Volunteer Speak

posted Feb 10, 2011, 8:10 AM by Ashish Batra

Sumedha Venkatesh
teaches English grammar and Communication skills to 7th standard students at Govt. primary School, Dairy Colony. She's an Engineering graduate in Electronics & Communication from Bangalore Institute of Technology (BIT) and has also completed her MBA in 2009. She started her career with a start-up firm named Strata Retail and Technology Services Pvt. Ltd. Currently she is working with Hewlett Packard (HP) Enterprise Business. Her hobbies include listening to music, hanging out with friends, some amount of craft work including embroidery. 

Sumedha has been with Aashayein from the past three years and she has demonstrated regularity and a very high level of commitment in activities at Govt. primary School, Dairy Colony. She has been instrumental in the success of SA activities in Dairy circle school.

 Aashayein Foundation's Interview with Sumedha.


AF:             How did you get into teaching at Govt. primary School, Dairy Colony?

Sumedha:    I was introduced to Aashayein Foundation team way back in 2007 by a friend who worked for IBM then. I started participating in the Sunday Breakfast program and I used to visit the orphanages often and help in serving breakfast and used to spend some time with the children. In between, I got really busy with my Post graduation and was not very active as an Aashayein volunteer. In 2009 I found out more about the Sikshana Abhiyana (SA) program of Aashayein and I thought it was a little more contributing from my end. So I got in touch with a volunteer from Dairy colony school and started coming on Saturdays to school. The feeling of teaching the kids in school was satisfying in a very nice way and I wanted to continue which is how I decided to get regular with the SA activities.

 AF:            What motivates you to wake up early every Saturday and come for classes?

Sumedha:   Well, honestly speaking, it is not easy to wake up on a Saturday morning and run to the class. But then I think the fact that pushes me is the will in me of doing something good and contributing in as small a way I can. Also a big role is played by the children in motivating me. I am sort of attached to the children and when they tend to ask if I am coming the following week, I cannot help saying a Yes. The children tend to amaze you with their sweet gestures like giving a small gift for New Year (I got a very sweet key chain J) I think their enthusiasm also is a great inspiration.

 AF:            How did you handle students of varying levels of know-how?

Sumedha:   Yes, this is a major issue and it is not easy to handle kids with different levels of understanding. In my class there are a set of 3-4 kids whose level of know-how is relatively lesser than the others. I think this is where having more than one volunteer in one class really helps. When one volunteer is busy doing the lesson as per the plan, the second volunteer can go around and have a look at what the kids are really doing. While doing so, I tend to give more attention to these kids. For ex. When I do a round of dictation, I try and make these kids come and write the spelling on the board, while the other volunteer is keeping the class busy with some reading activity. I sometimes tell some of these kids to write the spelling 5 times and come for the next class and I usually try to do a revision in the next class. It is difficult to assume that everyone is on the same plane, but it really helps if there are at least two volunteers in each class.

 AF:            Do you think knowing local language is must to take classes?

Sumedha:   I won’t say knowing a local language is a must but I will definitely say that it really helps to know the local language. Even though one is conversing in English, there will be times when you want to tell the children the meaning of certain words and that is when knowing the local language really helps. I belong to Bangalore and I can converse in Kannada and I would agree to the fact that it has worked to my advantage. I think in a class of two volunteers, it would always help to have at least one volunteer who is comfortable with the local language. It also helps in bringing some control in the classroom which I think could be a hassle otherwise.

 AF:            How do you plan your Classes?

Sumedha:   I usually try to cover the grammar/exercise part of the chapters that are present in their English text book. But apart from this, I also sometimes choose a theme for one particular class, say for ex. Astronomy or Geography and I teach them names of countries, cities, continents, oceans (in case of geography) and what they are called in English (since they study these subjects in the local language, they sometimes don’t even know what these words mean). I usually plan it out a day before the class. I concentrate more on improving their vocabulary and try and tell them how and where they can use the new words they have learnt. The new words either could be from their chapters in the text book or from my planned theme.

 AF:            Were you able to see considerable improvement in the class after this exercise?

Sumedha:   In terms of improvement, I would say that the children do not learn everything that I have taught them in one go, so when I do revision I realize that a couple of repetitions is required. But I also noticed that once a thing was repeated in a couple of classes, the children tend to learn it faster. For ex. They were able to introduce themselves in English after I taught them how to do it a couple of times. So there is an improvement for sure, but it is a slow one. We are planning to do an internal test (exam) for the children in our school and I am hoping that will give us some good results.

 AF:            What will you suggest to new Volunteers who want to teach?

Sumedha:   I would just say that it might not be easy to teach the kids initially and they might not see any improvement in a short duration, but they should not lose motivation. Over a certain period of time, say a few months, the kids start showing signs of new learning and trust me, it feels really good to know that you are helping in their increasing their learning. One could also use the mantra of revising what was done in the previous class as it always helps in improving the grasping power if things are repeated more than once. It does work. So I would just conclude by saying that one should just try a little harder in the beginning and it definitely gets better as you keep continuing. One should try and invest that amount of time and it can work wonders!