Meet our Parenting and Education Editor, Nayana Chakrabarti

Meet our Parenting and Education Expert, Nayana Chakrabarti

Q: Please tell us a little about your journey as a parent.

Let’s just say this – because it makes me laugh – the mum-life chose me (yes, Tupac Shakur was a gift who has kept on giving). I need to get something off my chest. If I wrote a book on parenting, it would have to be titled, ‘What Not To Do When Raising Children’…Let’s just say that the “process” over the last few years has been one of trial and error. My brand of parenting is a work-in-progress. Both of my pregnancies have been far from text-book and straightforward, my breastfeeding journey was chequered and over time, I have found that if I start with the assumption that I know nothing about nothing, I fare much better. So here you are, I’m an expert who is very much not one. I’m in the trenches, learning as I go along.

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What I am, however, is a researcher. When I don’t know something, I find out more about it, I apply it and I see how we fare. When it comes to parenting, you can expect an honest approach from me. When my children were younger, I actively explored Montessori-at-home and attachment parenting. I’m still influenced by the principles of both and naturally, I still feel my way around the challenge of raising children in a country where I didn’t speak any of the national languages. I’m a Third Culture Kid myself, my parents moved from India to the United Kingdom when I was 5 years old. I was raised very much with the immigrant mentality in mind. However, while they at least had the advantage of being fluent in the lingua franca . My son doesn’t remember a life outside Switzerland while my daughter does not know life beyond its rather beautiful borders. Their accent, their cultural reference points are different from my own. In this world, they are the experts and I’m just learning and sharing as I trial along in their wake. As my children get older, I have taken a renewed interest in social justice, equality, and equity. I have found myself talking to my eldest about privilege and race and having conversations that I wasn’t planning to have until much later. My youngest has been a part of those conversations too. I am looking forward to sharing both strands of our family journey with you: the fun and the frivolous as well as the serious.

Q: What led you to become a teacher?

For me, life has always been about books. My parents raised a reader long before it became a popular hashtag. The first story I remember reading was about a little Japanese girl and her journey to her kindergarten and back each day. When we moved to England, I knew how to “read” in English but I didn’t know how to speak it. My Year 1 teacher was wonderful, warm, and kind. She told my parents that they should continue speaking to me in Bengali at home and that my English would take care of itself. It did. I spoke Bengali to my classmates. I couldn’t speak in English but I could read it and I ended up reading my way into the language. Once I began, there was no stopping me. I was flying through library books and I had no other hobbies that could come close to competing. Reading English at university, becoming an English teacher…These were decisions that were frowned upon by the British-Indian community that I grew up in. Even my own contemporaries were scornful. Clearly, I didn’t care too much about making money! But the thing is, I can’t imagine being as enthusiastic about anything else as I am on the subject of books, reading, and writing. I believe that I come into my own when analyzing literature, fiction, and non-fiction writing with my students. Recently, I have embarked on a new journey as a creative storyteller. These sessions, where I combine the best of children’s literature from around the world, with craft and with literacy bring me so much joy. For a while, I also worked with very young children – as young as eighteen months – and this gave me a fascinating window into early childhood development. I used this opportunity to learn as much as I could about what education and best practice looked like at this age.

As a teacher who has moved around a bit, I find the process of creativity fascinating but at the same time, I also find the process of literacy fascinating. Learning about the sticky points, the obstacles and stumbling blocks motivates me. The bottom line is that I feel everyone should be given the tools with which to communicate with and document with. As a follower of story pedagogy, I see life as a living book where everyone’s story has a place.

Incidentally, a few days ago, in the first post-lockdown playdate that my daughter has enjoyed, I heard her doing the same. She happily garbled away in Bengali to one of her closest friends. Rather than worry, I felt happy that she was embracing her bilingualism.

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Q: What is a text-rich environment?

One of the topics that I have been thinking about and writing about a lot recently is the issue of creating a text-rich environment at home. A text-rich environment is one that promotes literacy at home. It is not just about having access to books but actually talking about them and around them. Research has shown, time and again, that conversations around books foster stronger relationships when compared to just reading itself. But what are these conversations? Stay tuned to ‘My Swiss Story’ to find out!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in India and raised in Cambridge (UK) before I began to try my hand at living in Switzerland. I’m a third culture kid through and through. When I’m not writing about the experience of being a TCK and the highs and lows of raising two TCKs herself, I am teaching. 
I’ve been a teacher for over ten years and last year, I began an M.Ed. I’m currently in the second year of my M.Ed and I’m keen to specialize in helping children and young adults hone their reading and writing skills.  

Along the way, I’ve gained a lot of experience in child development, literature, and special education. I share my journey and my learning regularly on my Instagram page. However, even though I am a chronic oversharer, I’m actually quite shy. When I’m not wrangling my kids and not teaching or writing, I can usually be found with my nose in a book while reliving the 90s through her headphones. I am committed to cheesy music and period dramas and my happy place is generously filled with Netflix, cheese, and chocolate.

Q: What does a day in your life look like?

Well, sure, come walk in my flat shoes! I swapped out the heels years ago in order to best keep up with all the children in my life! I’m the living embodiment of that famous meme which says – I’m not an early bird or a night owl, I’m a permanently exhausted pigeon! For years, I’ve been staying up late and waking up early to accommodate everything I need to do along with the things that I want to do. However, this all came to a head recently. I became ill with alarming frequency. Nowadays, I wake up a little later than my husband. I head off to the balcony with the lemon-ginger juice that he usually makes me and take a moment to myself. Once the children are awake, their needs take over. I swing between teaching and my household chores, their homework, their play, our conversations as well as the articles that I write. Everything happens at once. Funnily enough, the lockdown and its consequent monotony actually enabled us to have a proper routine. The consistency meant that we actually learned more about who we like to be and who we are at different points in the day. In between ‘life’, I also remain fairly active on Instagram which is where I have my micro-blog. I try and cook early on in the day which leaves the rest of the day relatively free for everything else. On the days when my husband takes over the cooking, I hole up with a book or go on long bike rides. Making time for myself is a priority now and I no longer feel guilty about it. As a family, we like to head off on rambles around the beautiful Swiss countryside whenever we can. The evenings feed my Netflix and Amazon Prime addiction before we wind down, yep, you guessed it, with more books!

Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for more resources, we are turning a new leaf and we now have an expert editorial panel talking about – ex-pat living, parenting, food, nutrition, mental health, motherhood, home improvement and more. Stay well and stay with us!

To read articles from our corona series, click here.

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