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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Realisation of a different Kind ...

Truth and Dare!

Though my professors at a reputed engineering college down south always rated me highly but they never rewarded me in ample proportion for the simple reason that I was not the text book types .

I was not a student who would take down the derivations quietly without understanding each step and more importantly the often declared “ silliest “ step . I was not a student who would come to class least bothered about what is happening in the class. This often troubled me a lot .The Professors felt challenged and my classmates felt irritated at my “ whys “ , “why nots “ and “what if “ ..

A really bad habit ….. asking questions in the class ..The Education system almost gave me “NFTE “ (Not fit for technical education..or whatever they meant by them ).

Today, The tables have turned I am a teacher . I have started feeling disappointed at students who are not able to “ ask questions”. I have started feeling slightly disturbed at a system which does not allow any points for inquisitiveness , fearlessness , & creativity .

I am equally puzzled as my teachers were :P

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Challenges of Being ABU.

Hi ! I am Abu ! I am 9 years old. I sell news papers and I study in Grade 3. I will be in Grade 4 Next month . I am happy and I am sad . HAPPY because I will go to the next class And my teacher remains the same , SAD because , I would be selling the news papers again , My mother will be selling the news papers , my father will be resting ‘six months a year’ again . I would be living with my Nani , even though I want to be with my ma and my little brother Amu….

I want to be a good boy, infact I believe that I can be the best boy, who has ever studied in grade 3. But I do not understand why my BHAIYA (the new teacher) does not understand my problems? , why my father does not understand my problems? , why my mother expects me , the little boy, to share her emotional burden? , I do not understand why my “Nani” and “Mamus” expect me to behave like 18 year old all the time! I really do not understand why my class mates don’t understand my jokes (which my Bhaiya says are really funny but reprimands me for cracking them all the time ) .

I am little confused, when I study a bit, I get excellent marks, when I study a little less I get OK marks! I was once a topper , I was once the cynosure of the teachers eyes (even though I was thrashed many a times by them ….) but this new teacher (self assuming Bhaiya ) does not allow me this privilege of being the best , other students have gone far ahead than me in terms of scoring marks and scoring brownie points from the teacher! I have started complaining .I have started quarreling, picking up a fight with almost anyone who ever got the slightest of praise & appreciation in the class ! I feel bad about it .I have started feeling terrible at the feeling of being labeled bad.

What can I do ! This News paper thing is killing me . I am late everyday because of it .Distributing them in 50 houses spread across 3 blocks in Police Colony and NCL campus is not an easy job , but mamu says I have to learn tricks of the trade early, but why ? Didn’t I say Bhaiya that I want to become a Scientist? I picked a book from the old news paper store the other day “. It was about “RANDY PAUSCH “ .I read a page or two from it .I really liked .I imagined it to be a book from a poor aspiring scientist like me .I gifted it to Bhaiya thinking that maybe he could help me (he seemed ,as the only one ,in any likelihood , to do so) . Bhaiya liked the book and he actually showed me the video of Mr. Pausch. I also knew about Internet that day . I got to Know about the GOOGLE. I can find so many things and so many pictures about the planets about which I had heard about in the geography class. I confessed to Bhaiya, I actually wanted to discover a Planet or discover something inside a planet. Bhaiya seemed super excited to hear this …...Does he Love me?

I have started listening to Bhaiya. Bhaiya allows me to be a bit late in coming to class. He seems to understand a bit. I feel doing my best. I threw a challenge to my “friends “in class that I will be best ...BUT then something really unfortunate happened … My little brother Amu was being teased by one my friends in class, I became very angry, infact I was angry from before only: P , I hit him hard and made him cry. A complain was made against me, to My Principal Miss .Bhaiya was also sitting in the staff room. I had hit my friend really hard , I did not intend to but I had to protect my little brother (who else will ? ) . I was punished; I was suspended from school for 4 days. I was really angry at Bhaiya , he did not help me . I was really angry with my friend , why did he have to tease Amu , I was really angry with myself why did I do this ? I went to Mumbai to meet my Aunts, they live near the sea shore .Oh I saw so many things I could ever see in pune .I wrote it all, in case someone asks 

I came back. Bhaiya did not talk to me for the first 2-3 hours, the day I came to class, I did not know why…. But then I had to ask him why was he not looking at him, even when I was sitting quietly and raising hands to give an answer? Bhaiya told me that I should “say sorry” to my friend and to My Principal Miss before being part of the class! But I wanted to say sorry only to Bhaiya, no one else but then he explained again, if he said sorry to both of them, he would accept that as a sorry to him. He is a Nut , I Guess  . I did that ! , Bhaiya told that I was a Good Boy!! I felt good about it , I was happy all day.

