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
Students participating in Just For Kicks.
Students participating in Just For Kicks.

The narrative from one of the Teach For India - Chennai Fellow, Meera is as follows:

"I believe that wherever I am today is because of the opportunities I got while growing up. I was blessed to have parents and teachers who believed in providing excellent education and gave me the opportunity to choose the path I wanted and supported me throughout the journey. Though I knew the fact that India is also amongst the countries which have not been able to provide even the basic elementary education to all our children despite the Right to Education.

But after seeing the reality, I realized why the numbers are all skewed. I decide to join the Teach For India fellowship to play my role in eliminating educational inequity and making sure that my students will become leaders one day. My experience during the past 20 months has been utterly gladdening. My students and I pushed each other to give our best in every task. I didn’t want the circumstances to affect the learning of my students Initially when I joined the school the average mastery of my class was 55% in Math (i.e. only 55 % of students had mastered the content of Math according to their grades) and 1.7 grade level in reading and writing (the average reading level of kids is equivalent to below grade 2 even if they study in class 6).

At the end of this year, they have achieved the mastery of 75% in Math and 3.7 in reading level. To maintain the idea of holistic learning, my school team and I started a lot of projects in the school and since we all believe not only academics are important but also the values and mindsets are very important for the students to grow as a leader. For academics, we prepare kids for Olympiads (30 students in math and 30 students in science participated and 2 students got selected for second round) conference and city level summit, Research project (How well Chennai knows about Electricity) submitted at City As Lab, is an annual, city-based research project undertaken by school children for 3-4 months, which culminates in a one-day conference event. I was a coordinator for under 12 boys and girls football team for Just For Kick's intervention to build life skills through football coaching.

We conduct the regular assessment and track their individual growth. We have organized regular Parent-Teacher meetings which impacted 120 parents across 3 classrooms, co-planned and executed lessons with 15 government teaching staff, established students committee of 8 students to solve the community-based problem. The most important thing for me is my students learning. When I see my students being curious, coming up with a great idea for projects. Students came u with the ideas like making biodegradable sanitary napkin, conducting a session for community women to make them empowered. These are some of the events will always make me feel about my students. I have faced a lot of challenges that emerged out of teaching in lower income government schools like lack of resources, exposure to various opportunities, self-motivation in children and faith of parents in education system, support from the Principal, and other school staff in holistic development, unavailability of proper mental space to study, violence in the community. To tackle all these challenges, I started setting goals for my students and slowly moved towards co-planning and now my students are motivated enough to set their own goals. Proper analysis of data and communicating each and every success of my class made my principal to trust me and the students. Taking up projects like Just For Kicks (intervention to build life skills in kids through football coaching), Dramebaaz (theatres for kids to showcase acting skills and be themselves), MaKER’s club (TFI led a space for students to share their knowledge, skills and interests), ties up with American International School, Taramani and Artmozo have given a lot opportunities to my students. Through effective team management, rigorous planning, effective execution, time management and resourcefulness I further strengthened the parents and staff investment."

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Students posing with their drawing art
Students posing with their drawing art

Here is the narrative from Chennai Fellow Abhinaya on her experiences with the second year of Fellowship along with her students.

"It gives me great privilege and pride in sharing my journey with Teach For India so far. I am Abhinaya, an Engineer in Computer Science, who worked in the corporate sector for two years. My passion to work with children with special needs gave me the courage to quit my well-paying IT job and follow my dreams of becoming a special educator. I pursued my Post Graduate Diploma in Special needs and worked as a special educator for two years before joining Teach For India, to be part of a greater movement.

Working with Teach For India has been one of the greatest experiences for me so far. Working with my school, the community and the organisation has shaped me into an open-minded and positive person. My 17 9-year-old students inspire me each day and from them, I have learnt that nothing is impossible. The journey has taught me the rewards of hard work and the importance of consistency. All the challenges I have faced have shaped me into who I am today and I strongly believe that it’s a continuous process.

Facing the daily challenges, travelling through the ups and downs definitely has made me a stronger person. My school saw a sudden drop in attendance and a huge drop in enrolment when my fellowship started. This was due to the migration of a huge chunk of the community to a different area which had more facilities. I started my fellowship with low enrolment and attendance which had gradually improved. I find that my students are present at school almost all days and engage in high rigour content. Their interest in education and involvement has improved. Their love for the English language has helped them become creative and expressive. Now, my students proudly walk to me and tell me on how they have now begun to think in English and express their thoughts accordingly. They feel extremely proud of themselves.

