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
Ajitha teaching her students
Ajitha teaching her students

We, at Teach For India, constantly strive to ensure our supporters understand the value that they are adding to the lives of our students. The following is a note of gratitude from Ajitha, our Fellow from the 2016 Cohort. 

It was in the month of July 2016, when the 40 students in 4th grade were expecting a new teacher- ‘to be called English teacher’. But when I just came into the class they quickly found that I can talk in Tamil as well. They found that I can do tricks that they enjoy. They found that I teach more than English. They found that they can talk, sing, dance and sit freely in class. They slowly found that classroom can be joyful. When we were discussing what we should name our class to be, a kid raised hand to say, “Miss! We are like Dora. We move to new, new places in learning and know many things. We help our friends and earn your stars so we must name our class Dora the Explorer.” Most others agreed to this kid and yes, our classroom is a space for Exploration. Hence we have named it ‘The class of Explorers’. Since then Dora and friends have been our mascots. We have been exploring ourselves, our friends, family, school and community since then. I can clearly draw an exponentially growing curve on graph to signify our journey. There is no ‘my’ journey and my students’ journey. We feel our class room is our family and trust me, I treat the class of Explorers as the first family. Most of the students do too. This is a significant change! From a place where I was running behind the students and their parents to come to school, to a place where many students come running and jumping to school and give me a huge hug every day.

Our happiness- of how the class of Explorers has grown from a bunch of stumbling readers and writers to budding readers and writers; of how we moved from not having personal values and bullying each other, to how we use our values even without the teacher reinforcing in school and outside the school; of how we started to explore our own strengths and weaknesses to helping our school and community to leverage our strengths and overcoming our weaknesses. Over the one and half years with me, the students have developed interest in learning and we are working to take our interest to a passion. I personally feel proud of my growth from an ‘intimidated and calm person’ to a ‘talk to anybody for good’ person. I was a person who never wanted to go out alone, especially during nights. Now I am the ‘climb all mountains and cross all oceans’ star, especially when it comes to educating students. I began my journey thinking only about myself! How I would learn to tie a saree? (Our HM has mandated wearing saree as a mark of professionalism!) How I would teach a bunch of students? Will the students like me? Then I grew to think of my class! How can I make my class enjoy learning? What and what not to focus in class?Where and where not to push the students? Slowly,when I got expertise, I moved to think for the School! What can make this school the best place to learn? How can we bring this School as a unit of Change, in the community, for the community? But now I think about the landscape I can extend my impact for and it’s not small community, school and classroom. I think about what I shall do to make our vision come true that “One day ALL children will attain excellent education”. I have become a Fellow Advisor and work towards strengthening myself as a teacher and also help other Fellows in the city who needs support. I work with Teach For India alumni - Nisha & Gautam, who are now Educational Directors for 5 schools in Tsunami Schools of Cuddalore district to train teachers of these 5 schools during my holidays. I am looking forward to trigger the change in my hometown Villupuram, starting from the school where my mother works thereby, moving towards 3.5 and more in the Fellow commitmentScale.

 We have faced tonnes of challenges on our path here. In classroom, the students’ literacy rate was threatening to showcase their potential and thus I worked on certain new strategies like reciprocal reading, Buddies to help, writing through drawings and cartoons etc. Our classroom attendance and homework returns were never full until I tracked every students’ attendance, homework, punctuality, cleanliness and uniform, performance on Samacheer objectives. And the tracker ends with exciting student friendly gifts every month. Now we are moving to the next level of thinking where the students don’t have to work hard to please others but to please them; the students don’t have to follow rules but be considerate about others, the students own their action and words and work for new rewards. I research, plan and relentlessly change it to make the lessons inspiring for all students in the class. The students started liking Math, Science and Social with a lot of games, activities, experiments and virtual lab experiences. Otherwise in school, I had trouble investing the school team in gaining our HM’s belief, to invest her and other teachers. Initially I have been doing what I must do and share not much with my school team but I understood how that is plaguing the ecosystem of growth. Now, we work as a ‘Trio- Superwomen’ with 100% transparency and support each other. We see great mind-set shifts with the students as well, as they take us as role models to grow. We have extended support for the parents to invest themselves in their students’ learning. The parents have also shifted from the lame meaning of ‘Education is to read and write’ to themeaning ‘Education is to learn living’ through a number of house visits and one to one meetings. We are planning to have learning circles for the parents, teachers in school and Co-teachers working with TFI fellows across the city to deeply drive investment in excellent education.

