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.