Teach For India, as they describe on their website, is a nationwide movement of outstanding college graduates and young professionals who will commit two-years to teach full-time in under resourced schools and who will become lifelong leaders working from within various sectors toward the pursuit of equity in education. They shall be participating in on-campus placement this year. This is an account of the experiences of Gunvant Jain (Stacy), an alumnus who joined the Fellowship in 2010 after completing his B-Tech.
The past one year of my life has been a complete roller coaster ride. The transition from being an IIT student to being a IIIrd grade Municipal school teacher in the slums of Pune was not well received early on by my friends or family, but I was determined to explore my own self.
TFI training equipped me with necessary tools and a vision embodied by their six core values, but my first step into an actual classroom of 7- 10 year old kids, dancing, running, screaming, fighting in the classroom, completely shattered my confidence.
The first few months as a fellow were really challenging; I was trying to settle down in a new city, pushing my physical limits every day, meeting deadlines, understanding slum community, and understanding how Municipal board works. Every fellow faces the same roadblocks and feels anxious at some point of time. Hence, mentors from the Teach for India team constantly remind us to be gentle on ourselves, take a break, go out, and talk to our near and dear ones.
With such support from the Teach for India family, things were beginning to look up. The kids had started showcasing their talent; every once a while they would surprise me by their unmatchable thinking blended with innocence.
A month ago, when there was no one in my class; the principal came to me and said “Sir, apni class ko jake dekho” (Go and have a look at what the kids in your class are doing). I assumed the worst and thought they must have started fighting. I reached there to witness the most satisfying moment of past one year: kids were well behaved, talking in English, doing their pending work, drawing (sharing colors), discussing on today’s lesson, discussing on what they want to know beyond their curriculum. And when I entered the class, they came up to me one by one and gave me a list of things they wanted to know about, or make.
It just watered my eyes. I just don’t have words to describe the feeling of the moment.
I have come to realize that what is holding these kids back is the atmosphere they grow up in. Domestic violence, regionalism, religion issues, were most common issues in their community, which clearly reflected into classroom too, and for a rational brain this is completely alien field.
It was one big challenge to invest parents who were reluctant to change. But on the other hand every day some or the other incidence forces me to push my limits; be it like Toufiq making his own series which we call as Fibonacci series, or be it Sana’s drawing, be it Rajashree standing up to Faizan (when he said girls are losers) or be it Azam’s cutting edge imagination, be it Kedar’s inquisitive questions on evolution, or be it Gousia’s leadership qualities. I cherish hundreds of these memories. It feels awesome when you find yourself somewhere at the back of this change.
Teach for India’s model of “Teaching as Leadership” has helped me grow personally and also opened up several career options for me. Apart from just teaching, I’ve got exposed to so many other connected fields too. Many of us are going for higher education for studying public administration, and educational policy related courses.
In a nutshell: the past one year has been the most satisfying and most challenging year of my life and it has helped me grow in all dimensions as a person, rather than grow as an asset.