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Andria Zafirakou receives $1million World Teacher Prize
In an Oscar like ceremony on March 18 in Dubai ,Andria a 39 year old associate deputy head teacher of Alperton Community School in Brent, England won the prize after facing stiff competition from more than 30,000 nominations from 173 countries. “It was so humbling to accept the award,” she says, “not just for myself but on behalf of every teacher who is making an amazing difference in their communities.Let’s find our what made her the winner.
Her utmost concern about protecting children from gangs
One of the challenges in educating children in Brent ,a diverse , deprived and multicultural place with highest number of gangs is children getting exposed to them which is of great concern .Andria travels with her students on school buses just to ensure that they get home and are not waylaid by gangs. On days she does not go on the bus, she stands walkie-talkie in hand, ensuring children get safely onto buses. ‘We have to protect our students at all costs,’ she says.
Trauncy : Efforts at finding causes and solutions to curb truancy
Truancy was very high.Many children skipped classes to return home and chip in chores like cooking or laundry at particular times of the day because that was the time their parents could use the kitchen as they lived in multi- occupancy houses sharing the kitchen , etc with maybe 4 or 5 families One girl told her she did her homework in the bathroom as that was the quietest places in the house. Some get spoilt by gangs .
Once the reasons for truancy were identified, solutions emerged
Andria and her team found solutions that suited the children, their families and the school.The School now provided students with quiet ,conducive space to work and study after school hours, by keeping school open till very late evening ,and facility to use schools Wi Fi ,printer and clubs for self improvement They could take home from school stores paint and art material.The main idea was to keep children off the streets away from many dangerous gangs out there
Role of art in a child’s development is crucial “she says ..
The art and textile teacher makes no bones about the role of art in a child’s development.‘Too often we neglect this power of the arts to actually transform lives, particularly in the poor communities.’ Art is so fundamental; A child needs to be creative; if you take away creativity from them, they become bored and will not be able to think clearly. When you are practicing art, you are always challenging the thought process.’
Greeting children in their own language to connect with them
To make children feel more inclusive, she adopted a few subtle but welcome moves. ‘I learnt to greet the children in their own language; a ‘hello’ on the gate in their language immediately makes their faces light up,’ says Andria, who has learnt basic phrases in several languages that her students use including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Bengali and Portuguese etc
She found a unique way to help students connect to art
She helped bring about a major change in the arts curriculum. She noticed that students were not engaged with arts ,they were completely detached to their own interests and experiences.So, she and her team examined the various cultures of the students , plenty of them being from the subcontinent .So they included lots of Rangoli , Mehndi and Islamic designs in the art class.This made them identify and celebrate their culture , thus they felt inclusive .
She helped children celebrate different cultures via music
She found that the children weren’t engaging with traditional European music; they were not very much interested in it. But, when she said, ‘Ok, let’s start celebrating other cultures and their sounds’, the result was brilliant. The Somali choir that she helped set up in the school was a result of this thinking. She even had Gujarati children singing in Somali.” It was wonderful” she says .
She Invited partners to help for holistic development of students
Another of her innovations was to bring local police officers, mental health workers and teachers to a school roundtable to discuss the holistic development of her pupils thereby enabling everyone involved in their lives to work together to help the children succeed.
Her three tips for teachers are .…
1. Embrace the different cultures among your students. All cultures are beautiful and unique. 2. Show your children how happy and passionate you are about your subject, and how keen you are to share your knowledge about the subject with them. 3. Teach your subject with a smile and with enthusiasm, and your students will automatically get on board.
Her take on what schools can do to help teachers
Give teachers the time and space to work with other teachers; to collaborate, time and facilities to develop their practice and do their research to improve their practice .Provide avenues for teachers to learn about new technologies, concepts, research that is taking place in the world of education.Make provisions for teachers to utilize and implement the knowledge they have picked up.
She plans to give ARTS a very important place in education
She is planning to use part of the prize money to ‘do something that would involve collaborating with artists to inspire students to excel in their chosen fields because she believes ARTS has a tremendous impact on students.( Text adapted from Friday Magazine )