Anam Palla is a 2011 Alumna and currently works on the Teach For Pakistan team with 2012 and 2013 Fellows as their Academic Coordinator. Anam taught Math and Science to classes 6, 7 and 8 girls in Akhtar Colony, Karachi.
When I first entered their classroom I was shocked and astonished – the reality of the achievement gap hit me when I saw these third graders struggling with the first word that was written on the paper. “Do as much as you can,” I said as they started blankly. They could not read at all!
Sitting in our offices comfortably, we sometimes forget what the education emergency means for our students, communities and eventually our country. These classroom experiences not only humble us, but also ground our work in reality and make us more outcome-focused.
Today, I got an opportunity to see for myself the literacy program 2013 Fellows Asif Hassan and Salman Rajani have since initiated with their 3rd and 4th graders. The class was buzzing with excitement as each student was eagerly repeating after their teacher how to combine the sounds of ‘ra’ and ‘o’ and writing in their individual Jugnoo [a basic Urdu and English literacy program] books that were provided to them by Asif and Salman. Asif led the class while Salman went to students to help with individual queries.
As much as these students enjoy learning, they also love making noise and distracting others. One minute of ‘nothing to do’ and the students go ‘Hallelujah’! Handling them with their various antics, like the 5-4-3-2-1 count, is definitely not an easy task, especially after a hectic day of teaching rigorous academic content. Hats off to these guys for doing this with so much energy, day in and day out!
What I enjoyed most was that each student was eager to complete their work and get maximum points from their teacher. Asif checked and marked the work of each student. Only after that they could leave. Both Salman and Asif then worked with the struggling students until they understood and completed their work.
This one hour was the best hour of my day because it left me inspired and re-oriented me towards the work that we at Teach For Pakistan do.
I wanted to share a couple of quick learnings from today for all teachers:
- Never ever give up on your students. The most struggling students today could be high achievers six months from now.
- Play on your strengths and on each other’s strengths when working as a team. Some of us are better with projecting our voice and others can be stronger in one-on-one interactions. Some of us are great planners, while others execute more smoothly. All skills are needed and essential. Leveraging our strengths makes our weaknesses irrelevant.
- There always is a way to work things out. It is not about working more, but working differently!