Commerce Teacher – Bijal Damani
Ms. Bijal Damani teaches Commerce to students in grades 11-12 at S N Kansagra School (part of The Galaxy Education System) at Rajkot, Gujarat in India. Her specialization is in Entrepreneurship and developing real-world projects for students of Commerce.
Tell us about your educational background.
“I was born in Sudan but my parents shifted to India and hence my entire education has taken place in Indian schools and Universities,” explains Damani. “Though I was very good at STEM subjects, I took up Commerce to pursue my interest in business and entrepreneurship. In the Indian education system, you have to choose your specialization from Grade 10 and you cannot combine subjects from other streams with your chosen specialization.
After Grade 10, I took up Diploma in Commercial Practice and completed my Bachelors in Commerce,” she continues. “I had also acquired double Master degrees in the field; a Masters in Commerce (M.com-Management) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA–Marketing).
Since I was interested in technology and education, I also studied for a Higher Diploma in Software Engineering and a Bachelor in Education.
I am a lifelong learner,” says Damani. “I continue to learn from Blogs and through my Global PD Networks. I am associated with Microsoft as an Expert Educator, Google as an Innovative Educator, Edmodo, ASCD , ISTE , 21CL etc.
Many people think that being a teacher limits your growth prospects,” she continues, “but I do not agree with that. Even though I’m located in a small town in India, my classroom practices have been appreciated by the renowned companies and educational institutes.”
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Business and Entrepreneurship runs in the bloods of Gujaratis, the people of the state to which I belong,” she explains. “I was also trained to become a manager and an entrepreneur. So after completing my MBA, I joined a dotcom company as a Marketing Manager. While I was doing my Master, I was used to volunteer for teaching courses at the Bachelors level and enjoyed that a great deal.0
I had a decision to make,” she states, “a lucrative corporate career vs. passion for education. I chose the latter, surprising many of my colleagues and friends. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in lives of children. I wanted to train future entrepreneurs to be Social Entrepreneurs who will do business in a manner that all stakeholders are benefited.”
What is your typical workday look like?
“The school bus comes to pick me up at 6:40 am and I reach school at 7:15 am,” Damani explains. Students arrive at 7:45 am. I use that time between to be ready for the day, collecting materials and scheduling. I also use that time to walk for fifteen minutes to keep me physically fit. Out of six classes, since I teach six divisions of Grade 11-12, I will have at least five classes every day. I schedule my timetable in such a manner so that I do not end up teaching content in all five periods. My classes will have lots of practical real-life projects that I conduct with my students. Case studies, discussions, debates, games, Industry Expert Visits, and presentations are part of daily class.
1.45 pm to 2.30 pm will be the lunch break,” she continues. “2.30 to 3.45 is the time used for parent-teacher meetings, teacher meetings, planning of work, creation of content, assignment correction, activity planning etc. Since my students maintain Electronic Portfolios, I will be spending that time evaluating the portfolios as well. I also use that time for training my fellow teachers with new technology tools or staying back with a student struggling with a concept. Sometimes I also connect with my global colleagues through video conference during this time.
How many hours per week do you think you currently work and in your experience is it easy to manage your work load and personal/family life?
I work for 48 hours per week. From Monday to Friday, I work from 7:00 am to 3:45 pm and on Saturday I work from 7:00 am to 1:45pm,” says Damani. “Like other teachers, one has to bring home the work like paper setting, paper correction, and lesson planning for the next day. Teaching is a full time job wherein your brain is occupied with ideas even when you are not on campus or with students.
At times, it is very difficult to maintain Work-Life balance,” admits Damani. “But I am fortunate to work with a school which supports me in maintaining this balance.
For example, my mother was extremely sick and the school offered me a leave of forty-five days to look after her.
I believe when you love what you are doing – working hard is not stressful as you are doing it willingly.
What gets you excited about your job and why?
“My job gives me a chance to be with the teenagers, to be respected and loved by them,” says Damani. “It is challenging as well as interesting. Moreover, I get to be innovative, play various roles, multitask on various projects, and last but not least, make a difference.
I have been teaching for the last 16 years now,” she says, “and it is amazing when I go to some grocery store or even ice cream parlor and have some smiling faces running in my direction with their hands folded , saying the Indian greeting, ‘Namaste’ to me and telling me they remember some incident which changed their life forever. Some students are CEOs or professionals, but they will always remember your contribution in their lives. All the sweat and hard work for years is worth that smile.”
What is one thing would you like to see changed in your field?
“Instead of one thing,” says Damani, “I will list out a couple of things that I would like to see changed in my field.
