Kaushal Sen is on a mission to make mathematics fun and engaging for his students. He currently serves as a Trained Graduate Teacher of Mathematics for grades 6–9 at the Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School in Delhi, India. He’s been teaching mathematics for 8 years.
Kaushal spoke to Quizizz about how his career started, how he loves teaching, and how he uses educational technology to improve instruction and the student learning experience.
What motivated you to work in education, and what keeps you motivated to continue doing so today?
In India, in my perspective, we don’t see many male teachers, or men opting to teach students as their first choice in a career, especially when there are better-paying jobs out there. In my case, I was surrounded by literally everybody on my mother’s side who was a teacher in some school or college. You can say it is in my blood. I chose to be a teacher, nobody forced me into it, and that determines my actions every day.
I have the attitude to learn, relearn and unlearn everything that I know, on a frequent basis. As they say, change is the only constant and I constantly keep challenging myself. The pandemic made it very clear that we stand a better chance of succeeding and thriving at whatever life throws at us, only if we are willing to improve, adapt and overcome.
What are some of your most rewarding moments in the field?
My students’ eyes bright up and twinkle when they grasp a topic I have taught. That twinkle and smile are rewarding for me to see as it motivates me to do better. Appreciation from parents at the parent-teacher meetings, the thoughtful gifts I receive on the Annual School Day or on Mathematics Week, and the gratitude my senior students express when they come back to appreciate my teaching and share memories with nostalgia — all of them are rewarding moments.
I also feel motivated to teach technology to other teachers. The fact that technology can be easily learned and used by many teachers and the ripple effect it has on thousands of students is also rewarding.
What are some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced in education?
I was extremely passionate about teaching and making a difference in my students’ lives in the first few years of my teaching career. I might have gone a bit overboard with my uncontainable enthusiasm. But I realized later that there are some functional and important hierarchies that I need to adhere to and respect because those hierarchies are fundamental for the smooth functioning of an organization. I found myself gradually leaning in to become part of the system and make changes at the grassroots level and bring it up with management with tangible results.
We also face heat from parents — nowadays both parents are working to sustain their family and they are usually under the impression that they pay us to take care of their children. They may be right to an extent, but some fail to realize that each teacher gets an average of one hour per day with a class of 50 students. There is no time to mold a child by indulging their interests or guiding their behavior. The other 18 hours that children spend with their parents at home is where a child’s growth takes place and is usually more long-lasting.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
My biggest lesson this year is to listen to seniors and experienced teachers and take their feedback with a positive attitude. Even if it sounds rude or snobbish, I try to see it from their perspective. I remember to take it with a grain of salt too — they are standing on the periphery to deliver judgment, but you know your class and students much better than them.
I’ve had days when I don’t feel like being productive in class (as teachers, we also have bad days — we’re only human). But students can tell if you are prepared for the day or if you are making it up as you go. When your students perceive you as being in control, they tend to look up to you on a subconscious level; they would mirror your actions. It is positive reinforcement for them too.
Quizizz made the biggest impact here. If on some days I had a lot of tasks that needed my attention, I could quickly search a quiz using the right keywords, get a couple of quizzes or lessons, copy-edit them in a jiffy, and share the link with my students — all in less than five minutes. This would keep them engaged and occupied for 40 minutes or so, and be a valuable learning experience at the same time.
What do you feel are the key items to a successful educational experience for students?
I’d say subject matter expertise and creativity. It falls on a teacher, especially math teachers, to make a concept come alive. I need to map a concept to a real-world situation and make it relatable for my students to grasp it better. For example, fractions; we don’t see fractions in real life at all, at least not in the way they are written in math textbooks, so it falls on me to make it relatable. I can set a scenario of a vegetable market and ask them about a conversation between a seller and a buyer. Immediately, my students will think of halves, quarters, and three-quarters. They have visited the market with their parents, so they’ll know this context. I also give them fun homework to visit the market and come back to school the next day to share such conversations with the rest of the class.
What do you feel are the key items to a successful professional experience for teachers?
Love and compassion for all your students. If you have compassion, then pretty much everything else falls into place. You could always learn technical concepts from anywhere across the world now, but it is compassion that stands a teacher apart. Teachers have to know that every kid who walks into their classroom is from a different background and each kid’s perspective is different from the other. A teacher’s empathy will always make a big difference to any student. And students tend to remember how we treated them, much more than what we taught them, throughout their lives.
How and why do you use Quizizz in the classroom?
It saves me a lot of time and my students love it! During the pandemic, we teachers were pushed to create lessons and plan our classes virtually. But we had no way to assess how well our students grasped the concepts that were taught. Here’s where Quizizz made a difference: I could toggle with different question types and I could control how long my students spent on a particular question. With a controlled time limit, they couldn’t Google their answers, and they had to rely on their own knowledge. This made me better assess my instruction and check my students’ understanding.
How does Quizizz resonate with your values as an educator?
As a math teacher, I want every class and every student to feel the thrill of learning mathematical concepts. I realize that one way to make a math concept stick to your memory is through constant, consistent practice. Continuous low-stakes assessments help me and my students to check if they grasped a topic or not.
Quizizz has also helped with the different formats of questions, as I get to evaluate my students’ understanding using different metrics. One day, I’d choose Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), the next day I’d pick Fill-in-the-Blanks, and the next day I’d choose Open-Ended and Poll Questions — all to evaluate how my students approach a problem. With Quizizz, all my students were able to benefit and learn.
With every class, I make it a point to clearly state the agenda for the day. I write it clearly — revision, today’s learning, and Quizizz. My students, irrespective of grade, look forward to the Quizizz part. They love the Power-Ups and every student wants to see their name on top of the Leaderboard. This means that they understand a concept completely and they’re acing it faster than the others — Quizizz inspires some healthy competition in class!
We now share the Join Code for Homework assignments and Live assessments. We also use Quizizz for pre-requisite learning. I just ask my students to attempt a Quiz on what they learned the previous day, see what concepts need to be taught again, and then proceed with my instruction from there.
What words do you think your students would use to describe you?
I think they’d describe me as caring, funny, and patient. Math is perceived as a dull subject, but more than that, students also have this idea that math teachers are extra strict. I try to bring humor to my classroom and I try to be as patient as I can be with my students.
Outside of education, what are some of your passions?
I’m a big foodie! I love exploring different food outlets and cuisines with my friends. This is also the time I get to be myself and relax. I’m also myself in class with my students, but teachers cannot share all aspects of their personalities with their students because we don’t really know who sees what and how that would influence a child. So we’re always on guard, but with my family and friends, I can be myself with all my flaws, warts, and all!
I also love dancing. I’m training in Kathak but I haven’t had the time to practice the art form, but I will get back to it, someday.
You’ve inspired so many educators. Who are some educators and edu-creators that inspire you?
My mother is my first inspiration. It is quite overwhelming to start off as a teacher but I had my mother to guide me in the right direction with the right steps. She helped me become the teacher that I am today. Some of the teachers I follow for suggestions and tips are Chandan Jha, Divya Kapoor, and Parveen Sharma.
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