In Conversation with Parnika Bhatia, on her experience of being a Teach...

In Conversation with Parnika Bhatia, on her experience of being a Teach for India Fellow.

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Q. Tell us about yourself!

I am a 2015 fellow at Teach for India, Delhi. I graduated from University of Delhi in BSc Life Science, post which I pursued my Master’s In Biotechnology from University of Pune. Thereafter, I did a brief stint of about one year as a research fellow and published 2 research articles. During my research I realized how much I wanted to pursue research which had direct impact on social problems existing in the society. I tried to find students from lower income backgrounds so as to provide them with guidance and support. On learning how some of these kids were already paying for what I wanted to do of free will disturbed me. I realized the ease with which I could pursue my PhD. was in in contrast to how some children were trying to complete their basic education. Some who had dropped school and some who never got the opportunity. It was this, along with varied registration problems at work that made me apply to Teach for India.

Q. Tell us about your experience as a Teach for India fellow?

As a fellow, I thought I would be teaching a lot more and helping kids from under resourced backgrounds. However, in no time I realized it was quite the opposite. It was me who was learning from these kids. During TFI we go through intense training in providing the best to our kids as well as understanding our own areas of development and trying to adapt a growth mindset. I have become more self aware and constantly try to evolve my myself with my kids. There are times when I fail as a teacher but never as a learner. As an organisation we share our highs and lows, this makes us more stronger towards our collective vision. I have learnt a lot here and am positive will continue to do so.

Q. Describe one day as a TFI Fellow?

My day starts at 6:30am. The mornings are usually about quick breakfasts and last minute packing the backpack for school (Yes, we do need to check for hand sanitizer, water bottle and speakers – a must in every TFI fellows bag). I reach around 7:45 as my school starts at 8 am. Till 3 pm we are occupied with our classes and personal conversations with our kids. You would hear attention grabbers if you ever pass a TFI classroom. Our school team is awesome and hence we do get those 20 minutes of break to talk which is more about discussing our kids and classes and failed lesson plans. At the end of the day, the kids reflect on their day and write their personal diaries.
My day usually ends with an extra class either for new students or student led lesson planning and teaching for previous students. I grab a quick lunch and then head to Teach for India office for training sessions or learning circles depending what is there on my calendar. The meetings usually finish around 7:30 – 8:00 pm. Sometimes we head for dinner and seek advice and support from our fellow friends on classroom issues and sometimes we head back home. At home I plan for the next day using Long Term Plans and Teach For India guide plans. My day ends with a half an hour read either from a research article or a book.

Q. From the various opportunities in the education field, why particularly TFI?

When I was applying in various fellowships and searching for opportunities Teach for India’s vision and mission was the one which resonated the most to me. The freedom to work in my classroom and the support provided by TFI was the work culture I was looking for. At TFI we are never told what our classroom culture should be like or what methods of teaching should we use. The purpose matters, not the process. Its this culture which makes me love my work.

Q. How did being a TFI fellow help you till now and why would you recommend that?

I think the only reason I would like to recommend TFI to anyone would be the experience. I won’t boast or exaggerate when I say that its really an experience worth trying. It changes a lot in you. That is only if you want to make that change happen.

Q.What qualities do you think a person should have to work for an organization such as Teach For India?

At Teach for India, we fellows appreciate the fact that each individual has different set of skills and qualities and we can learn to work around them or imbibe them. The diversity helps us in understanding the different landscapes we work in.
As far as work is concerned I guess there is not one particular quality I would recommend, but yes, commitment to our vision and mission is a common quality among all my friends and colleagues here at TFI. We feel deeply for the things we do with our kids and that is what makes us passionate about our work. So I guess the answer to this would be commitment.

Q. What do you think is the best part of teaching and what are the not-so-good parts?

The best part about teaching is when your kids come up with answers even you have not thought about. That moment is when you feel that all those night hours you spent on planning a lesson were worth the effort. There are times when my lesson plans are not delivered efficiently or when my day in general goes haywire but there is never a ‘not-so-good’ part about teaching. We have a constant support in our school team and there is never a dull moment.

Q. In your opinion what is the best and worst that comes out of the experience at Teach for India?

The best is the certainty of your impact on someones life and your own life whereas the obscurity of what lies ahead whether you will ever get a work environment like TFI or not is I guess the not so best part.

Q. How does the Teach For India experience change a person?

The experience changes us in a lot of ways. One of the main areas of focus is leadership development in the fellows. Our managers strive hard to make us reflect on our experiences and grow as an individual. We have a strand of personal transformation which we work towards consistently. For me I would say I am more aware about who am I and my purpose, for now.

Q. What are your plans after TFI?

I want to learn more about the range of learning outcomes and understand how content,pedagogy can help in ameliorating education conditions in students coming from under resourced backgrounds. . Why some students are good at mathematics whereas others develop a fear of it, why some students tend to develop reading early whereas struggle with phonics even till late stages, why there is a vast difference in learning outcomes from students coming from same backgrounds, how skill development can play a role in alleviating living conditions and how the socioeconomic status plays a role in the development of a student. These are some of the questions I wish to pursue in my further studies as a doctoral student.

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