As a QShala facilitator, one signs up for a range of experiences! No two workshops, schools, students are the same. One engages with students of different levels of learning, interests, age groups an economic background.
I often reflect on the differences and similarities between the students in government and private schools. The curiosity, joy of connecting the dots and figuring out the answer are exceptional in both the environments!
We commence our first workshop with an ice breaker activity where the students are given the creative freedom to name their teams and come up with war cries.
Some of the team names at our outreach schools include – Jai Bharat, Swachh Bharat, Jai Karnataka, APJ Abdul Kalam, Kuvempu, etc. On the other hand, teams at a private school are most likely to be named after pop culture icons like Avengers, Harry Potter, Marvel, Iron Man, etc. This gives us the facilitator a peek into their world.
Each location comes with its own set of challenges and joys.
The availability of power and technical infrastructure is often taken for granted at private schools. However, it is a critical item on our checklist for successfully conducting workshops at government schools.
I have seen students read a question in Kannada in a jiffy while they grapple to read the same in English. At one of the schools, where I conduct workshops, the students decided to have a healthy competition among them in order to ensure that their classmates take the first step in enhancing their vocabulary.
They take turns to prod each other and ensure that everyone in the team gets a fair chance. These brownie points mean the world to them! They do not hesitate to jump to the rescue of their team members.
After overcoming their initial inhibitions, they have turned into voracious readers. They now begin to look for reading materials – text from the screen, the book, and any source they find around themselves. After clarifying the meaning, pronunciation and usage of difficult words with me, they explain the same to the rest of the class with a great sense of achievement!
These brief interactions highlight the importance of mother tongue or the local language for these students. And how in this fast-paced world we might be ignoring the same. It makes one appreciate the efforts of our parents, teachers and peers who helped broaden our lexicon.
The students look forward to the QShala workshop every week!
Let me now vicariously teleport you to one of our workshops! They peep out of their classroom window to ensure that they are aware of the arrival of the facilitator.
Once spotted, a small gang approaches you and offers to help carry the extra bags. While they walk along with you, they engage in casual banter exclaiming the events of their past week and asking about what that day’s workshop would be about.
Before you blink an eye, they would have allotted themselves with the tasks of setting up the projector and connecting the laptop, skills picked up by mere observation. Meanwhile, one student assumes the leadership role to ensure that the equipment is handled with the utmost care.
These workshops are humane experiences and stress busters! You are more than a facilitator to these students. They see a friend and confidant in you.
Let me elaborate!
Following my absence for two workshops, the kids flocked me and enquired about my health. And throughout the class, the students ensured that discipline was maintained, by reminding each other not to trouble me when I was sick. At the end of the workshop, the students walked out of the class along with me. They enquired my mode of transportation to the office. As I waited for my auto to arrive, they divided themselves into groups, each looking in a direction trying to locate my auto.
Meanwhile, they taught me their latest friendship gesture – a unique mix of the fist bump, handshake and other miscellaneous moves. As the auto arrived, they loaded the extra bags and bid me adieu with cheers and waves!
The auto driver couldn’t help but smile at the sweet gesture of the students. This was my brief stint at celebrityhood. I went back to office thinking this is what being a celebrity feels like! The students look up to the facilitator! This is apparent with the spark in their eyes. They take your word and implement it come what may! Their integrity and honesty are evident. They hold their classmates accountable for their actions. Every aspect of you – your body language, dressing, examples, rapport has an impact on them. This makes you realize why teaching is considered a noble profession!
All of this adulation doesn’t mean they will hesitate to question you! Brace yourself for some out of the box, innovative questions and thoughts!
How is the constitution stored in a helium chamber?
How did they separate helium from the air?
If multiple bullets go through the bulletproof jacket in the same area, can the person survive?
Me: You heard the audio clip where Akka asks Raju to complete a few tasks for Diwali. How do you think he can remember them all?
Expected answer: Make a note of it!
Actual answer: He can record her voice and refer to it later.
Me: You heard the audio clip where Akka asks Raju to complete a few tasks for Diwali. What do you think of these tasks?
Kid 1: Poor Akka has so many tasks to complete and nobody to help!
Kid 2: Raju better makes a note of them and lend a helping hand.
Our unique content, that triggers conversations, sets QShala apart from the conventional classroom set up. These students are evidence of the pedagogy that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Once, in order to grab the attention of the students, I played the trailer of Disney’s Lion King. They began recognizing the different animals and birds in the same. They cheered for Mufasa, Rafiki, Simba as they appeared on the screen with a wide grin. We had a quid pro quo deal that the video shall be replayed at the end of the workshop if they promised to be on their best behaviour. I must admit, it was a successful deal.
Irrespective of the school, the students will surprise you with their diligence, smart and wacky answers! And one is bound to step out of a QShala classroom with a sense of satisfaction that cannot be expressed in terms of words!
Vaishnavi Rao is a Senior Engagement Associate with QShala.
QShala works with children across all ages to help them acquire a mindset of lifelong learning. Children have an innate curiosity that is slowly lost as they fall into habits of rote learning and use exam performance as an indicator of progress. We hope to stem this and keep the spirit of curiosity and lifelong learning alive.