Merry Christmas!

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Class Recaps, Volunteer Meetings

Hi everyone,

With Christmas coming up, the holiday season is in the air, and everyone is looking forward to a relaxing two week holiday, complete with festivities. However, I hope that this holiday will give enough time to the Organizing Committee and our volunteers to make a change to the way of teaching in the Aspire Initiative; a change which we hope will gain us more students.

Earlier this year, when we first recruited students by personally talking to the maids, we were excited when we ended up with a list of 20 names. Our high hopes were dashed when only 4 students showed up for the first class. We thought that maybe more students would show up overtime as the word spread. At one point, we did have about 10 students, but now the number has dwindled to three. Though those three have made a lot of progress in their learning, all the volunteers are disheartened: we feel we are not making enough of a change. Last weekend, 10th and 11th December, only one student showed up on the 11th and the class on Saturday (10th) had to be cancelled due to a lack of teachers. There is no doubt that we have to do something to recruit more students, and fast.

Two of our volunteers, Padma and Manisha, had a bright idea: to convert the classes from being pro-bono English classes to free tuitions. Instead of only teaching the students to speak and understand English, we are thinking of having an hour of tuitions for English. Since the domestic workers usually pay up to 500 rupees towards tuitions for their children, we hope that free tuitions will attract more children.

We have yet to discuss the plan completely with the rest of our volunteers. There will be a meeting on Monday, 19th December, to discuss and decide what to do, and we hope to implement this plan after the holidays.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!


Hi everyone, hope you all had a great and refreshing two-week Diwali holiday!

In our volunteer meeting after the holidays (16/11/10), we discussed two important things: student recruitment and the themes for upcoming classes. I am very pleased to inform you that our student recruitment flyers – in both Hindi and Marathi – have been successfully made by two of our volunteers, and are now ready to be put up! However, as we found out a week later, we are not allowed to put the flyers up in the elevators. We hope to be able to distribute them among the maids. If this plan does not work, we will have to revert to our original method for student recruitment: word-of-mouth. We are in serious need for students, as we currently have only four regular children, and we hope that these methods will gain us many more.

In addition, we mapped out the themes for the upcoming classes. We have decided that our overall theme until July-August 2011 will be Seasons. The schedule is as follows:

Early – Mid December 2010: Winter

Late December 2010: Christmas

January 2011: New Year, Republic Day, Makr Sankranti (transition of the Sun to Capricorn), and Gandhi Jayanthi

February 2011: reiteration of Winter

March 2011: Holi

May – June 2011: Summer

Late June – July 2011: Monsoon

These themes are not definite for the later months (Feb, March, May, June and July 2011), however, we have already started with the theme of Winter on 27th and 28th November.

The volunteer teacher for that weekend, Ms. Manisha, did an excellent job of introducing Winter to the children. She started by teaching them how seasons are caused by showing a torch to represent the sun, and a globe to represent the Earth. She then taught them a song on seasons, and prepared a chart on the Winter season. Under her guidance, the children divided the chart into four parts – one each for winter food, clothes, festivals and sports. They pasted and labelled pictures of winter clothes and did a worksheet on the topic.

All in all, it was a good weekend for the children. They have learned a lot; and we hope that the two new students we are expecting from the next weekend (4th and 5th December) onwards will be able to catch up!

Happy Diwali!

Posted: November 6, 2010 in Class Recaps

We have decided to give the children a two week vacation for Diwali. Diwali is the festival of lights where light or knowledge dispels darkness and ignorance. We have introduced the theme of ‘Diwali’ in the last four classes, to impress upon the children its importance and history, since it is one of the main festivals in India. To relate this theme to the previous one of ‘Village’, we encouraged the kids to talk about the unique ways in which they celebrate Diwali with their families.

We also tried to introduce to them the globe and point out where India is located. The idea was to tell them that Diwali is also celebrated in other parts of the world. The children could not identify any places on the globe, and they were unfamiliar with the concept of ‘world’ or ‘Earth’, though they were familiar with names such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Singapore and America. There were unaware that other countries existed.

The children are now a little more confident with their expressions and they have become familiar with certain commonly-used English words. The eagerness to learn and interest in the subject is evident in the four kids who turn up regularly every weekend. We also asked them to give us a little feedback on the classes, to teach them how to express themselves. They said that they found the classes interesting and they liked us because we don’t reprimand them when they make mistakes. They also like the snacks we provide!

We hope to see you after the holidays and we wish you all a very happy Diwali!

We are 2 months old!

Posted: October 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

Today we are 2 months young. It has been quite a journey …weekly meetings, co-ordination, gathering resources, brainstorming, disappointments….and we are still trying and working hard to take this Initiative Forward. Thanks to all the active volunteers and our sponsors …. we could not have travelled this far without their support and enthusiasm.

The last two weeks have been good. While the number of students remains low – at 4, the good news is that these are regular students. In this situation, it becomes easy to take them all together with the lessons. The schedules have been working well with the teachers. The current theme is “VILLAGE”. We have been experimenting with different methods of teaching ….. introducing the vocabulary through repetitions using tools such as story reading , playing games – throwing ball, making word, fill up the blanks, brainstorming sentences and reading aloud.

A great hit with the children are the story reading sessions and the mini-library. The joy one experiences in seeing the confidence building in the children can only be experienced. One child who used to stammer when it came to talking in English has stopped stammering. This has indeed been a big achievement for all of us. I am overjoyed to share this bit of development with you all.