Apart from academics, my students have always shown interest in arts, sports and reading books. They have grown more responsible and I can clearly see them shaping into conscious citizens, who want to change the future. They actively engage in topics that involve persisting issues such as pollution, alcohol abuse, lack of justice, equality and so on. They participate in competitions willingly and do not hesitate to express themselves in front of an audience. The major challenge I faced initially as a fellow was low attendance. Since I was born and brought up in Chennai, language was never a barrier. The parents were not so invested as they had other pressing issues to address on a daily basis, and lack of education for their kids was of least importance to them. But after the first few months of my fellowship, my students and their parents got more familiar with me and things began to change.  As a teacher, I made sure they saw the growth of their child, no matter how small it was. I notice that the investment from parents is slowly beginning to shift.

Apart from parent investment, there were other reasons which resulted in low attendance, such as poor nourishment resulting in low immunity, child labour and so on. With consistency, I sincerely hope we, as a school team, are able to overcome the other challenges faced by the children in the community. Each day has been as rewarding as much as it has been challenging. My rewards come with beautiful moments - every time I walk into the school a bunch of kids come running to me just to wish me and then I see a spurt of hands raised high up whenever I ask a question in the class.

I can never forget the day when my dyslexic student had come to me after the class to say he had got all his ‘addition sums’ right, and he had his friend proudly walking beside him to say he helped him. It feels so good whenever my kids tell me how they have begun to think in English and how it is helping them to express themselves better. Seeing the pride and smile on their faces when they receive a small appreciation or get something right, I feel that I found my secret ingredient behind my lovely so far. I am sure that all these moments will be etched into my memories forever."

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Students in a Socio-emotional learning circle
Students in a Socio-emotional learning circle

Here is a narrative from our Chennai Fellow Aarthi on her Fellowship experiences.

"The Fellowship has been a very gratifying and challenging experience for me. My classroom and I have grown in the past four months in terms of academic excellence, relationship building and values, and I look forward to the remaining two terms with my children with utmost zest and hope. 

We’ve been having Olympiad classes in English and Math for the past two months after classes. The children engage in peer-learning (Students learning from each other leveraging each other’s skills and knowledge), with minimal teacher intervention.

We have an on-going project on Socio-Emotional Learning in collaboration with the Thrive Foundation, Chennai. The project aims to educate children about their emotions and equip them to channelize their emotions in a better way without getting agitated and reckless. The children have been responding well to the sessions and we’ve incorporated the learnings from these sessions into our classrooms as well.

We also worked on an International project, called “Go Ladli” for our non-TFI high school girls to empower them about women-centric issues and problem-solving. Five of our girls worked on women issues in their communities by collecting data, processing the data, coming up with solutions on their own and submitting the report. We’re excited to inform you that all of them have been selected to the National top 10. They have all finished their personal interviews with their mentors from the US and are awaiting final results.

This incredible journey hasn’t been without challenges of their own. One of the biggest challenges was the influx of 10 new children in my second year whose RC levels were below 0 and absolutely knew no English. It was difficult to orient them to the classroom with most children at an RC level above 2 and the medium of instruction was largely English. But we met this challenge as a class team by mapping every new child with another higher-RC order student of the class for peer-support after and during class.

I would like to share my most exciting day from this term.  I had a Learning Circle with my children on Transgenders. The objective was to sensitize my children on the basic human rights of transgenders. I showed them some videos highlighting the role of transgenders in our community in various workplaces and the discrimination they face on a day to day basis. Then we had a discussion as a whole group sharing our perspectives and experiences on the same. After a week my children came up with a brilliant skit on the life of transgenders. The script was original and it was thought-provoking and inspiring.  I was stunned witnessing the immense impact a small classroom discussion can have in the mindset building of children."

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Students Performing dance at Annual Day
Students Performing dance at Annual Day

All the fellows of Teach For India, work with an ambitious vision derived from the needs of the children, community, and school.  With the support and leadership skills that they learn over the fellowship, they are able to bring their vision alive and show some incredible pathway for the students, which are truly commendable and inspiring!

Here is a narrative from our Chennai fellow Juanita about her fellowship journey and vision for her classroom:

How was your journey over the past 2 years?

