Resilience… well-being… growth mindset

Dr. Aarti Bakshi, school counsellor, Pathways School, Noida shares best practices followed at Pathways School Noida.

–-by Dr. Aarti Bakshi

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Self-Awareness is the first step to progressive thinking. At Pathways, we as a school community of students, parents, faculty, and management took the plunge to contemplate.

Pathways School, Noida is a young school of eleven years. And like young children who have learnt to walk, run, and sprint, by trial and error, by testing, by pushing boundaries, communicating, accepting feedbacks and timely reflecting, the school has learnt its strengths, areas in progress and implemented path breaking ideas, mindfully. This is a journey of best practices that we as a school are joyous about, and which spur us to push towards other methods to sharpen our good practices and find a few that intrigue us.

Dr. Aarti Bakshi is a school counsellor with Pathways School Noida. She possesses extensive experience in hospitals and academic setups for the past 14 years. PhD in developmental Psychology, she is passionate about Mindfulness, teaching life skills through stories and Mental Health.

Self-Awareness is the first step to progressive thinking. At Pathways, we as a school community of students, parents, faculty, and management took the plunge to contemplate. Through the past few months, there have been immersive sessions to study and evaluating every aspect of school to safeguard and promote the welfare of all students.

Indian and International standards in academics and safety:

The school is authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization to offer its curriculum which includes the Primary Years (PYP), Middle Years (MYP) and Diploma Program (IBDP). The school meets all Indian Government statutory regulations for operation including all safety norms. There is a Child protection committee which follows the school policy and a POSH committee (following the regulations of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act). Child safety requirements are carefully adhered to and there are specified trained staff responsible for safety, security, and child protection, adhering to the international standards of CIS and NEASC guidelines.

Student Voice and Choice:

The school environment is characterized by openness, fairness, trust, and mutual respect to support students’ learning, well-being and developing leadership attributes. The student council at both primary and secondary school have conversations with the school leadership and suggest improvements to functioning including holding events or suggesting a re-scheduling of break times during online lessons and timetables were altered based on these. Senior students had the opportunity to lead after school Clubs that included Mathematics clubs, Body image clubs, Eco Warriors and Film clubs.

Students give back to society:

Students are encouraged to develop partnerships with the local community, particularly through charity work. Service learning is a prominent part of the school’s community, and the students have ample opportunities to participate in different projects and events like the Abhaar Utsav, Day of sharing Interact Club, CAS project, contribution, and welfare activities during Christmas Carnival. This is enabled at all three levels of the school – the Primary, the Middle and the Secondary through Class Representatives, Teen Ambassadors, Interact Club and The Student Council.

In partnership with technology:

Technology is extensively used as a learning tool at Pathways. The school has created a benchmark in the purposeful use of technology in school education with universal radio networking and the use of interactive whiteboards & projection screens to integrate information communication technology (ICT) with classroom learning. There has been extensive training of faculty in the use of technology-based teaching during the lockdown and there is widespread acknowledgment from all in providing a stimulating learning environment even with distance learning.

Academic ownership through the pandemic:

In this time of pandemic, the school has moved to remote learning completely, starting from grades early years to grade 12. Various online platforms give a variety of learning experiences included synchronous and asynchronous learning. The academics were balanced with experiential learning and play promoting social
emotional wellbeing. As per the need of the students, the ALS (additional learning support) and ES (English as an additional language) support classes were also given to the students. The parent community were involved in various activities keeping in mind their own and their children’s wellbeing. Some of the programmes that happened virtually were new student induction, transition from primary school to middle school and even DP2/grade 12th graduation celebration, parents orientations, story-telling sessions with Indian and international authors. Even virtual Parent Teacher meetings were arranged successfully.

An example of student voice and choice was on fast fashion. Fast Fashion is the Mass-production of cheap, disposable clothing. Countless new collections per year make us feel constantly out of date and encourage us to keep buying more. Fashion industry is the second biggest polluter according to UN. Our love for Fast Fashion is contributing to pollution immensely and harming the environment, is the lesson the children learnt.

Students of Grade 4 learnt about the poisonous impact of Fast Fashion on the environment and explored the connection between Fast Fashion and Responsible fashion by reflecting on their own practices. They suggested some of the sustainable practices to put an end to Fast Fashion like by buying less, buying from sustainable brands, buying better quality, by donating old clothes, by recycling them or buying from second hand shop. This made them reflect on taking responsible action for a sustainable future.

