Srikanth Perinkulam

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Tag: Teach for India

Dynamics of the playground…

Couple of  hours back I opened my student tracker,  just sat back and started mulling over how each of my kids have changed over the past few months. As I went through the list reading each of the kids names, images of the kid kept flashing in and out of my mind and most of them, so turned out to be of those moments when they were being ecstatic or really happy. This made me wonder how we as humans tend to capture/remember only the positives or the cheerful part in our relationships. But as a teacher, am I not failing my kids in not noticing their negative behaviour and working to get them back to their normal self? Am I doing justice to them by not stopping what I’m doing and not taking that extra time to pay attention to that minuscule behavioral change? How many times have I swept a behavioral change under the blanket and continued with my class/session? How many times have I ‘neglected’ a kid in the rush to finish off a topic/objective?

Sadly in retrospect I seem to recollect more than one occasions where I’ve failed noticing/paying heed to the change. This could probably be one of those reasons why a particular kid did not perform well in a particular objective; a reason why a particular kid did not receive me with the same enthusiasm as he otherwise would have and this is something I’m really beginning to appreciate in this role as a teacher. Every moment in the classroom you end up dealing with the emotions of 46 kids out there. Human to human interaction is the utmost priority. When I go back to my classroom in twenty days for the second term, this is one thing that I have to keep in mind always.

Talking by numbers, my kids have progressed from a class average of 25% to 56% in Math, from 17% to 59% in Grammer and from 28%[-0.1 Grade] to 85%[1.5 Grade] in RC. Thats some significant progress that the class has made. But again, the class average does not necessarily represent the overall growth of the classroom. There still are kids like – Sarfaraz, Nabil, Aditya More, Meghana and Yash Pawar who need to make tremendous progress if they have to be on par with the other kids. I guess that is where the main challenge lies.

Today, I visualize my classroom as a circular board resting on a pivot. I being the pivot and the circular board,  a playground where my 46 little ones decide the dynamics of the classroom from inside. My responsibility is to  maintain the equilibrium and I need to be extremely flexible so as to adjust and re-position to the external stimuli and the dynamics created by my kids so that the whole system remains in equilibrium always. The next fortnight I guess is all about figuring out how to maintain that equilibrium, about how I push myself to my limits of being flexible and making that transformation something sustainable…

Windowed Illusions…

Yesterday was one of those real interesting days. Couple of friends and I had been to the Korlai fort and were heading back from Alibag late in the evening. Seated in the rear of the bus, I’m not really sure how this conversation/debate ensued. For about an hour or so the six of us had a heated conversation on various policies, practices, ideologies and biases. Probably one of the best ever deliberations since my Infy days. In introspection, it kind of gave me some food for thought on how I’d like to proceed with the rest of my fellowship or for the next two years.

Since I last wrote, things have quite changed in my classroom and otherwise.  TFI has this concept of having two teachers in one class room if the number of students is more than 30. Kavitha, My co-teacher formally chipped in in July. With this things slowly seem to come under control. The kids receive more personal attention and we’re able to address issues in a much better fashion. Couple of kids who never even open their mouths are slowly opening up and and are showing interest in the classroom. The class dynamics has changed and kids are slowly learning to appreciate English.  Community visits seem to make an impact.

Going by last weeks assessments the class per se has shown significant improvement. But looking holistically I still do not see myself doing justice to the kids. Two years down the lane when I move out of this role, I would like to see my kids be able to speak for themselves, have the confidence to stand for what they really feel about and be able to take appropriate decisions given a set of choices. I personally believe, all that these nimble minds needs is exposure to the world out there and a pathway that would help them generate a practical solution to  problems.  They’re more than smart to figure out things for themselves.  Teaching them Arithmetic and Grammar probably would be in the last of the priorities list.

