In Conversation with Mallika Arya, a Teach For India Fellow

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Born and brought up in Delhi, 24-year-old Mallika Arya took the fellowship of Teach For India (TFI) with the humble thoughts of bringing a change in the lives of underprivileged children. She did her schooling from Vasant Valley School and graduated in B.A. Psychology Honours from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She worked with TFI for two years before taking a gap year to travel. She is currently pursuing her masters in sustainability from the University of Sydney.

In conversation with her, she answered these questions:

Q. What made you decide to join the fellowship?
A. I was a volunteer in a TFI classroom when I was in college and also a part of Project Leap (which later became I Foundation) and that’s when I decided that I wanted to do the fellowship once I graduated. I wanted my own class, my own students, and I wanted to create the change that I had seen in so many classrooms with TFI fellows. I worked with the mindset that I would lead the change and create magic for those kids. I came out of the fellowship with a totally different view – I only went in there as an enabler,and in the end I didn’t create the magic. The kids did it on their own, and the journey with them was life-changing not just for them but also for me.

Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
A. The challenges I faced included not being accepted by some stakeholders. I was extremely lucky to have a co-fellow who had similar dreams. Both of us worked hard together to build relationships with the other teachers. We would make conscious efforts to sit with everyone else during break time and share our ideas, lesson plans, and assessment sheets. Another challenge for us had been to get the parents of the students to understand some of our unconventional teaching methods. There were regular community visits and we were often involved in calling the parents and going home for surprise visits or even just inviting the parents to come and sit in some of the classes.

Q. When did you start seeing changes (that you set for yourself) in your students? Could you recall any exact moments?
A. Looking back at the fellowship now, I think the kids taught me more than I taught them. They taught me to be patient and brought out a creative side to me which I didn’t know even existed! I hated math and science in school, maybe because of the way it was taught, but those were my favourite lessons with my kids. We would go outside and study under the trees. We started a little community garden to see how we could make compost with food waste and that really showed the kids that the solutions to a lot of problems can be found in the little things we do everyday. There were difficult days as well, but on those days it was the kids who pushed me through the rough times.

Q. What did you learn from the fellowship and the children? How did the fellowship help you in your next steps?
A. The fellowship was monumental in helping me decide what I want to do for the rest of my life. It was through our science lessons that we really started to dive deep into environmental issues around us today. I started doing extra research and we spent days following the COP21 news and hours learning about waste and pollution. My kids understood it all so well and wanted to do something about it so badly that it made me introspect my role towards saving the environment. I was immensely passionate about it, and here I am now doing my masters in sustainability in Sydney! It all goes back to my experiences in the classroom and if I hadn’t been a teacher to those 25 amazing little beings I don’t know where I would be today!

Inspired by Mallika’s story? Apply to be a fellow. Last date of application is 4th February 2018.


Feature Image Credits: TFI

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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