By Aishwarya

“The actions, thoughts, and words of each of us are important. All of us together are making the world. So we have to ask ourselves: “How am I living? What kind of actions am I taking? Am I a force for good in the world”
-Norman Fischer

The teachers training program, Pragya 2019, conducted on the 26th, 27th and 28th of June, served as a platform for many science and math teachers in the state to come together for 3 days of learning and fun. The event offered an opportunity for teachers to brush up their skills, learn through the experiences of other teachers in the group, and also get to know one another closely, creating a community that enables its members to learn from one another.

measuring-irregular-shapes The program was also an opportunity for the new recruits of Vision Empower, including me, to get to know the teachers we will be working with very closely over the next year. The energy in the place was electric. All teachers actively participated in the activities organized as a part of the training. The teachers offered up suggestions of their own as well, which made the training program even more enriching. While learning new methods and activities to teach area, perimeter, place value, etc, the teachers had fun trying out the games themselves, and were surprised at how easily these could be replicated in their own classrooms.

One of the sessions the teachers found the most useful, math teachers in particular, was the Nemeth session conducted by Basavaraju sir. Most of them not having studied Nemeth while they were themselves children, this session enabled them to gain much-needed skills to be effective math teachers.

Another session definitely worth a mention was the page-by-page explanation and review of the science and math textbooks, conducted by Matruchhaya. The teachers went over the textbooks, got their questions and doubts clarified, and even gave feedback on how the textbooks could be improved and made more useful for them. This is the first time that many of them are getting access to textbooks, and it was a poignantly sad moment as I contemplated how far we still have to go.

Certain aspects of my experience at the teachers training was also a reaffirmation of why certain things in our intervention are structured the way they are. I now understood why there is a teachers instruction kit at all, why the kit must contain concept explanations and not merely activities, and why a once a week handholding is so necessary. Not having met the teachers before the program, I had many doubts and even more questions, a large portion of which were put to rest by the end of the training.

The training program also induced me to contemplate the immense complexity of the problem we are attempting to tackle. Many of the teachers are visually impaired themselves, and have not had effective math and science education when they were children. The math and science teachers in these special schools are not, as it would be natural to assume, math and science graduates. They are victims of the problem themselves. Thus, there is an observable gap between the visually impaired teachers and the sighted teachers who participated in this program, not due to lack of ability or skill, but due to lack of training.

This brought home to me how large the gap is that we are attempting to fill, and how complex the problem is that we are trying to mitigate. The training left us committed to do what it takes.

The feedback received from teachers after the training was positive and left us pleased and contented. Some of the teachers have already begun to apply the methods and activities we suggested, and called us up to tell us they were useful. Teachers have also suggested where we should improve and what could be made better, providing us with a tentative roadmap for the future.

Ultimately, what was best about the program is that the training has created a community of math and science teachers in the state, with Vision Empower at the forefront, not merely offering suggestions and advice, but also learning from the teachers and enabling a spread of knowledge from teacher to teacher within the community.

In the 'Stories' section, we attempt to document our experiences while volunteering, special people we have encountered in this journey. If you have volunteered with Vision Empower and have an interesting experience or story to share, do write to us.