Celebrating Teachers’ Month – The EAC Teachers – Part 1

Mornings are always a big rush. Sucheta impatiently waits for a bus at Dhanori and checks her purse if she has enough money for a rickshaw; Mangal and Pournima somehow manage to get onto a bus on Sinhgad road; Anita scrambles into a six-seater heading to Matalwadi; Ashwini has to wait for one going towards Kondhwa; Priyanka is walking towards Manjri from Hadapsar; and Uma has strapped her helmet and set off towards Wakad on her two-wheeler. Their destinations are far apart but all share a common thread of work and are determined to reach their work place on time.

These ladies are some of the Door Step School teachers working in close to 100 Educational Activity Centers (EAC) spread all over Pune and its outskirts. Each EAC is a self-sufficient unit taking education to the doorsteps of the most deprived children living mainly in labor camps at construction sites, brick kilns, slums, and temporary hutments. The teachers create opportunities for learning where none exist and they help enroll children in mainstream schools.

Like the Book-Fairies, at the time of joining Door Step School, most of the teachers have attended high school and some have done a teachers’ training course for ‘Balwadi‘ (Pre-primary). Three weeks of in-house training conducted at ‘Parivartan’, the DSS training center, followed by hand holding in the field transforms them into multi-tasking, full time Door Step School teachers.

Mangal’s smile and cheerful greeting welcomes the children. There is a burst of requests… Ratan, Vikas, and Rekha attend the afternoon shift in the nearby school and need the teacher’s help with school work; four year old Rani wants to show her a new toy; Sachin has made a working model of a water-pump for this month’s project; and they all want immediate attention! “But what do we do first?” Mangal asks; and they rush to tidy the tin shed and lay out the mats and start the prayer. It is the start of an exciting day filled with activities!

Anita has a relatively difficult job. She first has to decide where to conduct her class for the day – under a tree or in some other shady place? There is no designated place for her class as yet but there are many enthusiastic 6-9 year olds in the labor camp who have never been to school. She has only about a month to get them started before enrolling them in the nearby Zilla Parishad School. She heads for the tree as it offers the only piece of shade. Soon she is surrounded by the children and the site watchman brings the few things kept in his shed. They spread out the mats and the foundation to their education begins!

Uma, Sucheta, Priyanka, Ashwini… all begin their day at any given EAC in similar ways. After welcoming the children, badges are distributed and the class is organized as per the time table. Various planned activities are then conducted to help children learn in a playful way; competencies are recorded and plans made for their enhancement! But the most important responsibility is ensuring the safety of all the children.

All the teachers have many thoughts to share about various aspects of their work.

Uma starts with the importance of training. “Once we understand the aim and the method of working, it makes things relatively easy for us. Then we don’t mind walking in the sun or rain, and learn to ignore other hardships.” Then Priyanka elaborates, “Our in-house training gives us the confidence to step out into the field; but it is our experience in field that enables us to do our work efficiently and with conviction.” “Yes”, agrees Deepali, “We learn many aspects of being a teacher in such a short time that it can be overwhelming. But as we start working along with an experienced teacher, our roles and responsibilities become clear.” Sucheta adds, “Observation of other teachers helps me the most. I note how they talk to various people and how they interact with the children; how they manage different tasks and yet retain their calm… that really helps me to improve as a teacher.” Just then Pushpa exclaims, “But the refresher training sessions we have every month help us develop further. We also get to meet our friends! After every session we have something more to pass on to our students, their parents, or any of the people with whom we interact on a regular basis.” And suddenly they wonder if they will ever learn all that they would like to learn!

Identifying each child’s competency level forms the base for mapping his/her progress. “We have a basic literacy plan for 90 days during which we can teach a child to read and write Marathi,” explains Sangeeta. “But,” Anita complains, “you may think 90 days is such a short time; but unfortunately some of the children do not stay in one place even that long! We all get very upset when any child suddenly stops coming to class. Then we try and find out where the parents have moved and whether the child is going to another school or not.”

As a result, the teachers have learnt the importance of making every day count. They use various teaching aids (specially designed by Door Step School and very often made by the teachers themselves) to engage each child in a fruitful manner. Anita’s favorite is asking the children to match picture and word cards. The children just love the game and two or more children can play and improve their vocabulary as well as start recognizing words at a glance. Mangal enjoys playing a reading game adapted from the popular “Musical Chairs” game along with the children. Children run around cards with words or sentences laid out in a straight line on the floor. When the music stops, they have to read from the card that is in front of them and follow the instructions in it! There are many variations to this game and it is also adapted to teach numbers and simple mathematical operations.

Priyanka likes the games they make up with their badges. “Children are so creative and observant that we all have a good time while asking about the details given on the badge. It also helps develop their social and communication skills.” Children also enjoy other activities adapted from popular games such as ‘Snakes and Ladders’, ‘Lotto’, ‘Dominoes’, ‘Monopoly’, etc.

“We are encouraged to develop play-way methods and share our ideas at refresher training sessions. We have chit-chat sessions, art and craft, song and dance, storytelling…” The list is endless and so is their creativity. Their smiles are wide and enthusiasm is infectious, as we take a break for lunch.

(Read Part-2 here: http://blog.doorstepschool.org/2016/09/celebrating-teachers-month-eac-teachers_26.html)

– Written by Archana Vyavaharkar, based on inputs from Door Step School Teachers

(This article is a part of Teachers’ Month series by Door Step School, Pune. For other articles in the series, please visit http://blog.doorstepschool.org/search/label/Teachers%27%20Month%202016.)