Today was a continuation of self-understanding and identifying our deep strengths and weaknesses to be able to use them properly for our success. We started the day with a session on “Transformational Teaching”. But first the Mumbai fellows were welcomed with Mumbai songs with vada pav and local trains at the heart. Our theme this time is the popular six sigma certified Mumbai dabbawalas. We took it as a case study and analyzed it. We then narrowed down to punctuality, excellence,team work and humility as things we can learn from the dabbawalas and we committed to strive towards it.
Returning to the main session objective. A teacher can be bad<ok<good<very good<transformational. We, the fellows are expected to be transformational. By that we mean that we need to go over and beyond general teaching and focus on each and every child to achieve super high goals and change the life of the kids in just two years. We did analysis of two TFI Classrooms in Mumbai and Delhi which shows what kind of teaching they expect of us. One 5th grade was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone as text book, and the kids were discussing alternatives to the plot line. And believe me, 5th graders in a municipal school in English left my haw open. The other class students were discussing local housing conditions and correlation to the government duties. Again, wait out of the league of those kids without transformational teaching. One kid says “People can take away everything from us except our knowledge.”
That made me realize that my goal would be to make kids fall in love with education. Also, what I teach them should be applicable and stay with them even outside the classroom.
We learned this awesome model which basically shows dependency between various aspects.
Teacher’s mindset »Teacher’s actions»>Student Actions»>Student Outcomes. Hence a teacher’s mind effectively translates to Student outcomes.
We then did a very fun experiment. Fellows were divided into 4 groups and then confidentially given a word for which we were supposed to write adjectives. We got “Teacher” so we wrote a long long list…! After 3 minutes all 4 groups shared their adjectives but NOT the word they were given. All adjectives were similar for all the 4 groups. Then we revealed our words and they were “Teachers” and “Leaders”. And astonishingly this means that they are the SAME thing. i.e., all teachers are leaders and not the other way round.
We had been listening to “Teaching as Leadership” and finally-so simply we completely accepted that a transformational teacher is a Leader.
Next session was “Getting to know you” with our Project managers. We had to take a 80 question online test called “Multiple Intelligence” which figures what kind of learners we are. I turned out to be an Auditory learner, which means, I study the best by listening to people. There were also two other groups of Kinesthetic learners and Visual learners. We quickly had to figure out HOW would we teach a kid who learns by Auditory, Kinesthetic and Visual means in groups. We were trained to recognize that not all kids are the same, and each learn best via different mechanism, so ideally we need to use a mixture of all these three styles or figure out what suits your class in majority. This was really a revelation.
Next we had a proper “Teaching as leadership” technical session where we learned tools and methods to IMPLEMENT the structure. I can’t talk about it though.
Next moving to another school of analysis, we did the popular experiment on “The Whole Brain Model”. We were given 5 cards that had adjectives. We were to arrange them in order of applicability to us. Later we could trade cards with all the fellows and try to make sure most of our cards match our personalities. And even later, they opened up a huge deck of cards to select from. Every adjective was color coded. We were then asked to identify the color which majority of our cards had in common, between red yellow green and blue; we then had to sit in groups of the color that we are.
The explanation started then. Red>Feelings oriented, Green>Organizers, Yellow>Creative, Blue> Logical/Practical. I obviously got Red.
Next up was a task to be done with your colored teams. We had to figure out what all stuff we red would be good at, and which things we probably need to work on. We made a huge list, and every group shared them one by one. We learned two aspects from this experiment. One obviously knowing and accepting how we function, and also- we always need to work with different kinds of people to achiever best result. A testimony was that usually best friends are from different color groups.
Its interesting to notice that Google and Microsoft both have these two colors in their logo, and so does TFI this summer institute. The point is simple, to show that only when people of different types come together and work towards same goal can excellence be truly attained.
This brings us to the next session(I know…we had sessions 8am to 7:30pm.), “EXCELLENCE”.
in random groups this time we were supposed to integrate together our views and figure a definition for “excellence” as it is a subjective word. So we came up with “Passionately giving your 100% to whatever you may be doing, while striving to attain your goals and reach much beyond that.” To try our theory out, we each were given a task. We had to set a bar of excellence in the task of throwing paper ball into dustbin. We could do anything with them, and set our goals to excellence ourselves. Gosh it was hard, but people came up with excellent things. Some tried basket ball with eyes closed, some tried putting in 75 balls in a minutes etc. The point was to SET high goals and work relentlessly to achieve it. We understood what excellance is lound and clear. This also reminds me of the yellow hat experiment we did, and just by saying yes we could achieve something we didn’t imagine to do.
We read some amazing case studies of Violinists, Tiger Woods, and TT players. Research has found it takes at least 10,000 hours of dedicated training in anything to achieve excellence That’s when they told us that we will get 2000 hours in TOTALITY of our fellowship with the kids to achieve our goals. Which means we need to achiever Excellence*5. Interesting.
After the excruciatingly long but very powerful lessons of the day, we decided to screw our minds more. After a Cafe visit, we started talking about Frodo and his eccentric theories. Now, part of the beauty of being at TFI is the crazy amount of intellect raining everywhere. Most people are very liberal and tolerant and can discuss practically everything with passion. We spoke for about 2 hours on that topic, later leading into me discussing a poem and story of mine. After about total 3 hours of sitting on pavements, streets and our minds getting completely out of juice, we returned to the dorms. And oh boy, I have 4.5 hour to sleep.
