Celebrating Teachers’ Month – The EAC teachers – Part 2

(Read Part-1 here: http://blog.doorstepschool.org/2016/09/celebrating-teachers-month-eac-teachers.html)

After lunch, the younger children take a nap, but for others, it’s story time. Pournima, Priyanka, and all the teachers love this activity. They list out the benefits of story-telling but the best part of it is the rapt attention and excitement of the children. They have the ever popular stories and the stories the children like to make up with a few given characters; the chain stories, and the ones read out to them from a book.

Priyanka exclaims, “The children have even written one-page stories on their own and these have been illustrated by other children and published as a book! Isn’t that exciting?”

All children read every day for at least half an hour. “They are given books as per their age and competency level and we supervise these reading sessions. Regular reading practice has improved their reading skills and they are able to concentrate for a longer time,” observes Deepali. She also admits that her interest in reading has increased manifold only after joining Door Step School. Arati has an interesting incident to relate. Once a child’s mother came in while the reading session was going on. She wanted to take away her 12 year old daughter to help her with housework. She was so amazed to hear her daughter read from a book that she changed her mind and started crying instead and said she was saved from committing a sin! “We hope many other parents also allow their daughters to continue in school. It is very sad when after Grade VII, the girls are not allowed to attend senior school. We try our best to convince their parents.”

Interacting with the parents on a regular basis is an important part of their job. “After all it’s the parents who are responsible for the education of their children and we also inform them of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the importance of education,” explains Anita, “but sometimes it’s very frustrating when a child suddenly stops coming to school. This is the biggest challenge we face.”

“At the same time, there are parents who are upset when we have to close our class because the construction site is completed,” says Sucheta and she mentions Virender’s mother who was willing to take up a house on rent near the school. Saroj relates an incident how seven year old Sindhu’s father brought four other children to be enrolled in school, along with their parents. “We are motivated when parents support us and appreciate our work and we see a change in their attitude.”

Sharada and Revati are fluent in Kannada and hence are able to talk with the Kannada-speaking parents convincingly. But Deepali says confidently, “Even we have picked up a few words of Kannada, Telugu, and Bengali – and because we meet the parents regularly, we can communicate effectively with the non-Marathi/Hindi-speaking parents.”

That is the other common feature among the teachers. They not only like to teach but also like to learn as their work itself involves learning new skills. Their interaction with various stake holders increases their communication skills. Pournima states rather emphatically, “In the past, I would hide myself if a stranger came to our house. Now I can confidently speak to anybody without making a fool of myself! And we are respected because we are Door Step School teachers.”

Regular art and craft activities help the teachers discover latent talent that they put to good use. Varsha wants to do a course in water colors and Priya in sketching. “I know what I like to do so now I can plan for it!” she says with a determined look.  However, the most popular activity is singing and dancing with the children. “I think we all hesitate to do it at home; so we enjoy it here as we are not only allowed but also encouraged to do so!” comments Ashwini. The hidden child in them takes over at such times and they take pleasure in these simple joys that celebrate life.

Sharada candidly admits that she has learnt many things along with the children. “I had forgotten all the maths tables and various facts in History, Geography, and Science. Now, when some students ask me to help them with their work, I enjoy re-learning all the subjects that I had first done in school – this time it’s with a new understanding.”

Ashwini smiles and admits, “I joined Door Step School in 2004 when I was in high school (Grade XI) because I liked the idea of being a teacher more than being a student! Although I grew up in Pune, I never knew so many children in a city like ours are not able to attend school. My work encouraged me to continue with my education simultaneously, and I completed my Masters in Sociology in 2014. My dream is to start my own organization and reach out to more children outside Pune.”

Uma continues on the same lines, “I completed my B.A. in 1994, then got married and joined Door Step School in year 2010. I was motivated after I realized how much I am capable of doing and completed my M.A. in Sociology after a gap of 17 years! Door Step School encouraged me to study and felicitated me as I had stood first!” She now motivates other teachers to study further.

Besides academic qualifications, they take home many important nuggets. Deepali says “I’ve learnt not to compare any two children, including my own.”

“I often ignored many questions that the children asked. Now I try to understand why a child is asking a particular question; and usually there is a good reason for it!” observes Anita.

“We learn to make teaching aids using ordinary things that encourage recycling; different types of art and craft techniques; and our project work makes us aware of many scientific facts. I used to be terrified of eclipses; but now I find myself explaining them to my neighbors and friends!” states Sucheta.

“Our interaction with volunteers from different countries has expanded our world view. We are surprised at ourselves when we communicate in broken English with all these visitors,” add Pournima and Mangal, smiling all the while. “We are determined to learn English so that we can keep in touch with them.”

“My experience with Door Step School and interaction with volunteers has made me realize that we should not limit ourselves to the welfare of our family, but should extend it to all whom we can,” adds Uma philosophically.

“Most of us grew up in families with limited resources and we always appreciate people who donate for a worthy cause. Now due to our family responsibilities, we feel bad that we cannot give money to the needy; but a volunteer explained to us that educating the underprivileged children is sharing something very valuable with them! We are helping these children achieve their potential just like Door Step School is helping us discover our talents! We want them to become very successful in life – in fact that is our ardent wish!” they collectively put forth their views, their thoughtful faces nodding in assent.

Our good wishes are with the EAC teachers. May all the children you reach out to fulfill your wish…

– 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.)