Drawing the dividing line between catering to the parents and schools mandates of ‘completing’ the syllabus, and really imparting what I truly believe would help the kids overtime is something I still need to get a knack of . It is so heartening and overwhelming to see what a few fellows out here are able to accomplish in their classrooms. I guess only time would tell how things unfold…

Reflections by the roadside…

As I take one last gulp of hot tea from a roadside stall, Ronnie wickedly smiles and brings his hand forward with a congratulatory gesture. He just says – ‘One month’ and grins wildly! I wink back, pay for the tea and walk back towards the school gate. As we quickly make our way through the puddles and pits in the slight Pune drizzle, my mind wanders out in search of those small moments that I could call ‘achievements’ of the month thats been from my one month of teachers life. Sadly I get to recollect just a couple of them. And then it looms on me again how important it is to appreciate minuscule milestones in this journey – Something which I’ve been working hard on ever since the summer school.

Today for some reason, I’m not really as happy as I should have been. Administered a diagnostic test today and a perfunctory look at the sheets sunk me deeper in the gravel. These kids are just not able to answer even bare simple questions. I’ve spent about 23 whole days with these 46 kids and things do not really seem to be on the green side. Classroom and Behavior management still seems to be an issue and objectives wise I haven’t progressed much. They seem to understand Math concepts but for some reason that is just not translating onto the answer sheets. Collectively they seem to know how to reach to the solution but when asked individually they just put up a poker face. English for them seems to be a magnanimous monster lurching right round the corner. I’m yet to figure out where that small invisible spark exists so that I can magically tap it on and fire them up to speed. A couple of strategies to be implemented and a lot more are to be learnt.

Tomorrow marks a new beginning of looking back and taking the best of what worked; of paying attention and appreciating the minute ‘eureka’ moments in the classroom and not to forget – of understanding how close I could get to build the bridge between possibility, predictability and uncertainty.

The Induction wave…

It’s been close to two months that I’ve been with TFI. 1 week of induction, 4 weeks of summer school and 2 weeks of Placement school.  There’s quite a lot that’s been weaving around here. I initially had planned to document most that’s been happening right from the first day but failed miserably.  The ‘induction’ wave just swept me off the coast and kept me in the waters for close to a month. The rigorous schedule during the institute and other things took priority and I just couldn’t fit in time to sit back and write what’s been brewing out here. Things slowly seem to have fallen in place now and I’ve decided to be a bit more regular on my site.

For the next two years I would be a class teacher for about 45 second grade kids at the Epiphany school at Guruwarpet, Pune primarily focusing on their English and Math. Going by my preliminary analysis – None of my kids can speak even a basic English sentence properly, Most write in incorrigible handwriting, 2 have been passed on to the second grade despite failing in the first, Just 8 of them understand my English class instructions, Only 4 can differentiate a question from an answer, Average reading fluency stands at about 15wpm [Expected – 40wpm], 3 always retort in Hindi/Marathi when asked a question, Only 6 can add single digit numbers having carryover, 5 cannot even decipher numbers written on the board, 4 just do not want to attend school and 1 girl has this superfluous crush on me! A diagnostic test due later this week would actually bring about how many grade levels my kids are actually lagging behind.

Couple of months back when similar statistics was put up in a presentation, I just couldn’t buy it. But today when I look at it manifesting in my own classroom, I’m sheerly overwhelmed. Each of my actions in the next two years would in ways impact how these kids perceive things and how their lives transform. In the next two years, one of our main objectives would be to plan and execute each of our lessons such that each one of these kids gets on par with their peers and stand to compete with other ‘advantaged’ kids from the private schools. Things are getting interesting by the day!

Looking back, joining TFI is probably the best ever decision I’ve taken till date. The commitment and zeal with which people work here, truly amazes me. It just doesn’t feel like working in a non-profit organization. The meticulous planning, professional conduct, transparent execution, the numerous sessions, reflection and de-briefs that keep everyone on their toes day through night simply floors me.