 Of the many achievements over the past 6 months with the Class of Explorers, I would like to mention few inspiring ones. The students performed their own musical drama for the teacher’s day function. A few students were able to perform well on ‘on the spot extempore’. A few students have won state level prizes in Speech competition and drawing competition. They work as a team to share their story of change on many schooland communal issues like their father’s drinking and smoking, improper use of toilets in school through ‘Design for Change’ projects. They have given their best ideas and painted the entire school walls with inspirational quotes, and values to inculcate good behaviour and a better school culture in our school as a part of our ‘Student led -Be the Change project’. They also take baby steps towards creating a sustainable organic garden with greens, veggies and medicinal herbs for which we are struggling and exploring with what’s working and what not in the limited space and so limited fund we got. Another venture in baby steps to mention is that the students are trying to explore and take forward some self-employment opportunities like growing mushroom, picking, creating toys and home decors out of waste materials etc. to help increase their parents’ income and to tackleunemployment.

 The city staff team and two of my ‘close to heart’ Program Managers, (Elizabeth Samuel and Ishwarya), have helped me and supported me a lot on my journey. I actively take inputs from a number of opportunities like city conferences, learning circles, Tarot Tuesdays, Workout Wednesdays and many more for the betterment of my classroom and our community and for ALL children.

If I could relate myself to be a little drop in the mighty ocean, I feel like you are the strong wind that pushes many little drops to create the mighty ocean. Of all the impact that I have created and will be creating, will be a hard possibility without supporters like you and hence I submit a huge heart of gratitude from the Family of Explorers and Teach for India.

 Thank you and we look forward to your constant support!

Ajitha's student participating in a debate
Ajitha's student participating in a debate
Training teachers at Cuddalore- Kannarpet, ASSEFA
Training teachers at Cuddalore- Kannarpet, ASSEFA
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Arun working with his students
Arun working with his students

We, at Teach For India, constantly strive to ensure our supporters understand the value that they are adding to the lives of our students. The following is a note of gratitude from Arun, our Fellow from the 2016 Cohort. 

Dear Supporters of the movement,

A thank you note will not suffice for the generous support that you are offering to help bridge the educational inequity in our country. Your support is going a long way to aid underprivileged children get an excellent education.

 About my Journey

During my preliminary research, I identified that there was a huge gap between the education that was envisaged at the policy level, and the reality of school education in India. I pursued the Fellowship in order to gain first-hand experience of the ground level reality of the education system, and to hopefully identify the root cause of the implementation gap. Six months into the Fellowship, I believe that I have a much better understanding of the different macro and micro forces acting simultaneously on the system, and the net effect it has in a classroom. I am however, yet to identify the most significant factor that could act as a key lever of positive transformation. Once I identify it to a fair degree of certainty, I intend to delve deeper into it, to try and address it in the best way I possibly can.

My Classroom

Known as the Champions academy, my sixth standard classroom is filled with highly energetic, enthusiastic and challenging ten year olds. The diversity within the classroom in terms of interest level in education is extreme. One common thread that connects them all, however, is the fact that most of the children are keen to learn. Therefore, even though they are still quite a disruptive set of children during class hours, I have been able to put in place certain structures, which on a day to day basis, ensure that they learn, that they reflect on their behavior and academic growth, and make progress towards their different goals.

