Losing can often teach you what winning can’t.

First things first, profuse apologies for not updating the blog often enough, and for the 2-month long lull, there was just too much work to do in class!

Mid Years came up, and then there was the Diwali break, there was work in the Government Relations committee that I am now part of, our boys played their first football match (and won), they just played their second match today (and lost) and well, there’s been the usual classroom learning + ‘dhamal’ (as the boys now call math – no I’m just kidding)

Anyway, just a short update on the football team. I posted the video of the boys winning their last match here, I did take my camera to the game today, but we ran out of battery.

= (

I can however tell you about the game and promise you a video and a photo album post the next game and so now that I know that all my sins are pardoned, I can proceed to the match report.

The Malwani Tigers played a senior team – students from Kim’s class (Teach For India fellow, 2011) and lost the game 3-1. The opposing team scored first and ended the first half leading 1-0, but the boys came back (I’d like to think my aggressive pep talk during half time played an important role) but then we completely lost the plot and let in 2 goals that we really shouldn’t have. One was an own goal by Imran (poor fellow you should’ve seen his face after the match) and Tahir let one go in between his legs (but he swore on the Math Common core that he wont let that happen again). By the end of the second half, I was thankful I had forgotten to charge my battery the previous night.

But the bright side is that very often losing teaches you more than winning does. I think reflections after a loss are always more honest and harsh, and there’s an urge to win the next match as opposed to overconfidence regarding the same. We had a long discussion after the match on what went right and what went wrong, and they were completely honest about the other team outplaying them in certain departments and looked forward to the next practice to work on that. We’re also moving a few positions here and there, changing our strategy (we’re now going in with a 2-2-1, as opposed to a 2-1-2) we decided we will work on simple set pieces for the next match (our corner kicks were horrible, we never looked like scoring from our free kicks either) so in spite of the loss, I’m happy because I’d like to think we’ve come out a better team than we would’ve had we won. I was also extremely proud of the way the boys handled the defeat, they went ahead after the final whistle to shake hands with everyone of the other team, even paying a compliment here and there. Kudos to Kim’s team though, they totally outplayed us, but as Shahid eloquently (and pompously) says, ‘We’ll practice hard to come back someday to play the same team, in the same ground only to change the result of the game.’ Clearly, they know how to pick themselves up; there’s also clearly no lack of heroic dialoge-baazi – sometimes I think my time would be better spent in a theatre class with them, but thats a different story altogether.

More interestingly, my girls also played their first match today! Less interestingly, they also lost.

Honestly, the girls got thrashed, there’s no euphemistic way to put the defeat across.

But, they had a ball playing football = )

It was absolutely great to see them on the field playing , sweating it out, running around in the heat of the sun yelling at their teammates asking for passes urging each other on (I promise pictures AND a video the next time to make up for the lack of both this time around) trying to pass and kick and try to score (they did score a goal btw, and a good one at that and we’ll completely ignore that the other team scored 4 more) but like I said it was just great to see them go out there and play their first match ever.

They were more disappointed after the match – the girls actually really took it to heart and cried and wailed and pulled at each others hair (no I’m just kidding), and we had to calm them down, but I really hope they win their next match, because with the way things went, the auto back after the next match will have 2 people less.

That’s all for now, here’s to more updates, more luck, maybe even a loss more, I know the teams have come out a much better and closer team having lost today, than they probably did after the victory of the first match.

Also in case you were wondering, class is going great, the kids have their Unit test coming up this week before they break for Christmas, can’t wait for them to come back in Jan for a killer killer Unit.

More stories to follow = )

Malwni Tigers win their first match!

Long time, no post, but hopefully this one’s worth the wait : )

Following up on the last post where I spoke about I started football with my kids in the mornings at 7am, this one’s a match report on their first match of the Just For Kicks season!

Us Malwani Tigers, went over to MHB to play our first match away from home. We had a fantastic first half where super – sub Shahid scored 2 fantastic goals ( one of which is on video below! ). But MHB trailing 2 – 0 after the first half, began the second half strongly, scoring a super goal from just outside the D. But the Malwani Tigers held on to finish the match leading 2 – 1, and as deserving winners.

As promised, Malwani Tigers will be thrown a big party at home, photo’s and video’s from the party to follow! Kids were thrilled to bits, went and told every kid in school and so me andmy co teacher Mary had random people come and congratulate us the whole day!

