Often, teaching in English in India’s hinterlands can be a challenging task for even the most well-meaning and dedicated teacher. Recognising this, an organisation has created an innovative way of teaching teachers how to teach.
My first day as a volunteer for Sampark Foundation was as part of a training programme for school teachers in Raipur. As we rode through the empty, early morning streets of Raipur, I noticed that this quaint city was a little different from the ones I was used to. Aside from the weather, the traffic, and other points of general discussion, there were so few boards and posters boasting of the top ranks in the city, the state, and the country. Still, I was excited to be a part of the process that would help educate the children of primary schools in Chhattisgarh.
Having spent a little time in the training centre, a government school, it had begun to sink in just how little English the students and the teachers alike hear in a day. Radio, television, sign boards, menu cards, and even math classes, as I had seen recently, were completely in Hindi.
So how does one teach a primary school child the nuances of a language so foreign?
As I watched school teachers file in for the day’s training programme, I realised that this was neither like the classrooms that I was used to, nor was it like the government school classes that I was preparing myself for.
Sampark Foundation had invested an immense amount of resources, effort, and care into this project, which was very visible in the importance that the present government officials and teachers alike gave today’s session. The people assembled in the room were not there to improve their ability to teach math. They had gathered with the singular belief that they could help groom the future of their district, state, and country.
In their methodical and well researched method, the trainers broke down the process of learning a language. In order to ingrain the language in the children’s minds within the few hours in a month that they are exposed to it, they introduced the student-friendly tool kit.
The next few hours were filled with teachers learning how to learn like children, how to ask questions like children, and make mistakes like children.
Between dancing, playing games, singing rhymes, and reciting stories, the teachers not only discovered a new way of teaching even the most unexposed child, but also taught each other how to learn.
“I used to be a high school teacher. It annoyed me that the students weren’t thorough with what they had learned in primary and middle school. Now, as a primary school teacher, I understand the difficulty of teaching children English through Hindi, which also I must teach them. But with TLMs like this, anyone can learn a language through sounds and visuals with which they are already familiar,” recounted a teacher.
Another teacher, when asked about her first impression of the training methodology, said, “I expect that the children will enjoy the class. I myself am looking forward to teaching with Sampark Didi.”
The journey and process of learning is an exciting one. One starts off not knowing a set of things and then sees a world of new possibilities. All of us are very used to the idea of learning something new. We inevitably end up learning something or the other everyday. Yet we find ever so often that others don’t know the things that we do, and vice versa. The fact of the matter is that we aren’t as great at teaching as we are at learning.
Extraordinary tasks demand out-of-the-box approaches. I watched the Master Teachers break down simple arithmetic into visuals, games, activities, and anything else that might capture a child’s imagination. These lessons weren’t about math as much as they were about learning how to reach out to students so that not even one of them is left behind.
The teachers themselves, who were enjoying being students for a day, didn’t give the master teachers a break.
Sampark Foundation is working on bridging that gap at the very earliest stages of education. As teachers, we are thorough with our concepts, but forget how we learned them. According to the Sampark method, one can think of anything in its concrete or abstract form. Things that we already know well, we remember in their abstract form, so that it’s easy for us to recall.
Instead of writing down a few symbols and convincing children that they have numeric meaning, this method trains teachers to show them what each number is, so that the whole class is on the same page. Introducing students to the concepts of arithmetic, teachers can now illustrate how counters come together when we add them and get split up when we divide them. Instead of just creating a million smiles, they are teaching a million children how to smile.
To know how you can help Sampark Foundation create more smiles, visit the website.