Left to right: Navarathinam, Aruna, Mala, Nilen, Thamizhselvi, Murugan, Simone, Selvaraj, Manju, Satyavani, Jana
Teachers - Practical Skills
Left to right: Ramalingam (art), Thananjayan (swimming), Pannirselvam (tailoring), Devanathan (clay work), Rajesh (carpentry),
Vadivelu (computer), Tony (music), Kalaiselvy (embroidery), Usha (embroidery and dance), Manjula (tailoring)
Besides the normal academic subjects, Aikiyam students spend several hours per week pursuing practical skills and other non-academic courses. All students from the crèche upwards have one hour per week of art and clay work, and students from grades one to four have an hour of art therapy. From the third standard upwards they have at least one hour per week of tailoring and carpentry and from the fourth standard upwards two hours per week on the computer. From the fifth standard until the eighth they have an hour of yoga. In addition each student from fourth standard upwards has five optional hours per week, during which time s/he can take extra classes in art, clay work, tailoring, carpentry and computer, and/or singing, dancing, embroidery & crafts. All children from crèche upwards have an hour of swimming per week as well.
Ramalingam (art teacher to all students from crèche to 8th standard.)
He started teaching at New Creation School, now Aikiyam School, in 2000.
He was born in 1971 in Pondicherry and went to school there. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, a diploma in wood mosaic and chemical etching and a technical teacher’s training certificate.
He explains that in the crèche they mostly play and learn to identify things and then use their imaginations. In kindergarten they learn about lines and how they can use horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines to make a house. In the first standard they are introduced to perspective and in the second they learn about warm and cool colours. In the third standard they learn secondary colours and the different colours of the changing seasons. By the 8th standard they are making full pictures, such as a full street with many houses and a background.. They also learn how to draw animals and the human body.
Ramaligam says many subjects can be learned through art such as nature study, geometry and language. Sometimes children with behaviour problems, or who are behind academically do very well in art, and this gives them confidence, and then their behaviour and academic class work improves. It is very important to be able to make realistic representation, says Ramalingam, especially if one wants to become an architect or an engineer..
Rajesh (carpentry teacher to all students from the 3rd to 8th standards.)
He joined New Creation School, now Aikiyam School in 1993.
Rajesh was born in 1972 in Vellore. He went to school in a nearby village where he completed standard 10. Then he studied carpentry at St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Tindivanam for three years followed by a two year teacher’s training course. In addition he has a BA and has done a 6 month course in AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design).
When he graduated, he was recommended to New Creation. He expected to stay a short time and then get a government job. However many Aurovilians persuaded him to stay and he liked the alternative methods of teaching that we used, and the friendly relations among teachers and with students. By 2000 he was convinced that he wanted to become an Aurovilian.
He follows a clear curriculum. In 3rd standard he teaches marking and cutting. In 4th they do measuring exercises, and make something, such as a small toy chair or table, in one piece. They also learn straight and horizontal cutting. In the 5th standard the students learn how to join and make big toys, such as a car or helicopter with more than one piece. In the 6th and 7th the students are encouraged to think on their own and be creative. In the 8th standard they do striking (hammering) and screwing. Rajesh teaches basic carving to those who are interested and who have the basic skill. In 7th and 8th the students learn how to use sanding and drilling machines.
Each year after January he takes standard 8 students, who are not succeeding academically, full time for 3 months intensive training. This year he does not have such a group as all of our standard 8 students are doing well academically.
He is gratified to observe that most of the younger carpenters in Kuilapalayam and Edayanchavaadi have at one time been his students.
He says the school has come a long way since he joined. Then there were no proper buildings or tools. He moved to the present vocational workshop in 2002.
Devanathan (clay work teacher to all students from crèche to 8th standard.)
Devanathan started at New Creation as an assistant to the former clay work teacher in 1999, and became a full teacher in 2006.
He was born in Kuilapalayam in 1982 and attended school in Pondicherry until the 11th standard. During the summer holidays he met Clay Murugan, as the former teacher was known, who needed an assistant. He planned to work only for the summer, and then go back to complete his 12th standard. However he liked working at the clay workshop and the life at New Creation so much that he decided not to return to school. Two years ago he passed 12th standard through a correspondence course, and is presently working for a degree in Arts and Crafts
Devanthan assisted and learned from Clay Murugan for six years. For the first few years after he left, Murugan would come by to check on how Devanathan was managing, but he has not done that for a couple of years.