I am feeling sad again, Three Class trips in a row, I was not allowed by my NaNI and Mamu to go to any of them. They thought the trips were not the best thing to do, perhaps selling news papers was far better ! I protested , I cried , I made all arguments but these people are dumb .In the last trip , to make it fool proof , I made Bhaiya to call my mamu , mamu said “ok , he can go” , but NaNI made a great excuse “ I am ill , I cannot send Abu “ .I was determined to tell this to Bhaiya , I told about the lies which Nani tells whenever she has to say NO to anything ! I did not miss the trips, but it would have been great to Know about the Anemometers, Hygrometers, and Pyranometers which my Friends knew about , after one of the trips …..

We have finished our Final Exams; I stand 5th in the Class Overall. Even though I Know, I can be the best but what to do I am still 5th !

Today was one of the happiest days, in the whole year! Bhaiya was coming to my house, he had promised! .Though Our House is bit small (rather very small, only one room) it is not that untidy. I know our house is near a drain , it is made up of Iron sheets, and it is slightly hot! But we have a Fridge , a TV (good one), two little beds to keep us comfortable and Cozy. I live with my mamu in a better place but I like coming to this place all the time because My Ma lives here. I am not sure why father does not go tO work so many days, I secretly hoped, he Goes to work when Bhaiya comes to visit. …

Bhaiya came walking with me, he was finding it really difficult to walk in the hot sun, and He walked almost 2 km before we could reach my house (slightly of the main road: P)! On the way he was asking lot of questions about “Hot Sun /Randy Paunch / My ambition to become a scientist and the progress I made in that / about my favorite Amu etc.” I was so excited to answer him. I saw my friends playing in the hot sun , they are mad (I shouted , Pagal ho gaylay kya , itni tez dhup may Khel rehlay ho ! ) .But I was secretly happy , I could show off “ Bhaiya “ , after all not every day he comes !

Enter my house, My father had not gone to work , he was sleeping with a blanket over him , How can he sleep like that ? May be he was drunk, maybe he had come from night duty.. May be …. My mother was back from work & as usual cleaning everything, almost everything … She was happy to see me back, but a little sad to see a sweating Bhaiya at the door ... But then Bhaiya always makes all of us smile, maybe he does that too with Ma ..

Bhaiya always works with an agenda , I asked him Bhaiya , how will you write here ? (Seriously, I did .. .. ) Questions after Questions , why Abu did not come for class trip , why my parents do not come for parents meet , How did they find this place , how long they have been living here ? I was getting bored I switched on the TV !!

Oh, fatal mistake... Ma opened up the complain box , Abu does this , Abu does that.. Oh so many of them ,Too much for my Fixed Agenda Bhaiya to solve at one Go !! They Discussed and Discussed … oh my God ! My ma could speak so much ? …

And , then I was forced to make many Promises today .Promise to be Good , Promise to be punctual , Promises to try listening to persons other than Bhaiya ....But I was Feeling Good about it … I was happy that someone wanted a promise out of me. ..I ran to bring “Maza “ – my favourite “Kol-drink “, Bhaiya likes it too! I had done the research …

I am happier than I WAS....... I HAVE Promised to be Good , to be better…Allah help me to keep my Promises ... ( I said to Bhaiya , I Would try my best )…

Hope I Turn out to be the best Boy in Grade 4 ….

Disclaimer : This piece of writing is purely imaginary , based on writers experience, understanding and interactions with one of his students over a period of 10 months of his fellowship with a NGO ......

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fellowship Year End Reflections !!

End of Year Reflections

Questions and Answers

For Q: 1, 2, 3, 4,5

Let’s be realistic about it . Pride cannot be quantified !! But still I am extremely proud of the efforts the students as a group and as individuals have put into .

1. How proud are you of your accomplishments with Fluency, either with the whole class or with individual students? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in Reading Fluency?

From a class which dreaded reading anything at all, they have turned into kids who give their best try at all the times .They are not afraid anymore . They recognize i) application of phonics , ii) use of punctuation symbols in reading , iii) using syllabication ,Over all ‘ desire ‘ to succeed as good readers is really intense . There has been a quantifiable improvement in RF Levels .

Did : Identifying their challenges , Giving the students ample time to work at their own pace, and encouraging Role of ‘leader readers ‘ and ‘peer teaching ‘

Did Not : Could give individual attention to the weakest of the students (namely 2-3 of them ) due to paucity of time .

