Be Bold

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” ― Gloria Steinem

I have made leaps of imagination before. I have dreamed dreams that have brought me across oceans. Once, I followed a poem, Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips”, all the way from the Valley School in Bangalore, where I grew up, to Smith College, where Plath had felt as if the world was splitting open at her feet like “a ripe, juicy watermelon”. Indeed, on those very green lawns, amidst archival research and literary theory, with Plath scholars and poets, I felt the same way myself. And then, hungry for more, I went on to the School of the Arts at Columbia University, keen to explore New York now. I was delighted to find myself living in a graduate student apartment on W 112th Street, only a couple of buildings away from where John Dewey had once lived. I had discovered Dewey when I took a course with Rosetta Cohen, The Philosophy of Education, in the spring of my senior year, and fell quite in love with him. Each time I walked down that charming street admiring the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, I wondered if he had too…

While pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing, I took a part-pedagogy, part-practicum seminar with Alan Ziegler, Writer as Teacher, and joined Columbia Artists/Teachers, which gave me the opportunity to teach in a couple of different settings. That’s when I first discovered the joy of being the bridge between a child and an idea. I found teaching to be the most intellectually stimulating, creatively satisfying and emotionally rewarding work. I was keen to return to the singular wonderland of my own childhood and teach there. One of a handful of schools set up by the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, the Valley School is an experiment in education as a revolution. Here, we attempt to let children flourish in an atmosphere that is free from competition, comparison, and fear in all its forms. Here, I teach Literature.

It is a wonderful thing to make the leaps that bring you closer to those you admire, putting you into conversation with them across place and time, pushing you to dream big about possibilities you may never have imagined on your own. I have done this before and reaped its rewards. I knew that the Klingenstein Summer Institute for Early-Career Teachers would be just this kind of magic but, truth be told, this leap was a very difficult one for me to make. Pandemic fatigue made international travel feel especially daunting for me, despite me once having made those leaps across oceans quite lightly. But from the moment our very first pre-readings arrived in my inbox, I knew that I would have to come. Indeed, I would have to make another leap. How else do we grow and bloom?

“As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart—and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be. The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning, and living, require.” ― Parker Palmer

More than anything else, for me, KSI has been about finding the courage to keep my heart open…

It has been sheer good fortune to lose myself in the company of an extraordinary cohort of fellow educators from around the United States and the world as we explored educational philosophies, teaching styles, equity and inclusion, all under the gentle guidance of our inspiring lead teachers. Truly, I’ve lost count of the ‘aha’ moments I’ve had here. But I will never forget the joy of discovering, with my English curriculum group, how we can “bring a radical pedagogy to a traditional curriculum,” in the wise words of Shelby Stokes. I will always remember my feeling of awe when, after a single round of sharing at our very first diversity and affinity group meetings, each and every person around the table was suddenly a whole human being, vulnerable and courageous, with an interiority as complex as mine. Or how, in a single hour, within the structure of a Critical Friends Group, a dilemma that one has agonized over, can be transformed forever with shifts of perspective and interdisciplinary creativity.

English Curriculum Group

Asian Affinity Group

I will remember Erika Drezner’s invitation to see my teaching philosophy as “an exercise in continual self-reflection”. I will return to Varghese Alexander’s insightful reflections in “…half as much”. I will take back with me in my toolkit Dr. Pooja Agarwal’s retrieval practices for powerful teaching, Joe Feldman’s ideas on grading for equity, Cia Verschelden’s thoughts on bandwidth recovery, Eliza Davison’s suggestions for gender inclusion and community building, and Andy Housiaux and Bowman Dickson’s research on feedback in practice. I will fondly remember the real food we’ve enjoyed at the Hotchkiss School and Mike Webster’s passion for culinary education. I hope to continue using our Assessment Project template and E&I Reflection and Action Plan often and much. I will certainly begin using quiet coyotes, think-pair-share, text rendering and so many more of the teaching techniques that I encountered at KSI in my classroom. And I will continue to journal myself…

As I wrap up this reflection, I would like to circle back to the beginning of our time at KSI, to return to Dr. Nicole Furlonge’s questions: “Who am I from? Who do I carry with me?” Quite simply, I am grateful to belong to KSI’s 40th cohort and I will carry these friendships and epiphanies with me…

“Be bold—be open to transformation.” —Dr. Nicole Furlonge, “Who Are We From?” (KSI 2022)

Indus Chadha believes we cannot exist or be understood without stories and spends much of her time reading, writing or listening to her five-year-old daughter, Amara, tell them. She earned a BA from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in English Language and Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Arts at Columbia University.

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