Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The project in teaching that I wasn't able to do

Sharing a part of an email to a friend. TFI stands for Teach for India :
an educational NGO that I worked with in 2011-12 and where I publicly
walked out of in protest.. that's another story.

What you mentioned... " TFI classrooms to have absolute autonomy in
their curriculum, evaluation, instruction"...well well!
Long before my walkng-out, this is exactly what I had proposed to Pune
city team one month into my Fellowship when I was pulled up and
reprimanded for my poor performance. I shared with them Astra taylor's
talk on unschooled life and some other resources I'd found, and gave
them a challenge that for the next 2 units (ie, 3 months), I wanted
complete autonomy and freedom from TFI, esp the weekly testing ,
tracking regime. In exchange I offered that I won't take any salary or
reimbursements for the next 3 months. That way if I screwed up, TFI
could simply end my fellowship, say I wasn't even with them for last 3
months, and wash their hands off the case.

I challenged them that after that period they do their assessments and
see how far the kids have come. My plan (only in vague form in my head
at the time) was to let the class be, and using the free time gained
from not having to do so much deliverables after school, and the energy
gained from not having to control the classroom during school, I'd do
one-on-one or one-on-two tutoring with each kid after school hours. I'd
found that I could easily help them master an entire week's or more of
maths/english lessons in an hour when working with them alone, but this
worked only when I didn't have any other workload.

Naturally, the proposal was immediately shot down, ridiculed, with the
logical argument that I had no right to play around with the children's
futures (apparently they held the monopoly on that). My failures to
prove effectiveness in following their system so far were used to assume
I wouldn't succeed even in my own. In hindsight I think I'd have
probably failed to prove anything (because our systems used to measure
the learning of the children were themselves flawed), but I really
wanted the kids and myself to get a breather from the onslaught and
wanted to see how they can develop if allowed to talk and interact with
each other all day.

Why am I sharing this? Because I'm quite sure a LOT of teachers out
there have considered this and are too afraid to talk about it out of
fear of being ridiculed.

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