Joan Varghese George, Experiential learning school teacher: We keep in mind the skills needed for the future
On the occasion of International Women’s Day today, Joan talks about her journey as an experiential learning school teacher
An MBA graduate who started her career in the hospitality industry, Trivandrum-based Joan Varghese George decided to take a break from work when she had her first child to become a full-time mom. She says, “My interests shifted around that time, and I found my real passion in life. I became keenly interested in the development of children and especially the way they learn. It led me to take up some courses in early learning and I took over the preschool and kindergarten named The Friends School to get some hands-on experience.”
Starting a school of her own was always a dream for the 34-year-old but conceptualizing a unique summer camp along with her husband, George, for kids between the ages of 6 to 14 years gave her a clear insight into why she needed to do it at the earliest. “We noticed that most of the kids who came to us lacked confidence, basic life skills, physical agility, creativity and an ability to think independently. But within the two months they were with us, we were able to bring about a tremendous transformation in them.” With a lot of parents requesting her to start a school after the summer camp, Joan started her journey with the experiential learning methodology. “We brought in a lot of changes to the curriculum keeping in mind future skills and also launched our first batch of Grade 1 in 2022. We adopted this as we feel the traditional way of learning followed in majority schools is outdated and is not preparing children for the future world. Our curriculum is a fusion of Finnish, Japanese and Indian systems.”
In this field, being a woman has always been an advantage as parents feel comfortable when they see a woman in the forefront of a school, according to George. Regardless, there were challenges along the journey. “One of the ongoing challenges we face is the competition with the big schools in the city. Majority of parents are still unaware of why they should reconsider the traditional way of learning and consider schools like ours where we give focused attention to each child and prepare them for the changing and ever-dynamic future.”
We are proud to say that we are an organization run and operated by women. We have only a handful of male staff. We consider our staff our biggest assets and ensure to give them opportunities to bring in their own creativity in the work instead of blindly following a set plan. We strongly believe that happiness amongst our staff is what transfers to our children.
I strongly believe that as a person in the field of education, I do feel I have a huge responsibility in moulding the next generation with the right mindset. We ensure that in our school, we do not follow or push any gender stereotypes among the children. If we do notice any children engaging in such conversation, we intervene and correct them. We encourage healthy interaction between boys and girls which goes a long way in building healthy associations about the opposite gender. In whatever way we can, we want to raise empowered girls and boys who are not threatened by the empowered girls.
One message she would like to give out through her story is that “it’s never too late to follow your true passion”. She says, “A lot of women may feel like their career interests shifted after they had babies. Some of them pursue it but many others feel like its not wise to quit their jobs and pursue that new interest as its too risky. My advice would be, if you are in a financial position to make a career shift, take the plunge and pursue that interest. You never know, you may end up stepping into your true calling in life.”