Going forward, we plan to put up the notices on the classes in Marathi and Hindi. I hope we can do this soon. However, with the festive season coming and the holidays season, perhaps should we repeat this exercise to January ‘ 2011?

Classes are on the coming weekend too. This will be the final week on the theme of Village. We will soon move to the theme “DIWALI”. We are contemplating giving a week-end off during the Diwali vacations.

My Experience

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

My experience with ‘Aspire Oberoi’ so far has been a reaffirmation of my thoughts as of how little things have changed in the field of education. It has also reaffirmed my belief that a small section of the society (albeit very small) is interested in giving something back to the society which has enabled them to grow and reap benefits.
I am proud to be associated with a group which is selflessly trying to help a small section of the society, to enable its future citizens to break the chains of limitation and inability.
In this material world children too are becoming materialistic however, which ever section of society you deal with children still crave for those chosen words which makes them feel appreciated. The beaming smile on children when you encourage them warms even the gloomy part of your soul. It goes to prove that you don’t need a pot of money to raise a child.
A worthy idea, few people, and a place to aid the idea are not enough to run a worthy cause. We are currently in need for assistance from people who have worked for causes such as this and give us valuable insights as to how to gather more students.
We have come at a crossroads within weeks – only one child turned up on Saturday (maybe it is because of the festival season, maybe it is because of something we lag in). Though it hasn’t dampened our spirits it has made us reflect on our actions. It’s taken a lot of time and effort from each of us to pull this noble cause so far and we want to earnestly continue the same. What can we do to propel this campaign forward?
An idea that was brought forward was – Charging nominal fee – a fee of Rs. 15/month – A way to infuse responsibility to come regularly for the class; and financial reward for regular attendance. Who knows whether this will help but one thing is for sure – if there is a way we shall try to find it to keep this ball rolling.
Let’s give it up to the torch bearers of a selfless act.

Hi everybody!

We had a volunteer meeting on Tuesday, where we mainly discussed the progress of the children – if or not we’re taking this ahead in the right direction, are they progressing in learning, how we can maintain lesson plan continuity, etc.

We realized that most of the kids are either too shy to speak out, or don’t know how to speak at all, except a few. Also, only two or three kids have been coming for the classes regularly since the initiative started, and so we found it difficult to exactly determine their individual progress. For the moment, we are not going to try and exactly measure their progress, as it is a little early for that, since only six or seven classes have been conducted.

We decided that a structure has to be laid down for each class, since though we plan the activities beforehand, how and when they are going to be done are decided on the spot by the teachers. A proper schedule has to be laid down during the meetings, so that the teachers do not appear confused before the children during the class. We have written down a rough structure for the time being:

1) Game – to revise old vocabulary and bring in the new words like tennis ball game, passing the parcel, etc for 20 MINUTES
2) Activity – to make the kids talk, like show and tell, nursery rhyme, a song, picture talk, role play, etc. for 20 MINUTES
3) Break – for snacks – 5 MINUTES
4) Book – a new book on saturday, the repition of that book on sunday for 15 MINUTES

Since the tennis ball game is becoming a bit monotonous, we have decided to replace it for with passing the parcel for the next few classes. The teachers who are in charge with teaching each class will have to coordinate between themselves and create the parcel, or any other materials they require for the game.

We also discussed the general structure of lessons when people are learning a foreign language, and found out that they usually begin with numbers, then move on to describing yourself and directions to go to a place. After this, they begin picking out common public places and teach the vocabulary associated with it, as well as general conversation and interaction for each place, like the market, airport, train station, etc. We have done numbers and a part of describing yourself with the kids, and the suggestion is that we could somewhat follow this kind of structure.

As was mentioned in the post “Class Recaps“, this weekend (11th and 12th September) has been given a holiday to all volunteers and kids for Ganesh Chaturti. Have a great weekend!

Class Recaps

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Class Recaps

Hey everyone, it’s been a long time since we’ve posted here, it’s been a busy few weeks. We’ve had four classes since our last post – on the 28th and 29th of August, followed by two more on the 4th and 5th of September. We got quite a bit more done during those classes – here’s a short recap:

Saturday, 28th August

About 4 kids turned up, because it was raining pretty heavily and a most of them couldn’t make it. The teachers had a really good class, teaching the kids about animals and using the tennis ball game to revise the last lesson. They read a new book, ‘The Alligator’s Secret’ and the kids really enjoyed it. We also had a new volunteer show up to help, Meena Auntie, which was a real boost.

Sunday, 29th August

The rain abated a little and 6 kids showed up for the class. We basically revised all that we taught the kids in the previous class, reinforcing the names of different animals and re-reading ‘The Alligator’s Secret’. We also encouraged them to write on the black-board a little, to help them remember the commonly-used words.

Saturday, 4th September

About 12 kids showed up, and the teachers started off with the tennis ball game. The children talked about their goals in life, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. There was also a repetition of the book ‘The Alligator’s Secret’, as well as the singing of a few nursery rhymes.

Sunday, 5th September

There were 7 children present on Sunday, and the kids learnt how to talk about their likes and dislikes, and ‘The Alligator’s Secret’ was read again. The children also sang ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ as well as “If You’re Happy and You Know It’, which they really enjoyed.

Since this weekend is Ganesh Chaturti, we have decided to give a holiday for the children (and teachers) on the 11th and 12th of September. Happy Ganesh Chaturti and enjoy the weekend!