Chennaiite joins Teach For India fellowship program

By Mohammed Rayaan Published on Jul 12, 2018 04:55 PM IST

Chennai: "If you want to bring about change, start with the kids." This noble statement, loaded with wisdom, is not that of a saint but a 22-year-old who teaches in a school under The Teach for India Fellowship Programme.

Priya (22), a resident of Nanganallur, thinks she has found her calling after a stint in a school under the fellowship program.

Born in Hyderabad, she moved to Chennai when she was in class 4. Growing up, she learned to always be helpful and kind to others. She watched her father doing charity. Her in-born nature eventually made her follow an offbeat path.

When Priya was in school, she learnt Sanskrit. "I always loved learning new languages," she says. She is fluent in Tamil and Telugu.

But, academically, she struggled to perform well. When she was in class 11, her Chemistry teacher, K Padmasini, trained her to improve her performance in studies.

"She would spend a lot of time with slow learners like myself after school hours and worked tirelessly to make sure we did well in our exams," reminiscences Priya. "She was an inspiration for me."

Sure enough, her marks gradually improved. "I even scored 90 per cent in Chemistry," she says. She believes that it was here that she started to get interested in the art of teaching.

As she scored excellent marks in Chemistry, Priya decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering. She joined Sastra University at Thanjavur. She also enrolled in the German class. At the university, Priya came under the tutelage of Prof P R Naren.

"He was a great teacher," she gushes. "He used ingenious methods to teach us. For example, he made websites for his subjects."

Priya's professor used technology for education in ways she never thought was possible.

Priya says that her professor set a benchmark for students to perform well. Later, while in college, she decided to take the road less travelled.

"I didn't want to get into core industries for a job," she says. "But I was keen to work for The Teach for India or any other social service organisation."

But, unfortunately, she couldn't do any such work as she resided in a hostel and many social welfare centres were far away.

But it wasn't the end of her passion though because a wonderful opportunity came her way: Priya came across a post by The Teach for India's Facebook page.

The post called for volunteers to work as teachers for two months during June-July. She knew that it was very difficult to become a Teach for India Fellow and that this was a chance she could never afford to miss.

"It is during this month that the TFI takes in new Fellows," explains Priya.

"During this time, classes may be without teachers. So, they ask for volunteers to step in."

Priya immediately joined the initiative. She continued learning German as well.

'In the morning I would attend my German classes while in the evening I taught at a school," she says.

Priya first took in around 20 students under her wing. She helped the students understand the basics of English language.

The Teach for India's website claims that about 52 per cent of class 5 students cannot read a class 2 text and about 9 lakh teacher vacancies exist across primary and upper primary schools in India.

"We had to concentrate on English literacy for slow learners," says Priya.

Here she started to use the teaching style of Prof Naren.

It was an unforgettable experience and by the end of her two-month volunteering, she requested the Teach for India to enrol her for one more year. Priya had to convince her parents to let her follow her heart to teach children. She wanted them to see the bigger picture of the impact she could make as a Teach for India Fellow.

NGO Teach For India (TFI) is part of the Teach For All network and has a presence in 209 schools in seven cities of India, including Chennai. College graduates and working professionals are recruited to serve as teachers in low-income group schools for a period of two years.

TFI was started in 2008 by a team of social activists led by Shaheen Mistri. The organisation is recruiting for the 2018-2020 fellowship program. Contact through email: [email protected]