Enabling teachers to see students as holistic human beings!

Hey Arushi, we have been hearing about you and the learning communities you are creating from people around. It’s so exuberating to get into a conversation with you about this. So let’s start from the beginning, tell us a bit about yourself, and how did this journey start?

Well, it’s going to a little difficult to tell you about my whole story (laughing) but I will try. I am Arushi and my Story starts from Alwar. My life took me to doing Civil engineering in IIT Delhi, And just at the first time I was there, I knew that I wanted to learn about humanities and did not want to go to corporate sectors. Anyways, fast forward I completed my course and I was very sure that I want to understand the world around me better and figure out ways where I can be a part of the change. At my Idealistic 22, that is what I was thinking. 

So I started working with the center for sciences and environment and then I worked with a couple of Non-profits. For me, it was the journey of one understanding the world, meeting diverse people across the country, and also understanding myself and sort of unlearning what I had learned during my own educational journey. 

Then after a few gigs, I set out to social enterprises, one in the field of agriculture – failed miserably. But that’s a part and parcel of entrepreneur lifestyle. You try to become an entrepreneur 10 times and you will become 11th. 

Then I was in a leadership position in another non-profitan organization called – People for parity. And I worked with them for almost 3 years and we did gender education with young people acrossthe country the idea was to create spaces for young people to educate them about the role gender has played in their lives and help them build some skills and tools. So they can take action in their lives. 

Q – When you say gender-based education, do you mean you campaigned for the LGBTQ community?

That was also a part of it but I won’t say it was the focus. The general idea was to tell everyone that how gender is a sociological concept and how it affects us because we get conditioned based on that. By the point where my time ended with People for Parity, I was totally disillusioned and asking myself about my role in society. With the kind of education and class privilege, I hold as an individual. 

So I then decided that I wanted to work in the field of education because that seemed to be the time-space for that kind of thing. So I pursued a degree in master in education from Harvard graduate school of education. And finally, that brought me to Jaipur where I started Ashvattha learning community

In this whole journey, there was a phase when I was into depression before entering into IIT and it took me around 10 years to understand what mental health is. It was those preparations years in Kota where it was breaking point for me. I am who I am because of my experiences and I think I am in a pretty good place

Q . How do you define the learning communties that you are building? 

Learning community denotes a space where one not only learns from books but also from self-learning and from each other. And this pace has that curiosity for learning, for oneself and each other. 

Q. And how Ashvattha, is different from other learning communities?

Our learning community is for school educators for now, with characteristics like curiosity, collaboration, envisioning, and imagination.

Q Are educators really good students and do you punish them?

Lol (laughing), in an ideal world, they should be but the problem is about the notion of the role of a teacher. When a teacher enters a classroom we assume they know everything and whatever they tell is the truth. With this kind of pressure, there are chances of them becoming arrogant. But if you emphasize with them you will realize it’s a lot of pressure.

When we as a student aren’t treated or taught well we attribute it to the teachers. But they are actually doing the dirty work of the system and they are not the ones to blame. It is the system that aims that children should fit in the capitalistic society.

When children are young we do not see adults as humans because they have the authority over everything and we tend to see our parents and teachers as someone with authority only and that I think it’s the challenge.

Q And what are you trying to achieve with your community ideally?

Well, we are working towards a mission that educators will be able to see themselves as holistic human beings which will enable them to see their students as holistic human beings. We are also trying to give them those tools which they can use in the classroom to connect to students. Because teachers usually lack in engaging the child physically in class and focus on audiovisual senses only.

Q – Wow, that makes absolute sense. By the way can we ask you why did you name it Ashvattha?

Asvattha is a Sanskrit word of peepal tree. We believe that if the world is a forest then teachers are like trees with deep roots, which are nurturing and synthesize everything around themselves from the soil, air, and nourishment for the forest. And then they produce fruits which are the students, the bright future of the country.

Wow, what a thought process Arushi! We are really stunned to hear out your story, and are really looking forward to see this new breed of teachers who see students as holistic human beings, and thus treat and teach them in the same way! I so wish our teachers were so, who could have facilitated our curiosities and helped us learn by teaching! Anyways, apne jo yeh pratha chalu kari hai humare bachchon ke kaam aayegi! Hahaha!

Thank you so much Arushi, for being here with us, and we wish you all the speed to get your ideas executed, and come to life soon!

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