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Archive for September, 2010

When college ended, i was pretty confused about what to do till INFOSYS began thats 26th sept. After lying around for a while (wasting many days), i realised that some social work would be the best use of my time. So started searching for some NGO here in Pune. Then “the secret” worked, i met Sidharth Agarwal. Sidharth bhaia as i call him. He is working with Teach for India and its his second year with the campaign. I volunteered for the campaign, i started going to school with him. Got some discipline in my life. Day starting from 5am till 1pm. The school i went is named “Late Babu Jagjivanram memorial school” located in “Yervada” area. It is both Marathi and English medium sharing the same building. I was in grade 4 and we have a class of 33 students.

Thats the view from outside the class that was on 4th floor.

Here are some pics of our classroom.

If you dont behave well or have some remedial to work on, you get to sit in the verandah outside the class.

This is the pic of an inter-school coloring competition. All the schools of Pune Municipal Corporation participated in it.

Sidharth bhaia arranged some laptops so the kids learned to use some basic controls of it.

The whole experience was overwhelming. I see all the Teach for India fellows and the level of commitment they show towards teaching these underprivileged children. TFI’s slogan is “One day all children will attain an excellent education” and they are working really hard for it. TFI’s concept is taken from the Teach for America concept which has been there for 20 years now. So here young professionals commit their two years for teaching in a low income school. They get training for teaching aids and methodologies. The point here is not to become teachers but the leadership they show in managing their classes. You don’t have to have a dream of becoming a teacher. Many people have chosen to go to the corporate or for masters after their two years with TFI. Many companies and universities endorse TFI fellows for placement and PG. I observed many other fellows, Sanjay bhaia, Neha didi and Mansa didi who teach on the same floor but other smaller grades. Now these kids come from a underprivileged section of our society and are exposed to violence, drug abuse and the like. So the TFI fellows work towards value based education and not just rote learning. I saw the commitment of Sidharth bhaia, its unbelievable, he is just totally devoted to teaching those kids so he is always searching for effective techniques to teach. The new and out of the box ideas these TFI fellows come up with for classroom management is just awesome. Someone has star system, point system etc. Our class had money, not real money. Sidharth bhaia got class currency printed and all the kids are learning the value of money playfully.

They have monetary benefits for good performance and fines for bad behavior. Everybody is assigned a task, like leader of library. So you get weekly salary and whats more you have to pay weekly rent for the bench you sit on. Its amazing to see kids managing money. The exposure i got was unparalleled thanks to Sidharth bhaia. He took me to a leadership forum where i got a chance to meet the CEO of TFI, Therman and Teach for America. It was just amazing. Well i can write a lot about it but it might get boring. So to end, i saw amazing people working towards bringing positive change in our society and really whats the use of your education, your creativity if the only thing you can do is criticize about the problems we have in our society. You have to “be the change you want to see” thats one of the values of our class. So for cleanliness, we even cleaned the whole school.

How many smiles did you spread today?? How many lives you positively contributed to?? What change did you bring??

P.S: www.teachforindia.org

Hats off to all TFI people. Keep it up. You are the start to the education revolution thats gonna sweep this country. A big sincere thanks to Sidharth Bhaia for the exposure i got and the guitar that you gifted me :-). It was an amazing experience to work with you.

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As the Fellows grapple with the question – What after TFI? Here are 87 Ideas, 87 Aspirations, One idea per Fellow. Lets figure out how to make them a reality….

1. Help build excellent Pre-KG and KG for government schools

2. A Teacher Training Institute (especially for Municipal School Teachers)

3. A research and department rating system for R&D groups in India. Also, a consolidated place which accesses and talks about them.

4. An advocacy sister group – aka Leadership for Education Equity from TFA

5. An online website for teacher collaboration on lesson plans – aka www.betterlesson.com

6. An group that works to enable collaboration online and offline amongst all education or development sector NGOs in India

7. A forum which leverages technology to enable learning for under resourced children using technology – it should be attuned to needs of parents, children and teachers

8. A social enterprise that raises volunteers who can assist in classroom education – for TFI and then for other partner NGOs

9. A “TFI For Senior Citizens” – a social enterprise that is tuned to involve senior citizens in social work

10. A career guiding or “career coach”-ing enterprise – that uses a “robinhood” model to serve career needs of under-resourced children

11. Impact for India (TFI type organization for other sectors) : TFI for health, TFI for agriculture, TFI for public works, TFI for rural welfare, TFI for vocational skills, TFI for sports

12. Implement and experiment models for TFI for rural areas, TFI for smaller cities, TFI for third and fourth tier applicants

13. A grassroots level organization for “urban community building” – a scalable model for Manav Sadhana type organization

14. The Art of Living Rural and Tribal schools run 90+ schools in India. Introducing activity based learning and new teaching methodologies in these schools would form a great model.

