CAS AT MBIS – Doorstep School – English Group

(Members: Chaitra, Ahan, Haewon, Hendrik, Yugveer, Meghan)

My team and I have been working with Doorstep School since 2017. Over the course of two years, we have had many failed attempts at teaching effectively, but through these moments of failure we have learnt a lot and developed our lessons enormously. We have considered the ethics of our choices and actions every step of the way, and it is such reflection that has helped us make our lessons more creative and constructive. We teach the children at Doorstep aged 5-10 conversational English, but our approach is different. We have identified that they have sufficient vocabulary, but they struggle to recognise target language for a particular situation. Through our sporting and artistic activities, we create fun scenarios to help the students contextualise their vocabulary.

Moreover, we make the children more aware of cultural differences. We understand the importance of open-mindedness which comes with exposure, and we provide just that to the children by discussing local and “foreign” celebrations and comparing the two. Some of our activities also allow the children to experience these celebrations – for instance, we expose them to hip-hop dance, something that originated in the African-American community and is significantly different from Indian dance styles.

One of our objectives is to help the children develop interpersonal skills. We want to teach them to share and talk to each other politely. But at the same time, we understand why the children are not comfortable sharing or treat others the way they do. We realised that the children have limited resources given their weak financial background, and so they get protective of what they think belongs to them. Furthermore, everyone in their community speaks to each other with minimal politeness and that’s what they grew up around. However, if these children want to work in an urban set up, they need to develop their interpersonal skills. By reflecting on issues such as this, we are engaging with issues of global significance as we are considering why these children are the way they are, and the economic and social circumstances of a community largely shape the personalities of the residents.

I think one of the reasons why our work with Doorstep eventually succeeded is because the kids maintained their enthusiasm to learn throughout. But more importantly, MBIS volunteers worked as a team to ensure that we provide them with the best of the experiences. My team and I initiated work with Doorstep, and we plan our lessons to the best of our ability. Despite having failed quite a few times, we kept persevering in hope to improve our lessons. It is amazing to see that every single member is so genuinely committed to the cause. I can say this with confidence because our teamwork is rather impressive. We all plan together, but when we teach the Doorstep kids, we all take up different roles. While I am the main communicator, I have Chaitra, Ahan and Yugveer providing individual help to some students, and Hendrik and Hae Won ensure that all materials and activities are prepared. We also allow the non-Indians to directly communicate with kids when playing games that requires them to understand English. This way, everyone is involved in doing background work, as well as directly interacting with the children.

Over the course of these two years, we have faced many challenges, taken healthy risks with our decisions, failed and learnt a lot. I personally have a newfound sense of respect for my teachers as I now realise how difficult it is to teach. I have also learnt a thing or two about collaboration – I have learnt to compromise on some of my ideas if the team doesn’t agree; I have learnt to trust that others are capable of carrying out tasks with commitment too; I am more grounded than I have ever been by interacting with children who come from background that is completely different from mine. Learning has happened both ways between the Doorstep kids and me, which is what makes this CAS experience so fruitful.

(Article written by: Meghan)