Why Everyone Should Do It At Least Once In Their Life –
Reflections of a Previous Volunteer
My name is Joshua, I have recently completed a three-month teaching placement in a social welfare school outside of Hyderabad. I am writing this blogpost several weeks after finishing, but have not quite been able to pull myself away from India. I am now staying on to do a second placement with Skilled Impact – the Social Entrepreneurship Internship.
How It All Started
I will rewind slightly to give some background as to how I found myself here. As I approached the end of my third and final year of an International Relations and Politics degree, I realised that I did not want a career in politics. I was not ready to be sucked into the world of work. And I would not discover where my passions lay if I didn’t drastically broaden my perspectives.
What I did know is that I wanted to do something meaningful and challenge myself in the process. I saw Skilled Impacts advisement for a three-month teaching fellowship on my University careers portal. I dismissed the voice that tried to remind me of my intense fear of public speaking and applied shortly after. I arrived in India about two months later after completing a 120 hour (mostly) online TEFL course which consisted of grammar, basic teaching methodologies and a practical weekend.
My Placement And What I’ve Learned
The fellowship involved living at a semi-rural, boys residential school and teaching extra-curricular English to underprivileged kids between the ages of 12 and 15. It was a deeply immersive experience in which my involvement in the school and the lives of the students extended well beyond the four lessons per day. I would run extra-curricular activities, talk during assemblies, play sports, celebrate festivities, sing the national anthem and have endless random chats about life in the UK and India. It is important to note that these never felt like extra duties, only something that came naturally from being so embedded within the school.
Of course, it was not always easy, one of the things I was not prepared for was the problem of classroom management. Retrospectively, it may seem an obvious issue for a government-run boys boarding school. But so I was forced to learn management strategies very quickly. However, the difficulties I faced were overwhelmingly outweighed by the magnificence of the whole experience.
The Impact I Made
The students all came from village communities and mostly hadn’t travelled outside of their small districts. The teachers maintained a cool distance from the students, they taught directly from outdated textbooks and were struggling to transition the school to English medium. What I brought was an insight and an embodiment of a different world. I played, joked and laughed with them, introduced them to interactive learning, told stories about the UK, encouraged them to speak openly and with confidence. In return the students provided me with the most unique and immersive Indian experience that taught me more about Indian culture, tradition, religion, families, kids and myself than any amount of sightseeing and ‘travelling’ could ever teach you.
In terms of transferable skills, teaching forces you to develop a whole new set of skills: Public-speaking, people management, decision-making, leadership, confidence and many more that I am probably not even aware of. I was placed in positions where I had to be authoritative, decisive or creative, skills that only teaching can develop. And they will undoubtedly carry forward into whatever avenue I go down next. Teaching in the school was a humbling experience, the students were wonderful, India is beautiful and I came away thinking ‘man, everyone should go and teach in a school like that at least once’.