15. Akanksha is looking to quadruple the number of schools in Mumbai and Pune – even expand nationwide in future. A great opportunity to be a school leader and build centers of excellence.

16. Make “One School For All” a reality nationwide – a single school that integrates children from both resourced and under-resourced communities.

17. Start an “Urban Ashram” like one in Pune along with a Seva Café in different cities

18. Make cities in India child friendly – like Riverside’s “aproach” project

19. Build strong alumni programs at TFI for each of “School and Teacher Leadership”, “Political and Advocacy Leadership”, “Social Entrepreneurship” or “NGO/Board Leadership”

20. Teach For All Leadership positions in other countries

21. Build technology and education collaboration in and outside TFI

22. Indicorps Fellowship

23. Bringing together various youth movements in India : Jaagore, Indicorps, Gandhi Fellows, TFI, Young Indians, Rotract/Interact

24. Start a Connect India LEAD+ for Indians

25. “Swadhyay” – spend one year travelling around India spending two months in each ashram. Or if you like in different schools around the country.

26. An online resource portal on ESL for Hindi speaking audience similar to khanacademy.org

27. Mobile education packages like MDhil has for medical use. Look up MILLEE from Carnegie Melon University.

28. Bring the best in education through online packages for under-resourced communities and figure out last mile delivery.

29. Create an “Incubator Fellowship” – a Fellowship where you can experiment to create your social experiments and see them through. A lot of collaboration opportunities provided.

30. Make a case for and start high quality charter schools in India – KIPP for India

31. Take a year off to nurture and grow your passions. For me Travel, Pottery, Archery, Sanskrit, Drums, Books, Blog and More Travel. You pick yours!

32. Start Indian version of “The New Teacher’s Project” (TNTP)

33. Travel the world for a year to study youth programs and movements. Connect. Study. Research. Learn.

34. School Coach or Consulting to develop new schools or improve schools

35. Political involvement group for youth in India – TFI for Politics, GYIPS

36. Child spaces for disabled children

37. An excellent school where children with learning disabilities are integrated

38. A leadership Institute (College) for Youth – aka African Leadership Institute.

39. Big Brother Big Sister mentoring program in India

40. Habitat For Humanity – housing for under-resourced in India

41. Special Olympics – sports for differentially-abled children in India

42. Reach out Mumbai! – a movement where citizens volunteer once a month with different NGOs or organizations

43. Capital Area Food Bank in India – collecting food and distributing to needy across the country

44. Goodwill stores in India – donate items whose proceeds are used to help under-resourced communities

45. An online website that enables one single point application for Indian students to get Scholarships for study abroad

46. Internships for people coming from abroad. Internships for people in India with a focus on development sector.

47. A venture capital fund: Education Reform Venture Fund aka NewSchools Venture Fund

48. Ed Week or “Teacher Magazine” like magazine – education magazine

49. Hippocampus (Bangalore) and Early Childhood Center (Delhi) like children library or reading room chain. Also, see Rooms To Read.

50. Education Week like Online ed daily (similar to 48 but different)

51. Alternative Education and Home Schooling – investing in Indian context

52. Kumon Publishing type books but with Indian context

53. Recipe For Reading and Indian Phonics books. Even franchise phonics classes all over the country.

54. “Holistic” activity or entertainment centers for Art, Drama, Craft, Sports and Dance – where resourced and under resourced kids come together in integration

55. Summer Indoor and Outdoor Activity Camps for children (esp underresourced ones)

56. TED-EdxIndia – TED type talks specific to Indian Education

57. Ed Venture Lab – tie up with IIMs or SP Jain type institute to form India’s first lab focused on Educational Ventures

58. Ed Reform and Enterpreneurship Competition – an autonomous body that holds a Non-profit and For Profit Business Plan competition in ed-reform and edu-preneurship

59. Creative recreational and fun spaces – can we create creative spaces where children in the city can come spend “down” time?

60. A social networking site for all Teach For All Fellows – a “Facebook” only for TFAll

61. Blogging for TFI Fellows aka www.teachforus.org

62. Enabling a strong social networking presence for Teach For India

63. Fellowship – Piramal Fellowship for Sustainable Businesses

64. Fellowship – Gandhi Fellowship

65. Fellowship – Tony Blair Faith’s Fellowship

66. Fellowship – Ashoka Fellowship

67. Fellowship – Atlas Corps Fellowship

68. Start a “White House” Fellowship program for Indian Government

69. School or Teacher Leadership Partners – Riverside, Muktangan, Shishuvan, Akanksha

70. Improve Education Initiative’s standards and assessments (now that you have worked with them night and day!)

71. Start an EI type assessment testing body. Or join other options – Indus, EI, EQFI

72. Study different schools in India with a specific culture – start a new school

73. Travel around the world to learn about new schools. Identify the charter school movement in the US and other countries – start a charter school movement in India

74. Travel to Finland which is known for its education all over the world. Identify best practices and port them to India.

