Education  India Project #20912

Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai

by Teach For India
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Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 2500+ students in Chennai

My journey with Teach For India started when I first imagined stepping out of my otherwise comfortable lifestyle to do something that gave me a purpose – making education accessible. My time at the Institute unlocked many opportunities and experiences, allowing me to explore and further refine my vision. It helped me get in touch with reality and see for myself what are the challenges that the community faces.

My classroom has 43 students. Most of the students’ parents work as domestic helpers or as helpers in the market. This means that in most households, students are left on their own to attend classes, practice, and take up responsibilities. In a few other households, at least one parent is a homemaker but often cannot assist students with their school work. Keeping this in mind, I want my students to have self-belief and a sense of hope to change their reality.

The goal for the next two years is to engage, involve and challenge my students on multiple fronts to help them understand their role in society, consequently making them realize their potential.  One of the first steps to achieve this is empowering and making them capable of reading and writing. 

A blended learning format was implemented due to the pandemic. One in-person session is conducted in a week, and classes are taken synchronously through Zoom on the remaining days. These sessions are coupled with community visits. I have visited 70% of the students who attend classes and are reachable. The students also receive asynchronous packets every day, containing around two hours of independent work and activities.

The framework for blended learning that best suited my class context was decided upon after multiple meetings with stakeholders and going through the existing literature on blended learning strategies. The thought process was strongly facilitated and mentored in various learning circles. The suggestions and strategies were then tested after consulting the stakeholders, including parents, headmistresses, and students. After a few weeks of trials, everyone was able to adapt and was comfortable with the format.

The second step was to align instruction with the Leadership In Teaching (LIT) framework to enable maximum learning and outcome. It was essential to connect with my students’ context and communities to make informed choices and decide on a future path. 

While every student is unique and gifted, it is important to be aware of each student’s receptiveness towards the learning. I introduced the concept of ‘feeling cards’, a set of four cards depicting basic emotions -  happy, sad, angry, and scared. Before the start of every class, the students show each other one or two of the cards depending on how they are feeling at that point in time. While initially, all the students only showed happy cards, I have started noticing a shift wherein students volunteer to show ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ cards and explain the reason behind their emotions. 

The pandemic has ushered in many changes in the educational system, making it critical to get the parents invested in the idea of blended learning. The first round of conversations with parents made them aware of the benefits of online learning in the current scenario. I also interact with them weekly or bi-weekly, depending on their attitude towards online learning. This enabled me to streamline conversations and build trust. This exercise started paying off when the parents voluntarily started calling up to inform absence or inability to submit asynchronous work. They also became aware of the feedback mechanism and started sharing valuable insights into how classes can be more effective.

Being a Fellow has strengthened my resolve for the need for change brought through education. It has fueled my purpose to ensure positive change in a community pioneered by students with a strong sense of civic responsibility and personal ambition.

 

Swetha Raghu

Cohort 2021

Grade 3 at CPS Virungambakkam, Chennai

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Megha following safety norms in her physical class
Megha following safety norms in her physical class

My First Year of the Fellowship in Teach For India would take forever to talk about since it’s been a vital part of my journey as a first-time teacher! It has been a rollercoaster ride as I've been juggling a million little jobs to be the right teacher and leader, considering the pandemic has given me the ultimatum in pushing me to be more creative, kind, and transparent.

The last year has influenced me in such a way that the vision for my class states, "Students will be able to help each other grow with guidance, respect, and compassion while making the learning experience enjoyable. Students will be able to understand their responsibilities towards the community and society and commit to exploring every possible opportunity to learn, improve and share." My classroom goals include a growth in the Reading Comprehension Level to a 1.5 and growth in Mathematics by 15 percentage. I have learned how an online classroom functions in the past year, and I think this has helped me create a very efficient and creative long-term plan for the Year 2 of the Fellowship. This would not have been plausible without my Program Manager and coFellows support throughout my work towards my classroom's growth. Also availing essential opportunities from the Staff for Planning, Execution, Teaching as Leadership techniques and Student Vision Scale modelling for better classroom culture and student growth.

The most important aspect I focused on this year would be Socioemotional Learning for the children. It's important for my children to be happy, kind, and giving during the pandemic. Their wellbeing mattered the most to me, given that it was getting difficult for them as 8-year-olds to stay put and consistent with what and how they are feeling towards this monotonous routine of theirs. And thus, I used the Random Acts of Kindness curriculum to improve and understand the children and their state of being. We participated in the Feelings Circle thrice a week to understand how we were feeling while walking into the synchronous space every day. This helped me gauge where the children were and adapt to the backup plan for that day's class. Together, my children and I practised showing compassion, collaboration, respect, love, and gratitude inside and outside the classroom. This helped the children to build trust, honesty, and transparency amongst each other.

I started working from the ground in December 2020, distributed devices to the children who did not have access to one until December, did community visits once a week, went to children's communities to understand why a child wasn't attending a synchronous space regularly. This also helped me invest in other stakeholders such as the parents, the schoolteachers, and the Headmistress. Our school team members, including Alumni, began fundraising, and we also provided ration and other essentials to the families of our students. In February and March, I also took in-person classes for students who were not reachable previously and prioritized Foundational Literacy and Mathematics. This helped the children recollect 45% of Grade 2 portions. However, it's saddening that the learning gaps were increasing faster after the pandemic worsened, so I decided to be mindful about the same. I have procured a few devices for these children so that they come to online classes regularly this year.

