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The frightening conclusion

3 Jul

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I AM the decisive element in the classroom. Its my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can be humiliate or humour, hurt or heal.

In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.


-shared by Kiran Sethi (Riverside School)

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Two weeks at Summer School

2 Jul

Its been three weeks at TFI institute, two weeks at the summer school and I am still alive. I have survived through it and am here to update on my ongoing journey through the process of personal transformation.

After the first three days of induction which comprised of a lot of fun and reflection we started with actual training on the TAL i.e. Teaching As Leadership model. The sessions have been overwhelming with so much content and information to process, so much learning to take in and so much experiments to make. With classes on behavior management, classroom rules and procedures and standards, skills, five steps lesson plans, assessments, diagnostics and student achievement trackers…Life here has had its highs and lows.

The summer school began on 21st of June where my collab (Manasa, Shaily, Priyanki and Me) has been placed as teachers of class 2 ‘E’. So for the past two weeks have been struggling to teach addition, rounding, place values, phonics and sequencing to some 30 7 year olds and when I say struggling it means STRUGGLING. As Kayt (my collab manager) rightly said that the life of a teacher has its peaks and deathvalleys I have experienced them both in the past two weeks. With so much planning for each session, preparation of charts, coming up with chants and innovative ways of teaching the simplest of concepts to kids we have all been so busy that the sleeping patterns of almost everyone here have changed. Hardly any of us is getting 6 hours sleep with sessions lined up from 7 in the morning to collab meetings till 1 o’clock in the night.

Highlights from the past two weeks:

  • My respect for primary school teachers has increased thousand times because they are the ones who lay foundation on which the growth and achievements of individuals in the country are based, for they are the ones who patiently endeavor to try and teach lifeskills to kids, for they are the ones who are always forgotten and for they are the ones we are deeply indebted to.
  • All the fellows had a session with Dr. Abdul Kalam and ofcourse he was as inspiring and mesmerizing as always. Everything he said and asked us to repeat with himself has had an impact(though not measurable as of now).
  • We had a leadership forum with the former DC of South Delhi who is currently working with MIT’s poverty action lab. I just loved his true story and realistic views on education and growth and governance.
  • We had another session with Kiran Sethi(founder Riverside school and wife of Geet Sethi) : incredible woman, incredible philosophy on education and amazing model of school.
  • Cute beautiful kids give me flowers everyday.
  • There are 30 kids who are always (actually sometimes) ready to keep quite because they want to play with Bhaiya in the break.
  • There are 30 pure souls who wait for bhaiya’s instructions and at least try to abide by them (not always though)
  • I know at times I have really bored these kids but they are always ready to give bhaiya another chance.

In these two weeks at summer school, I have seen change in all of us, the fellows, we have all improved at things in class(far from good though), we have learned much more about kids and what makes them happy(simple things like a star on their hand, a quick game of clapping, running around with bhaiya and didi, a high five, a thumbs up, a pat on the shoulder, LOVE).

In order to motivate our class to perform better, work hard and behave well and ofcourse to impose rules on poor little kids, me and Manasa came up with this silly song which the kids in our class have just fallen in love with and are ever ready to sing in with us and for us:

We are the Champions

The mighty mighty champions

We are always nice

We are always on time

And we follow instructions

We are the champions

The mighty mighty champions!!!

Day 2 : Things getting Better

17 Jun

Things changed a little bit for me today. We started with a new activity called Yellow Hat inspired by Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats. The Yellow epitomizes Positive thinking.

The Yellow Hat:

The activity started with dividing the entire group into three smaller groups and each of the groups were assigned different tasks. One of the groups had to earn Rs.25(each member) the second group had to feed ten people and the third had to clean a garbage dump and do an art installation our of it. There were various constraints for example one of them was that u can’t spend money, second was that two people our of the group were blindfolded and two weren’t allowed to speak. Moreover we were given 5 minutes to think of 50 things that we could require to do the tasks and out of that 50 almost 35 were struck out so we were left with limited resources that we had to find ourselves.

anyways I was in the third group and we had to find a dump first of all then borrow stuff like water and sticks and whatever we could get to somehow come up with something that would look good in the end(remember art installation)…anyways and all we had were 3 hours to finish it off.