75. Find a community idea – and apply for Comminteers Fellowship

76. Work as a consultant with the Central Government – now we know one young Indian working for HRD and one for Women and Children’s Department. It’s possible!

77. Work as an executive assistant or in the team of a young/progressive politician – Sachin Pilot, Naveen Jindal, Rahul Gandhi, or others

78. A “Heal For India” – TFI type Fellowship to improve municipal hospitals. Or medical options for the under-resourced communities, there is a dire need for affordable health care.

79. “Traditional” Corporate options – Investment Banking, Consulting, Law, HR, Banking, Engineering, Sales and Marketing.

80. CSR groups in a corporate or foundations or charities. For engineers – Google, Microsoft, Intel, and many other big companies have “social” or “development” projects.

81. Pursue education in the field of your choice – education, medical, business, policy, law, design and engineering. If possible pursue cross-specializations.

82. Scholarships and Fellowships for Education Abroad – Fullbright Scholarship, Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship for Stanford, Berkeley MBA Scholarships for Social/Development Sector, amongst many others.

83. Set up or grow philanthropic foundations in India – like Sloan Foundation, Gates Foundation, Dell Foundation

84. Make films and documentaries especially on education related topics in India – like Waiting For Superman, 21st Century Initiative by New Learning Institute

85. Build national institutes like NSF. Or setup an independent body that monitors R&D labs in all fields in India., publishes about them and gives them a rating.

86. The RTE mandates that every school should have 25% from under-resourced communities. Consult with good schools to help them setup this integration successfully.

87. Set up an International Institute for Professional Teachers – a world-wide body of professional teachers with centers all around the world. The idea is to champion the cause of teachers and their issues by collaborating with people from round the world.

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These days I have had this feeling that I am doing a lot for the kids; that I am giving them a lot. While going through the day-to-day austerity of living a Teacher’s life in Mumbai, I begin to think that I am ‘giving’. To the children. To society. But, gradually, I have begun seeing a change in the way I think. I now understand that I have been receiving a lot. From the community. From the city and most importantly, from the children.

Within a week of starting to teach, the children have been bringing something for their “Bhaiya”. It started with lunchtime sharing of their biscuits, candies, cakes, kichdi or pretty much all types of food. Then, they started bringing stuff from home -things that they considered special and fancy – like fake pearls, chamkis, beads and so on. I accepted them all with love and grace. I showed them how to accept gifts and thank. I kept reminding them that the best gift they can give me is – following the class rules, studying well and being good to each other.

As weeks went by, I saw this ‘giving’ develop into something really astonishing. They started bringing very thoughtful things for me. One day it would be small magnets collected from radio sets or discarded speakers and the other day, it would be marker pens. Then, they would draw and color something really nice just for me. (Today, one kid brought a full bar of Dairy Milk to give me. It was her birthday) The most common gift has to be red pens ! (though I hardly use red…I prefer green color to correct/check).

But, the one that really surprised me was from Roshan. He is a very quiet kid. Almost no one would notice him in class. He is very well behaved in class, naturally shy and quiet. He looks straight out of a playschool. The other day, he silently walked up to me during lunch and gave me a beautiful whistle ! This is special because I take their PT Games period as well and I was struggling without a whistle. Roshan had observed it and got me a whistle. Everytime I look at this whistle, it reminds me that I have 43 giving trees in my class !

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[Sachin Jain is an engineer and a class teacher at grade 4, Supari Tank Municipal School, Mumbai. He is a Fellow of Teach for India: a private national initiative to attain educational equity, where outstanding young professionals commit to teaching full-time for two years in under-resourced local schools in India.]

“Aandhi ki tarah aao,

Toofan ki tarah jaao,

Chhaap chhod jaao!!”

(“Come like a storm, go like a tornado, leave your mark!”)

These words by superintendent Craig Johnson rung across the main hall of the American School of Bombay and electrified the 300 delegates as he opened the 1st day of the InspirEd conference on August 28, 2010. This conference brought together educators and those working closely with the cause of education, from various parts of India and abroad.

The two theme over two days – teaching as leadership and innovation in action were designed to equip the participants with inspiration and empowerment. The idea of the conference was to have a space where minds of Indian educators from disparate contexts, regions and cultures who each deal with a unique piece of the jigsaw puzzle of education in India could have a chance to see the whole picture. We can thus align ourselves with where we are, and where we are headed, and apply our minds in unison to getting there.