 Challenges

Children and parental investment in learning is one of the key challenges faced in the classroom. Because parents think that their duty ends when they drop the children at school, and since many of the children believe that they are learning merely by being present in the classroom, classroom behavior and investment in academic growth is a key issue. In order to tackle this issue, I have developed a daily journal, in which, every child, makes a note of the academic and behavioral learning for the day, his / her own reflections, and my personalized comments. This bilingual journal is signed off by the parent each day, and has therefore significantly increased the awareness of the parent about what is happening in the classroom, and about what the child needs to do, in order to perform better. By implementing this consistently, I hope to build a greater investment into learning in the student, and in the parents.

 Student Activities

The students took part in a drawing competition organized at a nearby community centre, and six students took part in the Math Talent Test organized by the Tamilnadu Science & Technology Centre. They will be participating in several events as part of an interschool fest organized by Teach For India, Chennai, they will kick off training for theatre and will potentially stage a self-scripted and directed play on a topic relevant to their life and community, by the end of the term.

 Highlights

The smallest things, usually, give the happiest moments. I had a 20 minute one to one conversation with Harish, a playful but smart student, who wasn’t achieving his academic potential due to distraction from peers. He has topped every test and exam since then.

Thank you and we look forward to your constant support!

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At Besant Nagar Beach, before their performance
At Besant Nagar Beach, before their performance

During the recent academic year, our students along with their mentors, Program Manager Divya and Bhuvaneswari explored ideas on oppression, what it means to them through a Student Leadership Retreat. 

Here is what Divya Bharthi has to share on their experience...

ABOUT THE STUDENT LEADERSHIP RETREAT

7 Days...

13 Children...

1 Performance towards change....

5 Teachers....

Beginning of a Beautiful Journey of Change to heal our world !
What happened at the Student leadership Retreat - "Vizhithal (Awakening) 1.0" ?

From shout-out walls to reflections to vision and goal wall and reading corners/fun corners and Content wall - the retreat ensured children had access to learning from the physical space as well :)- The retreat happened at one of our Fellow Krishna’s house. 

The retreat was a 6-day event where children explored the different types of oppression in the world around and in their communities through various experiences and shared the voices of the oppressed through a slam poetry on January 1st, 2017 at Besant Nagar!

Day 1 - Delving deeply into the 3 core values at the retreat – Courage, Compassion and Empathy.

The student leaders visited the Pediatric ward at the Egmore Cancer hospital and spent time interacting with the children with cancer – it was heartwarming to see our students sing songs, read out poems and stories to the children.We went on to debrief this experience through the lens of Compassion, Empathy and Courage!

Day 2 - Exploring Gender Oppression

The student leaders visited an NGO founded by a Transgender - Swetha Ma’am - and interacted with them through the morning understanding what gender oppression looked like for a group of people who weren’t even given a gender identity. This was followed by a session on gender discrimination in various phases of life right from birth to careers. We watched a documentary “It’s a girl” on female Foeticide followed by a debrief of the day thinking about their role in their community to question Gender Oppression!

Day-3 - Religious Oppression

Day 3 included exploring what were the various communal riots across India and what impact they had on people – we started with the Partition and went on to the riots within India – it was wonderful to see children revisit their emotions towards Islam confessing they don't know the reason that gave rise to such emotions and we went to explore the Baha'i Religion at the Baha'i centre where children explored their philosophy and asked various questions to understand what “all Gods were one” meant.

Day -4 - Racial Oppression

Day 4 comprised of delving deep into what Racial Oppression looked like in the Global and National Context. We explored many things including the story of Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, the North-eastern Indians and Africans in India (with the help of Ishu Miss).

Day -5 - Oppression due to Caste

Day -5 Included delving deep into Manual Scavenging and the role caste plays in it – a real time experience was when students were asked to flush the toilets used by another set of children. As we debriefed the experience, we watched the documentary “Kakoos” and understood the work of Bezwada Wilson – It was disorienting for us to see children tearing up when they watched the documentary!

Day -6 - Skill and Script development

Day 6 included skill development by Ishvar, from a slam poetry group named Mockingbirds, who worked with the children on vocabulary and expression :)

Day -7 -The Performance, fun and close-out !

