Changemakers: How a novice educator is taking The Lede in inspiring low income students to learn again

29 Mar

By Rayana Kalra

Dedicated and supportive teachers have shaped my life. Now its my turn to spark that creativity in others.

BrainGain Magazine Changemakers

From my 4th grade English teacher, Mr. Ahuja who converted an apathetic pre-teen into a budding writer, to my 11th grade IB HL Drama teacher who has taught me to use my emotions to make the change I desire in the world- my personal development has been impacted most significantly by educators.

In 2018, I began volunteering at the Guru Nanak Garib Niwaj Education Society, New Delhi. Here, every Sunday I would notice Akansha, one of the many students cramped in a classroom with, unfortunately, no teacher. I would also notice Nalin next door, falling asleep in class rather than engaging with the writing lesson happening just five feet in front of him. I would also notice Priya Ma’am, burdened with administrative work just to make sure the organization had the funds to continue working with the low-income students of Zamrudpur the following month- bureaucracy often took over the ability to innovate in the classroom.

When we see such situations arise, the easy approach is to blame teachers and the administration. I am fortunate to attend The British School, where my teachers manage to teach us with the most creative pedagogy, supervise the school ed board, and still complete all necessary administrative work before the end of the work day. However, in most other schools, the conditions, constituency, and context are all very different. The education system, especially in India, is incredibly diverse, complex, and unfortunately unequal.

As I continued to work at the Guru Nanak Garib Niwaj Education Society, I quickly realised that none of the teachers there had dedicated their lives to education to let the classrooms be empty- void of their physical presence and creativity. However, a lack of resources, time, and over- population led Aksansha and Nalin to be uninspired, and not benefit from the same opportunities that I had and continue to have today. I knew I couldn’t fix the problem—it was far greater than me—but I could do my bit, and I wanted to help shape the lives of as many students as I could.

BrainGain Magazine Changemakers

Writing has always been my source of inspiration and outlet of creativity. So, I began working closely with the English teacher to develop a series of workshops dedicated to creative writing and expression. I worked tirelessly to build a curriculum that would suit the learning levels of students in the 6th and 7th grade classrooms, drawing inspiration from my past classes, those around me, and a plethora of academic texts, particularly a book by John Holt, How Children Fail.

Developing and teaching these workshops has been a crash course in education for me. I’ve witnessed – first hand – many of the challenges I had heard about from Priya Ma’am, other teachers at the organization, and read about in Holt’s seminal text. As a novice educator, I was afflicted with some of them myself. While I neither have nor believe that a golden bullet solution exists, I do think that each and everyone one of us have the power to impact the lives of those around us in some positive way—that we can all be educators. I hope, through The Lede, a publication which aims to reflect the big and the small stories of teenagers from low-income communities, I can inspire students from all corners of the country, giving them a voice and the opportunity to express themselves, the same way my teachers always have.


If you liked this article, check out:
Changemakers: Taking an idea and making it real with kick it
Changemakers: Rethinking sex education in India with Reproductown
Changemakers: how one teen’s love for reading is starting a literary movement in Delhi


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