Thank you Swapneel Rane for the footage and the support : D

C’monnn Malwaniiiiiiiiii yeahhhhhhhhh : D #whataday

Thank you football, for the difference you make : )

I was pretty shocked about a week into the fellowship, when I realized that most of the kids in class, had never played or experienced any form of organized sport ever.

The school that I teach in doesn’t have a ground or a courtyard for the kids to play or run in, and so sports was hardly ever spoken about in school. The community had a ground on the other side, but the kids I realized, have crazily busy schedules throughout the day. In between learning the Quran in the morning, attending school in the afternoon, to tuitions/ extra classes/scholarship classes in the evening, most of them hardly have time to finish their homework, leave alone dedicate time to pursuing a sport/non-academic activity of their choice.

And this obviously this wasn’t right and something had to be done about it, because sure, while growing up I learnt a lot in class, but I really think that some of my better and worthwhile lessons were taught to me on the playing field, and the kids couldn’t be deprived of that.

Also and as importantly, when I look back at school, some of my most cherished childhood moments are memories I have outside class, of playing cricket or football with friends, because honestly, the thrill of scoring a goal or the adrenaline rush after winning a race is unparalleled, something you cannot replicate as hard as you try within the four walls of your class.

And so, I went to the nearby BMC ground, asked for permission to play football there and decided to start coaching my kids thrice a week, from 7 am to 9am, for a footabll tournament called Just For kKcks, in Mumbai.

And I can tell you, that that is by far the best decision I’ve ever taken in my entire life.

Sameer – one of my lower order English kids, who joined school only this year had been feeling extremely out of place as a new student, because the rest of the kids have been together for 3 years. It has been affecting his school experience I know, and even more so, because the other kids are at reading levels much higher than his. As a result of it, he doesn’t have too many friends, he’s always quiet and reserved, and he usually keeps to himself in my class.

To watch him play defense with Imran and Furkan the way they did yesterday, to see the three of them call out to each other during the game, hi5 each other after the game, and to then watch them walk back home arm in arm, intently discussing the game is something I can’t thank football enough for.

To watch Mudassir, who loves to keep the ball with himself (very reflective of his attitude in class) pass to Hafizul right in front of the charging Tahir (the goalkeeper), to leave him a open goal to tap the ball into, is another sight I wont be forgetting soon.

To watch Ahmed run like the wind with the ball, to watch the celebration that follows every goal, Rakeeb’s never give up attitude (the guy will run after you even after getting tacked a hundred times), Wadood practicing how to take a proper shot over and over and over again, are everyday scenarios that make waking up at 6.30 in the morning totally worthwhile. It’s like seeing your childhood memories unfold in front of you again, only this time, your watching from the other side, and honestly it feels just as good if not better.

The funny side to all of this, is that I’ve realized that the secret to being a good coach lies in doing exactly the opposite of what you do in class.

I would never for all the gold in the world, let Shahid and Mujtaba sit together during Math class, because together, they’d completely wreck havoc in class. All I had to do was to let them play upfront together for one match, to see them wreck the same havoc on the football field and boy, what a match that was.

From the first day when the kids just wanted to kick the ball  – direction, team, goal notwithstanding, to playing a game, where they’re actually scoring goals off corner kicks, they’ve come a long way.

But more importantly, they’re just happier now, you can see it in their faces, it means so much to them, to be able to come together as a team, and channelize all the anger, the frustration from home, and I daresay that that makes them better players than their richer counterparts in other schools.

And I can’t wait to take them to other places, to play against other teams and see for myself.

I cant wait for them to score their first goal for school, I cant wait to watch the celebrations after, I cannot wait for them to lose their first game, come back dejected and then go back as a team and win the next one; there’s so much to do, there’s so much to learn and look forward to, this coming year, and what a year it has already been.

Thank you football, I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done to my life 🙂

Video

4B shows you how to dance with abandon!

The kids of late, had expressed a lot of interest in dancing.

Considering a pumpkin would do a better job of dancing than I would, Mary decided to get a volunteer to come over to our class to teach the kids some moves.

The volunteer was also to pick 5 kids to enroll in a dance workshop that is held weekly at Bandra, so this was basically a dance face off to get selected and be a part of the prestigious 4B dance team. Some part are hilarious : D

Your good deed for the day?

Hey,

I teach Grade 4, in Malad – Malwani, one of the many sprawling suburbs in Mumbai and the second largest slum in Asia.

