Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Ankit Vyas, a 2011 Teach For India Fellow, is a 4th grade teacher in a low-income classroom in Mumbai. 

There are rough days and then there’s 30 June 2011. The day conformed with Murphy’s fundamental law- If anything can go wrong, IT WILL. It was a day on which I was abused by a kid, told cheekily by one that he would take me to the Principal for not allowing him to go to toilet during a test. A day on which I had management issues with 10 kids who were staying back for an extra-class because they thought it was a punishment. There were kids who were crying for missing their tuition because of the extra-class. That’s when I decided to tell them bluntly why they were here. I wrote the word ‘MAKE’ on the board. None of them could read it. I said, ‘That’s why you are here.’ It was cold but it was effective. My co-teacher devised a game where the first one to reach 10 points could go home. One by one they went home until there were just 2 of the weakest remaining. Finally they made it to 10 points and I told them that they could go. That’s when they said in one voice, “Bhaiya, one more sum”.  It dawned on me then that all kids want to learn but only when they feel they are learning.


Read Full Post »

Daily Drama- Srini

I quit watching soaps and megaserials yugas ago. Not even micro or mini serials for me. I love my ‘The Office’ and ‘CSI’s though. All online. I quit TV long ago. Where is the patience? And, yeah, where is the TV ? :) I have lived without a TV for many many years now. Good ? Bad ? Not sure but I know I am not missing much as my laptop + internet seem to deliver it all to me. On demand.

Did I already digress ? I am getting there. Today, while almost hanging out of the train compartment (Sion to Kurla, Central Line, Mumbai for those attention to detail seekers) I was recollecting the day at School (as usual). ‘Are there any patterns to my class hours ? Who is doing what in class ? Who are the kids coming to School early ? Who loves to take initiatives ? Who is always the first to listen to me? Who is eager? Who is lazy ? Who complains ? Who forgives? Who helps ? Who beats up? Who seeks revenge?Who doesn’t ?’

So many questions. I know. Thing is, it is not easy to know in the first few months. Kids are wonderfully honest. Kids are also fantastic actors. Kids are transparent. Kids also hide. But, the beauty is, for every kid who is an actor, there are many others who’d want to impress the Teacher by telling the truth ! Every day, there is so much drama at School. Drama = Happiness + Anger + Revenge + Despair + Frustration + Ecstasy + Tears + Pain + Disappointment + Turn arounds + Miracles

For someone who has never raised kids (or had. I am single !), handling 40+ kids and the accompanying drama is a tough task. But, it is very interesting. Over these months, I have learned quite a bit about handling the emotions of kids (Someone remarked that I’ll be a fantastic father. God bless you !). The one thing that is not easy is when to take them seriously and when not to. How much of what they say is truth and how much is exaggeration ? You never know initially. But, over a period of time, you begin to see patterns. You know who and what to take seriously. You begin to understand the kids and their personality. Yet, being fair and democratic in the classroom is a big challenge that has defeated me at times. However fair I have been, I am sure some kids think of me as Severus Snape and some as Dumbledore ! Though I don’t have Malfoys in the class, I am beginning to see Malfoyian characteristics slowly emerge in some kids and that’s ringing the alarm bells. More on this in another post (Is someone keeping track of my ‘another post’ promises?)

So, speaking of drama. As the day progresses, so much happens in the classroom. Enemies become friends. Friends become enemies. In micro seconds. Even while you are reaching out to the marble jar. Or the Star sticker chart. Kids cry like there is no tomorrow and the smiles return as soon as I offer a fragrant wet tissue. They fall with a loud thud, get up and run around as if nothing happened but cry non stop when a friend hits them or breaks their pencil. As a teacher, it is important to resolve these and move on because they eat into precious learning time. How a teacher handles such classroom dramas can determine how the kids will behave when such things happen again. “I know Bhaiya will take this seriously. But, not that. So, don’t complain.” To change this, there needs to be a strong “Find the positive” culture in the classroom. We are trying to build that by having ‘Shout-out’ time outs, ‘Shout-out’ charts where kids write good things about their buddies, ‘Champion Helper of the day’ and so on. Abundant use of ‘Please’, ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thank you’ in and out of the classroom. But, most important of them all – how does a Teacher behave ? Does he/she say these often? How does the Teacher treat the Mousi, the cleaners, the sweepers, the tea boy, the peon, the painters and other casual labourers in School ? Kids observe. Kids pick up a lot by seeing what elders do. (Some of my kids already say ‘Shut up’. I never use that. Wonder where they got it from !)

