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Archive for October, 2010

Sleep at 3.Enter test paper data. Correct test papers. Reach home at 10 PM after being in a overcrowded bus/train for 1 hour. Buy food to eat later in the room. Enjoy the few minutes of silence while having a post-school tea. Retreat into the Tea Shop Cave. Teach/laugh/jump/act/put up a hand puppet show/skit/deal with staff/Principal/rains/non stop high decibel noise/open manholes/wandering cows – for 5 hours. Eat Parle G for lunch. Drink tea for lunch.Rush to School to be on time.Drenched in Sweat.Dead tired.Catch the train, switch to bus/auto to School.Carry one backpack and another bag full of teaching aids, stationery, charts. Brave the merciless elements. Eat vada pav for breakfast cum lunch. Wake up with pain in every bone and muscle because of insomnia. Go to Sleep at 3 AM.

Teaching is austerity.

 

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A proud moment- Srini

Today, I walked into School a bit earlier than usual and I noticed my class kid Kajal going towards the classroom with her Grandma. Seeing me, Kajal came running with a big grin, shouting ‘Bhaiya !’. Holding her little fingers, I climbed up the stairs to reach the classroom. Since the morning shift was going on, we decided to sit in the Staff room for a while going through her file which has a stack of homework sheets and test papers.

Later, when we went into the classroom, Kajal took out a paper (ripped off her English notebook) and handed it over to me with pride and shyness painted on her gleaming face. At first, I thought it is the usual letter my kids write to drop into the Class Letter Box but on reading it, I turned ecstatic. She had written about her Picnic experience without even me asking anyone to ! Exactly 4 months ago, Kajal could not even write her name properly or any words on her own. But now, she felt motivated enough to write so many sentences on her own and nothing more could bring joy to me than this. Here is what she wrote (the numbering and brackets are her writing as well !)

1) I can go to the Picnic

2) 4 boy and 7 girl

3) 10 stars and more go to the Picnic

4) Muskan is no go to the Picnic

5) 2:30 go to the Picnic

6) 8:30 come to the School

7) I can go got he Picnic very happy

8) I like my Bhaiya very must

9) Bhaiya is nose big

10) Bhaiya is very said

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This is what I wrote answering a question in a recent survey:

What do you most enjoy about the (Teach For India) Fellowship experience?

1. The intensity of the experience
2. What it teaches me about the most important challenge facing India (educational inequity) I am fighting this challenge every single day.
3. The children, their innocent, unconditional love and the progress (often inch by inch) that I see in them.
4. The wonderful people who I got to know through the fellowship and the continued association with them.
5. The transformation that I have undergone since May and the constant reflection and questioning of myself. What mattered so much earlier does not matter anymore to me and what never mattered is ALL that matters to me now and I often am astonished at myself for that.
6. That I am able to contribute to building the movement in ways beyond the classroom, while maintaining my work in the classroom as a foundational centre point.
7. How the fellowship has enabled me to continuously seek excellence in everything I do.
8. Beginning to understand the immensely interesting, complex, creative and important role of teaching and how gradually ‘Teaching as Leadership’ starts making sense.
9. How I am able to better appreciate and celebrate what my mother did for me and brother. Every single struggle and failure reminds me of her own when she tried to give us the education that would break the cycle of poverty.

 

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Srini Swaminathan is the TFI blogger of the month! He gets our very special

Seal of approval!!

Seal of approval

Having spent a few months in the classroom (and TeachForIndia) now, I can conveniently classify my life as BTFI/ATFI (before joining TFI and after joining TFI). ATFI could also mean After the Fellowship at TFI, but then, I’ll write about this in 2012. Right now, it is too early to say anything about my post-fellowship plans !

So, BTFI, I used to work in the Oilfield , where most workers are on call 24 X 7. I often spent more time traveling to the wellsites than the actual work. Once I got to the rigs, depending on the work, I could be awake anywhere from a few hours to days. The longest has been 2 weeks of intermittent sleep. SO much loss of sleep and hardwork. But, more than the fat invoice and bonus, it was the satisfaction of completing a really challenging job that often brought a smile when we “rigged down” and went to sleep, sometimes even without eating anything. Sleep was more important than anything else.

BTFI, I used to think that the fellowship might not keep me as busy as before and I ll be able to spend a lot of time in doing things that aren’t related to work. And I must admit that I was way off the reality !  I could start rattling off the oh-so-many things to do as a Teacher and a TFI Fellow but then I don’t really want to bore you with all that right now. It is 1:31 AM now and all I want to write here is the sudden thought that struck me when I was in the train today – I am often spending more than 13 hours out of my apartment. In Mumbai, where traveling takes up most of one’s time, this just means School + a meeting + dinner + back home. Nothing fancy.

