There are 4,168 miles between London and Delhi. That’s an 8 hour and 35-minute direct flight from Heathrow with a 4.5 hour time difference. With 17 countries separating the two cities, the Commonwealth Education Trust speaks with Sasha Banhotra over Zoom to find out more about her teaching career and what inspires her to be the best teacher she possibly can. Sasha also shares her experience as a teacher during the Coronavirus pandemic and how she has used this time to improve her teaching techniques with the Teach 2030 courses.
Born in a rural village in Jammu and Kashmir, North of India, Sasha explains that “time and time again you would see news flashing about some militant activity or terrorist attack nearby”. Subject to a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947, Sasha shares that children locally continue to struggle to access quality education with many families working in farming or other low-income roles. When Sasha’s father was transferred to Delhi for work, her family made the move to the city for an entirely new beginning. Reflecting on her start to life, Sasha believes this has always been a motivator for her to be a teacher, and one day hopes to share her skills and knowledge for the children in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sasha first began her studies in state education in Delhi as her family welcomed two younger sisters. As the eldest child, the responsibility to nurture her siblings automatically fell onto her shoulders, giving her the platform to practise her teaching from a teenager. “When my youngest sister was born, I was around 16 years old, and teaching her gave me pleasure which made me realise this was something I wanted to do for other children too.” Sasha explains, “it’s a great thing to teach because you’re bringing valuable change and creating memories and knowledge which they will go on and share.”
With a passion for reading and writing and a love for school, Sasha completed a post-grad in English Literature and shortly began her professional teaching journey at university. “I taught there for a short period of time as an Assistant Professor of English.” Sasha tells us, “I enjoyed teaching teenagers from all over the world, there were children from Africa, Bangladesh and South of India in one classroom!”. During this time, Sasha fused both of her interests, writing and teaching, and began to write articles and poetry about the importance of education too.
As she now held key teacher skills and experience, Sasha began teaching at a school in Delhi that shares the belief that learning means enabling the individual to utilise their potential to its fullest. With the drive to enhance the education of those who surround her, Sasha’s favourite thing about teaching is being engaged with the younger generation. “It’s very beautiful.” she explains, “I think that no matter how grown you are, there is always something that the students will teach you too”.
Recognising the significance of lifelong learning and, with her teaching on pause due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Sasha tells us how she feels it’s not only important that students find a fixed routine to prioritise study-time but teachers use this time valuably too. “I started looking at online courses so that I didn’t lose my touch with teaching,” she says; “I found Teach 2030 and it was everything I wanted!” After completing her first course, Sasha found she was provided with new techniques to take back to the classroom and explored different ways of thinking; “there are so many things I found valuable, especially keeping a Teaching Portfolio and there was one part where I remember being asked to think about the teacher you admired at school and think about their qualities and that has really stuck with me.”
When discussing teacher networks in rural villages, Sasha explains that the “Teach 2030 courses are something that every teacher who wants to make a difference for the younger generation must do.” She continues, “the first courses are free so everyone can access them and it’s important to keep learning as there aren’t many other courses this easily available to us.”
As schools across the globe prepare to resume teaching in the coming months, educators can develop their skills with Teach 2030 by the Commonwealth Education Trust. “You will gain a lot from Teach 2030 both as a teacher and as an individual too” says Sasha as she continues her courses during lockdown.