I wrote this letter on 13 April 2010 in Pune, when I was about to complete one year as a teacher. It was a sad period of time as I have to leave my current class "Superstars" and shift to Mumbai for another project within TFI.
13 April 2010, Pune.
In the last few months I have learned few basic things which I think a teacher should know and especially those who are teaching kids with challenged back ground. These kids suffer with few basic problems or the word “problem” is not correct it should they don’t know what they are capable of. They are fond of love and attention. They need a helping and caring hand and a shoulder on which they can rest their head when in problem. As they come from diverse and challenged background their exposure to the modern world or facilities of the world is nil. So, in this case extrinsic rewards work like anything. What I have observed and noticed in my class and by talking to other fellows around, small rewards to kids increase their confidence level to a new high every time. (But one should be very specific while choosing the kids for the reward; it should never hurt other kid’s DIGNITY)
I would like to share a few examples from my class. Preeti was a very shy girl at the starting of the year but was capable of doing much better. I had few conversation with her, went out for field trips etc. and her interest in academics kept increasing. She became a role model for others in class, she improved so much that in the last exams she ranked 1st in class. Pratap, Mustafussdin were two boys who tried hard but were unable to deliver what they were capable of. Regular mentoring, 1 – 1 conversation gave them the required confidence and they started delivering in the class. Nikita a very quite girl and was very weak in academics, gained her confidence in class when she secured good marks in a class test and I personally greeted her and boosted her in class. Then I took her to a field trip to a Bookshop (Landmark), discussed few things over there with her. And her investment in class rose to a record high, now she is doing very well in class. I called her mother and told her about the improvement in her.
This is one of the biggest successes for me related to any individual kid. Abhay was a very naughty boy, always engaged in mischievous acts with other boys of class. But I always believed in him that he is capable of doing wonders in class. I changed his seat and allotted his seat with Preeti(as a part of buddy system in my class), then took him out for lunch. We had a long chat and I felt that this boy can do wonders in class if he focuses properly in class. He secured good marks in one of the test, which boosted his confidence. During my differentiation strategy in class he was the one who completed the work first. One day I was telling them about series, so, as a challenge problem I gave them to find the next two nos. in the series of square of natural nos. (this happened just before lunch). All kids were playing around but a few were busy in class solving the challenge problem. Abhay came up to me with a solution, it was correct. I was very happy but the most amazing thing was that he did it in a way I have also not thought and it was correct. Now, in the last exam he was among top 5 and he also works as a role model for others.
But there is always a flip side of the coin, I have few kids in my class for whom I feel that I have not done enough justice to them. It can be due to a large class size of 50 kids or due to a fact they were far back then their grade level. Moin, Imtiyaaz, Umar, Sohail are a few who were unable to show great change in their academic level during the past year. Yet I would say that they have changed a lot in their behavior. Moin and Umar being mentally challenged are still few grade levels below class 3. I think I should have made a separate investment plan for these kids during the starting of year but as it was my first year in teaching I was also not so expert. But now I plan to make a separate investment plan for such kids in my next academic year.
I am of the thought that it is better to improve the system rather than criticizing it. For me school should be a place where the focus should be on kids and they should be the centre point. It is place that if the system over here is changed and it runs with sole motto of proving learning to kids then it can change lives of hundreds of thousands of kids passing through it. I started interacting with teacher and Principal of my school once I was well set. I started going to different classes, interacted with them. Slowly I came to know that it’s not only the fault of teachers here, they are over burdened with clerical work, that has been given to them by the government. For a newly appointed teacher the salary is 3,000/ Rs. for next 3 years. How can someone work with great efficiency and commitment when his daily needs can’t be fulfilled by his salary. He will take tuitions, avoid teaching in school and I personally don’t think that it is wrong in such case. These are the things that provide him extrinsic motivation and so they go for it. I had 1 – 1 conversations with different teachers and they came up with different issues or the loop holes of the system. A teacher has to pay 2 – 3 lakhs as bribe for getting the job after he/she is selected in the merit list of exam and after that they get a salary of 3,000/ Rs. for 3 years. Nearly all the teachers at my school have paid that, just for the sake of government job.
I would like to share an incident with a teacher at my school. The teachers are with so rigid mindset that corporal punishment is very important. So, once I was having a chat and the other teacher was not ready to accept that kids can be taught without corporal punishment. I gave him the example of my class, Aniket’s(other fellow from TFI) class told him that we are new to this field but still manage our class with it. I stressed on set consequences rather than beating them. Talked to him about the background from where these kids come, the love they want and deserve from us. And finally he promised me not to beat kids and I hope he follows in class.
As the days in class are passing by I am finding myself to be a much more matured and responsible person. I feel as if the targets that I have set for myself are changing and are becoming much harder, as I push my kids in class, something pushes me also to achieve more than what I had desired previously and that to in less time. I feel as if I have developed a teacher in myself which teaches my soul of what is right or wrong. Now I try to practice what I preach. I am more open towards feedback and readily accept and try to change myself if required. Now I reach out to someone not only to take something from him but also give him or help him in the way I can. My friends find a matured person in me and ask for my views on different issues.
Finally once again I would say that it’s an incredible journey. I enjoyed my first year and as I move forward in the second year of teaching I have set new benchmark for myself and my kids. Together we will reach the places never travelled before. Looking forward to the next year….!!!!
Thanks a lot for support.
With love "Service before Self"