Education  India Project #20912

Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai

by Teach For India
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Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai
Excellent education for 3800+ students in Chennai

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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City updates - Chennai:

Chennai Students Kondattam is the largest Fellow-led event organized by Teach For India - Chennai. With an annual participation of 3000+ students spanning over the two days, it was a remarkable success this year.
While the stage was set beautifully by all our stakeholders, our students leveraged the opportunity well to maximize their learning and to showcase all their incredible talents.

Teach For India’s Response To COVID-19:

Our Staff, Fellows, and Student communities have been tirelessly working during these tough times. Over the past 3 weeks, through sustained and dedicated effort, our Fellows, have managed to get in touch with 70% of our students and their families. We have been looking to understand how these families are doing in terms of physical health, availability of essential supplies, housing, finances and access to learning. We are continuously working to identify the families most in need of assistance so we can use our emergency fund to help them. We are also preparing for the possibility that schools may remain closed for some time, and so we are working on a plan to help our children learn virtually.

Anantharaman and his school team identified the requirements in North Chennai Cluster and got onto to grounds in distributing food packets and essential kits (in collaboration with Yein Udaan). Immediate financial and medical needs of the community was attended to. Families in need of help for paying rent were directed to external support system.

 

Fellow Narrative from Mr. Srinivas Subramanian:

As the academic year comes to an end, I take this opportunity to extend my deepest gratitude from the bottom of my heart. The last term whizzed in a flash as the students were filled with all-round activities right from their academic calendar to extracurricular activities like their yearly ‘Chennai student Kondattam (CSK)’ . As they
were rigorously preparing for their term end exams to finish their year on a high, things halted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic taking over the globe.The focus shifted primarily towards working on the enhancement of the students reading and writing skills as they are moving to their 9th grade. Students indulged in systematic and consistent practice of reading various books apart from their school texts and were in the process of mastering their abilities to write a book review.


They have made considerable progress as it is evident from the tracker they use to record their reading routine, and they are better organized when they write their book review. Based on the tests they have taken
for mastering their other subjects, there are 30% students who fair between 65-85%, 30% students who fair between 35-65% and the rest have been working to the best of their abilities and have shown their ability to
pass their papers.

One of the big milestone which the student indulged in for enhancing their access and exposure was through their participation in rural-urban exchange program that took place between our school and Anna Gem Private school. Students from both the schools got the opportunity to visit each other's school and they got to learn a lot through academic and cultural activities organized at both the schools.The visit also allowed them to build their perspective about the country's education system in general by comparing the education system in both a public and private set up. They went on to expand their friends circle as children from both the schools went on to become friends by the end of the program.

In continuation to enhancing their reading abilities and develop a love for reading, the students took on an additional responsibility to help their peers in 3rd grade primary school by sharing their knowledge about
reading words and whole sentences. As the project kicked off the students shared additional skills with their buddies in 3rd grade by teaching the art, colouring and painting. They also did some craft work together by sharing their knowledge of making a bird nest which they had learnt in their previous term. The children also
helped their little buddies in making them realize the etiquettes that needs to be maintained in a classroom to allow a wholesome learning experience both for the teachers and the students. The students took their buddy role responsibly, and it was visible from the interactions they continued to have during their break hours apart from the regular weekly visits during which they met. Our children on the other hand began to grow in terms of responsibility, maturity and ownership.

Taking career guidance coaching for students of 8th grade was something that was exciting and thrilling for me to conduct during this term as it was unique and the whole of our 8th grade together for this. No day was fixed and the situation necessitated for us to be on our toes, ready to innovate and enhance to keep up with
the uncertainties that was throwing up. We could get through this as a result of combined efforts we put up as a school team including other teachers like me!

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Model worksheet created by one of the students!
Model worksheet created by one of the students!

At Teach For India, every Fellow goes through a leadership journey with the students, overcoming the challenges and contributing their best to the growth of the students.

One of our Fellow, Dinesh from the 2018 Cohort reflects on his experience over the past term with his students.

"The Fellowship has been the greatest experience I have ever had in my life. So far, I felt like I’m someone who took from the society. Now, I feel satisfied to give back to the society through this fellowship. I am able to see many changes in the students’ lives and I have lots of hope for their future. 

The second term of this academic year is a great leap in my Fellowship journey. I feel satisfied with the growth in the academics, values and mindsets of the students. Last term, I realized one of the flaws that limited students learning -- students don’t have space to try their answer in written format. This term I have circulated all the students with worksheet for every chapter which will have questions from inside the chapter, questions behind every Chapter in the book and thinking questions related to the topics. Through this worksheet students got a space to try answering the questions through writing. They can try writing answers to question multiple times until it gets perfect as they use pencils for worksheets.

Because of the practice of using worksheets, 90% of the students scored ~10% marks higher than last term. Now students are able to read and comprehend the question, and write and then answer appropriately. I was able to witness the answers coming from the students are more specific with examples and clarity (when we have oral quiz).

 Initially, the students were less aware of resources and the proper way of using the same. But after assigning them with responsibilities they are operating in a completely different way. The responsibilities for library and computer lab maintenance, completion and keeping the worksheet safe made them more accountable, responsible and cautious about the resources. Students began to stay back after school saying if I go home early, I would waste my time. They also started to teach their parents about the importance of resources and the urgent need of limiting the wastage.

The big idea I’m having for third term is preparing a workbook instead of a worksheet, at the same time upskilling the students to make their own workbook. For skill building, I tried piloting the worksheet making for few chapters in term two, 60% of the students were able to drew ideas from the previous worksheets and make a worksheet for any chapter by themselves.

Most exciting and memorable moment for me as a teacher is when the students with less academic score last term showed better result during this term end assessments. The reducing number of issues related to bullying and complaining about others’ actions has reduced because every student is occupied doing their worksheets.

The challenging moment for me this term is dealing with students who had learning disability. By continual effort they were able to score above 15%, which again is a milestone for me in this year."

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Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
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Chennai, Tamil Nadu India
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