Posts Tagged ‘DAY IN THE LIFE’

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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Below is a typical day of one of Teach For India’s phenomenal Fellows. We hope it gives you a preview of the successes and challenges our current fellows face and helps you envision yourself in their shoes even a few months from now!

Name Saahil Sood
Age 27
College Engineering at Thapur University, Delhi
Previous Career Area Manager, India Bulls Housing Finance, LTD
School Babu Jag Jivanram English Medim School, 3rd Grade, Pune


Teach For India

“Saahil wake up!” This urgent directive from my flat-mate and Teach For India Fellow, Gaurav, is usually my second alarm clock each morning. The day starts in a whirlwind of breakfast and last minute lesson plan editions. I head out on my bike at about 6:30 am to pick up Sanjay, another Fellow who teaches second grade in the classroom next to mine.   We arrive at Gandhi Nagar, school keys in hand, because as usual Sanjay and I are the first ones to arrive!

It is 7 am, and school starts in 20 minutes; my thoughts hop between all of the things to remember and prepare before my students arrive. However, I take a moment to just to soak in my classroom and am amazed to see how far we’ve come. I remember the first glimpse of my classroom–students running amuck, walls bare and floors gritty. Today, each wall of my classroom reflects the achievements and aspirations of my kids. On the right hand side is our classroom pledge  “I promise that I will do my best at all times. I am here to learn, work hard, and get smart. I will always be respectful, responsible and ready to learn”. A poster in the back proclaims each student’s dream career, and on the left is a huge chart showing how many words per minute each student can read. As soon as my first student starts to walk in, I greet him and get caught up in the day—dramatizing a story with my students, assessing how well they understood addition, a lesson on grammar and bathroom breaks.

At the end of the day, I teach seasons using props such as umbrellas and sweaters (because my students are still learning English, and it helps to have as many actions and examples as possible!). During the lesson, one of my students, Omkar, raises his hand and when I walk over to answer his question, he says with a half smile on his face, “Bhaiyya, I will do the actions.” Confused at first, I didn’t understand, and then it hit me – he wanted to take over and teach the class! As I watched Omkar confidently running around the class with an umbrella twice his height teaching his fellow students, all these months of planning, stressing and hard work seemed more than worthwhile.

My school day ends with the extra class from 12 to 2 and a smile lights up my face as one student, Sapna exclaims “Bhaiyya, extra class today? YAY!” Two hours whiz by, and afterwards I walk Dinesh back to his home, which is in a gulley across the school.

Dinesh used to be one of the most attentive students in class and recently he’s been  disruptive, and there’s been a dip in his performance. I know that I need to learn about his situation from his family. His two cousin sisters, little sister, Dinesh and I crowd inside their one-room home. They tell me that Dinesh’s parents have temporarily split, and that his behavior at home is worse than in school. From my seat on the floor, I look at Dinesh, who is curled up on a corner of the bed, straight in the eye. Slowly but sternly I lay out a time table for him, which includes play, study, and sleep times and ask his cousin sisters to call me if he does not follow these. As I walk away from their home, I think to myself “One child at a time, and I know changes can be made”.

I grab a quick lunch and head to Teach For India’s office to attend a training session on math techniques led by a Kevin, a Teach For America alumnus. He gives us simple and proven strategies to improve student achievement in math. My last stop of the day is Café Coffee Day- I lay down my backpack and take a few minutes to myself to enjoy my cappuccino before pulling out my school’s curriculum and Teach For India guides to plan for the next week. I anticipated going home at 8, but a quick look at my phone and I realize I’ve just been invited to a dinner out with a few of the Fellows. I head out, looking forward to getting advice on how to better support Dinesh, and of course to hear about the miracles they worked in their own classrooms that day!

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