing to say, report or talk about from their field research if one restricts them to say it without aligning or locating themselves within an existing theory. What I see in written works of the high school kids is pure observation and their own subjective response, which is a good start in social sciences. Theories and awareness about various thinkers and their ideas can now follow.
Besides teaching, work in our company has been growing at a tremendous pace. In consulting, as I write this, we are finishing two project assessments and another small research in behaviour change in hygiene practices. These assignments are driving the realization further – of the necessity of high quality and relevant research in development sector. A handful of companies do this as outsourced contract research. Much of it is still done by academics who are a fair distance away from realizing that their research work lacks touch with ground situation – where information/insights that can be applied to improve development projects/programs (how they are conceptualized, implemented and monitored) is of critical importance. The ivory towers exist. And so does irrelevant research which guzzle in research grants which are already so limited in this country.
My partners and I hope to do more assignments where we can help improve the outcome of projects that our clients are doing. In the instruments and lab infrastructure business we continue to push our efforts to build a strong homegrown company which is committed to relevant and applied research in lifescience and healthcare industry. With the new government at the center, the government funded labs in the country are likely to enter a spate of new projects fueled by increased funding. This might make them receptive to small companies like ours, which often get crowded out by the big dealers and MNCs with Indian operations.
And finally, last year was good for running too. The first marathon of 2015 happens next month and I hope to keep the pace.
Meanwhile, for my comrades I share this Why I Yate New Year’s Day opinion of Antonio Gramsci which packs in a good punch and undeniably worthy of thought –
Every morning, when I wake again under the pall of the sky, I feel that for me it is New Year’s day. (…)
That’s why I hate New Year’s. I want every morning to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. No day set aside for rest. I choose my pauses myself, when I feel drunk with the intensity of life and I want to plunge into animality to draw from it new vigour.
No spiritual time-serving. I would like every hour of my life to be new, though connected to the ones that have passed. No day of celebration with its mandatory collective rhythms, to share with all the strangers I don’t care about. Because our grandfathers’ grandfathers, and so on, celebrated, we too should feel the urge to celebrate. That is nauseating
The long breaks from blogging, I realize, can leave so much unsaid and un-reflected. I hope to keep pace here too. The number of stories have only increased after joining a school.