At TeachForIndia, there are regular training sessions, meetings, leadership forums, sharing sessions and debriefs. I had a debrief today. About yesterday’s class that was quite a disaster (oh well, that is another story !Will write about it soon). After that, I traveled all the way from Parel to Parle (Just one shuffle of alphabet but so much of travel !) to pick up digital cameras for my class kids. An acquaintance was giving them to the kids for them to take home and shoot their home, family, friends and surroundings and give it back to us to see what the kids liked to click. Today was the cameras. On other days, it is something else.

Amidst all this, it is quite a challenge to try and maintain even a semblance of your life BTFI. Meeting friends, catching up a movie, going for a run or a swim or whatever that you love to do and need time might actually become a challenge if not impossible. I love running and cycling and still find time to do these in this crazy maximum city.I find time to get that coffee at a CCD, watch a movie, go to the beach or just relax at home listening to music. I even managed to go home twice !

Yet, this life is not for the weak hearted or those who easily give up. A Teacher is a juggler. A master juggler. With the To-do s constantly hovering over one; head, a Teacher needs to prioritise everything, manage time effectively and maintain a balance between strengthening what is already going well in the classroom while thinking/researching for ways and ideas to implement that would accelerate learning. But, as I can tell you now, it is the end of a really long, tiring day. I am going to sleep with a smile. I am hungry though! 😀

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October is the birth month of the father of our Nation and the man who has influenced TFI’s theory of change in no small way. “BE THE CHANGE” said Mahatma Gandhi and we devote this month to TFI staff, fellows and students and who are living those words and being the change. The very first post comes from Shashank bhaiya and Sandeep bhaiya and their students’ amazing and inspiring effort in Being the change.

The idea of “Every Child an Entrepreneur” came about when the kids desired changes in their school (Sunrise English School) in the form of computer education. Since the school did not have funds for a computer, the kids initially decided to raise fund by donation but coming from low income communities, they were able to raise only 3K which was not sufficient to buy a computer. Despite the set-back, the children turned it into an opportunity by coming up with a brilliant idea to organize themselves in interest groups and work over Saturdays to produce artefacts for a Fun fair using the initial 3K as seed money. The idea was that they wanted to create a market where they could sell their goods and hopefully raise enough funds for a computer.

On 2nd October 2010, the Sunrise Team organized SUNFESTA FUN FAIR!! The Fun Fair was Phase 2 of the “Every Child an Entrepreneur” program wherein the school children tried to raise funds for buying a school computer; from a fun filled event featuring games, prizes, music, delicious food and art+crafts made exclusively by the kids over the past few weeks. The event was a huge success with more than 20 stalls put up by the students attracting more than 1000 visitors. The event made a profit of 13K which was enough to buy a computer as was the original objective of the “Every Child an Entrepreneur”.

Watch the video for SUNFESTA FUN FAIR!!

The most heartening aspect though is the fact that it has given the kids the confidence of “I CAN” and they are already planning for a larger “Annual Event”  with the objective of raising funds for a water purification unit in school. As was apt on occasion of 2nd October, “The Children became the CHANGE they want to see in the world”

The school submitted this project to the Design for Change Contest. Here’s wishing the young entrepreneurs all the best!

Shashank Shukla and Sandeep Mallareddy are two Teach for India fellows from the 2010 cohort, committed to ending educational inequity in India. They work in a low-income community private school in Pune called Sunrise English School.

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On Friday (a.k.a. Fun Friday) , we spent the hours after break talking about friends which culminated in the kids writing 5 lines about their best friend. While I was going around the room helping with spellings and sentence formation, I couldn’t help myself from smiling at some of the sentences. One girl wrote that she liked her best friend because she played with a bear ( a teddy bear, i’m hoping!) . Another boy said he played ‘bootball’ with his friend  (which technically is the right word as India sadly found out in 1950!).

As i’m walking around, I come across Krishna. Now Krishna is super bright which leads him to be really distracted in class, which leads to a lot of minus points for his team. I’ve tried different strategies, moved him around, but none seem to work. Now him making whichever team he’s in lose points means he’s become quite unpopular . So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw what he was writing .

I was surprised. “Your best friend is Raisa?” He looked up me and in his usual style said “Yes because only you like me. Everyone else is angry with me!” . I felt so bad! So I started with a lot of positive reinforcement with him, made him help me when I was putting up some of the writing on the wall and just generally tried to up his reputation among the class. I’ll know how well it went on Monday. But it reminded me to be more aware of how my point system was affecting the individual and not just the class as a whole. My kids teach me something new everyday!

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Here are a few links to some blogs by TFI fellows from the 2009 and 2010 cohort and TFI staff members.

