One of the founders of Mantra4Change, Santosh with one of our LRTT Directors, Sarah, and our Team Leaders, Molly and Tania.

Our journey began with an introduction day, on which we covered a wide range of topics such as the local language, Kanada, the top 10 places to visit, and the do’s and don’t’s of an Indian classroom. We worked closely with principals, lead teachers and Mantra School Transformation Leads (STL’s) to pair Fellows with teachers based on content knowledge and skills.

Over the following three weeks the passionate and dedicated Fellows worked hand in hand with the equally passionate and dedicated Mantra staff to create and facilitate meaningful learning conferences, model lessons and learning circles. They also provided hours of mentoring and coaching in five schools around Bangalore.

LRTT and Mantra also spent a day together near the end of this amazing journey sharing ideas, celebrating success, remediating any challenges that had arises and most importantly planning for the future.

How it all started

Sarah Grant, LRTT Partnerships Director

Even after our first call, it was clear that this new partnership between LRTT and Mantra4Change was the start of something special. Mantra4Change, an NGO set up by a Teach for India and TISS alumnus (Santosh More and Khushboo Awasthi) have a clear vision for how to address some of the education challenges in India. India has 440 million children and whilst access to education has increased, further support and systems need to be developed to increase the quality of teaching and learning. In particular, it was the STEP programme that Mantra have designed, focusing on whole school transformation that caught our attention. Their team have a deep understanding of the barriers they need to overcome to tackle poor quality education and they take a holistic approach to addressing school leadership and culture across a wide range of stakeholders.

Mantra and their schools are constantly looking for new ideas and strategies and were excited for the new opportunities that working with LRTT Fellows (international teachers from USA and UK) could bring. For us, the new partnership with Mantra also meant a great chance to learn from their work and share ideas with our other Fellowships in 10 countries around the world.

Designing the Fellowship programme throughout the year has been a really exciting and collaborative process. There were so many questions to be asked and worked through together. Questions such as: How can we contextualise the LRTT training for individual schools and develop a personalised professional development programme for teachers? How can we cultivate a culture of peer learning and mutual respect? And lastly, how can we design a longer term programme to sustain the impact from the first group in July 2017?

Whilst we were able to plan some answers to these questions in advance, we knew that both the LRTT and Mantra teams would need to be flexible as we all adapted to the many changes of plans that come with new (and existing!) programmes. It was this openness to change and to try new things that I believe has laid the foundations for a very successful and long-lasting partnership.

A Snapshot of Our Time in South India

By Molly Jacobvitz, Team Leader

We sat anxiously in the back of an Uber car weaving in and out of the bustling Bangalore traffic on our way to the Mantra offices on our first day in India. Gazing out the window at the numerous fruit carts, flower stands and cows roaming with a slow and deliberate presence, we felt both nervous and extremely excited. We were about to meet Santosh and his colleagues with whom we had been planning this groundbreaking new fellowship for several months. Santosh and his dynamic team quickly put us at ease. They warmly welcomed us and encouraged the sharing of thoughts, beliefs and ideas. We shared our various points of view and brought together our visions. The Mantra team made us feel at home with a welcome lunch fit for queens! (Santosh was sure to have us sample everything Indian cuisine has to offer). We collaborated to plan relevant and meaningful CPD for our fellows as soon as they arrived.

Back in schools, Fellows facilitated reflection sessions which supported teachers in considering how they would work to embed the new approaches to teaching and learning that they felt would have the most impact in their classrooms. Many teachers completed action plans which they will share with their School Transformation Lead (STL) and can also review in January, at the start of the next Fellowship, to help inform the work they will do then.

On the final day of Fellowship, every school held a celebration to thank their staff and the Fellows for the great work they had completed over the last month. Principals, teachers, and Fellows delivered thought provoking and uplifting speeches, acknowledging the incredible impact this first Fellowship has had and encouraging us all to consider how we can best build upon this work, not only during the next Fellowship, but in the months in between.

Our final evening was arranged by the Mantra team. A great setting was provided for us to reflect upon the month as a whole and we were all invited to share our thoughts on what we brought to the fellowship — and what we would take away.

The LRTT/Mantra partnership is one that is rooted in an understanding of the transformative power of education. Following our first Fellowship, we have all been keen to review and reflect upon the data collected in order to inform our work together — not just in January 2018 but over the next 5 months and beyond. We are keen to ensure we build meaningfully upon the great foundation our first cohort of fellows and teachers have laid and have already started planning.

Looking to the Future

By Tania Porteous, Programme Manager

The last few days of our Fellowship provided ample opportunities for us to reflect upon the work we had been a part of.

A visit to the Samhita Academy inspired some brilliant discussions about the significance of a strong school ethos, the challenges facing teachers in different settings — primarily across India but also globally — and the ways in which teachers in these different settings can collaborate in order to exchange best practice.

A final word

On a professional level we are leaving feeling truly inspired. The sheer scale of the education system in India is hard to comprehend and the ensuing challenges are immense. It is easy for organisations to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start or to turn away from the issues. However, seeing the innovative ideas Mantra are bringing to the system and the commitment from their team and schools, we are filled with new ideas, both for developing this programme and for sharing more widely with LRTT programmes around the world. On a personal level we are leaving with many new friends; like-minded people with the same passion for improving global education and sharing ideas.

A huge thank you to everyone involved for a truly remarkable month!

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