I dont want to give away everything in the post but to tell u a little…it was frustrating, fun, awesome, eyeopening and mindblasting all at the same time. And yeah we did a great job. But then the other groups were like awesome they just pushed themselves to an entirely different orbit..one of the groups actually got 2 ppl employed at a restaurant(permanent job). So now there are two employed ppl who were unemployed until a few TFI fellows went out for a small activity(I wonder what all will the fellows achieve in the next two years.) The third group earned INR 450 by washing cars and showing card tricks to people around Hinjewadi.

The insights that we got into the mindsets of others and more importantly our own during the debrief are immense.

After the activity all I can say is that I am in awe..I am in awe of the creativity, resilience and persistence that everyone around me shows here. People push themselves into their uncomfortable job…achieve great results and then make it sound like nothing at all..(a lesson in humility has to be learned here)

After a few other awesome activities and a talent show I think even I have started pushing myself to do things I never ever ever did before..for example I chose to sing infront of everyone when I never ever ever ever sing…I even wrote the song myself(not absolutely true I sort of killed another song to make up mine). 🙂

First Day at Teach For India

14 Jun

Have just arrived from the opening ceremony after a loong 1.5 hour commute from symbiosis to I2IT. Want to update on my very first day at Teach For India.

It was looong and tiring…

It started with a small introductory session regarding the mission and vision of Teach For India at 8 am which went on till arnd 9:30. We had a small ORANGE activity. Pretty simple..personally I didn’t enjoy it though. Probably it could have been a lot better. Was a little vague. We were all handed out one orange and were asked to think of it as an orange and try to look at it as an object and then the activity went on in steps of peeling the layers, tasting the peel and then the inner layer and then the fruit. Just to make ppl aware of how u get to know things not by the first glance but you discover them in steps.

The second activity was for around three hours..that was FUN!! actually awesome!!

we were asked to go out into the community find any kid and try to connect as much as possible in just two hours. Now again it was a little vague as the objective wasn’t known but this time we actually had to go and do something so I enjoyed it. Anyways initially I was a little apprehensive to go and just start randomly talking to a kid (awkward). for the first 20 minutes or so I couldn’t find anybody to talk to…later I found kids who were just not interested in talking or even caring to answer anything I asked..but then somehow I found this vegetable shop which was run by a kid(pretty awesome girl Arippa). She studies in std. VI. showed me her std V report card with all As..although I sort of bored her with sooo many of my questions she was pretty considerate and answered them well…told me stuff abt her school and classes and friends..and everyday life..how she helps her mother..u knw that sort of stuff. It was all fine after an hour and half I left..came back.

2 o’clock we started with a session where we were supposed to reflect over the previous activity: DEVASTATING it was.

That’s when I realized I am an engineer I do things but I dont really  feel a lot of the things ppl were actually talking of..and I dont really understand those touchy feely stuff..and I dont ever care to actually think of everyday things soo deeply..come on it was an activity..I enjoyed. its done..No but they asked me to talk of it..how I felt…what could hv been better and stuff..OMG…that was like some therapeutic sessions they show in Psycho movies (remember fightclub) where ppl share experiences(this wasn’t creepy though)..anyways I came out of it in low spirit.

But then again had an awesome and Funfilled evening at Symbiosis..met 09 fellows, staff and ’10 insti1 fellows. It was sort of a nice session. Again Awesome People are here. Seriously Awesome.

So the first day came with its surprises and had those moments when the pendulum shifted between extremes.

