In which Trupz explores the IDEEP of the Teach for India fellowship 

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As RC teachers, we learned the IDEEP practice for teaching kids how to get started with writing. By far this was the toughest ask of being a language teacher. It took a while to get used to the English my kids knew and for me to figure out what needs to be worked on to help us both get started. My kids were innocent little 5th graders studying in a government school in Yerwada, who would just as easily make a mistake between “it” and “eat”, “this” and “these” as well as “sit” and “seat”. We had a long way to go! 

IDEATE

After 10 years of working, in 2018, I had a feeling that I’m not investing in my efforts in the right place. Working in the managing committee of an international digital marketing company, a partner of the company on paper, managing three different teams just didn’t feel good enough. It took a while to come to terms with the fact that I can take a risk and steer my life in another direction. While exploring other alternatives, I was kindly reminded of the Teach for India fellowship, by a dear friend (also known as my husband :-)) and I dove right in. Although my heart was in the right place, landing the fellowship meant I had to do a ton of reflection even before I made an application. This not only helped me answer the questions in the application form but also gave me the clarity to pressing the submit button. A vague IDEA to do something for society, leverage my potential to uplift those around me found my way to the sector I care about the most, education.

DRAFT

I love to learn, given an opportunity, I don’t think I would want to stop, ever! So when fellowship offered a chance to be back at a college campus for a whole 5 weeks, I was excited and petrified. The classrooms and sessions were super fun, but I ached to sleep in my bed. The first few days were tough, early mornings, long hours, learning concepts you’ve never heard before, teaching in summer school, and failing miserably. But the toughest part of it all was, keeping a straight face through it all, continuing to learn. Institute challenged me to explore all dimensions of my emotional and mental strength. It helped me unlearn my biases and become more accepting of myself and others. Of course, it’s not an overnight process and I don’t always get it right, but today I accept myself with my flaws. As we concluded five weeks of Institute, singing, “We are the ones, we are waiting for”, each one of us knew somewhere in our hearts of hearts, a new ‘YOU’ was taking shape.

EDIT

Equipped with pedagogy, methodology, and the newly acquired title of “didi”, I made my way to my school. There is no training in the world that teaches you to deal with hostility. There is no secret super-power that helps you cope with the feeling of alienation except for the power of love and the power of reason. As a woman, it will be fair to say that I have had to work my way up the ladder to find my place and my voice in life, I had to deal with something similar in the school system. My kids were more considerate than the system. Coming face to face with some of the flaws in the Educational system and feeling completely helpless. I realized that I can’t fight them but only try to fix them with patience and virtue. So I started working on my fellowship, bringing in a more productive line of thought, focussing on things I can change and that led to two memorable events

The Student Council

The Republic Day

ENHANCE

Immersing myself into the unpredictability and uncertainty of the outcome was a very conscious choice. In such situations, there is no way to know, just how much is enough. Most of the days, anything I did, didn’t work, sometimes I surprise myself with the most unexpected results. I struggled to find a normal, till I realized there isn’t supposed to be one. I found myself within the most extraordinary situation and if I choose to keep my lens focussed on the ordinary I would learn nothing from the Fellowship. When I was in school, I learned most from being in the student council and participating in sport. If I have to attribute the never give up attitude to anything, it has to be to sports. Teaching as leadership is an important aspect of the Fellowship, it presents you with a unique challenge of being competitive and fair at the same time. It’s a fine balance of biases and beliefs.

We held the investiture ceremony for the student council and a sense of achievement came over me like never before. A realization that it is these small victories that will eventually win us the war. With a house system in place after the student council invested, the school team got the much-needed ecosystem to execute other plans. The whole month of January planned as a culture month on the theme of patriotism leading up to the Republic Day. Every Saturday we held house competitions for poetry recitation, speech, singing, and dancing. It was decided that the winners of each will be performing on Republic Day. PMC teachers paired up with TFI fellows were the house mentors and it was the student leaders who got their teams together, practiced, participated, and led with a sense of belonging and accountability. Competitiveness was in the air and every house gave it their best to win at everything. The school team put their back into making this successful and the result was a student performance to remember. I think we all felt our purpose complete.

PUBLISH 

Every fellowship story is incomplete without its characters! The school team played a huge role in all aspects of my story. From handling complex emotions to understanding each other’s problems. The weirdest of conversations at tapri, some unforgettable night-outs and birthday celebrations, the joy of finding Delhi-wale Chhole and pani-puri in Pune, and spending 12 hours at TOIT, we did it all. Of course, occasionally, we took the kids for a climate protest march, talked to them about fundamental rights, explained the pre-amble, introduced them to rock music, Winnie the Pooh, The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate factory and Chak De India and even attended the sit-in protest at Pune’s Shaheen Baug. I don’t know if it was the distance or the seriousness of the situation that got to us, but we became closer than ever before during the lockdown. I miss these crazy, funny, determined friends. Each with their own qualities and with a special place in my story.

Ohh yes! The kids, of course. We started with story-writing Fridays and worked in groups. We had fairy tales, jungles, dinosaurs, a village that had to be saved, friends who went on an adventure (inspired by Oz). We even wrote heartfelt letters to friends and parents, expressing gratefulness and love. We even tried our hand at poetry, working on a very simple rhyme scheme. We are not nearly there, where we would like to be, but then we’ve only begun writing our stories!

What this one year of fellowship made me realize that once you‘ve seen the Educational gap, you cannot unsee it. The transformation has humbled me and I am even more grateful for the privileged life I live. When you realize that just your presence can make a difference to someone’s day, you will learn to smile a lot.

When little hands write big words like, “You are the best teacher in the world!”, it makes you try harder and do even better. It changes you as a person forever. 

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