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I Started Out Nervous, But Then Teaching Proved To Be A Life-Changing Experience For Me

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Two months ago, I had this mental satisfaction in the way things were working out. I had this feeling of immense pleasure and gratitude in completing my six months at ISDI WPP School of Communications. I reflected on the past six months and felt grateful for being a student at this prestigious institution.

And one fine day, we had our chairperson, Dr. Indu Shahani, addressing us. I was overwhelmed when she shared so many stories and experiences and asked all of us to take ownership of our careers and focus on building our profiles. I am still so thankful to Dr. Shahani for her words of wisdom. That day, she also spoke about the importance of social impact and social responsibility.

The next week, by my interest, and with the help of our faculty member Miss Arva, I chose to work with Mumbai Mobile Creches. I wanted to work on the ground and teach. Soon, I began my ‘Community Connect Journey’. MMC promotes ‘child-friendly sites’ where every child living at a construction site is safe, healthy, educated and is able to enjoy their childhood. To my mind, MMC is truly a second parent to all these kids.

On my first day, I was nervous until I reached MMC Lower Parel centre. The warm welcome of the centre coordinator and these lovely kids was overwhelming – and as I sat beside them, I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t want to ask questions and be an interviewer. I immediately recalled and realised that in past six months, the class I had enjoyed the most was by Miss Anuja. In all of her classes, there was a new discovery because she would always make all of us think that she would make learning fun – and she continues to do that.

Drawing inspiration from Miss Anuja’s classes, I took a blank sheet and asked these lovely kids to draw or write whatever they liked. I was nervous as they began, and I didn’t know how it would turn out. After 15 minutes, they started asking me, “how do we draw this?” or “how do I write?” or “how is this word spelt?” – and gradually, it turned into a discussion. As they drew the things they liked, I got an insight into their interests and the way they think. Their creativity, curiosity and their eagerness to learn were all commendable. I recorded my observations. It was a learning experience for me to know that they would be interested in something that helped them discover themselves, and in something that engaged them.

Now, that I had begun to understand these kids, I spent that entire week thinking and doing my research into how I could teach them something in eight sessions that would turn out to be very useful. It was a challenge. Initially, I thought about teaching them the basics of English grammar, which I eventually ended up teaching as a part of the larger module. However, I was also looking for something more valuable.

I contemplated, wrote my ideas and finally did a SWOT analysis on the basis of my first session. I realised that these kids already go to school and English is one of the subjects. So they would eventually end up learning it. Therefore, I reflected and went back to my class notes. I wanted them to enjoy whatever I would conduct, while also learning a message that my mentor Miss Madhu had always given me.

So, on the basis of all my learnings at ISDI WPP, I came up with a model of teaching. We had just begun with a new subject (experiential marketing), and I realised how brands engage consumers through experiences. I was so inspired that I tried to implement it in my teaching model. In my previous posts on education, I have written about this and also about the importance of incorporating skills-development with secondary education. So, I chose to come up with a model teaching plan for the eight sessions with these bright minds.

I began with reading and writing. Each session, in the first 15 minutes I would try to understand how much they knew. So I would engage them in conversations, and I was impressed with their spontaneity, intelligence and observations. I realised that they tried hard to read, and reading textbooks of their choice became an integral part of every session of mine to inculcate the habit of reading.

As I realised that the kids were enjoying the session, I moved to ‘time management’. I thought it was important for them to be organised and understand the value of time and planning. I asked them to tell me about their timetable, and we had interesting conversations about understanding their routine. Soon, by the third session, they had made timetables for themselves. I was trying to teach them to be more organised and systematic in terms of the way they wrote, which they could implement in presenting their project work at school. I would start my session with meditation and end with reflections. I developed a rapport with them.

Then, I thought of conducting an experiment while we were sitting and I was taking their feedback about the way they were implementing their plans. I suddenly asked each one of them to stand up and speak, and I didn’t expect them to be shy or nervous in front of their own friends. But I sensed that they were nervous, which could have also been the case because of me. So, I asked them to speak again and again, and they only emerged confident.

I believe communication is crucial. I conducted a reading session, and we watched speeches delivered by great leaders on YouTube, and I finally managed to make them realise the importance of communication. Gradually, I had a better understanding, and we created the best out of waste boxes of Amul milk. I taught them the concepts of responsible citizenship by making them understand how to keep their surroundings clean, inculcating the habit of reading newspapers and empowering them with knowledge and a few soft skills that I could impart in that period of time. Finally, the eight sessions came to an end, and I was so glad to see the smile on their faces. Their confidence, their unflinching determination, unshakable conviction and their eagerness to learn and grow are all commendable.

At the end of these eight sessions, I felt a sense of fulfillment at being able to provide fodder to these bright young minds, which are forever craving for more. This has been an eye-opening experience for me in understanding their lifestyle and their mindsets. I now feel enriched with this experience, and I am grateful to the ISDI WPP School of Communications for providing me with this golden opportunity to contribute and to give back to society. After all, compassion is one of our values at WPP.

For me, teaching them was exploring myself. I explored the sides of me I never knew before. I didn’t know I could teach so well or deal with kids so well. I became a better person and rich in experiences.

To Wrap Up

What I learned from these lovely kids was their creativity – their willingness to experiment with paints, colours and harness their creative juices. Their observations, their strong friendships, their boldness to try again and again, their sincerity, curiosity, tenacity and certainly, their habit to laugh more!

This has been an enriching experience, all throughout. As a student with a humanities background, I was eager to know about their lives. So I would often engage in informal conversations – and I realised these children’s parents were workers who went out to work. They worked so hard physically, but there were times their wages were delayed, or when they had to move from one site to another, failing again and again. But still, they managed to smile, laugh and enjoy every moment they spent with me.

 I recalled Arundhati Roy’s lines from her book, “The Algebra of Infinite Justice”:

“There are other worlds, other kinds of dreams. Dreams, in which failure is feasible, honourable and sometimes even worth striving for. Worlds, in which recognition is not the only barometer of brilliance or human worth. There are plenty of warriors; I know in love far more valuable than myself, who go to war each new day knowing in advance that they will fail. True, they are less successful in the most vulgar sense of the word, but by no means less fulfilled. Hence, the only dream worth having is to live when you are alive and die only when you are dead.”

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  1. Sushmita Samanta

    An inspiration for everyone out there! Really appreciate. ?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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