That completes another day at the challenging TFI institute.
Until next time
So the day started with a session about something called as “Values”. Yeah, it might sound boring, but we were introduced to it in an extremely creative way. They put small labels around the room with various values like “Integrity”,”Resourcefulness”,”Love”, etc. and we were supposed to go and stand next to the value you expect our loved ones to have, then we had to choose one we expect us to have, then a value we expect a leader to have, and a teacher to have.
We were asked to analyze why we need values and its importance to an organization. So we figured that values is what acts like a compass to guide you on the right path. Values also bring diverse people together, especially in Teach for India where this is actually a great strength. We saw a Honda advertisement of extrapolated automation to understand ‘Team Work’, a poem by Shel Silverstein to recognize ‘Integrity’. A video of Michael Jackson for ‘excellance’, a fellow’s video diary to appreciate ‘sense of possibility’ a beautiful photograph of two dogs for “Respect and humility”, the CNN story on Narayan Krishnan for “Seva” or service, the trap laying scene from Home Alone we analyzed to accept “Resourcefulness” as a critical value and another poem by Shel Silverstein comprehend the importance of “reflection”. These 8 form the core values of Teach for India. Then we spent some time figuring one example and one anti-example of actions for each of the values.
An interesting thing came up, Ann asked how many of us thought honesty is really a must….and everyone raised there hand. She then asked for how many of us have never ever lied, and everybody sat still. She was trying to prove a point that we shouldn’t be idealistic, i.e., not be absolute of all the values, to values are basically to strive to achieve them as much as possible.
Next session was with all the Mumbai fellows taken by the awesome Venil. This session was by far the most retrospective session in the past few days. She took us on a journey of her life to identify some problem she had been facing, and then asked us to identify some internal struggle/problem we have been facing. And then anyone who’d like to share it did. Next step, we identified what mindset of ours was causing it. Shared. Then we had to restrospect more and more to reach the cause of this mindset. Now,TFI magically somehow makes people really feel safe and dig deep into their souls to figure out themselves. People got emotional, and very less people shared the root cause.
By her experience, Venil taught us that the first step to solving the problem is awareness. To accept and understand that we have a problem. Next is to stop labeling ourselves with tags, and remove them, and try figuring why we have those labels in the first place. If you are ready to treat yourself better and stop assuming you have no shot, then you will be able to reach the particular cause that has shaped your mind.
We learned a tool called AER. Awareness»> Equanimity(removing labels)»> Response(real corrective actions.) We tried out the tool in some examples…and it works like magic.
We were already heavy and deep into thoughts when we went to our next session with our Project Manager group. So a bunch of fellows are with a Program Manager who basically is your direct point of contact and evaluator. Sort of like a mentor/tutor at college. 16 of us sat on the floor in a circle, mostly strangers. We were supposed to come up with two things, events/people/places/moments/ANYTHING that has defined who we are today and how. So one by one people started talking. We had established earlier that it would be a circle of confidentiality and trust. So I cannot talk about any of the things that they shared, however I would like to talk about the diversity of the people. Again, TFI has some magic. Everyone got so comfortable that they started talking about their deep secrets, desire, events and regrets. We heard a lot from Oxford university life, to chronic depression, to stories of travels, to boxing champions, and healers. I was blown away, again. How could soo different type of people exist, and I know it sounds odd, but there are NO two similar people I have met till now who have been accepted to this fellowship. Which makes me think, and commend the selectors who did this job. After around 4 hours of sharing, we started to feel like we know each other 10 times more than before. This teaches me one thing, never judge a person and accept everyone just the way they are. And, SHARING is by far the BEST and HARDEST thing to do for yourself. The more you share the more comfortable you get with the fact and that’s half way on road to getting over it.
Oh btw, I have been assigned Secondary grade for my teaching for the next two years. I still don’t know the grade so let’s wait and watch.
After the sharing circle, we started walking around with a bunch of fellows. We talked and talked. Ate. then again roamed around. We found our way to a distant temple which sits on the edge of the lake. Little like Hagrid’s hut at the edge of forbidden forest. The wind played a gently melody with our hair, and we decided to support it by our own voice. We then started singing old amazing hindi songs, one after the other. An doesn’t understand Hindi so I and Al were translating every line to English to make him get it. Never thought I’d have to do that for an Indian friend, but again..you gotta love the diversity. We noticed how most hindi romantic songs have “Chaand” or the moon in it. Like seriously, its almost a must word. Think about it.
For around 1.5 hours we just sang, smiled, and stared at the distance. Finally we came back to the hostel after a huge day of self reflection.
The point is, a person cannot lead or teach anyone until unless he/she fully knows himself/herself…or at least understand his/her strengths and weaknesses. TFI is a tough job and often we will feel like quitting they say, but those moments we got to step up, look inside and identify whats causing this and how can we fix it. Being at peace and accepting yourself is the core or concrete for being a good leader.
So yeah, today gets over …and the analysis is…to be continued…
Have you ever worked for 15 hours in a day and still feel so exhilarated that you can conquer the world?I feel exactly that right now. I’m not sure whether it is the effect of the non-stop supply of energy in every direction from the co-fellows or the staff, or whether it is the passion for one mission, or it is just the amount of amazing non-stop fun that we have.
Today started as usual at 6am. Thankfully I found A and the gang at breakfast. We left for Pune directly after that for another session at Symbiosis Auditorium where Shaheen greeted us and we all sung “I hope you dance” again. Gosh I have started loving that song. The pictures of the kids playing in the BG brought out tears quite effortlessly. Next up she started telling us her story, beautifully crafted into Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the places you’ll go”. Shaheen is one of the most passionate and amazing people I have met till date. She gave up her place at Tufts University in the USA to return to India and started small by visiting slums and teaching kids in 1991. In a few years after gathering a bunch of friends, she started Aakanksha as a child development center. Fast forward 15 more years and she visits Wendy Corp, the founder of Teach for America to try to convince her to be able to implement the same model into various other nations. Eventually, Wendy decides to visit India and studies the prospects and eventually launches the Teach for All global network which basically has been implemented in 27 countries now. However, each country works as a fully independent organization, cooperating only on sharing what they learn.
Teach for India accepts only 5-7% applicants every year, to try to make ‘Teaching’ an aspirational profession.
And I testify having been with the fellows for two days, and seeing where they come from, they are really picking only the best of the leaders.
“One day all children will attain an excellent education”.
Stress is on “ALL”…not 10% or 50%..but really-ALL.
“will”- there is NO doubt or provision for pessimism. It will surely happen.
“excellent”- Not sub standard or make do, but really awesome education.
We were given 10 minutes to work out how we think we can do this in 50 years of time, as TFI aims at achieveing the above in that time.
While sitting and staring at our chart papers, I realized that this is very very not easy. Everyone knows and cries about how much of educational reform is needed. But when I tell you 90% of kids in India do NOT ever go beyond 12th grade, and ask you to make a plan to fulfill the above goal, you realize that you have no idea how to do this.
TFI doesn’t claim to have an answer to this question, but however they do have a rough maze of a puzzle in which many blocks have been discovered in the journey of the past four years. Us fellows, and the alumni network is entrusted upon the task of identifying and doing what needs to be changed in order to reach the ultimate goal. We all learn together and push each other ahead.
We did a tiny experiment in which ten of us fellows were given roles that they are supposedly in 5 years from now, and they need to tell us what they’ll do to help the cause of Education. We had Google CEO, NCERT curiculum designer, Member of parliament, Municipal Commisioner, CEO of Bharti group etc. Each came up with elaborate plans what they can do in their positions. Then we were asked to imagine if all the 2500 of the Alumni that we’ll have by 2018 were somewhere such as the above and all working through their seats, not necessarily in a non-profit or directly in education sector contribute to our goal, how soon and beautifully we can reach the mission. That is the true long term goal of TFI, and not just a teacher recruitment agent.
Next session for us was meeting a bunch of kids who have been with Aakanksha for the past decade. They come from slums with parents usually working as maid servants or labors But oh my God, they started talking and I really had to make sure a tape wasn’t being played. Their English was flawless, with a poise and confidence no lesser than stars. Kids 12-17 years of age were using words like “forte” and “sabbatical” like its their rice-dal. Most of these kids were failing primary grades when they came to Aakanksha, and now most of them were studying in prestigious colleges like St. Xaviers, Jai Hind, Sophia etc in Mumbai. 2 of them were instructors at Shiamak Davar’s dance academy. One was interning with Film Makers and wanted to go to film school abroad after finishing Xavier. Let me remind you again, these kids came from very poor families and now they communicated like 3 times better than me! I am not even kidding. I wish rich kids could go to Aakanksha to be able to attain such excellence as a human being. So, the kids told us what they wanted to become. Hold on to your hats…Stock Broker, Defense Engineer, Marketing Executive,Film Maker, Professional tour guide, Doctor, Economist, Fashion Designer, Choreographer, and a Hotelier.
I swear to God, 90% of my friends don’t have a dream to become something. These 15 year old were so amazing, that I can’t begin to imagine what they will be when they will be 23.
What I think separates these small dreamers and the baboons us is that they have seen the lowest in lives. Mother being burnt, father dying on a footpath when a drunk driver runs him over, no place to live and no food to eat. So they know that they need to work hard and nothing worse could happen, and hence they take risks and chase their dreams, which are not necessarily shaped by how much it pays. The odd thing is, we middle class Indians decide our goals and careers based on the salary even though we are well off than all these kids. Money makes you want more money. Period.We gave the kids a standing ovation, and then danced with them for a while.
A quick lunch later we were back at the auditorium for an experimentation session on Edward de Bono’s Yellow Hat Thinking. We quickly made yellow hats for ourselves in whichever way we wanted, and it basically signified to always say “Yes” to everything we are asked. Essentially the point was that never ditch anything as impossible. We were then briefed about our next community visit where we were supposed to take over the daily livelihood of the local people for one entire hour. There was no rule exactly to be followed, and they trusted us with behavior and judging what is appropriate and what is not. We got into the buses and went a little far into a community. There was a twist, we were also asked to pick up a physical disability around half of each group. I took to be blind.
M took me around asking people in the shops and around for some work or anyway we could help them. Soon we found a bhangar/raddi wala who basically buys your old newspapers,bottles etc. from you and gives to a recycling center. I knew within a second that I wanna work there. So one of the handicapped(acting) fellow had to sit and do the weighing etc., and I was standing at the street corner, blindfolded, shouting out chants and slogans to attract people- excite them about recycling- and ask them to get their old stuff. Funny things happened in the next one hour. Kids came crowding around me and I sensed their presence so I started talking to them about recycling, and soon they began to help. A man got a vegetable cart and the kids made me sit on it and they rode me around in the gullys while I chanted slogans and asked people to come to the store to sell their old stuff. OMG was I stoked and exhilarated. Here I was in a community I had no means of seeing. I couldn’t see the judgmental eyes, or the curious old people, or the abusing and laughing young brats. All I cared was to get the message across loud and clear.
Soon people started getting bottles etc, and raddi really doesn’t pay well. Another man walked up to and asked me why we were doing this. I told him we were gonna be teachers and wanna know where our kids live and how it feels to work in this area with a disability even. The man sweetly talked to me like a child and told me I’ll fall sick in the sun. I refused to leave and so he hugged me. That said everything.
Someone also came and put a kulfi in my hand, which was hilarious and awwwtastic as I munched away, taking intermittent breaks to continue shouting. After an hour a fellow took me back to bus parking area and removed the blindfold. And hence, a completely strange slum visit without any visuals came to an end. And oh, we helped the kabadi wala get Rs. 70 in 45 minutes. :)
We got onto a bus and traveled back to FLAME over a game of Dumb-Charades. You think we would be exhausted by now? Nah. Then we had a two hour long reflection session, where everybody gets to discuss what they did and what they learnt and how they felt. So here it goes, some girls worked at a construction site to sieve cement, a girl went and swept a gurudwara, 2 guys worked a vada-pav shop, a girl ran a pan-bidi shop, 2 girls were tailors, 1 worked in a beauty parlor. Can you imagine? My jaw dropped. The huge jump from the skepticisms we had about how-on-earth we are gonna do this, to the immense success we had just had.
So we basically put on our Yellow hats, and said “YES..we can do it!” even with hesitations, and we came out incredibly successful on the other side.
Next we were asked to summarize the entire day’s learning and experience into ANYTHING that can be presented in 5 minutes, to be shown in a Talent Show post dinner. Dinner was fun, again with 3 new people. Our micro group of 8(ok just FYI, we never repeat a group) planned a fun peace called “POP”. We made a fun street-play esque, jazz poses equipped, extremely fun 2 minute piece…which everybody loved. POP stood for Positivity Optimism and Possibility-which basically was our summary of what we learned today. We enjoyed performing it like mad people.
Anyway 11pm we finally got free. A shower later I am here blogging enjoying the cold beautiful wind through the french windows.
I have cried twice today, laughed like a gazillion times, met around 10 new amazing people, and 10 amazing kids, and just felt really really alive.
There’s no other place in the world I’d rather be right now.
Until tomorrow fellas.
PS- I know the post is long. But can you imagine how it would be to exactly living it? :)
Also, please excuse any writing errors.
Such a wonderful day. I got up at 6 am and decided to go for a run alone. The institute has a nice ring road that runs beautifully around the entire campus and has amazing sights of the mountains and forests in all directions. Sunrise isn’t usually something I get to see often but today I did.
Got back to my room and a quick shower and dressing later we headed for breakfast. I was kinda getting hang of the hostel life by now. You have friends everywhere, and when that is all the TFI fellows- you are bound to enjoy talking to them. After breakfast we had a welcome to TFI session by Shaheen, and the entire TFI staff. So while we entered the hall the staff stood and clapped and hooted for us, reminding us that we are celebrities:P. Here we heard Maya Angelo’s “We will rise” which really sorta pinched our hearts, and then we went through Dr Seuss’ “Oh the places you’ll go” which really really brought out the kid in us and we felt like a bunch of excited and ecstatic people all united for the same goal. We got a brief of where the fellows come from and which cities will we be covering. Next we went with our color groups to our respective lecture theaters and for me that was “Tagore-2”. To recap, they do a lot many type of groupings that are valid in different occasions just to make sure you meet as many people as possible and get to know what makes them, them.
So I left my usual gang of A and T and headed to Tagore-2. I sat on the first row and took a minute to breathe in the theater. So the wooden semi-circular stepped classic lecture hall architecture is something I hadn’t seen earlier and I really loved it.
Our first experiment was a total of 10 minute session spent on an orange. We were asked to forget it was an orange, then close our eyes and take 30 seconds to smell it and then describe what we smelt. Next, we were to feel it for 30 seconds and describe how it felt. Then we were asked to pinch the skin and taste it and describe. And at the end, peel it open and eat it the classical way.
Our facilitator then said “Have you ever investigated an orange like this ever before?” And we hadn’t. I was gripped by the awesome analysis, both perspective and technical that the fellows had come up with. Finally this was related to the children. From the outer they could be beautiful, or a little grainy. Could be bitter or hard or restiveness But once you peel the external layers and reveal the true self can you really understand the kid. So no judging the fruit by its cover.
Next we were briefed about the community visit we would go to and general guidelines to do the same. We got buses allocated again randomly, so time to meet more people. We spoke and spoke and spoke the entire one hour journey into the Pune city. I know I am repeating this, by the diversity and interesting natures of the fellows is something I am in love with. Every time you expect someone to be a certain type, you start talking to them and they bowl you over with some completely different behavior Anyway, so we visited an area next to the popular Yervada Jail. We were doing what we call a “Connect with a child” activity. So I focused on only a kid and his tiny brother. There was a huge age gap between him and the brother, and the young one couldn’t stop kissing and hugging and hiding behind his elder bro. They had come to Pune to their Nani’s place for summer break. They studied and lived in Solapur, and I was surprised to know they do 4 languages in their school-English,Hindi,Marathi and Urdu. I mean gosh, I couldn’t handle even three well! I could relate to these kids like crazy ‘cus I have a tiny brother witha huge age difference a well, who used to be very lovey-dovey when he was a baby and we would go to our grandparent’s place in Kolkata for vacationing. After around an hour we left back for our bus.
Return trip was a mixture of discussing our favorite tv shows, and music, and lotsa talking about India, past experiences and fun stuff. We even sang Captain Planet tittle track at the top of our voices :P
Got back for lunch, and again I was separated from everyone I knew and soon I found R from last night fun hang. We ate together talking about random typical stuff Mumbaites talk about, with a pinch of intellectualism We had many more sessions lined up after the quick half our lunch break. We did small group reflections and large group reflection in which basically we discussed our apprehensions, skepticism and hesitance with first interaction with kids.
I kid you not, I have never met or been in a room with such an amazingly honest and interesting discussion. I usually pride myself in the ability to think about all the avenues about a topic that there could be, but every single person made a point I couldn’t have imagines. Hats off to the selectors who picked us. Really.
After 2 hours of discussion, we got like 15 mins to head back to our room, freshen up, and then head to Symbiosis college in the Pune city for our Inauguration Ceremony. I didn’t think the day could go more powerful but it did. We just kept meeting more people and talking
(I know you are bored of reading this sentence) in the bus. The highlights of the show for me was 8th graders showing us some parts from their “Teach for India Model United Nations 2013” that happened in March. They spoke about the Palestine problem as America, Iran and India. And oh boy, we couldn’t stop clapping. When i was in 8th grade, I was sitting and watching TV most of the time. And these kids not from well-off schools, but under TFI fellow for 1 year were excelling at global affairs. We gave these kids a standing ovation. Few kids presented us with Snow White and 7 dwarf’s modern take with a focus on vanity. Oh man, we couldn’t get over the perfect english and acting of these kids. Half of the fellows in the audience were crying with joy. And I was just glad that I was there, thanking everyone and everything that had lead to this day.
We got highlights of the TFI movement, met the city directors and hooted when our cities were spoken about. A parent shared his conviction towards TFI, backed up by leaders from corporate like Agha Khan. Towards the end the 2012 fellows passed on the Phirki, a fan that turns in wind which we used to buy as kids in the Mela as a sign of dynamics and continued endeavor Each of us 250 got a Phirki each and we posed on the stage for pictures. Then there was a photo collage made of all of the 2013 Fellows played to the song “I hope you dance” by Lee Ann and that made us very emotional.
We had an amazing feast of a dinner after this, and I was happier than ever in the past 24 hours. Sat again, with new set of people but it really felt like we already knew each other-just had’nt met :)
The bus journey back was incredibly crazy. We started with singing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and if you know that song, you’d know how difficult it is to find people who know it fully. We kept singing and singing, from “Cloud no 9” to “How to save a life” to “Jaane tu ya jaane na” to “I’m with you” etc for an entire hour. Gosh my throat hurts. Our bus was officially the most happening among the 12 in our fleet. I have not laughed the amount I did tonight in a long time.
I got to my room and showered. Then went to hang in A’s room till chabbering about American politics influenced by Playboy magazine, the flattening UIs of mobile OSes, and other randomly awesome stuff. Caught a glimpse of the time table for tomorrow, and as they say “humari phatt gayi” and I ran to my room to finish this blog and get like 5 hours sleep before another 19 hours work day! I should be exhausted, but I have never been this excited and just plain smiley.
For some reason I was very nervous while coming here today. Was it because it was the first time in my life I was gonna live at a hostel? Or was it the fear of the unknown…I do not know. But it all vanished the moment I entered the FLAME campus. The place is beautiful.
So first we needed to go through registrations, which was a 6 layered process. We got color coded ID cards acc. to our placement city, and a class color so that we meet more people. Then we got an HDFC account created with a titanium card and then moved on to finish HR formalities. Then we got our FACE clicked for the cohort album and a video session where we answered interesting questions.
By now I was sure of one thing, everyone was…awesome. I’m not kidding. People just walked up to each other and spoke about absolutely anything.
Next I took my luggage and went upto my room. Well beautiful spacious green levelled campus is equivalent to hell lot of pain to drag your bags, throw in 3rd floor room and you have a recipe of sadness. But thankfully two nice ladies guided and carried my smaller bag to my wing. Anyway, then I met my roomate and neighbours and all seemed chill. I unpacked to kill time and went down to fill water. There we met a bunch of more guys and soon we left for a walk around the campus, around 8 of us. And then I found magic…the LAKE. We had to walk through bushes and stuff like one would do on the way from Hogwarts to the Lake, and saw the awesome sunset there. The climate had converted to a pleasant breezy awesome…and I couldn’t stop admiring the lake. By now all of us guys were deep in discussion about fun but intellectual stuff. From sci-fi utopian world governed by AI to kids with learning disabilities. Conversations flowed like melted butter. Met another person without Facebook account, which is rare. And obviously I hi-fived him :)
But ofcourse like everywhere else, there was a gang of giggling girls who couldn’t stop taking their own pics.haha.
Anyway, we walked around through the place and went to another tiny pool where I decided to dip my legs in. Soon the security told me to not do that :P Talks kept flowing. There was a patent lawyer and a really osho like peaceful person. I call him the good aura guy. The diversity of people kept me at the edge of my seat.
We had dinner(at like 8pm) and headed for a walk towards our residence area. We found a lawn and sat down, and a light smell of poop brushed my nose. Then we started talking about poop and pee and I wondered how both of them started with a “P”. Hehe . Around 6 puppies decided to attack us and steal love and cuddle. We did that for a while, and then a group of girls decided to join us. So there was an awesome cool tombay, a pretty lady who couldn’t stop loving the dogs, and a cool lady who I call miss popular. We kept talking and this time, more of laughing.
We walked to the edge of the campus and saw the far away hills with tiny lights. R was making fun of my harry potter addiction, but it was fun :P Then the cool lady and us did some chacha and macarena in the middle of the road(I think she was high tired :) )… we decided to hit the sack then. A shower later I sit here, blogging about an awesome day.
I am excited about tomorrow, the real first day of the Teach for India experience.
See ya :)
“India needs her most promising youth to lead the country out of an educational crisis. Are you ready for a challenge?”
That’s what I read in the newspaper, and I said “Hell yeah!”
2 months, and an awesome selection process later I got the mail saying that I have been accepted into the 2013 Teach for India fellowship program So essentially Teach For India is a nationwide movement of college graduates and young professionals working towards eliminating educational inequity in India. Did you know 50% of kids never cross grade 5 in India? And 90% never go to college. Well, this is a huge problem. Far more important to be solved than some stupid application that stopped working in an IT company. Or at least that was my rationale to quit my job and grab this.
Anyway, so the fellowship entails each fellow to be placed into a low-income school in one of Mumbai,Pune,Hyderabad,Chennai and Delhi. I got my placement in Mumbai (Yes, I am never gonna leave this city :P )
and we get an entire class from 2nd-7th grade. We teach them all subjects except the local language and run short term and long term projects with the help of the kids and their communities to change the overall educational dynamics. Most of these kids are academically backward by years when compared to the students in the well-resourced schools, and it is upto us to bridge that gap and make our students more awesome. Basically we are directly responsible to change the lives of the kids.(No pressure :|)
…You can read more about the movement here and here.
I am 22, with no responsibilities per say, so this mega responsibility is amazing to be taken on. The people I have met from TFI are wonderful and they always treat you like you did something incredibly commendable by choosing to join the program.
How did I get my parents to agree? Initially dad was all skeptical and “No you are not doing it!” type. But a lot many peaceful and not so peaceful discussions later(which includes him flying down from Kolkata to convince me) I got him on-board. As far as friends are concerned, every single person I have told this to said this is exactly the thing for me. Honestly, I love teaching around every random person I can find and I annoy lot of my friends with endless chabbering, so this seems right.
Am I scared? Oh hell yeah. The cohort of fellows are so crazy diverse. Students from Brown to Oxford. Professionals from Lawyers to Businessmen. And Me. :P I am not scared in failing with the kids though. I have a satisfaction rating of 101% from the kids. And now you can read me blabing.
Some myth busters time. People mostly thing working in a non-profit means no salary. That is absolutely crap. Only “volunteering” is unpaid, but all other jobs at a non-profit pays you. TFI pays me not as exuberantly as HCL did, but it gives me a purpose and motivation in life 1032986 times more. I mean, I don’t know but its so obvious to me. Having two options- A> Sitting in front of a computer and solving problems related with finance applications. B> Any damn socially developing work. Option B without the blink of an eye. Well I do realize that many people have financial constraints, and I respect that. But Hail the Lord that my father worked his ass off to get me quality education and be at a position today that I don’t need need to contribute financially to the household. I have this privilege, so the only way I can think of in making my life useful and thanking the universe is by helping others who aren’t this fortunate. I learned a hell lot from the corporate though(as you can read in my corporate diaries), but its time to move on.
I’d also like to take a moment and urge all my fellow students/professionals who are stuck in a rut of a job or wondering what step to take ahead in life to take a moment, and figure out some interest that you want to pursue just for the passion of it. It doesn’t have to be social sector, don’t get me wrong. But something you know you wouldn’t be doing only for the money. Because if you share the privilege that i have, you could really be happy in life chasing what you desire. Think about it.
Anyway, so my one month long training begins at FLAME institute, Pune…TODAY. I am supposed to leave like now. So I will wrap up.
And I will be blogging frequently from the campus I bring to you the “Teach for India” project. I feel kinda nostalgic, as I have been pouring my life out on this blog for a year now. I have taken you through the “Kolkata diaries”, “Corporate Diaries”, and my regular ramblings. And now I am entering another domain which excites and scares me together.
A year ago right around the time of graduation I was wondering to become a teacher someday. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the year that followed.
I’ll take a moment to thank my parents, they did a really good job raising me. I turned out ok right? :P And my superfabuloustasticsome partners in crime SA and PS without whom I would an empty useless soul. I might not be the most awesome person on this planet, but surely am the luckiest.
See you on the other side.
p.s.: I’d love to read some “All the best” comment posts :)
when it comes to the matter of heart, i am still an insecure little human being as everyone else. I am afraid of losing who I have, and who i can have, and who I nearly got but perhaps lost.
so, often in fits of higher-headedness I tell myself I don’t need others to make me happy. i can do what I want, learn things I want, discard what I don’t…then why do I go out of my way to do something someone else wants? or do I even know what that someone wants?
i’m sorry to be vague. but if you have ever felt or asked any of the questions above, you would know exactly what I mean.
being a human isn’t easy. for once we can’t live in random places, mate as we like, scavenge on food as it comes by and bite who annoys us like animals. we have expectations, and our damn imagination- that most often imagines only the worst and ugly fueled by our deepest shortcomings. which is again fired up by non-communication. honestly, ever think someone is in a turmoil because of you, please…bloody…communicate. i cannot stress this over and about. there are some things only the two partakers can justify.
i again apologize for my wanderings, but i am really annoyed with myself. being an albatross would be more fulfilling sometimes. to be free of shackles that bind us, torture us, and want us to desire love. to fly across the grey waters and not needing to know what awaits at the earthy lands. to glide beneath the infinity of the greater world and truth, the only that guides to morrow.
how to decide what you deserve and what you did, who is to decide who you can choose? how can we explain to ourselves our feelings when we don’t know the source of it all? is it all in our head to fill a void that never existed…or is it just a fictious plot the universe plays on your life oh so often. how helpless it is to just watch and wait. and wait. and wait some more.
So remember the place i have been volunteering at for the past ten days? On 23rd we went on an ‘educational trip’ to a little few places around Mumbai.
Now the beautiful thing about kids is, they are crazily surprising. They tend to do/like/feel things in a way you cannot predict. Anyway, so early that morning(I mean seriously-7:30AM EARLY!) I came to know that I will be the only volunteer managing the 40 kids.Beautiful ain’t it?
The day started well. I announced my arrival in the bus with “Good Morning Kids…!” and everyone responded back.
We parked the bus at the entry area, where the police guy asked me for “Chai-Pani” as he was afraid of asking the Sister who was the in-charge of the trip.
I greeted the few-bored and few-interested in the zoo kids with a sheet of riddles. You see, I had visited the zoo the previous day to check up on the procedure of bulk booking, and got bored to stone. So we had to come up with someway of making this zoo experience interesting, and what better than a riddle-hunt eh? Kids were surprised by questions like “I am an Animal, but if you eat me you will still be a vegetarian!” and they ran around the entire zoo trying to find answers. However, a group of kids decided to stick around me. Probably they thought I would take them to the answers area , or just ‘cus they liked my company. I choose the latter.
One of the kids took the responsibility of being our tour guide as she was frequent to the zoo. Its interesting how kids perceive things, especially other animals.
Soon I found a tiny kid, of the third grade who grabbed my hand.
Honestly, there’s no better feeling than holding a tiny hand of a kid. He went everywhere I went and I gladly explained about the animals etc. When a kid trusts you, you can see and feel it emanating from them. Soon the herd of kids following me increased, and I won’t pretend I didn’t like it. I started telling them about the evolution from dinosaurs to birds. Half didn’t believe me and the rest already knew.
One kid asked me which school I am in, another asked me if I was married. Clearly no feature of mine could have inspired these questions.
Soon we were done with the Zoo. A quick snacks break later, we were at the Bhau Daji Lad museum. Ok, so again, I personally know how boring museums can be. But not when you wanna go shopping right? I asked the kids to pick out 5 things they would wanna take home from the museum. And this unleashed mad kids staring and admiring everything there was in the museum, and this is when it started. The “Bhaiyya” revolution.
No, I am not making any controversial indication towards a certain community. I am just referring to the fact that all the kids called me “Bhaiyya”. Now imagine more than a dozen kids at a given instant finding something great to admire and calling out “Bhaiyya bhayya look at this..”. And now make this over 1 hour. Only I know how my ears tolerated the torture, but I felt loved with each strike of the bhaiyya revolution. Next came the “Bhaiyya can you tell” series, which was a attempt by the kids to judge my brains by throwing random riddles at me. ” I have two eyes, two legs but I cannot walk”…and what not. Soon I was running out of ways to defer answering a million new questions every second. So I started playing with the tiny kid. Now tiny kids love you and all that, but they see something wowful in a distance and they go running to it without even a glance backwards. And then a little time later when they realize their hand is empty, they run back to you and fill it in your hand. Its almost poetic.
Anyway, I somehow managed to tackle all the kids beautifully, which was testified by an even more increasing swarm of kids following me all around. I sat on a chair, and 3 of the kids sat on my lap. With the approaching 4th kid, these three decided to protect their territory from invaders. So now this was the Bhaiyya annexation war.
After we got done with the museum, we headed to the cafe to consume food. Kids noticed that I hadn’t gotten a tiffin box from home, and thus started the “Feed the Bhaiyya Movement”. In a carefully orchestrated cacophony of “Bhaiyya”, kids from each table called me out and usually 2-3 tables at a time of 4-5 kids each. And I had to take on the unholy task of selecting a table, sitting my arse down, and consuming their food until they were satisfied or let me get up. The entire process would repeat as I got up from a table. Never thought eating could be this stressful. The sad part was kids took offence if I wouldn’t eat their food, so I was gulping down Pulao, kachchi kyari, Idli and Laddu in one single bite. No, I don’t wish to talk about how it tasted like. Anyway, making the kids happy was my priority for the day.
Just when I thought this couldn’t get any more complex, kids began to fight who I should walk to the bus with. Soon I was being pulled in more than 3 dimensions, nearly sure of breaking space time barrier Well, in my head at least. This continued to my sitting arrangement in the bus as everyone wanted me to sit with them. I was utterly confused. I am absolutely boring a person, with no intention of having “fun”. Why on earth were people fighting to get a piece of me?
Anyway, I figured if I didn’t rest for a few minutes now, I was gonna break. So I took the help of the nerdy UNO playing kids and requested them to initiate the “Protect the Bhaiyya” session. They told everyone to not bother me for 15 minutes, while i try to take a nap and before we reach our next destination.
Nehru art center was a chic modern gallery, and again the kids surprised me by liking the place a lot. I started enjoying the kiddo admiration by now. With a tiny kid in my hand and dozens of more following me I felt like we could start an army to take over the world with cuteness.
Parking my atrocious imagination, we moved on to our show at the Planetarium. Again, I was expected to sit with everyone and after I took a place in a nearly empty row, kids swiveled into the adjacent seats quiet magically. The Mars exploration video and the fine air conditioning and our tired bodies proved a great concoction for a siesta.
Our journey back was a mixture of dance performances and conversations. Thank God the kids were a little tired by now. A half Bengali boy shared his Kolkata experiences with me, a sweet nerdy kid shared her disbelief of her fellows kids’ behavior and convinced me to come next time as well. Another young lady proved to me one by one that she could dance, sing and scored high in exams with the help of witnesses.
Kids are weird. But amazing. I wouldn’t change a thing about them.
PS: I couldn’t sleep that night, with “Bhaiyya”s ringing in my ear.
PS2: Clearly, I love ze Kids!!!
So today I went to see a gospel concert. How did that happen?
You see, I and a few friends are organizing a sort of summer camp for local kids at AMAR Media Center,Wadala. It is a convent school and the Sister invited us to the concert and we just couldn’t say no.
So I was a gospel virgin till today.(ignoring the popular “hallelujah” and “blessed be your name” ) And I was aware of what to expect. But then the band that was performing (Grace Afterglow) asked us all to get up and dance with the songs, and few volunteers(seemed like extended band members) stood in front of the stage and started showing us the actions and dance moves.
On the outset I’d like to clear out that I respect all religions and cultures, and love exploring how different people celebrate God. But my first reaction to the music was…”WOW”..it was full blown pop-ballad or blues or rock music. With amazing amalgamation of beats and melodies…very like a general rock concert or music event I attend. But then you listen to the lyrics, or read them from the PPT being projected and I swear to God, it was holy. Like “Jesus you name is higher than everyone, you are our saviour” etc,
Now, I really believe whatever it says. But it felt so weird. Like, something pure and divine is being reduced to a shallow rock music level. I had the whole “ehm..wtf” look on my face while people did Egyptian dance, and went round about there chairs, etc.
I looked around some more, and guess what? All the people, young and old were loving it. Especially the older people were jumping like school kids. I couldn’t help but smile. The music was doing its trick…bringing people together.
But for probably the first time I felt something today- Culture shock. I always proud myself to be liberal and tolerant and accepting of everything. Probably for the first time today, I didn’t know how to process what I am seeing. Do I get up and leave or do I stand up and dance and participate in something clearly many many people believe in.
I decided to ponder more, and slowly it made even more sense. God is often placed at such a level that you can only visit in a pure temple or shrine. Women are not allowed to enter in that-time-of-the-month, and millions of other rules. What I think this does is create a huge wall between our regular lives and the time we are supposed to pray.
Whereas, if you sing and dance to celebrate your love for God, or in other way, enjoy and appreciate God in your daily life, doing everything you normally do…it creates a harmony and peace among ourselves. Its a great cultural get together to cherish a sense of community.
Anyway, so we decided to dance and sing with the band and enjoy the evening.
There is this line which they said and it makes absolute sense
“…we are free to struggle, we aren’t struggling to be free…”
Until next time,
Random #modern #art I made. #instagood