Teach For India, a project of Teach To Lead, 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 towards the pursuit of equity in education.
DU Beat talked to Suvidha Jain, SRCC Alumni and Fellow, Teach for India currently teaching at Deepalaya School, Kalkaji Extension, Delhi.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
Ans. Born in the city Jammu, with limited opportunities I moved out at an early age to pursue quality education.I completed my higher schooling from D.P.S RK Puram and graduated from SRCC in 2011. Thereafter, I worked in the corporate sector for three years in mobile sector at Grail, GSMA, and at my family owned business. Meanwhile I cleared two levels of CFA program from the USA. However I was never really sure about what impact my work had on people.
I applied to Teach For India in 2013 and did not get through. I reapplied and finally got accepted to the TFI fellowship in 2014.
Q. What do you think was your best experience working for Teach For India?
Ans. I love how my students notice little things, adapt and make efforts. They often imitate me and since I’ve made conversation in English a compulsory class norm, sometimes my students point out when I’m not talking in English! (laughs)
There are so many incidents where I saw my students taking values outside the class. We went on this picnic once and my students made the effort to ensure that there was no littering done anywhere. We also had this 2 month entrepreneurship classes where 3rd graders set up stalls, acquired skills and learnt from their mistakes. I think they know well enough that alone you’re good, together you’re great.
Q. What were the different challenges you faced when you started teaching?
Ans. The school authorities were slightly apprehensive with the way of our teaching. What we teach is very different from the conventional Indian way of teaching and the school wanted to stick to that. Overcoming that was definitely a challenge but when they saw our results from our model of teaching just in short span of three months, they gave us a nod to go ahead. Ever since that, we have established good relations with school authorities as well as the parents of our children.
Moreover, child psychology is a tough thing to understand. Even after training, you are not really sure what a child is thinking. There are certain times when you have to move ahead from your role as a teacher. There was this one incident where one of my students broke down in tears during class. I asked her why and she immediately opened up to me about the domestic violence she witnessed at her home. I made sure to contact her father about it and to invest him in his daughter’s education. You often feel like a mentor not only to the children but also to their parents!
Q. You mentioned the gap between what you teach and what non-TFI teachers teach. What does Teach For India do to fill this gap?
Ans. In the 2nd year of the program, each Fellow undertakes an assignment called the ‘Be The Change’ project wherein they ideate, plan and execute a project that benefits their classroom, the school or the community as a whole.
Teach For India has initiated a teacher training portal “Firki” to equip the teachers with ongoing support and training to deliver best for their students.
The overall goal is to extend vision of excellent holistic to all children through sharing best practices and pushing collaboration among teachers.
Q. What effect does the TFI experience have on a person?
Ans. TFI emphasizes on questions such as “who you are”, your ‘purpose’ and ‘goals’ in life. Through the various training sessions and opportunities I have had at TFI , I have always been pushed beyond my limits, knowing my strengths and areas of development better, discovering a whole new side to myself. From my children I have learnt to acknowledge and celebrate little joys of my life, through my peers the power of collective action and from the organization selfless effort to produce life changing experiences for its people. I feel grateful to be a part of this ecosystem.
Q. What do you think an individual requires to be a TFI fellow?
Ans. One should be passionate about “why” they want to change what they want to change. Secondly, they should be open to idea of learning from anyone and everyone at all times. Teach For India just looks for individuals with a growth mindset, who want to continuously grow and strive for nothing less than excellence, the rest of the things are learned on the way.