Friday, October 14, 2011

A bad day that wasn’t


One of the challenges being in Teach for India classroom is that despite the outside world projecting you as overly qualified for a job of a primary teacher, you won’t feel you are. It is easy to be a teacher in Delhi, perhaps the country. You come to school on time, write things on black-board, ask kids to copy that down and check it for an hour. And worse, you check their diaries for an hour too to see if they have copied homework correctly.

But when you really figured out what teaching should be, you fill find out it requires qualification much greater than just a college degree. It requires you to have innate strength. From last two weeks, I am trying to be a well-planned teacher but I yet again failed to deliver. I am trying to find that strength again.

I had a good planned week. Had my everyday agenda ready, had my lesson plans ready, had my class painted, had a parent-teacher meeting, had every print-out prepared. But today I came close to saying this – I cannot do this

This is how it happened. In one of our Project Manager debriefs, we collectively inferred that when we are teaching Reading Comprehension objectives, we are focusing more on teaching kids “what” rather than “how”.  We have been doing this because our kids are ESL learners and we are still struggling to have them identify the language. But kids, when they grow up, will kill us for doing this, for not equipping them with “How to think”. So, when I planned my lesson for this week, I kept the focus on “How”
My objective for this week is “Identify character’s action by visualization”. My focus was on visualization. So, kids should imagine, draw pictures in their heads, and show that picture to me somehow – by acting or by drawing. And after they have done that, they should tell me what character’s action is. The easy way is to directly do it. They read and tell me the character’s action. But then that doesn’t equip them with the approach to crack any future WHAT!

When I started teaching my class today, I kept my focus on lesson plan but I soon found out that to teach kids “how” can throw your lesson plans to doldrums. It is strange that it reminds me of my engineering days, when someone told me that electrical engineering is harder than any other engineering because you just cannot see anything. You have to imagine a magnetic flux or an electromagnetic field to understand the concept. And to teach kids visualization to find out character’s action rather than directly take a short-cut to read and tell them character’s action, suffered from the same problem of intangibility. Needless to say, almost all kids were off-task in my class!

So my class was a disaster. But then I had my moment. I asked few kids to stay back so that they understand the concept. And before I explained it, one of them actually visualized and told me the answer. He told me he cannot draw the picture of what is on his mind so he would rather act it out. He acted and told me the character’s action. Objective was met and the reading strategy delivered for the child I assumed I hadn’t. Rest of them might not be that far behind.

I revered this moment by having both my following meals ordered!


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