Children performed and shared their poems and reflections at the Besant Nagar Car free Sunday - they are compiling their book of poems - Vizhithal - which will be shared soon!

Here is an excerpt from a poem "Transgender" originally written in Tamil (translated version below) by Manoj, one of Bhuvaneswari's students: 

"I'm not like men and women
My heart is saying I'm the in-between something

I, like you, had a birth na?

My Voice - Thirunangai
Thirunangai is my name
that's right,
Even the Ganga runs away
at my sight!

I clap my hands,
And seek alms,
To pacify my hunger;
I wonder why
You go up in arms
And chase me away in anger!

Neither like a man am I,
Nor like a woman am I,
My heart tells me that
Somewhere in the middle am I;

You called me this, and that
And what not!
But please do tell me,
How am I at fault?
I am, but a fellow human being,
Am I not?

- By Divya (Program Manager) and Bhuvaneswari (2016 Cohort Fellow)

This is a short glimpse into what our students are seeing, feeling and perceiving about the world around them. Do support us to enable us to amplify this impact on more students!

 

Students at a learning circle with Divya
Students at a learning circle with Divya
Student practising slam poetry during rehearsals
Student practising slam poetry during rehearsals
Student Manoj's performance(author of the poetry)
Student Manoj's performance(author of the poetry)
Set up of space at the Student Leadership retreat
Set up of space at the Student Leadership retreat
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Sports event
Sports event

At Teach For India, our Fellows work towards ensuring our students have access and exposure to all opportunties, irrespective of the background they come from. One such initiative was Chennai Students' Kondattam (CSK) which was the brainchild of the Teach for India 2012, Chennai cohort. It rose out of the need for a platform for the students to venture into a larger arena, participate in various city-wide cultural and sports events, experience academic content through myriad ways, interact with other children across the city and showcase their talents. Sharing below, a report put together by the CSK committee summing up the event as a whole. 

CSK’17: January 29th, February 18th and 19th witnessed Chennai Students Kondattam taking place at Chennai High School, Thiruvanmaiyur and at Chennai High School, Canal bank road. This combined effort of Teach for India fellows working in different schools across the city made this event a phenomenal success. CSK’17 saw a registration of close to 2500 students from 36 Corporation and low income Private Schools in Chennai.

Events & wokshops: There were events and workshops under the themes of literary, sports, arts and premier.  Adzap, Mime, JAM, Rangoli, Clay modelling are a few out of the 30 plus events that were scheduled for each day. This year’s CSK also showcased their academic prowess through technical events for the secondary kids along with the rest. This includes a science exhibition, as a grand workshop from LMES and puzzles like Sudoku. Also CSK had up to 15 workshops on storytelling, drawing, dancing, poetry, origami, creative writing, singing, doodling, theatre, hey math, public speaking etc to give students the most fun and enriching experience. Workshops were conducted by eminent volunteers, Teach for India alums, Fellows and staff.

CSK partnered with LMES (Lets make Engineering Simple) group of volunteers and conducted science experiments for secondary students, sponsored by Pinner Challangers cricket club. CSK also partnered with Kuruksastra, the cultural of SASTRA University to organize, judge and guide all the events for the primary students. 

This year CSK saw an overwhelming response and enthusiasm from all the corporation school teachers along with fellows and students. There were 48 teachers this year at venue altogether for the three days, along with 120 Teach For India Fellows and staff and more than 250 volunteers.  We were happy to have two Headmistress at the venue from CPS Kottur and CPS TV Swamy road, other than the HM's of the respective venues. We also had volunteers from various corporates supporting us with event coordination, logistics and student management. 

Many more such exposure opportunities are possible with your support, which will go a long way in helping with the leadership development of our Fellows and students alike! 

