When I first saw the mail about the company sponsored program asking for volunteers to teach 5-7th standard Kannada medium school kids English, my reaction was the same as any other average person. I thought "Hm! That's nice." and was about to hit the delete button when suddenly my brain flashbacked to a phone conversation I had with my Mom.
Mom : So if you don't want to do an (over hyped and stereotyped) MBA, what is your plan (to conform with what, we 'adults', view as society)?
Me : I dunno. maybe I'll travel the country side and teach poor village kids English and teach their parents about planned parenthood or something, thus solving the problem of over population and education on a very small scale in this country.
Mom : Yeah, well, let's put that in the list of dreams (and list of things which I can't mention to my stick-up-the-ass accquiantances about what my son does).
So I asked myself - "What would Che(Guevara) do?"
Che would probably make sure these kids get their education and then pick up a gun, shoot the nearest fattest capitalist and piss all over his dead body.
And so, I volunteered, with absolutely no previous experience or clue on what I was going to do. A few meetings, purchases and vague strategies later, we were on our way to the school located few kms away from Mysore road along Kengeri(the very outskirts of Bangalore). I was as prepared with kids or teaching English as I was with urban warfare in Afghanistan.
When we reached the site, we were welcomed by a small 1 storey school and ground, a lot of strange looks from the people in the vicinity and a lot of smiles of curiosity and anticipation from the kids. As clichéd as that sounds, their excitement reminded me of my days in school when we had someone else to take class, other than the plump middle aged lady teachers we see(and get bored of) everyday.
|Our class - 5th and 6th combined. Have you paid this much attention in school?|
Our group was divided into teaching two classes - 5th and 6th combined and 7th standard class. I was taking the 5th and 6th along with Priyanka miss, Reanna miss(who were both fluent in Kannada) and Nijay uncle(who, like me, just knew how to say "Swalpa adjust maadi").
|Priyanka miss being da boss while Reanna miss watches on|
Initially we were just shuffling around thinking of what to do or where to start from. At least I was, but I covered up my confusion by pretending to take photos. Then Priyanka and Reanna took over and we just followed suit.
To be honest, there were the obvious communication gaps and bungling around but MAN! The energy from the kids was tremendous. I mean, when they were confident that they were right, they'd just shout out at the top of their lungs. These kids really wanted to learn English. With their boost and the Kannada speaking Madams' leadership, Nijay and I entered the fray.
|The arms folded courtesy while answering|
|Indu and Krishna from the other(7th Stdi) class which apparently made more noise|
We went from introductions to a huge alphabet book with pictures. The kids knew their English enough to spell most given words and recite the alphabets. Since this was a Kannada medium school, they were taught to pass the English exam somehow(read : by hearting - This is India after all). There were a few who needed extra help(Enter the Priyanka miss) like a drop out of 2 years.
Nijay and I did most of a placard game, where we asked individual kids by using a placard to indentify the alphabet, or the image on the placard and say at least two other words they knew starting with that alphabet. A simple chocolate prize was a good enough incentive to play well. And you complain about peanuts huh?
Again the energy of the kids was astounding. They were shouting out the answers, standing up to raise their hands the highest were giving answers which might not hit us normally. Priyanka again had to play strict disciplinarian to keep order in the class when the rest of us were just doing the best we can. The school teachers helped the kids form words and then disappeared like Batman soon afterwards. Kinda like "You're not making my kids look stupid in english IT company man! NO WAI! Now I need to go check up on Harvey Dent"
|The pencil is mightier than...not having a pencil?|
|All writing and no coloring makes Jack a dull boy|
|Look! I finished first!|
We ended with making the kids write down the alphabets within a ruled note book. Remember those? the RULED note book with lines to make sure you got your alphabet's proportions right? Most of the kids finished up their work in great time and did the activities like dotted lines, colouring etc. Just to make things not too boring.
We finished up with giving them writing exercise and a prospect of future classes. Since it is customary for such young school kids, we signed their class work. I personalised mine with a smiley face on each page. Not the colon and bracket abomination of today, the thing which few of our teachers used to give us when we really deserved it.
|This picture is worth a 1024 words|
Finishing up, remaining chocolates given to smaller kids, tried their food, took group photos and returned back to the company as IT professionals(including ranting about our idiot bosses).
|Da group(from left) : Nijay, Reanna, Arjun, Krishna, Indu, Priyanka and yours truly|
If I die now, I'd die as a man who didn't have a completely useless life.