Monday, July 9, 2012

Second year begins strictly

Second year of Teach for India fellowship started 3 weeks ago and I was looking forward to starting the school on the first day this time around. I saw the Ron Clarke story in April. I was inspired. The movie is fantastic. As we had differentiated our students on the basis of their English reading levels, the inspired me decided to spend more time with the lower group and get them closer to grade level. I wanted to build motivation and get systems in place starting day 1. And so....I started with 'We are all a family.'

I spent time on rules and my expectations. First 2-3 days were really good. The behaviour in my class was around the mark where I wanted it to be. I had learnt my lesson from last year and started the year on a much stricter note rather than a crowd-pleasing one. I was strict with my rules. I still am. However, the behaviour has not gone along the lines I had planned it would. There are times when it's downright chaotic in class now. I feel that I have gone wrong somewhere. 

One thing that I have stuck to is high expectations. At least academically. I am going to make sure that each and every child is working in my class. Unless you are sick or absent, there's no escaping work done in class. There are students in class who can't read (or very little) despite being in school for about 6-7 years. They have conditioned themselves to believe that they are not going to learn anything in class. Since they have been in Teach for India classrooms for the past two years which forbids corporal punishment, they have taken it as an opportunity to not even force themselves to do work. As a result, they wouldn't even bother to take out textbooks in class whereas the same kids will scramble to copy homework somehow for Hindi or Marathi. They believe that they are not even expected to do work or they can get away without doing it. (I wonder if we have somehow enhanced their lackadaisical attitude towards work and given them freedom.)

Well, they were in for a surprise. A luxury that morning school allows is that it's possible to hold the kids back after school. Something that was not possible earlier when school ended at 5pm and the building had to shut down. So.... If you have not finished work, you are not going home. Period. I explained this point to the parents during our parent teacher meeting and got their support. Let the show begin.

On the second day, I held back some students. They were surprised and wanted to go home. No way! We'll stay back and work until you finish your work. I don't care how long it takes. I am not going home. Neither are you. If you are hungry, let's finish work fast. If you plan on continuing like this, get extra tiffin from tomorrow. We can even do a sleepover. Let your parents come. They and I have a chat overdue anyway.

They were my weakest students. Until they had finished writing the 5 picture story in their own words (with my help of course), they had to stick with it. They complained, cribbed and sulked. Some refused to write. Some said that they'll do it at home. They were falling on deaf ears. Successes - Each one of them wrote something. They learnt new words. They tried spelling things. They drew. They wrote a story. And they went home.

It has happened few more times after that. I can see the kids learning when I spend time with them after school. Most of the time, it is just to get them to work. Some of them write in class now. After all, everyone likes their lunch on time. Especially if you are an 11 year old.