Student participating in arts competition
Student participating in arts competition
Students performing a dance at CSK
Students performing a dance at CSK
Students engaged in an activity at CSK
Students engaged in an activity at CSK
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Students participating in awareness drive
Students participating in awareness drive

Celebrating THE JOY OF GIVING in Classrooms: We at Teach For India, Chennai were a part of the nationwide Daan Utsav- THE JOY OF GIVING WEEK, where the little champions in our classrooms led the way in spreading the joy of giving by coming up with their own ideas . Quite a few of us were pleasantly surprised by the amount of passion, gusto and most importantly, the joy these students worked with, throughout this week.

Our city has had a number of heartwarming stories to share this year for THE JOY OF GIVING WEEK and with full confidence, we at Teach For India – Chennai can say that our students will be back again next year to spread the joy .

Here are a few stories from across the city where THE JOY OF GIVING was being spread.

In our Primary School in Jones Road, the passionate Fellows of this school- Aishwarya, Alekyaa, Savita, Meenashi and Goutham drove that passion into the students. They really looked forward to THE JOY OF GIVING WEEK  as the 180 Grade 3-Grade 5 students of the school came up with different ideas and they themselves assigned groups and looked into the functioning of the activities.The grade 5 students gave a day off to each of the grade 2 class Teachers by handling their classes.The Joy Of Giving was felt by the watchmen –Venkatesh Uncle and Moorthy uncle as they had a light 3 days  with the Grade 5 boys helping them out during busy mornings. The non-teaching staff- Renuka Akka, Pencillama, Maniyamma  of the school were given 3 days as they had to just supervise the students who were doing their chores for them...their idea of giving! Each student of Grade 3 donated 2 Rs to buy the Non-teaching staff a hearty meal from Sangeetha. It was a pleasant surprise when the students said that “ WE COULD CELEBRATE GIVING MORE OFTEN” and they came up with the idea of taking Non- Teaching staff for a movie with the remaining money collected.

When the students at our Velachery Primary school learnt about the Fundamental Rights and Duties, they immediately recognised that there was an awareness gap, and set about solving that problem. They organised a march in their community as a solution to this, in turn giving their community the gift of awareness. In the meanwhile, at North Chennai, students from our Primary School at TH Road expressed their gratitude to the traffic policemen who help them cross the busy TH Road everyday with handmade notes! 

Here is what Alamelu, our Fellow at our Primary School in Kamdar Nagar has to say about her students' initiatives to celebrate the Joy of Giving. “When I asked the class of Kindness Crusaders (that’s what she calls her class) what can we do to celebrate Daan Utsav, they got super excited and gave many ideas. As a teacher I was just more than proud to see their blooming creativity.  Finally I asked them to brainstorm and come with one idea to start off. They told me that they want to prepare charts about good habits, explain the same to all younger classes from 1st  to 4th  grades and stick the charts in their classes. But when I asked them why, their answers made me think "If we give them any materialistic items they might lose or break it after some time, but these habits will stay with them till the end and this might be something that's worth giving them "! And yes, they gave a new meaning for ‘Joy of Giving’ to me! Perspective mattered, and how students think at times always blow our minds away.”

For our 7th graders at Girls High School Saidapet, Daan Utsav was not a special day after all, as giving is inculcated into their learning on a daily basis. During their Maths class, their teacher demonstrated Ratio and proportion via preparation of soft drink for the students to understand better, and as part of their activity they were asked, what if they had to scale up the preparation, if at all they had to make sure everyone in and around is school get a drink, to make the summer seem a little lighter.  The students scaled up the production of the preparation and shared the drink with the people around them. Giving is more than anything , and learning that in a multi-dimensional way was one unique approach that CGHSS Jones Road adopted. 

You can spread the Joy of Giving this New Year too by helping our children get an excellent education, by supporting our cause. Wishing all of you, a very Happy and Prosperous New Year ahead! 

Students at TH Road thanking the traffic policeman
Students at TH Road thanking the traffic policeman
Grade 5 student teaching students in Grade 2
Grade 5 student teaching students in Grade 2

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Teach For India

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