My kids come from difficult backgrounds, but they are extremely hard working. But as much as I try to make a difference, I realize that I sincerely need more resources, to bring about enough change. We’re extremely low on resources and we need help with classroom supplies, books, field trips and much more.

I have briefly explained the plans that I have for class, and the things that I want to do with my children on the page, which is my Give India page for the class.

Absolutely any small contribution you make would go a long way in helping these kids. We’re in dire need of money, but with your help, we will one day to compete with children in high income schools, maybe even win.
This is my blog where you can read about the work I do and my experiences with my children.

Please help me spread the word and share the link, it would go a long way in helping the kids.

Feel free to reach out to me at adithya.narayanan2012@teachforindia.org for any queries you have.

Thank you so much for helping me out : )

http://www.giveindia.org/iGive-AdithyaTFI

– Adithya

Just another week gone by

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The past week was pretty easy on the mind; nothing extra – ordinary or striking reflective took place in 4b, Elia Sarwat, so this blog post unlike most (okay ALL) others, is simply a narrative of the week gone by.

(Although I’ll admit that I’m really confused about whether a quiet week is something to celebrate, or feel bad about here at TFI)

Eid !

Spending Eid with the kids was a fantastic way to start the week though; more than anything else, it really changed my perceptions of the backgrounds they grow up in. I had recently written an article for our communication/recruitment team on how our children come from very deprived backgrounds where their parents in making ends ends, have no time for their kids. While I was partially right in assuming that they don’t get ‘quality time’ with their parents quite the way we did, I realized that in the midst of all this hitting and getting beaten up at home, their parents love them to death, they just have very different ways of showing it

Super Saturdayy

Okay so Saturdays, or ‘Super Saturdays’ as we call them are a lot of fun because they are usually non – academic. It is on Saturday that we bring someone over to talk to the kids, or hold extra – curricular workshops for them. This Saturday I went into class with a small mono-acts that I had prepared,  and (hopefully) got them excited about theatre and acting. I worked with them on acting, improvisation and expressions this week, and I wish I had a video of the kids acting their parts out; some of them were exceptionally, exceptionally good. I’m really hoping this leads to a strong active theatre club (hopefully as good or better than the one we had in college), where we begin to produce and direct our own little plays/street plays and find performance places around in Bombay, sometime later this year. Pretty excited : )

Football ! (hopefully)

Football practice should start this week (or the next, but yai yai) Monis told me there was a ground nearby and got me really excited last Thursday, but the ‘ground’ looks suspiciously like a garbage dump that has recently been cleared. I’ll make peace and make do with what I have though, mostly because I’m super excited about channelizing all the frustration and energy they bring into class, to something productive and hopefully inspiring on field by the end of the year for the kids.

(Just for Kicks, are you listening yet?)

Anyway, that’s about it for this week, the classes were slow and went according to plan (although we did have to teach two digit multiplication thrice and I hate teaching the kids the life and times of Sant Namdeo). We narrowed down on two projects that we could possibly implement as part of Design For Change  – doing something for sick people in government hospitals and/or do something about the littering in and around school,  I’m eager to see how future debates around these topics unfold.

Hopefully the next week will be as quiet and smooth and slow and non-reflective (or not, I’m clearly confused).

Can’t leave you without sharing one of the priceless notes I got this week (these notes are testimony to the fact that no week can really be too uneventful, at Elia Sarwat)

This is Rafiq expressing his love for me because I am a chashmish and because I can’t see and because my eyes get hot pot lot.

Until next time then : )

Being lesser human

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Design For Change

Last week, Mary and me introduced a project called Design for Change (DFC) in our class.

DFC is a global project across 25 countries that aims at giving young children the opportunity to express their own ideas of change, as they wish to see it the communities that they live in.

The children typically identify a problem in the community, discuss it in class and then design a project to help solve the problem. They then go out and implement the project as designed in the community, and bring about the change they wish to see.

Mary and me were slightly apprehensive about how the kids would react to the project and how we were going to take this forward. This was because as much as I was in love with the idea of the project, I didn’t know what problems the kids would identify, and whether they would find practical ways of solving the problems that they pointed out.

It also really intrigued me to see how my children would react to the whole idea. I wanted to know whether my kids cared enough to identify problems that they would want to change in the community and whether this opportunity of bringing about change would get them excited.

