My Reflections on Teaching Higher Grade Levels

Last year, I taught sixty students each from Grades 4th (Social Studies & Science), 5th (Math) and 7th (Intelligence). There were two broad challenges that I faced last year; creating the content for the lesson plans and tracking students’ progress.

Managing the content for the lesson plans felt like a challenge bigger than any project I managed at Citibank. I had to study, make notes and then create a lesson plan that would “incept” the concept in the students’ minds. Each LP took me 2 hours to complete! I also got teachers in my school to observe my classes frequently. The observations made me more accountable and provided me with valuable feedback which culminated into different ideas that I could use to plan better. I soon realized that I was running out of creative ideas to teach, so I went and met professors at Delhi University and picked their brains on the same. Having conquered the planning menace, I addressed the next big challenge of regularly tracking my 180 students. I couldn’t track students’ homework regularly given my daily workload and hence couldn’t identify individual learning gaps. To manage this, I created computer-based-testing software to gauge my students’ performance every week. The regular data tracking coupled with the class feedback, helped me become more efficient.

This year, I am teaching Mathematics to grades 6th and 8th. It’s only when you start teaching the grade-8 level do you realize how deep and wide the achievement gap is. The class average on the last year’s EOY assessment for current grade-8 was 34%. In June this year, while some of my students hated mathematics, the others had an inherent math-phobia. I realized that the fear of math was deeper when I met their parents and learnt that even though the kids sincerely studied the kids performed poorly on the day of the test.
I began this year by telling my Grade-8 students their big goal will be to score 80% in the term-end exams and at least 20 students will take the National Talent Search Exam (NTSE). If the goals were achieved I promised to take my students for two days to Goa! Ever since, the NTSE has many takers! To cater to these students accelerated needs I started the “one-chapter-a-day” group. The students in this group stay back after school everyday to understand SSC (Math) chapters and solve all exercises from these chapters on their own. These students also do extra work on their own at home and clarify their doubts when they are faced with one. A corporate could look at this and nominate it as a case study for capacity building!

I started “one-chapter-a-day” group with one student and in a matter of a week, 15 students joined this group. Not only do the students inspire each other by achieving feats like completing 80% of the exercises in the math text-book for this year but also have helped raise my Grade-8 class average by 26% in a matter of one month! Some of the students in this group are the same students who hated math.

With regular weekly tests and small successes, I get immense joy watching my students gradually achieve the milestones towards their big goal. As FDR said,

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort… These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.