My understanding of an excellent education would be every child in the educational community learning and excelling in their passion, comprehending English and communicating the language for the right purposes, improving their knowledge with a true motive, and encourage a comfortable environment around them for harmony. This leads to how we source gradual growth for the country. My vision for the country stands simple and poignant on all platforms. We will stand together to fight all odds the new way. Our weapons will be knowledge, kindness and most importantly, the persistence towards change and the power to love everyone endlessly. This also involves the 2 most important stakeholders- Young minds and their caregivers. So, as a school team, we are focusing on parental investment along with every child's education in our classroom, considering the caregivers are primarily the teachers for the children during the pandemic. Hoping this will help parents understand, nurture and support their daughters and sons holistically.

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Our Fellow Srinivas narrates how this pandemic has changed our course of action and forced us to look at the 'impossible' as we adapt to the reality:

Uncertainty and complications was prevalent right through these months due to the lack of clarity and rumors about the status of schools resuming again. Initially the tenth graders were called back, and it looked like a sign that schools might gradually open up for other grades, and the assumption got more backing when the 9th and 11th graders were called back too. While all this was going around, we ensured to focus on our core which was to deliver quality content for our students irrespective of what the future holds and kept our community outreach intact by visiting our students and their families individually to understand what they are going through and formulating a collective idea about the situation in our community through these visits to execute our actions in accordance with our needs. We were constantly having discussions with our HM to keep her informed about the situations and happenings, and receive her inputs to plan next steps through our collective ideas. This practice ensured us to be informed and updated about our community and design milestones and course of actions for creating impact based on relevance rather than assumptions. We witnessed spike as well as consistency in learning as well as engagement from our students, in terms of attendance, learning and being involved.

Uncertainty and complications seemed to have become our new friends as we once again are in a phase were the Covid cases are rampant and on a rise after a period of subsiding, and this is followed by the elections around which only suggests that the long haul of waiting to step into schools is only likely to continue in the immediate future. Hence, we intend to continue with our community outreach and engagement ensuring safe practices and continue to deliver quality content for our students to learn and grow.

It’s been an unusual year, rather an unusual time in our lives that we never imagined before, and hence the nature of impact and transformation during this one year has been that way.

A remarkable impact would be our students exploring and exhibiting independence and their individuality which has been starkly contrasting to the previous years when they were unconsciously so dependent on their teachers for almost everything. It needs to be noted that this was a gradual process as the students were struggling and anxious during the initial weeks but strongly evolved through the process.

A batch of students have been able to enhance their communication skills and abilities as they could focus on spoken English this year, which was otherwise in the dark during a normal school year. The program helped to reap the desired results which is evident from the fact that one of our students enrolled in this program is tutoring her football coach in spoken English!

Lack of exam and assessment fears allowed a batch of students to comprehensively focus upon preparing for a competitive exams called NMMS exams to earn a scholarship. Some students in a different batch where excelling in exploring and analyzing scientific concepts by learning through experiments at home, which allowed them to participate and excel in an interschool competition called ‘Hydrathon’ held by the Rotary Club of Madras. A batch of students proficient in the field of arts exhibited their skills and talents in performing arts such as dancing, singing, gig, art and craft work, speech and more in platforms such as the weekly Madras Party and CSK (Chennai Students Kondattam) which are some initiatives conducted by Teach For India Fellows.

Last but not the least, these young adults played roles of responsibilities in supporting and running their families alongside their parents at a time of crisis and complexities.

Overall, the engagements this year has played the role of countering shock and helped in keeping our students learning curve in motion, which projects positive signs of them being equipped to ease into the transition of going back to schools as and when the environment is evaluated to be conducive for resumption of schools by concerned authorities.

I completed an internship last summer, wherein I was working with a group of unskilled labors to enhance their communication skills. Since then I have been working on short projects to build access and exposure for our students to build perspective about the society and world beyond their text books. One such project which was thoroughly fruitful was the ‘Wonder girls’ project.

In this project women excelling in various fields came to interact with our students to share about their journey in life and their careers, which was inspirational as well as instrumental in understanding different fields one could opt to make a career in as they grow up. It gave the opportunity for the students to look beyond their societal conditioning of taking up a job and earning money to meet the household needs. It also helped to think and dissolve gender biases strongly erected in our heads as a result of the conditioning from the societal structures we come from.

Rapidly adopting and tirelessly being on my toes to come up with actions and take decision would be the most fundamental of the positives aspects this year, as it was a year of indescribable uncertainties and complexities arising from the community we work with. The positives that has translated as a result has been deepening of trust, building meaningful relations not only with our students and families, but the stakeholders concerned with our school.

From 5% to about 50% attendance in classes, from despising learning to excelling in diverse opportunities, and from negligence to complete involvement we have come a very long way.