All I can say is its too early for me to say anything abt the insti yet and probably tomorrow it will be even more fun. Hope is a good thing my friend.:)

Classroom Management and Culture

5 Jun

Many think ‘Classroom Management’ as the process of creating an environment where students raise their hands before answering questions or contributing to a class discussion; where students don’t whisper to their neighbors, or run around the classroom; and where students use only respectful language towards their classmates and teacher – in sum, where students are well behaved. Teach For India aims at classroom environments that are all this and more. It enables and supports fellows to build a classroom culture of achievement-a culture in which students are inspired to work hard to attain success; are motivated to learn; and collaborate with their peers to bring the whole class to higher levels of achievement. So that ultimately, creating this powerful classroom culture will make it easier to ensure that students meet the ambitious goals for behavior and academic performance set by the fellows

This culture is built on six principles:

  • Maintaining high expectations for student behavior and fellow’s own ability to assert authority in the classroom
  • Establishing rules and procedures
  • Establishing classroom procedures and routies
  • Responding to misbehavior
  • Creating a classroom community and
  • Value academic success, hard work and team effort.

Now when I am aware of them I look forward to learning and adapting to these principles.

Source: TFI 2010 Classroom Management and Culture Guidebook

Teaching As Leadership

4 Jun

Over 20 years, Teach For America has studied the common strategies and methods of teachers who lead their students to phenomenal academic gains. They call the resulting principles of action the Teaching As Leadership Framework. Since the end goal at Teach For India is the same which is student achievement, TFI has been following the same framework in design of their program-from recruitment and selection to training and support-in an attempt to increase the number of teachers who embody these principles.

Teaching As Leadership framework has six principles:

  • Setting Big Goals for Students’ Academic Achievement
  • Investing Students(and their influencer) in working Hard to Reach the Big Goals
  • Planning Purposefully
  • Executing Effectively
  • Continuously Increasing Effectiveness
  • Working Relentlessly

I will be learning these principles over the next one month at Institute and would be applying them into practice over the next two years in my class. 🙂

Thinking About Thinking and Learning

3 Jun

TFI has sent a few documents to read as part of pre-institute preparation and now since my exams are over and I am finally at home just 11 days away from joining the institute I am trying to devote some time to prepare myself for the challenge.

I started with LEARNING THEORY. It’s an introduction to ‘How to Teach’. Though its just a 30 pages document I can say its concise and intense.

Simply put teaching is a form of communication. It’s very similar to what I have been reading for the past few semesters. Of course I read it in Communication systems which mostly dealt in the language of bits and transmitters and protocols. But the content I shall say is similar. There is a sender(Teacher), There is a reciever(student) and there is a message sent over a medium. The message here is the subject matter which the teacher wants to convey to the student. Now what if the transmitter can send msgs to the receiver at a rate which supersedes the capacity of the reciever. True, the receiver just can’t comprehend the msg and all that it receives is plain noise. So what do we do? we try to model the mechanism and the rate of transmission based on the receiving capacity of the receiver. Well this is precisely a ‘learner-driven’ model. The text explains four different concepts that fall under the umbrella of ‘learning theory’.

  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain: It explains six different levels of Cognitive understanding i.e. Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. Knowledge is generally evaluated by questions like write, list, label, name, state or define, Comprehension by explain, summarize, paraphrase, describe or illustrate which checks the interpreting and translating concepts and ideas from someone else’s definitions to your own. Application is evaluated by use, compute, solve, demonstrate, apply or construct. While the higher levels of understanding i.e. analysis, synthesis and evaluation are evaluated by questions asking to categorize, compare, contrast, design, develop, recommend or critique.
  • Multiple Intelligence Theory: In the 1980’s Harvard Researcher Howard Gardner made permanent impression on pedagogical theory by asserting that the concept of ‘intelligence’ is actually a conglomeration of a number of intellectual aptitudes such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal and interpersonal. This countered the traditional measures of intelligence(IQ tests etc. )that focused primarily on linguistic and logical modes of thought and processing.
  • Learning Modalities: A learning modality is one of three senses through which students readily input information i.e. visual, auditory and tactile modality.
  • Memory Theory: It emphasizes on ‘short term’ and ‘long term’ memory concepts and how through practice, building connection to prior knowledge and organization of materials concepts can be transferred to a student’s long term memory.

The concepts are pretty simple and something that we use in our everyday lives too like when you talk to different people you try to direct the conversation towards contexts that interest them, they can link to and find intersting, so when you talk to students try and talk to them in their language based on there comprehension and try to simplify things, connect them, organize them and its good to use a lot of elaboration.