2. How proud are you of your accomplishments with Writing, either with the whole class or with individual students? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in Writing?

Writing levels of Kids have not shown significant improvement. We would be fooling ourselves if we expected the kids to become writers in 8-9 months time. The primary reason being the extremely poor knowledge of grammar and poor vocabulary .

Did : Put in efforts to stimulate their creativity by challenging them to do picture based writing ,writing letters to each other ,writing small messages to their parents ,principal etc . Putting stress to use i) phonetic spellings ( in case they did know the actual spellings ) , ii) use Punctuation symbols iii) Apply their new Grammatical awareness while writing .

Did Not : Could not conduct Writers Work Shops .Could not make them to be original writers having their own ideas to write (of course few of them 4-5 , have shown exceptional skills as good writers ) Could not churn in the importance of writing and being good at it !

3. How proud are you of your accomplishments with Speaking and Listening skills (including the level and amount of English spoken in the classroom), either with the whole class or with individual students? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in Speaking and Listening?

It often amazes me , how a class which hard time comprehending “come here “ ,”please close the window “ “ face me “ is now confident enough to speak in ENGLISH to CEO of a company (in one of the field trips ) .They can understand a decent level of conversation in English and are able to respond to it .These students have been speaking increasingly better English & friendly Marathi .

Did : Story telling sessions were real fun with the kids , they enjoyed every bit of it and they have become very good listeners . Tremendous confidence building in speaking . Workshops were fun and they can now speak in front of anyone and everyone (without being shy and sissy :P) on topics of common interests .

Did Not : Could give them ample opportunity to test their skills . Moreover it would have been great if they could translate this ability to read their (speak out ) SSC text books to each other and enjoy listening to them .

4. How proud are you of your accomplishments with Reading Comprehension, either with the whole class or with individual students? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in RC? (I will not ask us to think about Grammar, but if you want to, you can.)

Teach For India EOY (End of Year ) assessment class average in RC is 67 % , which should stand a perfect alibi to their increased ability to comprehend English .

Did : Lot of Reading Sessions in the Class (with age appropriate text ), Lot of fun activities based on “on stage reading “ , “individual reading corners “ , “group reading sessions “ , “finding out the meaning and explaining to each other” !! I think this has helped them to shed their fear to read and understand .

Did Not : Stress on Grammatical accomplishments , solely due to the fact that Grammar skills have to built over a time period .

5. How proud are you of your accomplishments with Maths, either with the whole class or with individual students? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in Maths?

How indebted I feel to these Kids , My own inhibitions against this monster called Math have been shattered !! I almost feel to rework all my Math workbooks from K1-12 once again ! Please tell this to my Pa & Ma .

Lets be simple at this . They want more and more math homework. Math happens to be their favourite subject . EOY assessment results for Top 20 of class is 70 % .

6. For those of you in 3rd and 4th Standards, how proud are you of your accomplishments with Science, History, Geography, and Civics, either with the whole class or with individual students? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in these subjects?

Lets understand this through these two examples :

>> Ok . we grow . Plants grow . but most important is mud (Soil ). Without Mud - even if you put water , give the leaves sunlight -no food be cooked .... so ........... Aniket is - Thinking Star of the Day !!!

>> 3rd Grade Civics text book says " We should respect all religions " - I tried to find out if they knew anything about religion : they had no idea of being a Hindu , Christian or a Muslim , i explained Allah -Bhagwan-God are same people with different names . PRATHMESH asks .then why did stone age man decide to become ...

7. How have your students changed in their behaviour? How has the level of violence or conflict changed in the class? How respectful are they of you and of OTHER teachers? What did (or didn't) you do that did or did not enable success in behaviour?

What do you mean ?? What Violence ? They are just kids and they have all the right to be kids , and respect , they say has to be earned !

We are not great Psychoanalysts (the one we are trying to pretend to be !! ) .

Let them Bloom and flower without being mechanical !

8. What is your ONE greatest learning from this past year in your classroom?

These Kids can teach us more than we can teach them !!

9. Given the knowledge of yourself, your skills, and your students (if you're staying with the same kids), what are your expectations for next year (for yourself and for your students)? What will you do the same? What will you change?

Perhaps I would be more of myself without being bogged down by clerical ! Sorry sometimes I felt this way :P  I would let my Kids better themselves by setting higher goals but path chosen would be by them NOT me or them .

10. How has your experience this year influenced your leadership abilities? Think of a situation or anecdote that encapsulates this change, whether big or small. And if it hasn't influenced your leadership abilities, then why?

Leaders are born they cannot be made !  What leaders ?