From chalk and blackboard to groups and pairs…
By: Subhashree Pradhan
“I read the sentence and she repeats it. I keep on reading it aloud until she has pronounced it right. This way she learns and it gives me immense joy to see my friend learning from me. Pair work is my favorite”- shares the nine year old girl Asha, with a beaming smile on her face. Suddenly, two more voices, Monalisha and Smruti, exclaim with joy “We also love pair work”.
While the four of us walk around the school campus in a lovely winter morning, the walky talky brings out interesting stories of classroom changes that have been occurring in Hindi Nepali school of Dhenkanal. Whether it is the newly added posters in the classroom wall or it is the pair work that has encouraged students to study after school hours- as Monalisha says, “I was never interested in studying after school hours but now I love studying during evening hours with my classmate, who is also my neighbor”. Smruti adds, I don’t have any classmate in my neighborhood but I study in the evening with my friend who goes to a different school. I have taught her how to do pair work and she enjoys it as much as I do”.
As the young girls keep talking about the new happenings in their classroom, they keep praising their English teacher, Surekha Nayak- the real hero who makes their classroom learning interesting every day. She is a teacher by profession for past 16 years. She started her career in teaching at Joranda primary school, then at George school and is now a teacher of Hindi Nepali School.
“I am amazed to see the changes that these methodologies have brought to my classroom”- Surekha mentions, while she talks about the key resources, one by one, that she practices in the English class of standard 5th after undergoing the training under TESS India. “My favorite subject is mathematics. But I teach all subjects. As a student, I never missed classes. I was so attached to my school and fond of my studies and always dreamt of being a teacher. Let me narrate an incident to you from my childhood, when I was in standard 7th”-laughs out Surekha Nayak as she entails, how she requested her teacher to convince her parents to send her to school during a festive season, when she had only one choice to make: attend a family function or go to school. This was years back- sighs Surekha taking a deep breath as she adds, “Ironically, things have changed. I do not see that enthusiasm among students to study like it happened years back. They are not to be blamed though. My students are talented. They love studying, crafts, music, dance etc. They need encouragement and a favorable environment to excel. When I am at school, I keep these two things in my mind and try to give the best of my efforts to help my students go one step higher”.
When asked about her experience on TESS India training and classroom transactions, Surekha shared that, “Initially, I was apprehensive about the classroom changes. I had not many expectations. But gradually with small visible changes, my confidence level increased. I became hopeful that these methodologies will certainly bring remarkable changes to my classroom. I kept on trying, experimented with the TESS India Key resources and now I am practicing it in my mathematics class too. Besides, I plan my lesson for every class. I end my day by writing a reflection note and this gives me scope of improvement and thus benefits my students”. Surekha stresses on the importance of monitoring and mentoring, academic support, and visitors from outside, which have had a positive impact on the classroom environment.
As Surekha continues to talk about the changes that have occurred, she points out to three students of her class, and says that, “can you believe they never uttered a word in English and now they have gathered the courage of reading English words! If I was asked to mention this change in percentage, I would proudly say that at least 40% of my students are now above an average mark, which was 15% previously”.
While we wind up our conversation and head towards the English classroom of 35 students, children are seen engaged in group assignment that the teacher gave them in her absence. On seeing this, Surekha proudly says “Every little change that I see in my classroom gives me satisfaction and makes me feel proud of my teaching”.
With a feeling of contentment, I head towards another TI project school.