  • TFI Journey: Srini, a 2010 Teach For India Fellow, writes about his journey with Teach for India and  his stories of change both inside and outside his classroom in Dharavi, Mumbai.
  • It’s Political Motivational and…: Prakhar is a 2009 Teach for India Fellow. He has been teaching for a year now and his blog is an amazing repository of stories about his time as a teacher in a school called Sant Gadge Maharaj in Kondhwa, Pune. Do check out the “Letters to my friends” section on his blog for some great snippets of his life as a TFI fellow.
  • Teaching as Leadership (Astitva): Another 2009 Teach for India Fellow, Dhiren teaches in K.C. Thackrey Vidya Niketan school in Pune. Besides his refelctions on his two year stint with Teach For India, a strongly recommended section on his blog would be his strategies to teach mathematics to children.
  • Belief: Ritika is a Teach for India fellow from the 2010 cohort. She teaches in a school in Mumbai and the blog is her diary about the TFI experience. Keep an eye out for some great pictures.
  • Mahesh Prajapati: Mahesh is also a 2010 Teach for India fellow. He teaches in Mumbai and writes about his experiences on the blog. He also writes lovely poetry in Hindi!
  • My White Lotus: My White Lotus is Tarun’s exhaustive and wonderfully written description of his journey as a Teach for India fellow since the past year and a half in Pune. Do read his recollections from his recent trip to visit charter schools in NY as a Teach for India fellow.
  • One in billion: Taylor is a staff member at Teach for India and has helped launch the Teach for India movement. His blog, as the introduction says, is about five things “- experiences related to living and working in India, happenings at Teach For India (my employer), development and fundraising-related, career-building, and entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, smart business ideas. “
  • I Teach for India: With a very appropriately named blog, Divesh is a 201o Teach for India fellow. Read about his journey and “Why” he chooses to Teach for India.
  • Reflections of my mind: Aritra is a part of the 2010 batch Teach for India fellows and the blog is his reflection as a Teach for India fellow in a school in Pune.
  • Walking in their shoes: Raisa is also a 2010 batch Teach for India fellow or a “tenner” as they are called. She teaches in Mumbai and her blog is peppered with some great pics displaying her immense creativity.
  • Insane Inanities: A 2010 Teach for India fellow, Anurag seeks to write about his journey to Teach from India from his college. He teaches in Mumbai.
  • Frogs in my class: Meera is a 2010 Teach for India fellow. The curious title of the blog alludes to some real frogs who share Meera and her students’ class with them. Her blog is filled with her experiences as a teacher in a school in Pune and sometimes even a humourous take on them as the title of the blog suggests.
  • With the Left and the Right: Srikanth, also a tenner, teaches in Pune and the blog is a mix of his experiences in the classroom as a Teach for India fellow and all that he gets to do in his spare time (whenever he might find it).
  • Edoocation: Milind is a 2009 fellow and has been teaching in Mumbai since the past year and a half. On his blog, he speaks about his views on Education policy and issues as seen through his experience as a Teach for India fellow. He also came up with the wonderful idea of listing down the dreams/aspirations/ideas of all the 2009 fellows post their two year fellowship. Read about them on his blog.
  • Words Raining: Dhanya is a 2010 Teach for India fellow teaching in Mumbai. On her blog, she writes about her experiences as class teacher in a school in Mumbai as a tenner.
  • They Teach; I Learn: Subhadra is from the 2009 cohort of Teach for India fellows. She teaches the 5th standard in Mumbai. They Teach; I Learn, a blog title which speaks volumes, is a rich and often moving record of her experience as a teacher in Mumbai.
  • Be the Change: Be the Change, which is also the Teach for India motto, is Rahul’s blog. He is a 2009 Teach for India fellow and teaches in Mumbai. His blog not only contains his experiences as a TFI fellow since the past one and a half year but also his opinions and ideas drawn from his work as a Teach for India fellow, on how to improve the state of education in India.
  • Delusions, allusions, illusions, visions: Meenakshi is a 2010 Teach for India fellow teaching in a school in Pune. She muses, alludes, talks about her life as a teacher in Pune and the delusions, illusions and visions therein.
  • The classroom for learning: Manu is a 2009 Teach for India fellow and has been teaching in a chool in Pune since the past year and a half. As a part of his summer internship, which he did as a part of his Teach for India fellowship, he interned at the Druk White Lotus Shey in Ladakh. He has posted a video of his experiences there. Also read about his experiences as a TFI fellow accompanied with some great videos and pictures.
  • Conviction in Your Thoughts: “Conviction in Your Thoughts” is the title of Ritesh’s accounts of his two year stint with Teach for India. He is a fellow from the 2009 Teach for India cohort and teaches in Pune. On his blog, he reflects as an individual and as a teacher about his experiences during this fellowship. Read his post on “The challenges of being Abu“, which is his chronicle of his student, Abu’s, life with him.
  • in on under above : Neha is a 2010 batch fellow. She writes about funny incidents and sometimes revelations in her classroom. Currently she is a grade 2 teacher in Worli Seaface BMC School in Mumbai.
  • Gunvant Jain : Blog by 2010 Fellow and IIT-Madras graduate Gunvant. Some excellent articles on skill-based learning.

The opinions or column written by these fellows or staff are their  own personal experiences.

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