"My journey the past two years has been like a roller coaster; several moments of triumph and moments of challenges and difficulties too. But the students have shown remarkable interest and growth. They have shown enormous growth. My class vision of living in harmony with each other has been achieved to a large extent. In a community that is known for its violence, these students try to be different. They have realized that dialogue and reasoning are better than violence".

What are the different techniques incorporated in the classroom and how it is reflected in the academic performance of the kids?

"Differentiating the classroom has helped to a large extent. This has helped me cater to different sections of the class and focus on my lower order and boost their confidence. Having regular drills for Math and English has helped set a pattern in class and also helped them understand what they know and what they have to improve on. A rigorous literacy plan for the year has helped them improve their reading levels to a large extent.

The average reading comprehension of the class is at 2.2 and the writing level is at 2.5. There are students at the emergent level. All the students have got above 35% in the Samacheer content papers. Most of the students are able to think and articulate in the English language. They can annotate and write answers themselves from the textbook. 80% of the students are comfortable in performing all the four mathematical operations. This gives them a good foothold to get into high school and deal with rigorous content."

Share some moments of happiness with us -- what are some of the achievements of the kids?

"The students participated in several Olympiads and competitions. 24 students took part in the National Science Olympiad, the National Mathematics Olympiad, and the National Cyber Olympiad. One of my kid participated in the Ekdali essay competition and won the first prize in the national level. 5 students qualified for the NMTC National level exam. The class participated in dance and drama at Chennai Students Kondattam and won the first prize in both the categories. We took part in the Design For Change project and did a project, Save the Earth. We collected waste from school kitchen and used it to convert to manure in the compost pit and made cloth bags out of T-shirts and distributed it in the community."

What are some of the challenges that you faced?

"One of the biggest challenges was working with students from difficult homes because their interest and involvement were clamped due to several personal reasons. They were distractors in the classroom and underperformed. To motivate them, I had special classes for them. This was not only a time to help them where they lacked academically but also a personal space to share problems. This helped to a large extent and they started focussing and directing their energies for the right things."

What according to you is one key lever for student learning?

"I think parent involvement is a key to student learning. All parents were made to get involved by knowing our class vision and actively participating in student reading."

Student led morning meeting
Student led morning meeting
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Students working on School House events
Students working on School House events

The Fellowship not only involves our Fellows teaching the students, but also proves to be a learning journey of leadership, team work, commitment and perseverance for them. Here is what Harinie, who teaches Grade 8 in a school in South Chennai has to say about her leadership development journey!

"My Fellowship journey has been a rollercoaster ride, with many amazing achievements and challenges on a daily basis that pushed me physically, mentally and emotionally to become a better person. One major learning is that nothing in the world can be achieved alone and working closely with many people brought in amazing perspectives and memories.

 Repetitive tests help retain concepts from exam perspectives whereas projects and showcases help them understand the importance of what is learnt in real life. Peer learning is one very important tool I am banking on. It has proved to be very effective, mainly because the students learn better from their friends than the teachers. 

4 students from my school went on to organize a city level conference on Inclusive Education. They co-planned the event along with students from 2 other schools and the event had close to 120 participants from across Chennai. One of my students was selected to Round 2 in a Regional level Computer Science event that was organized by the Corporation of Chennai. A group of students of VIII are making their own short films and Comic Strips under the name PSP. They have made 9 stories across multiple genres. 

One major challenge that we have been fighting is bringing in parental investment in their kid’s education. To tackle this, we had awareness program where we invited parents to understand how their behaviour is impacting their children. We saw tremendous progress in a few parents’ behaviour and hence we are planning to keep this session going, so more parents are empowered. 

This academic year we started the system of House Events where all the students of our school were divided across the 4 houses (Green, Yellow, Red and Blue) and events were conducted. Since we are concentrating on both co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, there has been amazing response from the students. Their confidence level has increased and it is very refreshing to see new talents."

Your support of our movement has indeed helped us reach these milestones and we look forward to a year full of learning, achievements and happiness with our students! 

Students at a school presentation
Students at a school presentation
Students leading daily lessons
Students leading daily lessons
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Teach For India

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Website:
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Twitter: @teachforindia
Project Leader:
Merlyn Fernandes
Chennai, Tamil Nadu India
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