Students from the crèche to the eighth grade have one hour of clay work per week as a fixed part of the curriculum and the older students may choose extra hours as optional classes. A few of his students have gone on to become potters. One works in the village at Ganesh Pottery. Another, who was good at sculpture, made a statue for the village temple, and now works there full time doing pujas.
As his clay classes only begin at 11:00, Devanathan supervises in the kitchen from 8:30 until 10:30.
Vadivelu (computer teacher to all students from 4th to 8th standards.)
He joined Aikiyam School in 2012.
Vadivel was born in Kuilapalayam in 1980. He went to school in Pondy until 5th standard and then moved to Udavi School, and later After School (now NESS) in Auroville. Around that time a second-hand computer was given to his older brother, and he was able to use it. He started reading computer manuals and learned everything he knows by himself from studying them, including graphic design, trouble shooting and networking. Then he worked for several years as a graphic designer, for various companies including one of his own, but he did not find that satisfying, and was very pleased when Shankar invited him to teach at Aikiyam. He has always felt happy and relaxed working with children, which he had already done as a sports teacher. So, today, he is particularly happy to pass on his knowledge of computers to the students.
Vadivelu likes the way we teach at Aikiyam, which respects each child’s unique way of learning. His way is to observe each child and give him space where he can explore. He is there to help when a child gets stuck. Although there is a curriculum to follow, he does not put any pressure on children who have difficulty with it, but lets them find what they like to do, and then helps them if they have a problem.. In his experience every child can learn to use the computer, if they find what they like to do.
He shows the students a sample of something that the students might want to do; for example, a postcard-size invitation with a story inside. He then asks them, “Do you think we can do something like this?” Then the students go to the internet and find images and software they can download to do the project. [more...]
Pannirselvam (tailoring teacher to all students from 3rd to 8th standards.)
He came to New Creation School in 1997.
Pannirselvam was born in Pondicherry in 1960, where he studied until the 9th grade. He stopped school to work in the family bakery, which later closed so he started helping at a neighbour’s tailoring shop. He started to work as a full tailor in 1976, and by 1979 he opened his own tailoring shop. Except for two years in Bombay (now Mumbai) Pannirselvam always had his own shop until 1997, when a teacher at New Creation asked him if he would like to come to the school and teach.
All students from 3rd to 8th standards have one hour per week as a fixed part of their curriculum, and can chose additional optional classes. In addition to teaching tailoring Pannirselvam works in the library repairing books. He is happy in the school, but regrets that we can only take 20 new students per year, as there are so many more children in the village, whose parents would choose Aikiyam. He says it’s exceptional in this area to have a principal who really cares about the children, the way Shankar does.
Manjula (teaches tailoring, hand stitching, embroidery and toy making to students from 3rd to 8th standards.)
She joined Aikiyam in 2014 as a tailoring teacher trainee. For two years she worked under Pannirselvam’s supervision, and since 2016 she teaches her own classes.
Manjula was born in 1993. She had completed grade 5 in a village school, and then spent a year at home because of an illness, which severely affected her hip and her ability to walk. In 2005 when she was 12, she began an Individualized education program at Aikiyam to accommodate several hospitalizations and a rehabilitation program at Deepam School for Disabled Children. (see Newsletter February 2008.)
In 2012 she went to Auroville’s Life Education Centre (LEC) (a supportive environment for young women to gain self-awareness and self-esteem while learning a vocational skill). There she learned tailoring and studied for and passed her 10th standard examinations through a correspondence course. She was also part of a women’s empowerment group, which she enjoyed very much. She was there for two years. Manjula has recently passed her 12th standard exams by correspondence and hopes in future to take a course in fashion design by correspondence.
She teaches hand sewing to the 4th and 5th grades, and in 6th grade she teaches them how to use the machine. As well as sewing, she teaches embroidery, and to children who can do embroidery satisfactorily, she teaches toy making.
Kalaiselvy (teaches embroidery and jewelry making to students from standards 3 till 8 as an optional subject.)
