Friday, December 13, 2013

I am interested in joining the fellowship. Please help.

Many people have come to me with this request. To save myself the time, I am writing this FAQ post based on my own experience till now. Before reading this I would suggest you go through the Teach for India homepage to know the basics.

Why people join TFI? 
My friends and I had a combination of different reasons to join the fellowship. Some of us joined the fellowship to make a difference - what better way to change mindsets than positively influencing young minds. Some of us wanted to build perspective about the problems of inequity in education and opportunity in India through the grassroot experience offered by the fellowship. Some of us wanted to push ourselves to new limits to develop our leadership skills. Some of us wanted a sense of purpose and meaningful impact in the work. Some of us wanted a challenge.  Some of us just wanted to take a break from the monotony of a corporate job. Some of us wanted to change the way children learn based on our own experiences with school and in general education. Some of us simply loved children and the fellowship involves a lot of close interaction with children. The list is not exhaustive in any way but represents some of the many reasons one may join the fellowship for.

Why did you join TFI?
I wanted to work in education in the long run. Once selected to the fellowship, TFI offers the most rigorous experience at the grassroot level in the field, regardless of your choice of academic background and past professional experience.It is a great way to network with driven and young people wanting to bring about change in their own small ways to the country. The fellowship pushes your management and leadership abilities to a new level, if you work consciously and with deep commitment towards excellence in the many things you are expected to do. Because of everything it offered, the fellowship was a natural choice for me.

Can I do XYZ alongside the fellowship? (XYZ = manage my own venture/work part time elsewhere/pursue part time education/and the like)
The fellowship is challenging and it is best you keep your complete mind space for it. If you think you are exceptional at managing your work, you can add more activities to your bucket after the first few months.

But wait, you left a well paying job for the fellowship? How do you manage?
Well, unlike earlier, I cannot fit in international holidays, indulgent shopping, a fancy apartment, etc. The money is just about enough to manage your living expenses. It requires conscious changes in lifestyle - you will have enough for the must-have but not enough for the good-to-have material things.

Life as a teacher must be easy right with long vacations and 5 hour work days.
If you are working diligently and driving your kids growth hard - you will have a "6 1/2" days working week which will involve lesson planning, long term planning, community visits, field trips, teacher training, conferences, extra classes, sports, parent teacher conferences, school administration work, observations and feedback,  school team meetings, etc. My work day is usually 10 hours long.The fellowship is a full time commitment. I would strongly recommend you visit and volunteer in a classroom for a few months before you take call to join it.

OMG. That is too much work. Do you have a personal life?
On weekdays, no, but on weekends, you can find time if you plan your schedule wisely. It is something you get better at with time.

What do you like about your job? 
1) I am an entrepreneur working with responsibility and freedom towards an objective of drive my kids' learning
2) I am loved by 70 more people (my students, duh!) in this world, no matter how much they pretend to not like me after a lesson where I have reprimanded them.
3) I am not competing with anyone - everyone can learn and even copy from each other as long as the kids are doing better.

What do you not like about the job?
1) Since I enjoy it a lot, it is often tough to stop thinking about the classroom.
2) In addition to the mental pressure of a corporate job, this job is emotionally and physically much much more demanding. Keeping fit and composed requires practice and effort.
3) Too many meetings and priorities.

What will you do after the fellowship?
I am undecided. My options are:
1) Continuing to work in a staff role with Teach for India or other such organizations working in education.
2) Doing a specialized masters in education
3) Entering research on education/child development
4) Becoming a public policy specialist in education.
5) Going back to a corporate role or joining a start up.
6) Working in consulting in the non-profit sector.
7) Becoming a teacher or a school administrator.
8) Starting my own venture focused on a piece of the problem.

May I visit your classroom?
Yes, you may provided you inform me well in advance!!

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