Oct 30th was a great day. At TEDxGateway, I got to speak about stories from my classroom to a 300+ group of interestingly diverse people. For the first time ever I made a presentation using Prezi and it went well except for a couple of things which no one noticed or pointed out. But, in just a few days, I was able to put together the presentation in Prezi Desktop with text and pictures. Strangely, I couldn’t add videos into the Prezi.
During the Tea breaks and lunch, I managed to speak to more than 70 people about Teach For India and the work done by the fellows across Mumbai and Pune. It is just phenomenal to see so many people appreciating this movement and also their offer for help and support ! I have taken cards, numbers and emails. Now, its time for follow up and engage these wonderful people in the classroom. I have requested people to come to a TFI classroom near their place and spend time with the children. Doesn’t matter who you are or whether you are talented in something or not, just by being there and talking about your life and experiences, you enrich their understanding.
The biggest happiness at TEDxGateway was that we managed to bring 5 kids from my class to the event. The kids made lovely greeting cards for the event organisers. They sang the Champions song on stage and then held a colourful kite that said ‘Fly High’ ! Going by the round of applause they received from the audience, my champions were a clear hit ! A proud moment for me 🙂
As always, when I look back at this event and specifically, my speech, I learnt a lot. So many ideas and points came rushing to my mind – all a day or two AFTER the event ! On reflection,
- Backward plan a presentation to get a sense of timing
- Rehearse the main structure of the speech at least 2 times
- Have a clear vision of the most important points to touch upon
- ‘Must-say, nice-to-say and buffer points’
- Check out the slides/PPT on the actual screen with the actual projector (My pictures looked dark on the TED screen 😦 )
Given the 18 minute time frame, it is challenging to fit in so many elements of a speech but then, a speech need not touch upon many things. Whatever is said, needs to be said passionately. Honestly. It has to be original and heartfelt to have impact.
Here is a picture of the kids on stage. And, a Facebook album of the event:
http://is.gd/gJL12 (No Facebook account needed to browse)
This is another game that has been working well in class. While thinking of ways to make learning sight words more fun, I remembered an idea I had read somewhere – you could paste important words on the floor, walls of the school so that the kids read it every day and retain. Since our floor is muddy, there is no easy way to paste words. The next best thing is to write with a chalk that has been dipped in water.
So, rather than just writing the words on the floor, I make it into a game. Here is how it goes:
1. Write some 20 sight words on the floor before the kids come into classroom with chalk dipped in water (better visibility + lasts longer)
2. Pick a random name using ice cream sticks (names of kids written on them) / chits of paper with kids names
3. Give a word to the kid and he/she has to go find that word WITHIN a minute. If so, his team gets a point. If he can’t find that word, you can give a homework based on that word.
4. While one kid is finding the word, other kids can be engaged in reading the word list or just cheering the kid who is trying to find the word.
All these days I have had this feeling that I am doing a lot for the kids; that I am giving them a lot. While going through the day-to-day austerity of living a Teacher’s life in Mumbai, I begin to think that I am ‘giving’. To the children. To society. But, gradually, I have begun seeing a change in the way I think. I now understand that I have been receiving a lot. From the community. From the city and most importantly, from the children.
Within a week of starting to teach, the children have been bringing something for their “Bhaiya”. It started with lunchtime sharing of their biscuits, candies, cakes, kichdi or pretty much all types of food. Then, they started bringing stuff from home -things that they considered special and fancy – like fake pearls, chamkis, beads and so on. I accepted them all with love and grace. I showed them how to accept gifts and thank. I kept reminding them that the best gift they can give me is – following the class rules, studying well and being good to each other.
As weeks went by, I saw this ‘giving’ develop into something really astonishing. They started bringing very thoughtful things for me. One day it would be small magnets collected from radio sets or discarded speakers and the other day, it would be marker pens. Then, they would draw and color something really nice just for me. (Today, one kid brought a full bar of Dairy Milk to give me. It was her birthday) The most common gift has to be red pens ! (though I hardly use red…I prefer green color to correct/check).
But, the one that really surprised me was from Roshan. He is a very quiet kid. Almost no one would notice him in class. He is very well behaved in class, naturally shy and quiet. He looks straight out of a playschool. The other day, he silently walked up to me during lunch and gave me a beautiful whistle ! This is special because I take their PT Games period as well and I was struggling without a whistle. Roshan had observed it and got me a whistle. Everytime I look at this whistle, it reminds me that I have 43 giving trees in my class !
Challenges. Questions. Tiring commutes. Crushing crowds in trains and buses. Sweat. Headache. Fever. Noise. Pollution. Ankle deep sewage water. Hunger. Insomnia. Austerity. Constant struggle with myself and the outside world. Euphoria one day. Dejection the next. Pat in the back one day. Biting the dust the next. Still, I come to School to see your smiles. To see your eyes light up at my sight. To see you running down the stairs to call me when I have not reached School by 12 30. To see you start using words in English; words that slowly string together into sentences. To see the pride in your faces when you get the answers right. To see that confidence taking shape. I don’t need to look anywhere else for one. YOU are my Yellow Hat.
Sleep at 3.Enter test paper data. Correct test papers. Reach home at 10 PM after being in a overcrowded bus/train for 1 hour. Buy food to eat later in the room. Enjoy the few minutes of silence while having a post-school tea. Retreat into the Tea Shop Cave. Teach/laugh/jump/act/put up a hand puppet show/skit/deal with staff/Principal/rains/non stop high decibel noise/open manholes/wandering cows – for 5 hours. Eat Parle G for lunch. Drink tea for lunch.Rush to School to be on time.Drenched in Sweat.Dead tired.Catch the train, switch to bus/auto to School.Carry one backpack and another bag full of teaching aids, stationery, charts. Brave the merciless elements. Eat vada pav for breakfast cum lunch. Wake up with pain in every bone and muscle because of insomnia. Go to Sleep at 3 AM.
Teaching is austerity.
Last week, due to heavy rains, some of the classrooms were flooded. When I and Kishan walked around, we found gaping holes in the asbestos roof (soon, these classes will be shifted to the building that has concrete roof). On one of these days, some 25 kids from another 2nd grade division were sent to my class for the day. Apart from managing the initial hour of chaos, what becomes difficult is sending these kids back to their original classrooms in the following days. These children see a marked difference between their classroom and ours, they enjoy being in our class and the fact that every minute, there is something going on – teaching, games, videos or coloring, whereas in their classes downstairs, they are in the class mostly due to the fear of the cane. The hardest part on the following days is to tell these reluctant kids to go back to their classrooms. I feel sad to see the disappointment in their faces. But, I have no option unless the Principal transfers some of them to my classroom.
On one of those days, two girls from the other division were so happy in the classroom that during the lunch break, they came to me with a big smile. “Bhaiya, we want to give you this cake (in Hindi)” and handed me this packet that looked like some brownish powder. These children often come with a rupee or two as pocket/lunch money and they buy these cake crumbs or cake left overs from nearby shops. Sometimes, this is their lunch. So, I said no and told them to eat it and I’d take a little. But, they insisted that I take the entire packet since they had eaten kichdi rice already. I relented and brought the packet back home and quickly forgot about it. That night, I was working till 1:30 and suddenly I felt very hungry. While rummaging through my backpack, I saw this cake packet! In no time I ate it and thanked the kids who had given it to me with so much affection.
Next day, as expected, they were sitting in my class when I reached School. Not wanting to disappoint them, I told how yummy the cake was. While I was explaining to the parents why they should take their kids to the other classroom, these girls quietly got up and went to their class on their own. 😦