Well-being is paramount:

A nurturing school environment delved deep into every concept of health and wellness at school, including medical safety, emotional, mental, and physical safety for every student future success.
Well-being – physical
and medical care 

Various online platforms give a variety of learning experiences included synchronous and asynchronous learning. The academics were balanced with experiential learning and play promoting social emotional wellbeing. As per the need of the students, the ALS (additional learning support) and ES (English as an additional language) support classes were also given to the students.

Our staff doctor has also conducted some health awareness session with students periodically and a medical newsletter now goes out focusing on healthy habits even during the lockdown. To spread awareness on Covid-19 before the pandemic, an awareness session on the spread of the disease and how to combat it was conducted with the school community. A sanitation drive was also carried out in the school much before the lockdown announcements were made by the Government.
Well-being – Emotional growth

There is a Wellness Week which serves to focus on kindness, empathy, reaching out, gratitude and compassion. School counsellors are available to students and during online school they have mailed students encouraging online meetings and tracking wellbeing.

Teacher polls for Wellness week

Wellness week’s main purpose was to emphasize the importance in making healthy choices as the easiest and enjoyable choice. Wellness is an active process of making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. To garner a comprehensive, well-rounded Wellness, integrated teamwork on several fronts was achieved. Teamwork between students, between students and teachers, and among parents and educators were encouraged.

As students showed enthusiasm in all scenarios, we were mindful of their physical, social and emotional well-being. After decoding the essence of well-being, happiness, resilience, empathy, gratitude towards friends, the students were treated to stories by teachers of other sections in the ‘Mismatched Storytelling Day.’ For the story session, the tutors in a particular grade swapped their sections, with each other, for a lesson. Each tutor shared one story with the class on empathy/compassion/ resilience. Discussions, reflections and activities, followed the stories. #Reset, Reboot and Recharge, covered the art of not giving up and being resilient in the new normal.

They worked on learning, as well as practicing a new skill to bounce back, while working in the new normal classroom. Safe and unsafe touch was covered in all grades to emphasize on personal wellbeing, by the school counsellors. Strategies and rules were discussed and awareness posters along with comic strips were created by students to showcase their understanding on the topic. As a holiday fun activity, students planned and celebrated after choosing between a party or an obstacle race with their family. Wellness is also state of being when students displayed kindness to their classmates as they complimented on each other’s strengths, worked on overcoming obstacles as well as demonstrated failing early, failing fast and failing forward.’

College counselling:

The school has subscribed to a Counselling Guidance Portal for students to research about colleges, countries, majors, scholarships, and fee structures. During the lockdown imposed to deal with the pandemic, students were updated and oriented through Webinars and Virtual events. Students and their families got to meet University Representatives and Alumni. Guidance is also given on online courses, summer school programs and internships. The department issues a newsletter every month too.

Partnership of the parent community across the school is sought when arranging summer observations and internships for High School students. Parents arrange safe and meaningful internships for students in or through their own organizations, as it gives High School students some exposure to real life and strengthens self-awareness while building their portfolio towards college applications.

Our pandemic learnings and the way forward:

• In its efforts to review and recommit to the school vision and mission, the school roped in all stakeholders (parents, students, and staff) in the process to review the guiding statements. This process has now been completed.

• The need to get our alumni to plough into our school culture was felt so that our students can benefit from them socially, academically, and professionally. This is the new area of thrust.

• Emphasis has been laid to ensure that child protection practices are strengthened through ongoing training programs, safety measures are strengthened by seeking inputs from students and actioning on them.
• With an intent to increase international mindedness, multiple speakers and authors from around the globe were invited to lead sessions, and student & school connections from around the globe were established.

Our biggest learning was that for an institution to raise its bar, it needs a very focused and collaborative team effort and that good practice in one section of the school can be well adapted by another.

Our biggest learning was that for an institution to raise its bar, it needs a very focused and collaborative team effort and that good practice in one section of the school can be well adapted by another. It became evident more so during pandemic when our school could preempt the situation. The fact that we seemed to be just threading all beads together during the crisis which helped every step like a process to follow instead of just being in crises.

Everyone tried to keep pace with the technology, creativity and in a way a constructivist mindset were the virtues our great institution prepared us for. There was never a day when we did not do mindfulness or sharing and caring for each other in the teams and sharing innovations in the methodology of curriculum delivery.