Published: 19th June 2020
This Delhi-based educator has created a happiness curriculum to help students find joy
Neera Kohli set up The New Me to help students and teachers learn the values of humanism and use it to find themselves through learning
Thirty five years in the world of education is a long time to mull over how to bring out the best in students. Neera Kohli, a retired vice principal from a prominent school in Delhi believes that teaching is a work of art. And in 2017, she developed The New Me, a personality development programme aimed at school children through modules and workshops that can be easily merged into any school curriculum. Unlike most school workshops, Neera has conceptualised a programme aimed to empower students and strengthen their personal growth through subjects like happiness and empathy. And god knows we need a whole lot of that these days. We spoke to the senior educator and academic consultant about the programme that has been embraced by the CBSE in Delhi and various private schools. Excerpts:
What inspired you to create The New Me?
Throughout my time as an educator, I have felt that the present generation needs new patterns of thoughts, beliefs, goals and a new connection to the world. They need to play a contributive role to build not only their own self, but to create and nurture a new environment for every unique being. This would also be a road to self-discovery and will add a new lens to their world. With this larger context, some reflections and introspection made me venture into creating a capsule for training young minds. In 2015, I met a lot of teachers whom I was training. This led me to devise modules for teachers as well, as they also needed to rediscover themselves and bring out their potential. The initial stages were limited to students, but to reach out to the students, I had to cross some bridges to change their mindsets. The education pyramid is not complete without the parent. And so, gradually we started to include them too. Many a time, parents would reach out to us to discuss various issues or changes in the attitude of their child. I myself learnt so many new things in this process, so no other name would have befitted it than ‘The New Me.’
BIG LEAGUE: Neera Kohli is a former Vice Principal
Could you describe the courses you have designed and the need for them in the modern educational curriculum?
The courses cater to the requisites of the present day; in fact, many concepts covered in each module help lead students to values and life skills that help make them more humane. I would prefer to call them humanistic learning. I would like to add that it can’t be referred as personality development programmes, but as content for humanistic learning that is embedded in these modules. While the intent is to facilitate learning, be it for students, teachers or parents, ‘learning to be’ is what we stand for. And for this, we focus on themes like Empathy and Compassion', Happiness is the way forward, Gender Sensitivity and Ethics and Integrity.
How are the modules and workshops introduced to schools?
I'd like to begin with a quote: “Love what you have, accept what you receive, give what you can, forgive what you can, bless what you see and be the source of light.” The new me aims at looking at growth, development and innovation. In fact, it helps our students look inwards to grow outwards. With this idea, we connect to schools through all mediums that help their students and teachers. In addition to academic institutions, we also work with publishers to conduct workshops. Each workshop gives us more momentum to reach the masses.
Your subject and themes seem quite out-of the-box from the ordinary Indian curriculum. Could you tell us about a few of them and how they benefit students?
Yes, we are preparing ourselves to give our best to 21st century learners. We are attempting to build a new perspective that they can built upon and develop an analytical and critical approach to delve into new ideas. I wouldn’t be able to talk about the benefits myself, but would like to say that at our end, we are trying to connect the dots and contribute to our society. When we talk about looking inwards to grow outwards, we also talk about executing students' ideas and evaluating them in an attempt to lead them to, their 'new me'. Lastly, as humanistic educators, we try to give small doses of humanity, which is the need of the hour in everything we teach.