One month in the institute starkly redefined what working hard/smart meant. My regular day used to start at about five in the morning with a half an hour run around the I2IT campus and then a dash for the morning breakfast. At about 06:45am buses would transport the 100 odd first institute fellows from the I2IT campus to the summer schools at Somwarpet. At about 12:00pm once the summer school gets over we’d be taken back to the I2IT campus for various institute sessions and debriefs till 20:00hrs. Rest of the day is spent on lesson planning for next days classes or other activities that may go on till 21:00 or 22:00hrs. At the end of the day, you’re literally exhausted. There used to be so much to learn and do, at times I just did not understand what was happening around me.  There were times when I’d question the very logic of lesson planning and the innumerable sessions. But over time as we saw the progress made by the kids, things slowly sank in. The only source of motivation is the amazing staff and fellows we have here [and not to mention the kids]! At times, even at about 12:00 at night you’d see these folks planning out sessions or logistics for us the next day. They’re just SO much dedicated towards this movement that at times it all looks to be a dream…

Summer School – Class 3D

Summer schools was probably the best that could have been planned for us. For kids this was a summer camp and for us quite learning experience. All through the four weeks, Staff, Program managers and Fellow advisors would constantly watch us while we deliver the lessons to the kids and provide critical feedback. About four fellows handle a class each taking about one or two sessions everyday. Pre and post Diagnostics help chalk the progress made by the kids during the summer Schools. At the end of the four week camp, the kids are better prepared to get back to their schools and so are the fresh fellows to enter their Placement schools where they would be fulltime teachers for the next two years.

At TFI, one centric belief is that we as a movement can bring about a transformation/change in the society only if there’s a transformation in each one of us as a person. I wasn’t really appreciative of this till late. I just couldn’t find the ‘aha’ moments in my summer school while most around me seemed to be really enjoying their journey as a first time teacher.  Later over time I realized, I could/would never look at the minor accomplishments that my kids had. I never took stock of the small things that happened every day in the class always concentrating on the bigger picture. Only after making a conscious effort to let loose, I really seemed to be involved and connected with the kids. Teaching only got interesting after that! Ever since, I make it a conscious attempt to see what each kid has to offer every single day and appreciate him/her irrespective of the scale of the progress and make note of it. Things have definitely changed. Now I think more than I used to think before and plan more than I used to plan before. My kids progress seem to have taken a higher seat than anything else and I’m more than happy to do anything that would help them inch that extra step forward.

Tomorrow by this time, fifty more fellows [The second batch of fellow/Tenners for this year] would be entering their own classrooms where they would teach and train for the next four weeks. They would co-incidentally be teaching in my placement school [Epiphany]. Time seems to have simply flown by! I remember myself in that position just about a month back…

Between, over to my other passion of trekking; I managed to do the Katraj-Sinhagad moonlight trek twice again  over consecutive weekends. This was during the institute and I still am surprised how I managed to pull it through. Last week I headed out to Kenjalgad with the DH team. Turned out to be quite an experience to start off with. I’m not really sure how much justice i’ll be able to do to this aspect going forward…only time will tell…


Gut Instinct, Twitter and My Career

I’ve always wanted to wake up in the morning and find the day ahead unpredictable. I wanted to think on my toes and look for a challenging day ahead that would need me to take decisions on the fly. I wanted to have a slice of ‘adventure’ every day in my life. Over time I realised its more promising to trust your gut instinct than anything else. I personally feel relying on ‘gut instinct’ is not just doing things impulsively but It’s more about taking decisions on the fly which inherently is strengthened over time based on your past experiences through a subconscious thought process.

A year and a half back I signed off my ‘one year in IT‘ post with this statement- ‘Probably I’ll be doing something starkly different next year or for all you know still be eluded by the mirage of recognition all the way lamenting ‘C’est la Vie ‘ and keep moving.’ Little did I realise what was concocting. I should have seen this coming way back then. Three months from now I’ll be making a paradigm shift in my career and what else do I attribute this to but for one of Rohan Kini’s tweet!

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