Often, I go through all the drama in my mind. All in one day. When School ends, and the kids have gone home, I sit in the last bench (Why? Good view) and enjoy the feeling that one goes through when the roller coaster comes to a final full stop. It is not relief. It’s something else.

Pic: ‘Bring your favorite toy to school and talk about it’ day. Kirti brought this baby doll and surprised me. The doll was a hit with the girls. The boys didn’t even go close to it.They made paper guns and played cop and thief.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

The school I teach in is under resourced. Roofs leak. There are no bulletin boards to pin up charts, just some rudimentary nails.  Walls are not plastered. Tape does not stick.

So what do we do? We use Blu Tac. Tons of it. Bang with the sides of our hands until we lose all feeling in our hands. Ok, fine, I am exaggerating. But only mildly. But seriously, can the Blue Tak guys give us free Blu Tac, please?

Every bit of wall space is vital to reinforcing learning. Here is how Sanaya does it (& amazingly well, I must add).

Sanaya Bharucha is a second year fellow of Teach for India. She teaches 4th grade in the same school that I teach in. She took up for the fellowship right after her graduation.

During a free period, I walked into the 4th grade classroom the other day, just to watch. It took me a good 15 minutes to just digest the content of learning aids in the classroom.

Here are some poor quality pictures to give you a glimpse of what Sanaya in particular and Teach for India fellows in general do to make their classrooms a great place for learning.

Welcome to Sanaya’s 4th Grade Classroom!

Rules of the Class

Usually, a mnemonic like “LEARN” is used to reinforce the rules of the class. When the teacher says “LEARN” the class knows exactly what it stands for.

Sight Words Wall

Sight word wall – Children learn to recognise & read frequently used words in english by observing their pattern repeatedly. This improves their reading fluency. Transparent sheet is cut and pasted on the wall using tons of Blue Tak. Individual words are cut out to maintain the pattern and pasted on the sheet.

Mistakes Poem

I love this poem! I read it on my first day as a teacher and I repeat this to myself every time my class bombs 🙂  But seriously, what a lovely way to reinforce the culture of trying out new things without the fear of failure!

The clock reinforces urgency, as it should

Even the small space under the clock has been used for reinforcing facts along with the lovely Super Fast => Super Smart, reinforcing that one should not waste any learning time in class.

A cute poem on How to read a clock

Mnemonics to remember seemingly simple yet sometimes confusing concepts.

The Window Facts

This tops the cake when it comes to resourcefulness! The window  is used to reinforce learning. Facts about days of the year are neatly written on the cast iron shutters. I love this! Even if the inattentive child looks out the window, he will find facts assaulting him. You cannot escape learning in this class, Guys. *Evil Laughter*

You may notice that none of these learning aids cost the earth and moon. Materials used are chart paper & Blu Tac. Very affordable & mostly re-usable. Nothing imported, nothing that is shipped from far off lands, nothing out of the world. Content is a result of focussed thinking and creativity – which the Teach for India Fellow brings into the classroom in abundance. All Fellows work within a shoe-string budget.

Thanks to Sanaya for letting me feature her classroom on the blog.


TFI Fellow 2010 Batch

Read Full Post »

We, the third graders of Supari Tank visited the Crossword bookstore on Saturday, December 12, 2009 after school. Sachin Bhaiyya and Elena Didi took us there in two autorickshaws. Our class chant “Read baby read” says, “The more we read, the more we learn. Knowledge is power, and power is freedom, and we want it!” After visiting the bookstore I understood what our chant really means.