She came to New Creation School in 1996. Her main work is teaching Lower Kindergarten (LKG). (For full profile click here.)
About 10 years ago Kalai (along with Usha) got funding through the Project Coordination Group to do a course in embroidery and jewelry making in Chennai, and since then have been teaching it as an optional course to the older students. Later they added Italian embroidery to their set of skills, which they learned from an Italian Aurovilian. Several of their former students have gone on to work in the different handicraft and clothing units in Auroville, where their embroidery skills are much appreciated.
Usha (teaches semi-classical Bharat Natyam and folk dancing as well as crafts (embroidery and jewelry making) as optional classes to students from standards 3 till 8.)
She came to New Creation School as part-time teacher in 1990 and became a full-time teacher in 1992. Her main work is teaching in the crèche. (For full profile click here.)
She learned Bharat Natyam and folk dancing as a child in New Creation School, and because she loved it, she practiced a lot, so it was natural for her to want to share this with children who were interested. Usha and her students sometimes do performances both in Auroville and outside.
She also went to Chennai (along with Kalai) to study embroidery, which she and Kalai teach to the older students as an optional class.
Thananjayan (swimming teacher for all children from crèche to 5th standard.)
He has been working in the school since 1998, with an absence of one year, and teaching swimming since 2003. He learned to teach swimming from a Swiss Aurovilian, who was a trained swimming coach. Each class from crèche to 5th gets an hour a week in the pool. He also supervises the cleaning staff and general maintenance of the school.
Thanajayan was born in Kuilapalayam in 1976. He went to the local school until the 7th grade. He began working in Auroville when he was 14 and did a variety of jobs. In 1995 he became an Aurovilian.
He explains that in crèche the idea is for the child to get used to the water and to overcome his/her fear of water. These children have never been taken by their parents to the ocean or to a pond or river, and often learn from their parents to be afraid of water. In the crèche they proceed very slowly so the child gets used to water, touching and feeling the water. Later they learn to swim. They do breathing and blowing, lap stretching, leg stretching, and frog movement . For the crèche he is assisted by class teachers. For the older children this is not necessary because they can all swim.
Once they reach the 6th grade they go swimming at La Piscine. (To see more click here)
Mala (teaches singing to students from standard 3 and upwards as an optional subject.)
She began to teach at Aikiyam in 2003. Her main work is teaching 2nd standard. (For full profile click here.)
Mala has been singing since childhood, and says singing in a group began when she was a student in Isaiambalam School, and was taught singing and playing the harmonium. Her style is mainly Carnatic. She also married into a very musical family, where she continued to learn and took part in a lot of singing events with them. She has been teaching singing at Aikiyam for about 15 years. They sing folk songs and meaningful cinema songs as well as classical. She sometimes accompanies with the harmonium. Mala’s class often performs at functions both inside and outside the school and will sing for different classroom projects. They sing in several languages including Sanskrit. Mala continues to take private singing lessons in Pondicherry on weekends.
Mathilde (teaches social and emotional education through visual art, body movement, music and other forms of self-expression from crèche to 7th standard)
After graduating from Law School and working as an attorney in France, Mathilde decided to travel around the world. She first came to Auroville in 2013. After 3 months here, she continued traveling but knew she would come back to work in the field of education.
She then trained as a yoga instructor, as well as in the field of expressive art and dance therapy. She came as a volunteer to Aikiyam in 2015 to experiment in expressive art therapies with our students.
She settled in Auroville in January 2017 and continued her activities in the school with social and emotional education through art. She uses mainly visual art but also includes body movement, music, storytelling and any form of self-expression… She works with students from Creche to 7th grade.
She is passionate about alternative and positive methods of education and communication, and about all the topics relating to the yoga of relationships. She is a member of the NGO “action for happiness” and signed the French manifesto named “happy at school”. She recently followed online trainings regarding “how to improve education around me” and play therapy for children with special needs.
She is really happy to be in Auroville, especially because she can continue to improve her educational skills. She followed the Parent Effectiveness Training based on the Gordon Communication Technique, some basic training in Nonviolent Communication, an introduction to Write Dance and the Co-creation Process, as well as the first module of Awareness Through the Body. She also loves to work with the children of our school because she finds them really full of joy, love and truth.