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Archive for the ‘Incredible Experiences’ Category

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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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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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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“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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