1] Compartmentalization of Subjects – I believe integration of subjects will help students grow as better entrepreneurs and citizens.
2] To stop the menace of ‘Tuitions’ – In India, many teachers indulge in offering additional tuitions to students by charging additional money. Many corrupt practices emerge out of this.
3] Change in the evaluation and assessment system – Right now, in India most of the tests are based on memory based tests, which I believe do not represent the ‘Whole Child’. I wish we could develop an evaluation system which would help motivate students grow in the areas of their interests and not the straight jacketed curriculum.
4] Curriculum which has real-life connections – Most of the time, students fail to understand the reason behind studying what they are studying. We need more projects which have real-life connections; which focus on the development of various skills in students.
5] Better evaluation system and Pay Packages for teachers – I wish we could develop better evaluation systems to evaluate teacher efficiency and effectiveness and develop pay packages for teachers which are comparable with some of the top jobs in the country. It would also help in attracting talented individuals into the field.”
What aspects of teaching are the most rewarding?
“The love and respect one earns from generations of students,’ states Damani. “Even if just one student comes up at the end of one’s teaching career and says ‘You have touched my life and made a difference in my life,’ I consider that teacher to be a successful.”
How difficult was it to get to where you are now, and was it worth the journey?
“That depends on your own perspective,” she explains. “I look at every hardship as an opportunity for growth. Every time I have been challenged, I have passed through three stages: Disappointed, Determined and Growth. So I would say every hardship has molded me and helped me grow to become who I am today.”
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
“Become a teacher only if you are passionate about this field, enjoy being with children, ready to wait to see the impact of your work, work enthusiastically and tirelessly, play various roles simultaneously, and are ready to grow continuously with your students,” says Daminai. “Believe me, it will be one of the most rewarding journeys.”
Bijal Damani has won numerous International, and National awards for her outstanding service and innovation in the classroom. Some of these recognitions include.
- Outstanding Young Educator Award Winner 2009 – Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD, USA) (Only Asian teacher so far to be given this honor)
- Outstanding Teacher Award 2011 – International Society for Technology in Education ISTE, USA (Only Asian teacher so far to be given this honor)
- HP EdTech Innovators Award 2010- Sponsored by HP and NMC. Awarded a $40,000 technology grant for her project
- Butler and Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award from Turn Around Management- Damani was the only teacher outside North American to have received this honor
- Microsoft Innovative Teacher Leadership Award 2011 – Represented India at the Microsoft Global Forum at Washington DC
- Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator Award 2013 – Represented India at the Microsoft Global Forum at Barcelona, Spain in March 2014. Her Project ‘Creative Capitalism- Let’s Make the World A Better Place’ was chosen as First Runner up in the ‘Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking’ category
- Guruvar, Outstanding Indian Teacher Award 2009 – From Varkey Group, Gems Education, UAE
- Bammy Educators Voice Award (Secondary Teachers) 2013, USA
- 21st Century Learning Teacher of the Year Finalist 2013 – Was invited by the organization and Pearson to attend their annual conference and felicitation at Hong Kong from December 11th – 14th, 2013
- Google Certified Teacher from 2012 batch of Mountain View
- PBL Certified Teacher certified by Project Based Learning University (PBLU), an initiative by Buck Institute of Education (BIE)
- Edmodo Support Ambassador 2013 – One of the global ambassadors for Edmodo, an educational social network platform.
- Her Project ‘Galaxy Bazaar’ received the People Award in the School Enterprise Challenge in 2013
- Inspirational Teacher Award 2013 – Winner of the School Enterprise Challenge 2013
- Forbes Good Samaritan Award 2014
- Harnessing Creativity Education Prize 2014 ( Senior Secondary) – From the Global Education and Leadership Foundation ( tGELF)
- GESS Innovation in Education Award 2015
- One of Top 50 Finalists for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize by Varkey Foundation UAE
- Presidential Award/National Award for ICT in Education 2012 – Received honor from Indian President, Shree Pranab Mukherjee
- Presidential Award/National Award for Teachers 2014 – Received honor from Indian President Shree Pranab Mukherjee for the use of innovative classroom practices
- Derozio Award for Education and Human Enrichment 2011 – From ICSE Board
My Social Entrepreneurship Project Galaxy Bazaar has managed to earn more than $1,000,000 over the past ten years which were used to provide free quality education to girls from underprivileged sections of the community. Damani is in the process of offering consultation for replicating this project to schools around the globe.
Please refer to the site www.galaxybazaar.in or
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