Murali, another volunteer introduced through the YFS volunteer network, has been with YFS since 2009, teaching English and Mathematics at Vivekananda School. He began with 5th standard students and as the number of volunteers increased, he started to work with 6th standard students. Apart from teaching, Murali used to conduct intra-school storytelling and drawing competition for the students. At Chiguru 2011, he was in-charge for the bunch of kids from Vivekananda School, traveling with them and ensuring that they did not miss events or lose themselves at the venue. It proved to be quite challenging as there were no teachers with the children and he had to manage twenty children across competitions over the entire day and return them to the school on time. “We had to return early as I had to drop the children at the school by 4.30 PM and some of the prizes were distributed at the school later”.
Murali, working with Oracle, used to volunteer about an hour every Saturday morning. He had always considered teaching at some point in future but YFS volunteering provided him an early opportunity to hone his teaching skills while making a difference to the kids at Vivekananda. At that point in time, he was not aware of a formal training structure for volunteers and he plunged headlong into teaching, learning with experience. “Interacting with children is very refreshing and satisfying, it can wash away all accumulated stress”, says Murali. He adds that the teaching stint has increased his patience, enhanced his ability to listen, negotiate and taught him to make subtle changes to capture the attention of his audience.
As the teachers at the school had a limited mandate, they encouraged the volunteers to go beyond their scope and even helped plan the teaching structure. Like any class, there were various types of students – a few motivated kids who understood Murali was trying to help them, some mischievous and some indifferent. On the whole, Murali found that they enjoyed learning and he is happy that he managed, through encouragement, coaxing and occasional disciplining, to establish an enjoyable rapport with most of them and bring about a slight shift in the thinking from rote learning to application. He says, “After I shifted from teaching Kannada medium to English medium students, I felt touched and encouraged when my old students missed me and wanted me back to teach them”.
Though the Vivekananda School had good facilities compared to a few other government schools, Murali felt that the teachers were not focused on making the kids learn. “The teachers were more worried about completing the prescribed syllabus. Also, students were promoted in spite of poor marks leading to a casual attitude towards learning.” He was also slightly disappointed at the absence of a formal structure to track the progress of his students.
Though his work commitments had forced Murali to take a break, he is back and looking forward to a fresh challenge and beginning, with the Government High school at Kanakpura road. With no volunteers, Murali feels this school needs him more and he is ready to play a significant role.