Last night, we held the second class with our newest students at Ek Koshish. The children came eagerly to class, excited to learn new material, as they had been out of school all summer up until now. With Arun, we got to work on learning all of his capital letters in cursive, as he had advanced up to this level. He was having trouble with capital G, but we taught him the correct way. Interestingly enough, the cursive script we use in India is quite different from the cursive script we are taught in the US, especially when it comes to capital letters: so, I too learned how to write the cursive letters in English when in India! Arun has mastered the first half of the alphabet in cursive, and he knows all of the letters in printed form as well. Poonam, the youngest of the children, is surprisingly advanced, compared to her older brother and sister, as she knows the whole alphabet, and knew how to add and subtract small numbers. Priya was very good in her addition and subtraction practice with us, so we gave her some more advanced practice with adding and subtracting: Soon we can teach her how to carry over numbers when adding. When I spent time with Nancy, she showed great progress with her counting numbers, on her own, up to twenty, and recognizing their corresponding symbols by heart. Badal, up until yesterday, could not draw any number besides “1,” but yesterday the director from Ek Koshish sat with him and helped him to be able to write the number “2” on his own! He drew the number several times for practice, and we hope that he can move on to more numbers in the coming lessons. Finally, Vicky is still having a hard time recognizing that letters aren’t numbers, but he has been practicing writing the capital letters “A” and “B” quite well, and can write the numbers “1-4” like a natural now. I am very proud of our bright young students, who are desperate to escape from the life of poverty they currently lead.
In our last lesson with our students from Ek Koshish, we accomplished a lot with our students who were interested in learning. I spent a lot of time with Vicky, making sure he understood the differences between the numbers 1, 2, and 3, which he was able to write well. He was very confused that each different symbol had a different name, because at first he would say that each of the symbols were simply the number 1. By the end of the lesson though, he understood it, but he will need to practice it a lot, because he has to take a lot of time to process the information and remember which symbol stood for which number. I also spent a lot of time with him on the letter A (capital). He can also write this one well, having learned how to properly hold a pencil, but he still thinks that the letter is one of the numbers. We do explain it to him every time, and he starts to understand; however, after ten minutes without persistently asking him, he quickly forgets and thinks that it is also a number. He is very bright though, and he honestly does try his very best, it will just take some time for the information to sink in. Otherwise, he is very attentive, never gives up, and walks into class with the biggest smile of all of the children!
Badal, on the other hand, does try a little, but I believe he is simply too young to pay too much attention to our classes, since he is about only three years old. He has learned how to count to seven in English now, and he has understood some common English parts of the body, so he is capable of learning, but we have to move at a slower pace with him. He is too young to properly use a pencil as well, so we will continue with chalk and oral exercises. Ajay though, is a very difficult child with whom to work: There is a word for his character in Hindi, which I have come to learn. He is not just stubborn, but “Akru” (the Hindi word for “obstinate”). He comes with the intent to have fun, and never try to work. Then, when we give the children treats, he is unwilling to work for his treat. At first, how could we deny giving this poor child from the slums a piece of candy or other special treat we bring for the children? I didn’t have the heart to deny him. But, now we have refused to give him any treats until he is willing to work. His mother, a fellow classmate of his, is very disappointed in his work, and she even encourages us to use violence with him so he can learn, but we refuse to resort to any such methods for teaching the children. We want our classroom to be a safe place for the children, to where they always look forward to coming. If he continues with this staunch attitude, we will make him miss one of our classes as a punishment: When he sees his friends earn their treats and come back from their lessons happily, he will want to come and earn his treats too. Let’s see if we have to enforce this new plan of action or not!
Our other two students, Mohini and Nancy, have been learning at a very rapid pace! Mohini can recall “A for apple, B for boy, C for cat, D for dog” flawlessly, while recognizing the shapes of the symbols from memory. Mohini, having worked as a maid and washerwoman’s wife for several years now, can count and recognize the symbols on paper, as she needs to know how to count to earn. Nancy, though, still hasn’t mastered English counting one through ten, but she does recognize the shapes. When we mix up the numbers for her and ask her to recall any given symbol, she then is unable to do so, without us explaining to her to think of all of the symbols in order before reaching the answer to our question. Nancy has also been practicing several English nouns, after learning to read and write the first few letters in the alphabet. We are very proud of our students’ progress, and we are looking forward to working with them again soon! Now, we are looking into arranging one more class, so that we can tutor two different sets of children at the same time. We don’t want to handle more than two different batches of students at one time though, because we don’t want to compromise the quality of education we offer the children with one on one tutoring for bigger classrooms. I am very lucky to have been helping out and working with the Ek Koshish team!
Yesterday, we held our “Ek Koshish, One Attempt” classes with our students from slum areas of Delhi NCR in Faridabad again! Yesterday, Vicky (about 4+ years old), the oldest of our male students, practiced using a pencil for the first time! I reviewed with him writing the numbers 1, 2, and 3, while he recited their names each time while writing them. The first time I asked him to recite the names of the numbers, he didn’t understand the point of the exercise; however, he is very bright, and soon understood how it would reinforce him to learn it appropriately. He then performed the exercise properly for the rest of the lesson! We also started our first letter, the letter “A,” which you can observe in the picture! It was difficult for him to grasp the pencil correctly at first, because it was such an alien concept to him; but, he soon got the hang of it. Badal, Ajay, and Mohini practiced oral exercises yesterday, learning English and Hindi nouns, like fruits, parts of the body, boy and girl, etc. Nancy, our most advanced student, practiced writing the numbers 1-10, and she also wrote the first few letters in the English alphabet. We are very proud of all of our students’ progress, and we hope to be able to refine them quick enough so that we can enroll them in a school in India: Our goal is to mainstream the children into a classroom, as they are not anywhere near the level they need to be at for the time being. We will then train another batch of students similarly, so that we don’t compromise the quality of our one-on-one tutoring facilities that we can currently offer our children.