At the end of the forty five minute discussion, I went back home with more questions that I had imagined could come out of a discussion. My head was bursting with thoughts and questions about the different things that the children had pointed out, and how they had perceived these problems that they spoke about.  And all of this eventually led to an extremely telling conclusion about children, and their perception of the world, that makes me now look at the world now in slightly different light.

Problems and Problems

Mary and me introduced the project to the class on Friday and gave examples of change that we ourselves wished to see in the community, before throwing it open to the class. At the outset, I had divided the board into 2,  and while the left side had ‘problems’ written on it, the right side had ‘solutions’ written on it.

Ten minutes into class, the left side was filled with problems, while the right side was left completely blank. As the class began to participate more and more, and as I began to get the drift of the problems and solutions that were being discussed, I rubbed off the ‘solutions’ on the board, and continued with writing the problems down instead.

It wasn’t that the children were not giving us solutions to the problems they were throwing up.  It was just that their solutions were too impractical, too innocent and too utopian to implement.

Of innocence and ignorance, again

For instance, one of the problems that the children kept bringing up was about how they felt strongly about the beggars on the street outside the community, and about how we should do something to help them. While talking about how we could help the beggars, Samina stood up and said, ‘ Bhaiyya, I have a good idea. We should call all the newspapers and tell them that there are beggars outside our community who don’t have any food and clothes. They will write an article, and so many people in Mumbai will come to know about these people, and so they will all come and help us.’

Soheil who throughout class was extremely bothered about the fact that the beggars didn’t have houses to live in and sleep on the footpath everyday, offered, ‘Bhaiyya my idea is that we all get money for Eid. We should tell everybody in Mumbai that you give us Eid money and we will build houses for beggars. We can also take some beggars home and keep them in our house and give them work’

I was standing in class through all of this, realizing that this was exactly my biggest fear after the first week in school. On the post that I wrote that Sunday, I had spoken about how I was concerned about the fact that the innocence that I saw in my children was directly and unfortunately related to their ignorance of the world, and how it functions and that how I was scared that would come down to me, to introduce them to the ugly realities of the world.

The bitter truth

The next day, I tried to explain to Samina, that as endearing an idea as her was, we would have to cut it down because the Times of India was not going to report on beggars outside Malwani, because the harsh truth is that had more important things to report about. She obviously didn’t get it because failed to understand how reporting on sports and celebrities was more important than people dying on the streets.

And I had to tell her that right or wrong, that was the unfortunate truth about how the world works, that people would rather read about page 3 than about beggars and homeless people. And that even if Times of India did carry the report, no one was going to do anything about it, because really you don’t need a newspaper article to tell you about beggars in Bombay.

And this is exactly what I had to do in class with Soheil, Famida, Twinkle, Zaidaan and everybody else who came up with solutions for these problems. And they didn’t get it. And I realized that their only mistake was that they took for granted that everyone else in the world cared as much about the beggars, sick people and injured stray dogs as much as they did.

Becoming lesser human

It’s a horrible feeling to break their bubble and tell them, and make them understand that no one really cares about the beggars on the streets. That people actually lead lives that are self centered, and immune to beggars and injured stray dogs, and that newspaper articles are not making the world a better place. How do you say all this, and then expect to not destroy their faith in humanity? Or the way in which a newspaper, or simply the world works?

In fact more than that, what really really bothers me now, as I look back at my childhood and is that I was myself more sensitive to people in pain and suffering as a kid that I am now. I felt way more strongly about helping people, and maybe so did you in Grade 4. It was harder to ignore people in pain and suffering when you were young. and somewhere we’ve all just grow up to become less caring, more self centered and really just lesser human beings.

How do I as a teacher, make sure that 10 years later, Soheil feels as strongly about helping beggars who have no money and food, and Famida feels as strongly about treating street dogs? That Samina doesn’t become shallow enough herself to one day pick up the newspaper and read about someone’s new boyfriend while driving to work dismissing the very beggars that she wants to do so much for?

Where did we all go simultaneously wrong really to end up where we are, from where we were?

The class at the end of it, had very strongly reminded me on how we were as kids, and how we all just lost our humanity somewhere along the line.

Its hardly been a month with these kids, and I have 2 more years with them; I don’t know how much more uncomfortable they are going to make me feel about who I am, and how much more perspective they are going to give me about things and how they should be.

The silver lining is that at least we kicked Design for Change of in our class. Next week we should decide on a particular issue that we all feel strongly about as a class, and maybe something good will come out of all of this.