Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Aspire, Achieve, Be the Change....!!!

Dear Friends,

It was a hard decision to leave the classroom which was all set and on track but keeping the larger picture in mind I think it was a good decision. A decision to shift to Mumbai and be a part of MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) transformation project. Again starting from scrap but with a year of experience in bag. This year apart from class there were some additional responsibilities of school management. Being a part of transformation project I have to be proactive and reach out to the HM and other teachers to know them better and lend them a helping hand. But all this would be effective only when my classroom is a model classroom.

Learning levels were extremely low; kids were at least 2 to 3 grade level below their current level. There were so many groups within class, few were able to read but a few don’t know ABC… . We started together with a name “Superstars” which later became “Team Superstars”. My basic focus was phonics and numbers. It was challenging but interesting to notice rapid improvement in few of them. Few of the kids such as Adarsh, Jayant, Khansa, Sahil etc have shown tremendous improvement in last three months, their reading fluency has doubled, they can write a short passage and have started talking in broken English. I feel phonics has helped them a lot, apart from this I have tried to cultivate that desire or hunger to study or for knowledge which helps me in pushing many kids. To motivate them I call my friends in classroom so that kids can meet in person and further establish their belief on what they want to become. In our class we have inspiring quotes all around.
When you enter the class these are the words written in front: ASPIRE, ACHIEVE, BE THE CHANGE and kids have to follow the following procedure every day. They have to look at one word and think the following:

1. Aspire: Enter the class, look at it and rethink want you want to become.

2. Achieve: Now look at it and think, are you working hard, to get what you have aspired.

3. Be The Change: Now think what change you can bring in your family and surrounding by achieving what you have aspired..!!!

If I look at my class now, I feel that there are at least 8 - 10 kids who want to study now and work very hard to compete with the top ones and it is really satisfying to push a kid from middle level to upper level. But there is always a flip side of the coin. I still struggle with nearly 10 kids because of one of the following reason: attendance issue, three have learning disability and lack of 1 -1 attention from my side. But I am very hopeful that at least I have authority over attendance and 1-1 attention which I will be solving in coming month. Home visit and investing parent is the best way to address attendance issue.
Visiting community is always a great experience it shows me the background from where my kid is coming, the atmosphere he lives in and thus gives me enough knowledge to plan how I should deal with that particular kid in class and his mindset. They mostly live in hard conditions; a 10 * 10 feet house with 5 siblings is the general trend in my kid’s communities. There is a lot to learn from kids and their community, how they search for their happiness from their daily miseries, how they come school laughing and dancing when they know that they will be beaten back home, when they know that today again their parents would quarrel, when they know that today it is his turn to be awake till late night because few of them have to sleep in shifts due to lack of space….. . Now how can I scold a sleeping kid in my class because I don’t know the reason why is he sleeping. They are with me for six hours a day and I have just one target in my mind to make these six hours special for them, six hours filled with fun, love, energy, excitement and learning. So, that they come next day with same excitement and forget the pain (if any).

This year working in Municipal School’s transformation project gave me an opportunity to work closely with other teachers and HM and through that I have learned a lot about the system and teacher’s mindset. The biggest learning is that there is no one in the system that supports the teachers or acknowledges their problems. It is always top down, instructions come from top and teachers have to follow them. And the result is that they just follow the instructions, nothing else. The teachers have great talent and they are very receptive to feedback, ideas or change but this happens only if you can build trust and a strong relationship with them. I feel that I have a great rapport with nearly all the teachers and HM of my school. Love, humility and empathy were the simple tools that helped me in building this relationship. Now, we have a staffroom, mini canteen and a resource centre working effectively at school. One of the best compliments ever said to me was said by my HM, “Sir, we have started laughing and happiness is around since you have come to the school. Thanks for being with us.”These words were like handing over the baton to me and I personally feel a lot more responsible since then.

I am enjoying my days at TFI, as the time is passing by; my hunger to give more to kids is increasing. At times I feel just six months are left in fellowship but sometimes I also feel six months and then I will be out to do a lot more to bring a systemic change. At TFI and being in classroom my self belief has strengthened that yes “I CAN”, I can see my timeline to complete my plans is shortening. I feel myself to be more motivated, planned and structured. At times I feel overwhelmed and get confused what next but I know in coming months I will chose the best thing for me and my classroom. I always feel privileged to have such great friends in and out of TFI and an active staff who is always ready to help.

Excited for the coming days.

Service before self
Love Bhartiya