Taṉṉiṟaivu – is a powerful Tamil word which captures the essence of self-sufficiency and sustainability. The words of Elizabeth Edwards echoes of the impact of Taṉṉiṟaivu on a person who decides to take ownership of her life and in the process become self-sufficient. It is this philosophy of self-sufficiency that I hope will drive the 35 inquisitive children I teach.
My name is Neha Khambete and I am a Teach For India fellow in the second year of my fellowship programme. I presently teach Grade 8 at Government Higher School, Byatarayanpura, Bangalore. It is an english medium classroom in its fifth year of intervention and follows the Karnataka State Board syllabus.
The community that my students hail from is comprised of hard working families who are heavily invested in the education of their wards. The income earned by the parents is just enough or in some cases not enough to make ends meet. As a result my students shoulder the hopes and aspirations of their families in addition to their own. However absent parents, alcoholism, family feuds and lack of employment security are challenges that my students and their families have to battle each day.
In my first year, I have taught in a school with a similar context but the one thing that stands out here is the resilience, the level of commitment and the sense of possibility that characterizes these students. While the aspirations vary from student to student, the questions they ask, the answers they seek and the choices they make indicate their will and determination to take ownership of their lives. It is not that they don’t make mistakes rather it is their ability to review, reflect and respond to them that sets them apart.
Our current classrooms have limited student-teacher interaction, inefficient space utilization, and a lack of diversity in learning mediums. The blackboards are worn out and certain areas are even completely unusable. 90% of our classrooms have no technology available to use in them. How is a child supposed to come into this environment and be able to attain an excellent education? How are teachers supposed to prepare children for the 21st century in classrooms like these? What can I, as an educator, do to help these children and best equip them for the future?
One may assume that simply adding a few benches and a blackboard would resolve this issue, but such solutions do not take into account modern views on education, and the idea that our students must be prepared for tomorrow. Transforming education today requires educators to shed the traditional notion of a teacher imparting knowledge to their wards and instead turn to the idea of a teacher as a facilitator helping students realise their creative potential and instiling within them the confidence to face uncertainty. We need classrooms that encourage teamwork, creativity and dynamism - spaces where students learn from their peers and learn to ask the right questions. The vision that I have for myself as a teacher is to create classroom experiences that will promote learning in multiple forms and cater to the needs of EACH child in the classroom. The idea is to make content accessible to students at all learning levels and most importantly make visible the connections between what they learn in class and its application in the real world.
We are raising funds with two goals - to provide basic amenities like electricity, functioning fans, lights, etc. and then use a larger chunk of the raised funds for customized, flexible furniture - which includes height adjustable desks, innovative seating, white and black boards, LED TVs, an in-room library and solar power systems ensuring the classroom is self sufficient and sustainable. The bet that we are placing is that access to these facilities will act as a key lever that will put our students on the pathway of independent learning and self-sufficiency. The current reality we face is that our school is not equipped to provide these facilities to all classrooms. Also the key need that we have identified in order to maximise learning in our classroom i.e. better classroom design and facilities, coincides with the area of focus of The Better Design Foundation.
TBDF is an organization started by ex-TFI fellows with experience in architecture and interior design. In partnership with FRDC - a large retail design studio, they have formulated a well thought out scalable solution to our current infrastructure issues. Over the next year, I will be working with TBDF to transform my classroom in terms of equipment, technology, and structure keeping student outcomes at the center of this transformation. Most importantly, I will be shifting my classroom from an instructional model to a collaborative one. My classroom will then serve as a model to other teachers, other schools, the local government, and to large institutions motivated to make a difference. You can find more information on exactly how we imagine the classroom to look like here. We would be collecting funds and posting all the expenses which you can find here. You can also see how we estimate to use these funds in the image at the end of the page.
Right now, we have the opportunity not only to transform the lives of my current students, but also the lives of all students passing through my classroom over the years. To that extent I implore you to support me in my humble efforts by contributing to this campaign. I hope that with your help we will be able to move closer to Taṉṉiṟaivu for my children even after my fellowship ends. You can also choose to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Better Design Foundation at email@example.com if you wish to contribute in any non-monetary form or have any queries regarding the fundraiser.
Teach For India