College: Engineering at Thapur University, Delhi
Previous Career: Area Manager, India Bulls Housing Finance, Ltd.
School: Babu Jag Jivanram English Medium School, 3rd Grade, Pune
“Saahil wake up!” This urgent directive from my flat-mate and Teach For India Fellow, Gaurav, is usually my second alarm clock each morning. The day starts in a whirlwind of breakfast and last minute lesson plan editions. I head out on my bike at about 6:30 am to pick up Sanjay, another Fellow who teaches second grade in the classroom next to mine. We arrive at Gandhi Nagar, school keys in hand, because as usual Sanjay and I are the first ones to arrive!
It is 7 am, and school starts in 20 minutes; my thoughts hop between all of the things to remember and prepare before my students arrive. However, I take a moment to just to soak in my classroom and am amazed to see how far we’ve come. I remember the first glimpse of my classroom–students running amuck, walls bare and floors gritty. Today, each wall of my classroom reflects the achievements and aspirations of my kids. On the right hand side is our classroom pledge “I promise that I will do my best at all times. I am here to learn, work hard, and get smart. I will always be respectful, responsible and ready to learn”. A poster in the back proclaims each student’s dream career, and on the left is a huge chart showing how many words per minute each student can read. As soon as my first student starts to walk in, I greet him and get caught up in the day—dramatizing a story with my students, assessing how well they understood addition, a lesson on grammar and bathroom breaks.
At the end of the day, I teach seasons using props such as umbrellas and sweaters (because my students are still learning English, and it helps to have as many actions and examples as possible!). During the lesson, one of my students, Omkar, raises his hand and when I walk over to answer his question, he says with a half smile on his face, “Bhaiyya, I will do the actions.” Confused at first, I didn’t understand, and then it hit me – he wanted to take over and teach the class! As I watched Omkar confidently running around the class with an umbrella twice his height teaching his fellow students, all these months of planning, stressing and hard work seemed more than worthwhile.
My school day ends with the extra class from 12 to 2 and a smile lights up my face as one student, Sapna exclaims “Bhaiyya, extra class today? YAY!” Two hours whiz by, and afterwards I walk Dinesh back to his home, which is in a gulley across the school.
Dinesh used to be one of the most attentive students in class and recently he’s been disruptive, and there’s been a dip in his performance. I know that I need to learn about his situation from his family. His two cousin sisters, little sister, Dinesh and I crowd inside their one-room home. They tell me that Dinesh’s parents have temporarily split, and that his behavior at home is worse than in school. From my seat on the floor, I look at Dinesh, who is curled up on a corner of the bed, straight in the eye. Slowly but sternly I lay out a time table for him, which includes play, study, and sleep times and ask his cousin sisters to call me if he does not follow these. As I walk away from their home, I think to myself “One child at a time, and I know changes can be made”.
I grab a quick lunch and head to Teach For India’s office to attend a training session on math techniques led by a Kevin, a Teach For America alumnus. He gives us simple and proven strategies to improve student achievement in math. My last stop of the day is Café Coffee Day- I lay down my backpack and take a few minutes to myself to enjoy my cappuccino before pulling out my school’s curriculum and Teach For India guides to plan for the next week. I anticipated going home at 8, but a quick look at my phone and I realize I’ve just been invited to a dinner out with a few of the Fellows. I head out, looking forward to getting advice on how to better support Dinesh, and of course to hear about the miracles they worked in their own classrooms that day!
You can read more at theTeach for India blog.