Daan Utsav, October 6, 2022. Virtual
On a bright Thursday noon, around ten volunteers (college students & working professionals) connected with around forty teachers in a village located miles away from their cities. They exchanged roles for the next two hours, as the volunteers shared their knowledge of English as a Secondary Language (ESL) with rural teachers who became students for the session.
Anita ji, a teacher of classes Nursery to Fifth at Spectra (an NGO working towards girl child education in Rajasthan), and my student for the session, shyly admitted that she had always been weak in the foreign language. She is MA Hindi and a busy mother, juggling as an all-subject teacher at the Spectra school for village girls.
Despite the background cacophony of a howling toddler, pressure cooker whistles and interruptions by family members at home, she actively participated throughout the two-hour long Zoom call. Each of the questions she was able to answer, each of the sentences she was able to complete, and each of the verbs she was able to locate in the crossword puzzle, rejoiced me to no end. I was filled with pride when at the end of the session, she told me how she enjoyed these hours learning from me. I wondered if this was how she would feel as a teacher too, whenever her girls would answer in her class.
Mrs. Kriti Jain was the perfect organiser for the activity. Her extensive prior experience gave novices like me, the confidence to conduct our first virtual skill-sharing activity confidently. She calmly answered all our queries and ensured smooth communication with Spectra and its teachers throughout the days – from preparation to post-event follow up. The well-thought of ppt deck for the ESL class was created by keen volunteers Kritika, Gauri, Aneesha, Vanshika and Khushi. It contained meticulously planned activities and games like Verb Search crossword, Word Association, Pictionary, Fill in the Blanks, Odd One Out etc. That wasn’t all. As a part of preparations, the volunteers connected over a mock session a few days before the event. The sincere efforts of all of them ensured that the event went on smoothly. Evidence of the same lay in the feedbacks shared by the organiser and the teachers of Spectra.
If you too want to experience the joy of sharing your language skills albeit virtually, here are top 10 pro-tips gained through our cumulative experience-
- Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. Instead of a lecture, think of it as an opportunity to connect with someone miles away, whom you would never have met otherwise. Interact, ask questions, clear doubts, acknowledge and appreciate. Have a conversation.
- Each volunteer should focus on 2-5 students. For this, Zoom breakout rooms come to aid.
- Fix a time that suits your students. Understand their limitations and be cognizant of their prior commitments. Be mindful of the time even during the session. E.g., Most rural teachers at Spectra double as homemakers. They can only spare some time after serving breakfast and before preparing lunch.
- Internet can be a bug. Most rural teachers kept disconnecting from the session. Be patient. If their screen is blurry, read aloud. If possible, ensure connectivity beforehand. Those with poor network can be made to sit alongside those with better (subject to support of the organisers from the NGO).
- Teaching adults is very different from teaching children. Spend the first few minutes in building a rapport pillared on mutual respect. E.g., Introduce yourself in simple English and then request them to follow a similar format to share basic information about themselves.
- Give it a personal touch. Share personal experiences of learning the language. E.g., In the end of session, I showed how one can also learn English by enjoying translations of famous Bollywood songs on YouTube.
- Do not be rigid with pre-set deck. Each student is different with varying difficulty levels. Try to understand their challenges and accordingly suggest solutions.
- After the session, share the presentation with your students to help them revise.
- If despite all your efforts, any of your students are not responding or unwilling to participate, do not be disappointed. Focus on the ones responding and be content in knowing the fact that you are bettering someone’s life, in however small way possible.
Author – Shreyasi Seth