I strongly believe that parents must educate their young kids to develop empathy towards those who are left behind by society.
My first realization: I was teaching my student vocabulary and grammar topics just like how I was taught in school. But to have English conversations, he needed something more direct and easy to remember. He needed to know sentences – English sentences that he could speak out in his routine conversations.
My Second realization: Even though there are infinitely many sentences one can make in English (or any other language), the number of sentences that one needs to learn to carry out routine conversations are quite finite.
Dinesh had made me realise that by learning about a 100 new English sentences and understanding how to tweak them (based on the context) one becomes fully equipped to communicate in English most of routine conversations
My third realization: Students always learn Math much more easily than English. Even the poorest of the poor understand basic mathematical operations. This is because they cannot carry on their routine activities without them like buying vegetables, counting salary rupees etc.
Hence, the more formula driven and structured (in short, Math-like) we make the English content, easier it will be for the students to digest it
My fourth realization: I had understood that explaining concepts through visual representation and structures (like the tables that Praful was using) also makes them easy to understand and remember
My fifth realization: Murphy’s grammar book had a unique approach. It helped me understand that English grammar can facilitate the creation of sentence structures (for example Noun + verb + noun is a common sentence structure). And through these sentence structures, students can learn how to form new English sentences.
Furthermore, I realized that these sentence structures are quite small (about 2 dozen or so) in number but through them the student can form almost an infinite number of English sentences.
In summary, if I could make English learning formula-based and structured like Maths (which is far from how English is usually taught) and make sentence formation ‘visual’ and driven by an ‘easy to understand logic’ then the curriculum would become much more useful.
By understanding English sentence structures presented through tables, students could learn how to form new English sentences just like the way they do ‘Match the following’ exercise.
As I look back, I realized that my college life was never about getting academic grades or cracking campus placements.
I spend most of my free time following my passions – either teaching students through Abhigyaan or doing art. And I am still glad that I did that.
My experiences with NGOs in Hyderabad made me realize that my English curriculum had a much larger application and every education focused NGO / volunteering setup in the country could make use of it
Unfortunately, in most of these NGO classrooms (including the classrooms of some of the most reputed NGOs in the country), I clearly saw that the English teaching setup was very ineffective. Even the most capable volunteers, who had great English skills and were very motivated to teach, were not able to improve the English skills of the students who were taught through these NGOs.
So, in most volunteering setups you would find that the students do not learn any practical skills and the volunteers frequently feel disappointed and leave because despite their best efforts the students are not able to improve their English skills. The NGOs have to keep acquiring new volunteers to run these setups.
Hence, even the biggest and the most established of the NGOs do not publish the results of their teaching efforts – they talk ‘impact’ numbers like students taught, time duration of teaching etc. but never about the improvement in the students’ skills or how the students compare in English / Maths skills when compared with kids from middle class families.
What these volunteering setups lacked they lacked was an English curriculum – a customized curriculum for the volunteers to follow.
The volunteers needed a curriculum which could tell them a) What to teach, b) How to teach, and c) How long to teach – within the constraint that the volunteers will only be in contact with the students for a few hours each week.
This made me realize that my curriculum has a much larger application and any NGO that has an English teaching setup would find it useful.
I worked on creating this curriculum application for almost an year until I realized that I should be focusing my energies on the curriculum content and not the technology used to deliver the content.
What the volunteer needs is an easy to understand and simple to follow English curriculum which they enjoy teaching to their students. The curriculum need not be delivered through an app, even a PDF copy would do.
So by early 2015, I had jumped back into curating and creating content from what I had developed in college.
I started developing sentence structure tables one after the other and I soon had a rough draft of the first 15 tables ready, I realized that these tables would help the student form over 2000 different sentences in English. This is a big number and once students learn that many sentences through the curriculum they would be highly empowered to create new sentences on their own and basically improve their English communication skills on their own.
And finally in June 2015, I was able to launch VolunteerCurriculum.com. It was a single page website that gave you access to all the teaching content that I had so far.
Over the next 1.5 years, I devoted almost all of my non-work hours to Volunteercurriculum.
I hired over a dozen interns and paid them a weekly stipend from my salary. Through these interns, I created customized and practically applicable exercises and activities for the 15 tables that I had created. And within a year, I had full fledged lessons ready for each of the tables.
By now, I had also fully developed VolunteerCurriculum’s guiding philosophy:
Our curriculum is based on the firm belief that if a student is able to a) understand and remember the most common sentence structures in English and b) understand how to make new sentences using these structures to communicate in different situations, then he has reached a stage from where he can continue his English learning on his own (through books, internet etc.) without the need of another teacher.
In this video, you will hear about the experience Somesh – a 17 year old student – had while teaching the young college students English for a month using my curriculum.
After all these months at ISB, I also realised that in trying to monetize VolunteeCurriculum, I was somehow losing sight of the original purpose of it – to help volunteers teach English to students at the bottom of the pyramid. I would have to make the curriculum or some of its aspects paid to monetize it – all of which would make me compromise on my main motive behind starting VolunteerCurriculum
So I came to the conclusion that it’s better that I take up a regular job and work on VolunteerCurriculum on the side rather than keep trying to find my source of living from the website.
VolunteerCurriculum has been very close to my heart and it has given me an effective path to make a positive contribution to society – something which very few people ever find. And I see VolunteerCurriculum as the most important contribution that I make for society while I am alive.
This book explains the processes, developmental stages, external and motivational factors that get involved when someone starts learning a second language.
It is a very tough but fruitful read as it helped me discover so many research backed facts about what I can do to make my English curriculum more effective for the students. I am reading it very meticulously and noting down points that I can use with VolunteerCurriculum.
I hope to incorporate all the findings into the lesson plans by the end of this year.