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Creating an impact: ‘It’s all about building a positive environment in the classroom’

Apeejay alumna Ashima, who is a psychology teacher, shares how incorporating real-life examples, case studies into the lessons leads to effective engagement of students



Born and brought up in Jalandhar, Punjab, Ashima completed her intermediate education in Non-medical stream from Apeejay School, Mahavir Marg. After this, she pursued her graduation in BA Psychology Honours from Apeejay College of Fine Arts (ACFA) in Jalandhar.  She had also got selected by the National Forensic Sciences University in three specialised courses: Psychology – Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology and Forensic Psychology. However, she opted for a MSc Forensic Psychology course to explore this new area of interest. “This provided me with the opportunity to have hands-on experience on Forensic Psychological Techniques in use in Central Forensic Laboratories in India. My professional journey began with me joining as a Counsellor at Tihar Prison, under the first psychological first-aid programme by AIIMS Delhi, and Delhi Prison under the name Project Samarthan. It was one of the lifetime experiences to be a part of this project and serve at the largest prison complex of South Asia. After which, I joined Civil Hospital in  Jalandhar as a Psychologist under National Health Mission India.” 

However, Ashima decided to add another leaf to her education journey by pursuing B.Ed. from NCERT Regional Institute of Education Ajmer for two years. “During lockdown, I gave wings to my professional work again by joining as Health and Wellness Teacher at Sri Sukhmani International School Derabassi, Punjab. After gaining 9 months of experience, I then pursued a Diploma in Guidance and Counselling from NCERT New Delhi.” Currently, Apeejay alumna is working as a PGT Psychology in Apeejay School, Noida. Read edited excerpts from the interview to know what inspired her to become a teacher:

Did you always aspire to become a teacher? What inspired you to take up this profession?

Aspirations are something we nurture with our experience in the environment. As a child, I had always role-played as a teacher, but never came across with the idea of opting it as a vocational role to me. As it is, I fact that, being a teacher is not just about the knowledge of the subject, but the aptitude and personality which one requires to nurture as an educator is equally important. My mother has always been a support system to me in my life. I really see her as my role model in life, who is vibrant and optimistic in nature. Her vocational role as a Mathematics Educator and ideology of bringing up the best in children has motivated me to take teaching as a profession.

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What interests you about the psychology field and why did you choose to pursue this career?

I remember when CBSE declared its result in the month of May, I was clueless as to what stream I should take forward in my graduation. Like any other student, who is clueless, I had planned to appear for many entrance exams, because  the drive of pursuing the area of interest was still not in my visionary approach. The idea of opting psychology as a career was introduced to me by my mentor Mr Ravinder Kumar Sood, who was Regional Manager in LIC and one of my father’s seniors. He has always been a role of motivational spirit to me, even now. But the real journey of my inclination towards psychology began in second year, when I had a career goal discussion with Mrs Monica Sekhon Ma’am, then Assistant Professor at Psychology Department of ACFA in Jalandhar. She had initially guided me with the branches of psychology, and the area of expertise where psychologists can offer the best of their work as a mental health practitioner. This drove me more to bring out the best in my choice of choosing a specialised course in psychology.  Later, opting for forensic psychology was about specialising my skills in something different from the one who are working in the clinical and counselling sector. I conditioned my professional arsenals by working as an intern at DFS – Gandhinagar and I have also worked at Tihar Prison and Civil Hospital setup. But later, my inclination in education, multiplying with the goal as a psychology teacher, was nurtured more by the experience of my mother as a Mathematics Educator. Her ideology of bringing out the best in a child by building mind really motivated me to be a Psychology Educator. 

What are some effective teaching strategies you implement to engage students in the field of psychology?

Firstly, it’s all about building a positive environment in the classroom. That can only be achieved by rapport formation with students. This will help students connect with teachers while filling the gap of teacher-student relationship. This doesn’t restrict students with only teaching, but also helps in shaping their experiences and orienting them with the practical experiences of life. Secondly, giving equal opportunity to every student to put forward their opinion. The idea behind this is to encourage positive reinforcement in order to motivate them to stand out from the crowd. Lastly, giving a life to the subject not by listing in frame of chapters, but by linking with students’ experience and basic understanding of the subject matter. Constructive criticism is part of my teaching strategies. 

How do you help psychology students develop critical thinking skills that will help them analyse and solve problems?

Cognition has been regarded as a think tank, which lists the number of thinking abilities having its functional linkage with learning and experience starting from the birth till present surface. More the student connects herself/himself to the subject, the more s/he is able to have a practical experience of concepts. It’s like bridging the gap between static concept and dynamic role of psychology as a subject in life. If I talk about the concept of ‘Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning’, it has its roots with our daily routine and idea of success and failure in life.

Also Read: CBSE class 12 Psychology exam tips: ‘Mind-mapping, tables and flowcharts work wonders’

Do you incorporate real-life examples and case studies into your psychology lessons? 

A big yes! That is something CBSE too demands in their question pattern in the form of case studies. If we don’t relate the concept of psychology with our real life, there is no fun in experiencing the real-learning spirit of the subject. It’s about feeling the subject in real life, swimming in the waves of the concept of psychology, looking for different islands of theories and concepts given by different psychologists by keeping in mind the application of it in Indian soil of thought. 

Tips for those aspiring to pursue career in psychology

Firstly, learn it for yourself. Formulate a real connection, just not because you had opted psychology as a subject, but the idea of knowing about one’s mental process, behaviour and experiences as it defines.

Secondly, if you really have the interest of working in the humanitarian domain, psychology is a best option. Regardless of your interest, the aptitude which one requires is to have interpersonal skills, oratory skills, being open-minded and optimistic.

Lastly, career options are not just restricted with the choice of specialisation. It all depends on your potential to gear up your service in the domain of your choice. 

Harshita is Assistant Editor at Apeejay newsroom. With experience in both the Media and Public Relations (PR) world, she has worked with Careers360, India Today and Value360 Communications. A learner by nature, she is a foodie, traveller and believes in having a healthy work-life balance.

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