Follow by Email

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Thoughts from ITSA 2012 team members on the “Institute of Writing & Thinking” workshop & "Training For Change"

May 18th – May 21st was a busy weekend for ITSA team members. Congregating in New York, the team took part in a “Training for Trainers” workshop, taught by veteran educators Betsy Raasch Gilman and Diana Gonzales from the Philadelphia-based organization Training for Change, a leading name in educating for democratic, nonviolent social change. Participants gained valuable skills in the areas of facilitation, teambuilding, teaching and communication. Julia Meyer was there for the ride:
“After months of anticipation, on Saturday, May 11th, training finally began. Indu Chugani, one of the co-founders of Educators for Teaching India, led a creative thinking workshop at Bard College. As a student at Bard, I was already familiarized with the atmosphere and teaching style – classes went for the entire day and were intellectually challenging. However, the format was different from the typical discussion-based classroom. Instead of having an open discourse, students responded in writing to what they had read.  Then, in no particular order, everyone shared what they had written. While there was an assortment of exercises, some more complicated than others, they mostly followed this format: reading, thinking, writing and speaking. While all my courses at Bard had required active participation, critical analysis, and creative thought, none of them had been structured quite like the experience of L&T. I remember a couple of L&T exercises, but one in particular that I’ve enjoyed both times: Poetry Explosion.  (…) Its conclusion resembled a cubist painting: rather than simply seeing the poem from our own perspective, the various viewpoints layered on top of one another.  The subject was no longer clearly identifiable. It became both an amalgamation of thought and a divergence of ideas, taking the poem into new, uncharted territory. (…)
By the end of the workshop I was completely rejuvenated. In school I can feel my mind stretching, bending, and twisting in every direction until there’s no where else to go. It’s satisfying, illuminating, and I love it, but it can also be an exhausting, even painful experience. The workshop reminded me that intellectual thought doesn’t have to be this taxing. By the end of Indu’s workshop I felt as though my entire mind had been reopened. Strain was replaced by freedom. I had the understanding that nothing I wrote could be wrong; I simply responded with my first thought, an idea that I would normally dismiss, and explored where it could take me. (…) Indu reminded me that thinking doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but can be quite energizing. We are always thinking something; it is just a matter of freely accessing these thoughts. Any idea that is seemingly simple or dry can open a window into an entirely new mental landscape.  And with that, there is always another place to go.”

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Thoughts from ITSA 2012 team members on the Institute for Writing & Thinking at Bard College

Between May 12th and 13th, ITSA participated in a workshop led by Indu Chugani, co-founder of Educators for TeachingIndia (EFTI), supported by the Harvard South Asia Initiative. ITSA 2012 team members from Philadelphia and New York traveled to Bard College, where they spent two intense days focusing on the role of writing in teaching and learning. Team member Arden Feil comments on the experience:

“Participating in the training with the Institute of Writing and Thinking at Bard College really helped me see just how valuable and worthwhile writing can be. At first I was a bit apprehensive about the weekend. I really had no idea what to expect, and I was both excited and nervous about the idea of meeting all of my fellow interns and partaking in this workshop with them.  The concept of Writing and Thinking was not new to me; I had already participated in a few similar workshops prior to the weekend, yet I never felt I had truly experienced the workshop. This weekend’s workshop far exceeded my expectations and brought me to understand and appreciate the value in the writing and thinking techniques. (…) What I found so amazing about this workshop was how easily we were able to form an environment where everyone felt comfortable about sharing their writing. This can be credited to our wonderful workshop leader, Indu Chugani. Her interest and specialty in topics concerning India was a very fitting way to focus the workshop and connect it back to our work in India this upcoming summer. What I took away most from the workshop was the idea of perspective and how our views can so easily be influenced by the Western media’s portrayed image. I found myself confronting the question of what is the real India, and struggling to find a definite answer. I enjoyed the process of answering questions by “free writing” and then going around the room in a read aloud fashion to share our response. Not only was it was helpful to hear the varying opinions of the group, but it made me feel more confident in my own writing skills.

            I hope to take some of the lessons we learned that weekend to India because I think they will be valuable to our curriculum. More than anything, this workshop made me realize how little I can prepare for entering a culture so drastically different to my own; however, I also know that our ultimate goal is to give our students a new way of thinking. If we can put to use some of the techniques we witnessed in this workshop I think we will be able to get past some of the cultural barriers separating us and our students, and lead successful and impacting workshops.”