Times TeachIndia: My Experience so far

Update (19th March '09): This post is now published at YouthKiAwaaz.


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"It is not about how much you know. It is about how much it matters to those who do not know. And that, quite honestly, is infinite" [~Times Of India, Teach India campaign]


It is this statement which I saw some 6-7 months back in a full-page Ad of the ToI TeachIndia campaign, that spurred me to go and register for the program. A month after I registered, TeachIndia contacted me with a message that I had been placed with the NGO Youth4Seva. I was invited to attend a kind of induction program where all the volunteers who had joined from TeachIndia were given an overview of Youth4Seva and its activities.


The real excitement, and responsibility, came up when I went one Sunday morning to the Deena Seva Sangha in Seshadripuram, to actually start my teaching. I was asked to choose between Spoken English and Maths, the audience being a bunch of 10th Standard children, from a hostel next door to the school where I would be taking the classes. I chose Spoken English.


So it started. I took classes for the 7 boys every Sunday morning from 8 to 9:30 or 10. In the very first class, I realized that I had underestimated the effort it takes to teach! Secondly, I now realized that Maths would have been a better choice – since there's a fixed syllabus which one can teach, and it is easy to measure the children's progress – unlike Spoken English.


But another thought which occurred to me was that I had the opportunity to make a real difference in the children's future. It is my belief that to be competent in today's world, it is a must for a person to have a fair knowledge of the English language – written and spoken. Nothing hi-fi .. only basic communication skills in English. So I now had the opportunity to give these 7 kids a greater chance at being competitive.


I was suggested to look for Prakruthi N Banwasi's books, but I could not find any in the book stores. I settled for another “Spoken English” book. My first day in the class was an experience in itself.


The class started off with introductions all around. The first thing I noticed was the students' enthusiasm to learn. They were all from the disadvantaged sections of society, but that was not at all evident from their smiling faces or their general behaviour. Knowing the local language definitely helped me in bonding with the kids. I soon went beyond the teaching hours and started playing with the kids after class hours.


But, the crux of the matter remained dissatisfactory. The children were very weak in the basics. Some of them had chosen English medium in their school, but even they were very weak as far as their English knowledge goes. I started trying out different things to get them to open up more and converse with each other in English during the class hours. I started getting the sports page of the newspaper to class, to encourage the kids to read about it out and try to interpret the meaning. I asked the students to narrate what they did during the previous week, what movies they watched, what part of the movie they particularly liked, and other such stuff.


Although they gradually became more forthcoming and started using English more often, the improvement was not sufficient. Their board exams were approaching fast, and I was trying to complete my course before that.


It dint work out that way. The pressure started piling up on the students, with special classes in their school. I too had to go out of town and missed a couple of classes. These frequent gaps in the classes hampered the continuity, and hence the progress.


Eventually, I stopped taking classes for the 10th Standard students since their board exams are just round the corner now. I thought I'd switch over to teaching something to other children (the 9th standard students were in need of English and Maths teachers). However, they too have their exams soon. It is too late for me to get started now. Which means currently, I am not doing any teaching at all.


So, should I be disheartened that my contribution to TeachIndia has not amounted to much?


I think not.


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I state my belief that change should be at the grassroots level, which inevitably, is a slow process. I was not able to achieve what I set out to this year, but its not the end. I will go back next year and make sure I make a difference in the lives of the next batch of kids. Of course I will be left with a lingering guilt that I have failed the 7 children who are currently in 10th Standard – but on second thoughts, its not really a failure.


At the end of the day, TeachIndia for me has been a very satisfying experience so far. Give back to society brings a satisfaction like nothing else. I need to learn from this year's experience and commit more time next year.


Another thing I need to do is inspire more people to contribute to any such cause which gives hope to the Indian Citizens of Tomorrow. A small, but strong commitment (in my case – 1.5 hours per week for 12 weeks) is all you need to make to change lives for the better, forever. It need not be teaching (since that might require you to know the local language) – it could be anything – monetary, spreading awareness of issues (like hygiene), street plays, spreading the word and encouraging peers to join this cause, photography, blogging, web page design – anything you can think of. I urge you, my reader, to involve in any such activity which you think you can contribute in.


