Volunteering experience: Teach India!

“Me Shaaret Marathi Sheekli…pan mala marati bolut yeat nahi”
“I learnt Marathi in school but I cannot really speak the language!”
Although Marati is the local language…not knowing Marathi has not hampered my progress in life…but if I did not know English…chances are that I would not be standing here as a part of Tata Consultancy services…giving a speech at the toastmasters club.
But Why am I standing here and telling you this?
Because I have spent the last few weekends with kids who are studying English in school but they don’t really understand and speak the language they are in the same position as me but unfortunately not knowing English will put them at a disadvantage. When these kids grow up and go out in the world to be employed chances are their pay package would half of their English speaking counter parts even though they would be as smart and knowledgeable.. I know its not fair but it’s the truth.
The Teach India Campaign launched by the Times of India group made me get in touch with these children and I got my change to try and make a difference! In the next few minutes… I am going to share my experiences as a part of a campaign I registered on the teach India web-site and my assignment was to teach Spoken English to Marati medium students. Well I can speak English but to teach spoken English…umm….I was not too sure how that was suppose to be done! Thank God they were planning on an orientation program;but the only thing they told us as a part of the orientation is that you will have two children.and you need to do is give them a conducive environment to speak English! There is no method use your instinct….teach the child like you would teach your own children your mother language!And I though to myself…what instinct!!!! I don’t think I have a instinct for teaching!! but what the hell…since I was here on a Saturday afternoon.I might as well go ahead with it.
Believe me it was a little scary to start off with. Although I am normally great at finding commonalities and making small talk with strangers but this was different I had to talk to the child for one hour!! And what would I find common with a 13 year old child from a completely different socio- economic background…..60 minutes….3,600 seconds…seemed like a very very long time. But I had to act confident I was the teacher after all the kids walked into the hall….and two little boys..Soheil and Rupesh came and sat with me.They were nervous and so was I it was difficult to decide who was more apprehensive we made small talk…what is your name…..where do you stay…which class are you in…..you know the basics… family…school… friends…10 minutes or 600 seconds would have passed…now what next….????One part of me was listing to their answers which by the way were in monosyllaals the other part was thinking what next to say should I talk about books? Nah! they would not read… suddenly though movies…..! everybody watches movies….and that would give me lot to talk about…after all there are so many bollywood movies and stars I though I have found the perfect topic to make conversation so I asked the boys which is your favorite movie.and Soheil promptly answered…”hum TV nahi dheekte”! There I was at a loss again! The kids started fidgeting on their chairs….and I was so uncomfortable I looking at my watch .. had 45 minutes more to go!!
Then an idea struck me and I told the kids will you show me your school…come lets go for a walk….and their eyes lit up! Wow here is a “teacher” who is taking them for a walk around school instead to sitting in class…and that is when I managed to break the ice! We walked around school….they showed me things….they told me what it was called in Marathi..I told them what it was in English…they repeated the English word….i repeated the Marathi word!! All of us learnt something…..and it was a wonderful experience!
That was session 1….I have had three subsequent Saturday afternoon sessions with them…and believe me each one has been extremely satisfying and challenging… and I can actually see the difference…it may not be very significant…but my kiddo’s have taken small baby steps in becoming more confident in attempting to talk in English…..the first session they were talking in monosyllables….now they are attempting to talk in sentences….the grammar may be all wrong….but slowly and surely they are getting better.. And there is so much for me to learn in the process…how to keep 13 year olds entertained and also teach them in the process requires a whole lot of creativity by itself!

I don’t know if this “Teach India campaign” will actually make a major difference….or will it be just be a publicity stunt by the times group to win awards for the best campaign….but I know I done my little bit to help to change a childs life!

To conclude I would like to tell all you people sitting in the room..you may not be part of the Teach India Campaign”… but if you look around you…you will find many people you can teach….your servants kids…the TCS Maitri teaching programs….it is an effort…it is scary….but at the same time it is extremely satisfying and enriching!
This was a speech i gave at the toastmasters. It is my project 2 speech….did not go too well but I managed to clear the round! Lesson learn’t : Don’t be too dramatic while speaking…this is not theatre! Be natural…talk to the audience…and don’t try and give a performance!


Filed under Teach India, Toastmasters

9 responses to “Volunteering experience: Teach India!

  1. Innocent Warrior

    Hey, that was really inspiring.

    Looking forward to start trachindian activities in Pune.

    I have added you to my blog list.

    I am also working for a program known as ACE for child education.

    I got many interesting facts about teaching a child.

    Thanks a lot!!!

  2. Lalit Patnaik

    Hi Shilpa,

    First thing today morning when I saw the Times of India announcing the opening of Teach India campaign in Bangalore, I was excited. When I visited their website, I found the link to your blog. Happy to read about your experience, I would also like to go ahead and try to make a difference.


  3. Shikha

    That was wonderful – the experience, and of course your speech. You’ve got a great thing going on at Teach India – keep it up!

  4. Anand.U

    Bravo…Well I’m no expert here…but i think everyone has their own style…and their own content…when you bring in yours to the plate with loads of your passion,that is what matters.

    Time and again I find in your blog one common word “scared” .I’m not sure what are you scared off.Is it about walking all alone on a unknown path with unknown people.

    Well let me know tell you something wihch you already know,You got your passion, basics and content right,You always know you can do even better and you know How to fix when things go wrong.Now It is all about cherishing the experience of going out there and having fun !!!

  5. Shilpa

    Thanks for all the comments…It is really encouraging to have people leave comments on your blog!
    Abijit/Lalit….you’ll should really check out this blog …It has lot many tips for teaching from our experiences in Teach India! http://kef-teach-india.blogspot.com/

    Yes the experience was indeed very nice…but the speech was quite lousy…because of the way I delivered it! I am capable of much better! Do I know you from somewhere…?? I am unable to see your blog profile! How did you hit upon my blog? Keep reading and keep leaving comments!
    Thanks for your comments….well I don’t know you….but you are right about the fact that I bring passion into anything I do…the only issue is I don’t know if I can sustain it for long enough! As for being “scared”…that is in interesting observation…don’t know if I am scared of anything particular!
    Anywyas….Keep reading and keep leaving comments!

  6. Innocent Warrior

    Thanks Shilpa.

  7. MaDdy!!!

    Hi Shilpa,

    I must say that the initiative taken by teach India is fantastic and is a wake up call to all, mostly the youths to do something useful with their time.

    Whether this is a commercial venture is yet to be seen.

    However to a larger extent it is important that we do not restrict our selves to such programs, but also go out and help the kids in and arround our neighbour hoods for a better India

    Keep up the good work.


  8. Kunal

    Ur blog is on the move.. Getting a lot of comments now.. 🙂

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