Are you a “Jugaad” in the Classroom?

I’m currently reading a book called Jugaad Innovation, authored by Radjou, Prabhu and Ahuja.  “Jugaad” in Hindi means ingenious solutions to problems or turn adversity into opportunities.  The six guiding principles behind the Jugaad Innovation are a)  seek opportunity in adversity, b)  do more with less, c)  Think and act flexible, d)  Keep it simple, e) Include the margin, f)  Follow your heart.  I’ve seen different jugaad-in-action classrooms and schools all over the world- from the biggest things like having a non-traditional approach to education and starting an education revolution, to the little things like using old mineral water bottles as pencil holders.     Big or small, they equally inspire me to be a classroom innovator.

As I read through the different stories of individuals and companies who succeeded through innovation, this line made an impact on me:

“When you listen to your customers, you merely react to needs; when you empathize with customers, you anticipate their needs; but when you truly love your customers, you surprise them by introducing them to products they can’t even fathom.”–  Mauro Porcini, 3M Head of Global Strategic Design

This made me ask:

  • How often do we surprise our students?
  • What do we do to make our students go ‘wow’?
  • What something new do we do in the classroom?
  • How often do we do something new in the class?
  • How is innovation celebrated in our class?
  • Are there any new ideas we are willing to fight for?
  • What ideas do we have that seem outrageous but are helpful?
  • Have you done anything risky for the betterment of the students?
  • Do we follow our hearts in the classroom?
  • How else do we show our love for our students?


I think we educators should consider ourselves not only as people who facilitate the class, but as artists who are capable of designing and engineering to solve problems, to do something for the marginalized, and to do something…inspiring– not only for our students, but for everyone else who cares.

Maybe the true signs of love for students are not just measured by how much we listen and feel for them.  Love for students is also measured by how we apply creativity in the classroom- to think out of the box and go out of our comfort zone for solutions that will address the issues in the classroom despite limitations, risks and personal struggles.

Are you a ‘jugaad’ in the classroom?

First Rule of the Year: Let go.

I am more than thankful for my almost 2 years of managing my own place and life in India as I learned that what I own, I am responsible for. I am thankful for the previous years of working hard to fix and “beautify” the classroom as I learned that having a beautiful classroom prepared by the teacher is neither a sign of preparedness nor high quality of teaching.  I am thankful for my coordinator who gave me the opportunity to think, despite my lack of confidence, and gave me the freedom in the classroom, for I learned from my mistakes, and how to be independent, self-reliant, curious, hungry and creative. I am thankful for the years of struggles and confusion with teaching as I learned that with adversity, time, perseverance, resilience and prayers I will figure things out.

I am thankful for all these learnings because they all led me to my first rule of teaching for this year:  let go.

For the first time in my 5 years of teaching, I have decided not to fix the classroom and left it as how it was before I went home for the summer break.  I figured that it is time for me to let the students take ownership of their classroom and most importantly, their learning.  Little things, like letting them decide how the classroom should look like, what corners should we have, where they should be and how our routines are, already made an impact to my students and to me as well.    It’s not only that I felt effortless fixing the classroom or thinking about our routine and all.  It was more   than that.  For the first time in my 5 years of teaching, I felt that I was teaching. I felt I was giving them the little lessons that matter. For the first time, I feel that we all started the year right.

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It WASN’T THAT EASY watching them do the classroom magic.  Along the way, I felt the tensions within me as there were things that I didn’t really agree with or things that I found ‘wrong’ with their decisions.  However, I continuously reminded myself to let go and just let them create their own learning and fun space.  After all, it is not my class alone, it is all ours. I believe that one big aspect that supports inquiry in the classroom is having a ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ environment, where the members show trust, respect, tolerance and empathy toward each other.  This is not just a professional goal that I have, but a goal that I share with my students. I realize that when we share the same goals and aspirations with our class, we get to have a more meaningful relationship and learning. We learn how to dream big together.  We learn how to work as a unit.

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Letting go doesn’t only mean letting them be.  Letting go means putting aside your own intentions and sharing the space, time, emotion and learning that you haven’t shared before. And most of all, letting go means accepting each other, sharing the same freedom and responsibilities….both with the little things and the big things.