When we  reached the store we checked in our schoolbags, got tokens and said thank-you to the guard who smiled at us. The shop was like a big, blue lake of reading water and the books were like its waves. It was waiting for us to start drinking from it. I felt thirsty. There were rows and rows of coloured books. Each row was seven shelves high and neatly arranged books towered over us on all sides. First we stopped at the Top 10 fic… fiction and non-fiction section. Bhaiyya said that these books were liked by lots of people who spent money to buy them. Surely they must be something special! We took out a book called The Kite Runner. It was written by Khaled Hosseini. I ran my hands over the smooth cover. There was a beautiful picture on it of a boy looking at something beyond a door. It must be something that happens in the story. I don’t know why but I held the book to my nose and inhaled the smell of the fresh new pages deeply. I could almost smell the wonderful worlds of adventure and magic that awaited us. Seeing my example, all my friends buried their noses in their books and breathed deeply. One boy breathed so deeply he started to cough!

The children’s section was upstairs but we did not go there at first. We walked slowly through the whole shop and saw different types of books. Book shops are like candy shops. All candy is sweet but it comes in different flavours. Even books, they are all meant to be read but each one talks about different things. Orange-coloured boards high above us told us what section we were in. We had to crane our necks to read them. In art, we sampled through a coffee table book on paintings. We felt like laughing as the people in some paintings were not wearing any clothes! I had to hold my hand on my mouth to stop giggling. In Travel there were books about faraway places. These places are real and you have to sit in a plane to go and see them. We pulled out Lonely Planet China (“From Chandni Chowk to China!”), saw photos of the Great Wall. To say hello in Chinese you have to say “Ni hao”. Then was Business and Management. I took a walk around Self-improvement, past the legs of customers waiting to pay their money. A sign said discount and percentages were marked in red marker pen on white labels on the books.

Sachin Bhaiyya took another book “Maximum City” – and showed us the photo of Suketu Mehta, the bhaiyya who wrote it. Hmm. Suketu Bhaiyya doesn’t seem very different from me. When I grow up maybe I can become a writer too. How lovely it would be to have a book I have written shining like that on a shelf in Crossword! Sachin Bhaiyya explained how we could read the main idea of the book on the back cover to know what it was about. Then we could decide if we wanted to buy it or not. The Encyclopedia section was amazing. We found an atlas of the universe. I looked and looked at the beautiful Milky Way. I want to sit on the rings of Saturn but it is very far. Sachin Bhaiyya was worried we might tear the page. Elena Didi told us we had to be quiet in a bookstore. They should not worry so much. We are grown ups now!

Then we went up the stairs to the children’s section. On our right was a fluffy red Santa Claus. I hugged him. This part of the shop was marvelous! There were comics – Tinkle and Tintin and Asterix! There were story books with flaps that opened and toys for learning that sang alphabets and numbers. Many other children were there with their mummies and papas. And the toys! Scrabble and Pictionary and Lego. Bhaiyya plays them with us in school during the recess sometimes. Now we sat down on the fluffy carpet to read. The carpet had pictures of my favourite cartoons on it. I even spotted Pinocchio, whose tales are in our Balbharti English text-book. We read and read. There were so many books there. I wanted to read and read. I did not want to go home. It was cold and I wanted to go to the bathroom. But I wanted to read so much so I controlled myself and read some more. Picture books and story books and colouring books and comics and poems and fairy tales. Would bhaiyya and didi bring us back here?

Finally it was time to leave. Bhaiyya and didi asked us to choose a Ladybird fairytale book for each of us. I chose ‘Rapunzel’. I felt very proud to collect my book in a bag and leave the store. We gave our tokens and got our bags. Outside again, bhaiyya talked to us about reading flue.. fluency and sight words. He said that we should be able to read many words correctly in a story so that we can read more, understand more and learn more, and so be able to read even more! I am so excited to read. I can’t wait to go home and see my gift.

We took a taxi and returned to school where our parents were waiting for us. On the way we excitedly talked about all the different books we saw and read. When I grow up I am going to work in a bookshop. Then I can read all the books I want and at any time. Reading will be my work. I will be in a house made of chocolate stories, with chairs made of comics cake and walls made of poems pie. Or maybe I will become like that bhaiyya on the back cover of the book. I will write a story. Then everyone will read it. And my mummy and papa will be very happy!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: