For GUNVANT JAIN the Teach for India experience was a steep learning curve...
In 2009, while at IIT-Madras, I joined the Jagriti Yatra, where I met people with varied interests. This motivated me to explore my own self and answer questions like “What do I really want to do?” I wasn't sure, but one thing I liked was teaching, which I did for NSS in my first two years of B.Tech. I applied and was accepted for Teach For India fellowship — a two-year commitment (2010-2012).
At TFI, I met highly passionate people from varied backgrounds. After five weeks of intensive training, a co-fellow Sarika Chuni (MBA-MICA) and I were placed as Grade 3 teachers at Shantabai Ladkat, a municipal school in Pune. I became class teacher of 65, 8 - 9-year-old kids.
What followed was a journey of an un-settled teacher — a complete roller-coaster ride. Often I felt I was in a middle of a mess, but one thing was clear in my vision: How can I empower kids and make them self-dependent?
At the TFI retreat six months later, I realised every one of us had similar struggles and a similar vision. The TFI team gave us great support, filled us with a sense of possibility — one of its core themes.
We started to work on smaller things first. We trained school staff, raised funds, did community visits. Within the classroom, we started challenging the kids on individual goals, while giving them appropriate support. For a few kids, opening up in class was a goal, for others it was being regular to school, or writing.
End of first year, we succeeded in gaining the children’s as well as their parents’ confidence. It was 70 per cent of the job done. In the second year we decided to make classrooms child-centric. This was a monumental change and we failed a lot of times. Kids behaved in unexpected ways. Gradually we got the kids to explore their own capabilities with fun-filled science learning and story sessions. We could see the glow in their faces, as they made things like craft toys at home, told stories to their younger siblings and talked confidently to their parents about cleanliness and food/water/plastic waste.
With support from other TFI colleagues, we managed to set up LAN, science lab and library, educational games in the computer lab, a house system. We bought a projector and teaching aids. It was great to see how a strong culture of faith could change things. We were fortunate to work in such a culture and pass on the same.
The TFI experience helped me explore what I wanted to do in life, made me realise how important a teacher is to kids. With help from my seniors at TFI and constant belief of colleagues we could do so much. The Fellowship was indeed one of the steepest learning curves of my life.