It was 12:45PM on a Sunday morning and I was sitting near the stairs of St. Patrick’s Boys School with 2 co-teachers beside me, teaching the topic “Plant & Animal Tissues” to 5 of our kids from the 10th grade. Having spoken continuously for over 90 minutes now, I was extremely thirsty, and tired. But we had one last activity to do. It was an exercise sheet – sort of an incomplete flow chart, which they were supposed to complete to help them revise the entire chapter at once. Somehow, I survived another 15 minutes and soon it was over. As I was putting all the printout sheets and study material back into my folder, I felt relieved, and proud, that we had completed another successful class after putting in around 9 hours of work over the week that included studying the chapter ourselves, disturbing my I-don’t-know-how-they-did-it-in-school biology friends to ask doubts, preparing the lesson plan, making the exercise sheet, and conducting the final 2 hours of teaching on Sunday.
It was only my second class teaching the 10th Standard at St. Patrick’s Shelter Home after I joined one of the most beautiful organizations I have had the chance to be involved in and that’s ‘Make A Difference (MAD)’. MAD is a youth-driven, non-profit organisation working to ensure equitable outcomes for children in orphanages and street shelters by providing them after-school support amongst a dozen other things.
The Initial Feeling
It’s now been almost around 2 months at the time of this writing and it has been a mad journey so far (see what I did there!). Before my first class, I knew what I wanted to do. Make even the toughest topics easy to understand for the students. And so I spent hours preparing the topics and exploring ways to teach them, something I also do for teaching in Army Public School on Saturdays.
I’m pretty sure teaching “10th Science” at Patrick’s is one of the toughest jobs there. Why you ask? For one that during our first class, we came to know all the students failed in the first assessment test in school; two that they told us explicitly they hate science most amongst all the subjects, and three that the Father of the Church had asked us to especially take care of the 10th students in Science. But I thought so what? After all, I was confident of doing a great job drawing from my teaching experience but only until the day when we decided to take an extra class on Wednesday.
Their second assessment test in school was coming up. We decided to take an extra class on Wednesday (thanks to the English Teachers Sneha and Mohit for not just letting us take their class, but even being with us during that class and teaching them Science) and made them write answers to questions that we thought were likely to come in the test. In our previous classes, for knowledge checks, we did make them write answers but not long ones like asked in exams. This was the first time. And what we found was shocking and scary. The kids struggled to write words let alone full sentences. We realized they were so weak in spellings that they needed help in every second word they wrote. They could not articulate thoughts at all. They could not solve the most basic of numerical in Physics involving distance, speed & time. One kid did not know the answer to what’s 100/50 equal to. Another did not know the spellings of ‘motion’, ‘travel’, release’ and so on. It was a horrible day for me, personally. I just stood there for a moment and thought of two things. One – how lucky we were to have been given the gift of proper education, and two – how the hell am I going to take these students from the level they’re now to the one I dreamed of. Yet, I had to snap out of the moment and focus on the class. They had their exams in 2 days and we had to finish making them write answers to the most important questions. It was a struggle and a game of patience. We sometimes spent 15 minutes with the kids in writing just a 3-line answer as we had to sit with each kid and make sure their answers & spellings were right. But yes, time passed and we finished that day. I wished them all the best and told them they would do well. Rest, I left to God.
The challenge now, and the change in philosophy!
Next Sunday before I met them, I was very anxious to know how their exam went. One kid, Jayasurya, told me all of them had failed. I felt sad at first, but immediately moved onto analyzing the situation. Well, all wasn’t that bad! There was a ray of hope. 4 out of 5 students had indeed performed better than the last time. Only one of them couldn’t and we promised to him and ourselves that we’ll work to ensure even he does the next time. Check out their progress!
After that extra class and their second assessment test in school, the challenge is clear to us. They are extremely weak in academics but we have to make them pass in their board exams. This is a huge phase in their life even if they don’t realize it. Our philosophy in the first 2-3 classes was to teach them the topics they feel are the toughest, but seeing that they couldn’t even write answers to the easiest ones, it has now changed to focusing on just the easiest topics and ensuring they at least get those right.
I have promised to the kids, co-teachers, MAD and myself that I’ll do everything in my capacity to make them pass in their board exams. Not just that, the aim is to make them confident and gain self-belief that they can carry for the rest of their lives. We have around 8 more months to go and it’s going to be a long effort but one that’s definitely going to make a difference.
After just 2 months here, I got to reconnect with my inner being. And I would like to end this on these thoughts – “Instead of focusing on the problems that we have and getting upset, we should think about all the problems that we don’t have and how grateful we should be for it . Also know that we’re here for a purpose. And that is to make a change in the society in whatever way possible, in whatever capacity possible, to make it a better place to live in. And what better way to start by helping the under-privileged. Firmly believe that small changes put together can create a revolution, a real revolution. So don’t wait. Start Making A Difference!”
About Make A Difference!
Make A Difference (MAD) is a youth driven, non-profit organisation working to ensure equitable outcomes for children in orphanages and street shelters. Make A Difference reaches out to over 4,250 children in 81 shelters across 23 cities in India, through a highly efficient 4,300 strong volunteer network. Volunteers commit a year and spend between 2 and 10 hours every week mentoring, teaching and interacting with children in order to ensure that they get the support and care they need during childhood. Do like their Facebook page to stay updated. Also, if you feel for the cause and wish to donate, you can do it here. The amount does not matter at all. It’s the intention that does. And if you do, do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or comment below for all of us to know.
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