10 things to know about Teach For India before you apply!

The application deadlines for this year are done, follow the website to apply for the 2014 fellowship. There are 3-4 deadlines each year starting October, I suppose. Teach For India currently operates in government and private schools in these five cities : Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad.

Now let’s get started. Here are a couple of things you should know before you apply.

1. The selection process is almost 2-3 months long – involving an online application with recommendations, a phone interview, a full day interview with a teaching sample, group discussion and personal interview.

2. The program is highly selective. Approximately 7% of the total number of applicants each year make it to the fellowship program.

3. There is a highly rigorous 5 week residential training Institute starting in May before you enter your classrooms in June. These 5 weeks give you all the basic skills to start teaching and handling a classroom full of children. Along the next two years of your fellowship, you will be continuously trained on different pedagogical  skills that will help you become a more effective teacher.

4. You will be assigned to a program manager who will observe your class every few weeks and give you feedback on what you’re doing right and what you can do better. Your Manager will suggest appropriate trainings for you, help you with acquiring teaching aids, materials and ensure that you are well-supported through these two years of teaching.

5. You will be placed in a collaborative of 15-18 fellows led by your Program Managers. This group will meet once every few weeks to discuss best practices in the classrooms, challenges and more importantly their solutions.

6. You will get a monthly stipend plus a housing allowance that will help you sustain yourself. Along with this you are entitled to be reimbursed a small amount every month towards your photocopying and teaching aids (charts, sketch pens etc) expenses.

[Side note : As a rule of thumb, you will be spending at least 50 % more over and above the the allocated reimbursement amount. So each month, you will have to manage your life on a tightly controlled budget, its not hard after you get the hang of it.]

7. You will be a class teacher of a class for two whole years. This is not a volunteer service and it’s not part-time.

8. Everyday, this job/fellowship will consume more of your time, energy and mind space than any corporate job could hope to. [6 hours in school, 1 hour of after school extra classes (optional), 2 hours grading papers/notebooks, another 1-2 hours for planning next day’s lessons, another 2 hours for making the teaching aids, activity tools, next 6 hours in your dreams planning out scenarios of what would happen the next day in class]

And lastly my two cents and these two I feel are most crucial;

9. You will be praised/admired/complimented by many around you

..for having made that transition to the social sector. For having quit a decent job to become a teacher in a under-resourced school.

Don’t take it seriously. Ever.

because it starts to interfere with your work and your understanding of yourself.  The idea of service needs to be demystified. You were doing a job back then and you are going to be doing a job now. Only that this job, is closer to your heart, it’s something you chose and wanted to do. It’s about your choice and it’s that simple. Don’t ever let people push you into believing that you’re extraordinary. Thank them and be grateful for their kind words, use this a fuel to drive you on those days when you hit rock bottom (and trust me there will be many such days)

10. You will be mocked at as a “resume builder” by many around you.

Don’t take this seriously either.

People will try to examine your motives for wanting to this. Many a armchair philosophers will criticize TFI’s model, your abilities to contribute, you ulterior motives behind wanting to do this and the effectiveness of the organization. Listen to what they say, offer opinions if helpful but mostly stay calm. Don’t ever defend it. Because only you know what you’re trying to do everyday with those 35 kids in your classroom and only you would know the challenges that you go through every single day with their parents, the school and your kids.

And whatever be your purpose of joining TFI, nothing can take away the hard work you put into that classroom for two years. Always remember that. It is appreciation worthy that, if at all you chose you build your resume, you did in the hardest possible way. You did it right instead of getting some mock community service experience with an NGO by volunteering once a month or worse not doing anything at all. And don’t worry too much because the harshest and the most severe criticism often comes from people who’ve never ever set foot into an under-resourced classroom like yours.

Keep your head down and keep going. You’re in there for the children and that’s all that matters.

Wish you all the best if you choose to do this! I can safely say that these two years have been the most purposeful and memorable two years of my life. If you have any queries, feel free to write in and I’ll try my best to answer them!

For details, log on to the website http://www.teachforindia.org/

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4 thoughts on “10 things to know about Teach For India before you apply!

  1. Chaitra. Love the way you wrote this. Impressive how hard it is to even qualify and be accepted ih this 2-year program. The work requires such complete dedication that a teacher must be willing to put her own life on a back burner. Yet what other work offers such deep and lasting rewards? Well worth the personal sacrifices. As you say, in the end it’s all about the children and a dedicated teacher can make all the difference in their lives and futures.

    • The fellowship doesn’t claim or a guarantee to secure your career post TFI. It’s a call for you to do something about all the things you are seeing in your country and aren’t happy with. In the process of this fellowship, you will gain some insights, learn a few things, reevaluate a few beliefs, get challenged many a times and all of this hopefully would be the answer to the question you’ve just asked.

      What after two years?

      TFI has an alumni support team that can guide you forward and a couple of other support systems but in all possibility, you may have completely different ideas of what you want to do with your life post the fellowship.

      When I set out to do this, I had absolutely no idea that I will make a transition into social sector for good. I knew that I wanted to do this for 2 years. But by the end of it, I decided that I can’t go back to a an engineering profile and this is what I wanted to do for life.

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