The opening night at St Xavier’s college on August 27 had a magical illuminated imagination tree, leading luminaries of Mumbai sitting in a classroom and being quizzed by students and some cute performances by students. The mascot of the conference is a pencil, this seemingly ubiquitous object that can magically transform into so much more with some imagination – just like the dreams of students.

I went into the conference as a participant the next morning excited to meet educators who were passionate and committed to being the chance in their classrooms, but who followed theories of change different from ours. I was not disappointed. Key trends in the Indian education landscape in recent times are focus on learning and outcomes, scaling up of efforts, ultra low-cost models, for-profit schools, new careers in education and public-private partnerships. In the area of primary education which is of crucial concern to me, we have fared relatively well in providing access to primary schools and achieving enrollment, but we have miles to go yet with respect to quality, retention (preventing drop-outs) and equity.

Craig Johson of American School on Bombay did a brilliant deconstruction of culture and myth in India, of how teachers can become creators of “Outliers” that achieve exceptional things. He borrowed from the work of eminent Indian mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik to establish how the pupil thinks of “My world”, how the rules and procedures of the school impose “The World”, and how problems arise for the student from the conflict.

Another inspiring session on the 1st day for me was by Dr. Mahmood and Shamsi Hasan of GSS, Bangladesh. It was inspiring to see how they were able to provide quality primary education to so many pupils at such a low cost. We could identify their struggles, in the context of the South Asian subcontinent, and we were really touched by their commitment to provide an excellent education to all children in their country.

Then was an informative panel discussion on Right To Education, providing teachers insights on how to bring it into practice. The day ended with a reflection session in different groups, one of which I facilitated. The teachers and principals at the session shared insights on  the importance of self-evaluation, understanding student feelings and not imposing a bias. They were able to establish a connection between teaching and leadership – have faith, inspiring, motivating, setting good examples, firing imagination and curiosity. They wanted to create a fun environment in class and integrate students who came from diverse backgrounds. Overall we were left with a feeling of self-confidence and positive thinking.

On the second day, the theme was innovation in action. The day began with a spotlight on innovative schools like Riverside, Akanksha, KIPP and Shishuvan. Then the workshops I attended included phonics by Mary Kayt Norris and information literacy with library specialist Heeru Bhojwani. Heeru showed us what amazing things could be done by students in projects using free softwares from the internet, and how as teachers we could encourage higher-order skills of analysis, evaluation and synthesis among our pupils. Then Galli Galli Sim Sim did a presentation on using TV as a teaching tool. Finally, there was a panel discussion among youth who are at the forefront of pioneering movements in India in environment, youth ventures, government and education.The reflection session produced insights like storyboarding, teaching through art, fun way to impart character eduction, enacting a skit to dissuade the use of foul language, using rubrics for evaluation and giving students advance intimation of what they entailed.

The closing session featured a moving testimony by one Akanksha student about how her life had been transformed by the power of one great teacher. The conference ended on a high note, with all participants continuing to share their learnings over email groups and the organizers promising a bigger and better InspirEd conference in 2011!

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“At Teach For India, we believe that we need a movement of leaders to eliminate inequity in education. And InspirED – by bringing together a wide network of educational innovators and leaders from across sectors onto a common platform – is a …unique and crucial step towards building this movement. We are so much more likely …to transform education in this nation if we work together.”

— Shaheen Mistry, CEO, Teach For India

These were the words of Shaheen on InspirED conference the first ever Educational Conference in India and I was lucky to be a part of it. It was an amazing experience, experience full of learning’s, inspiration and empowerment. One of the speaker Mr. Craig (of American School of Mumbai) explained the concept of how inspiration without empowerment can be dangerous. So, it is important to inspire but more important is to empower with tools to achieve that aspiration.

There were innovative educators from all across the country, even some from abroad. We had discussions on innovative ways of educating kids, how can we make learning more fun for kids and also keep ourselves inspired. It was first time that over 300 educators from different NGOs, Govt, Principals, Teachers, movements came together to fight the inequity of education.

What happened a day after InspirED Conference:

When I went to school today I saw a great change in one of my teacher(Mr. Jitendra) classroom who has attended the workshop. The teacher grabbed my hand and took me to his class to show me the new “avatar” of his class. There were many posters on walls, class divided in teams, a poster saying “What pencil can do ? ” , a chart with signature of all the kids.

I felt so inspired by his enthusiastic voice. We sat down and had a chat on how should we empower our other teachers. Now he will prepare a document of all the workshops he has attended and share his experience with all the teachers. This was the result of InspirEd. Thank You “InspirEd”

-Bhartiya

“Service before Self”

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