This year has been a year of exposure to our vulnerabilities and the dire need to look into ourselves and shed our ego and practice humility and humanness, towards which I could thankfully take a conscious effort.

Growing and maturing into my role has been at the forefront of the Fellowship experience for me this year. I have transformed as a teacher, not only in terms of delivering better content, but being able to feel and relate to my students in their pain as well as joy. I have become another person in the community we serve in rather than being the ‘other’.

As I reach the twilight of my Fellowship I am at a place where I am content and ready to shift gears to experience what life has got to offer and give whatever I could offer.

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Our Fellow Anna Liz Abraham narrates how the Blended Learning model had helped her use technology into the classroom to ensure the learning gap doesnt widen further:

"Being a Teach for India Fellow, I was looking forward to various experiences and learnings I could gather in and around my classroom. But it has been eight months since we stepped into our classrooms due to the pandemic. There are definitely pros and cons to this whole process but I, as a Fellow, take this as another learning opportunity. The challenges were the ones that excited me most about the Fellowship. With online classes they were no less.

The exposure I received towards the different technology that can be used for students was immense. Keeping in mind the different things to engage students in, my planning skills have improved to a great extent. My mindset has shifted from procrastinating to proactively completing tasks and deliverables. I believe in continuous learning, not only for students but as Fellows also and this time period has proved that learning doesn’t stop.

The students have showed immense growth during the past seven months. From using zoom and WhatsApp features to submitting google forms, students have received huge exposure to technology, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible in a physical classroom. Learning at home, engaging with parents, learning from their own community are some achievements of blended learning. Students use apps to read stories and improve reading fluency. They have started to practice sustainability by making newspaper bags, growing plants, recycling paper and so on.

In the month of March, I got selected as the Content Advisor for Elementary Science in our cohort. The nature of my role is to create content for incoming Fellows to support and guide them during their 1st year of fellowship. Planning and creating resources paved the way for more holistic learning, not only for my students but for others as well.

With the completion of half academic year, I was able to provide learning to 60% of my students. Though I am happy about it, I am still worried about the other 40% who haven’t been able to access any sort of learning for the past eight months. Bridging the learning gap that has been created between these two sets of students is going to be the biggest challenge. I am still reaching out to all parents and trying to access devices for them and provide learning to at least 80% of my students by the end of this academic year.

The Fellowship promised a continuous learning experience and I believe no pandemic could ever stop it. Though learning was very different, it was very enriching and I have gained a lot of exposure through blended learning."

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It has been more than four months now since schools closed across 190 countries, affecting more than 90% of the world’s student population. 32,000 Teach For India children have been out of school since then. While these prolonged school closures are threatening to exacerbate the existing inequalities, they have also presented us with a new idea – that children could learn beyond school

Our organization and Fellows are embarking on this journey of discovery to develop innovative teachers and robust infrastructure to enable our children to learn beyond school. Our teams have spent months researching, using new pedagogies, creating inclusive learning models, running virtual teaching pilots and gathering important lessons on the use of technology to move to a new normal. All of this has only strengthened our belief in the power and opportunity that blended learning brings for our children. We now have the potential to bridge the digital divide that has long contrasted income groups. With technology, we’re presented with limitless chances to differentiate, provide personalized instruction, and envision an educational system that transcends the boundaries of school. Perhaps for the first time ever, this new type of learning could be a true equalizer for all children.

To put this into effect, our Fellows are following a comprehensive teaching method - Blended Learning (a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning). One of our Fellows, Porvika Bala, narrates how she went about the entire process since the last 3 months -

"My students’ community reported their first COVID case very early on, by mid march. Since then I’ve distributed grocery and hygiene supplies for my students twice, through Teach for India. Mental wellbeing of the students also took a hit, and many of them reported feeling very lonely and missing their friends. To help with this, I allotted time for Socio-emotional learning during our Zoom classes, and I create space for them to play, chat and share with their friends every single day.

One of the earliest classes I took for my students was about the COVID 19 situation - statistics, precautions and how we can do our part. We brainstormed ways in which we could spread awareness to our family and community. They produced several ideas without my assistance and implemented them with the help of their parents and siblings. Some of these include drawing creative rangolis at their doorsteps, creating funny videos to share with people they know and sticking posters around their house.

Due to the delayed reopening of schools and the potential of online learning, my biggest priorities are parent investment and personalized learning. To that end, I have been in regular touch with my students’ parents, Headmistress, conducting Parent-Teacher Meetings and receiving feedback.

Some of the biggest challenges are - getting children to engage, gauging how much they understand, and attendance. Several children keep videos off/leave the call in between and it's not always possible to figure out why. Also, completion of homework is a challenge, coupled with parents and siblings helping out - ultimately data isn't very reliable on how much they understood. Attendance is also difficult, due to network, only one device, interest levels, etc.

One of the things going really well in the virtual classroom is differentiating learning for kids and individual attention, since I'm able to split them into groups. I'm able to talk to each of them without much interruptions. Another thing that has been working out is literacy (since kids have to type and read a bit), for a fraction of the kids English has improved. "

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Teach For India

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
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Twitter: @teachforindia
Project Leader:
Shiwani Singh
Chennai, Tamil Nadu India
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