Hope being the foundation of this blog, I end this post Hoping for a better future for the Future Citizens of India. JAI BHARAT.


9 comments to Times TeachIndia: My Experience so far

  • Good job Kiran..

    Two of the main problems that Govt. School students are facing in Karnataka are the basic knowledge of English and Maths. Most of the children are promoted to higher levels even though they have not learned because of various problems in school (personal problems or becoz of the lack of teachers etc.) This is done to encourage children to come to school and not drop out because of failures.

    For e.g. a student will be in 7th class but he has not yet learned the basics like sentence formation. Thus there is a need to improve basic skills.

    I would suggest you to involve more on teaching basics.

  • Good yaar, feel good atleast someone around me is doing that good work.
    I attend the introductory session, but after that job was more of story telling and stuff, which I knew, I will not be able to do, and also not intersted, and so not enthusiastic, and finally couldn't do it.
    I always felt to teach needy students maths and other awareness stuff which could help them become a responsible citizen. I know not knowing kannada is hitting me hard in this aim of mine.
    Good, keep up the good work.

  • Good effort.Your initiative is most appreciable.May be you should involve more like minded people.My best wishes

  • Hey Kiran, i didnt know abt this man. I had applied to TeachIndia in Pune, but didnt get selected due to my weird timings. Nevertheless your participation makes me feel like i managed to do something.

    It's a novel beginning that has been started by the Times Group, like the Lead India Initiative, which is one more good forum for us to voice our opinions and put forth our plans and vision for India.

    Good Work Man.. KEEP IT UP.

    Keep Blogging. Good to read ur stuff.

  • @Supreeth: I agree with your comment about the basics being absent in schools. Further, you are absolutely spot-on regarding the "promotion-to-avoid-drop-out" point too. It is apparently true in the school where I teach too. I guess teaching the basics does make sense. Although, I view basic spoken English knowledge as a vital survival skill today!

    @Deepak: In my opinion, knowledge of the local language is absolutely essential for this kind of initiative. But you should not be disappointed. There are several other ways in which you can contribute to this cause - not direct teaching but in one of the several indirect channels which I have mentioned towards the end of the post.

    @B K Chowla: Thank you Sir. Encouragement definitely helps in boosting the morale. Although I think I still have a long way to go if I am to make any significant difference to these little lives!

    @Mangee: I had also lost hope when for a long time after I registered, I still had not heard from TeachIndia. However, what matters is that finally I got the chance :)

    I agree with your comment that these are all novel initiatives. All that is now required is the whole-hearted participation of the masses. We have already seen that happen in TeachIndia (I remember figures of 70 thousand being quoted as the number of volunteers involved!). Now we should aim to slowly increase that number so that the benefits of this initiative are reaped not only by those in the cities, but beyond that in the Indian hinterland too.

    And yes, thanks for the encouragement!

  • Wat a nobel deed! Good Luck n keep at it !

    i have taught li'l kids at parikrama and found it to be so rewarding!

    n wooow..i didn't know abt thsi effort times had come up with!its AWESOME n so proud to see that today;s youth is participating with so much enthu! We ROCK :)

  • The thing is you might face a similar problem while teaching mathematics. The first things that one needs to do in a situation like yours is to gather information about what each one of the student knows and then taking the whole class forward.

    For instance, there is no point teaching similarity of triangles when only one or two students know what triangles are and their basic properties.

    It is indeed very sad that being adept in English(our colonial language) is increasingly becoming a pre-requisite in order to make a better career even after 60 years of independence.

  • @Pavi: Yup - you said it. Its good to see youth participating in such initiatives. Lets resolve to take it to a conclusion!

    @Chandra: I agree with your point about gauging the collective level of the class, and then taking it forward. Maybe i'l do that next year.

    Regarding your point about English - I'm not sure I'm looking at it from a colonial language point of view. Rather, its from an international language perspective. And yes, its sad - but thats how it is!

  • Incognito

    a useful pawn. one who does not realise that he is a puppet dancing to somebody's tune.
    http://sankrant.sulekha.com/blog/post/2003/04/the-english-class-system.htm

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