Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Teach For India

You have heard me speak about dreams and passion in my articles and hope is the tone of most of the books and blogs I read. Now you would ask what's the use of reading so much! Is it just to write about them?


During the past two years of my life I broke out of the cocoon and started practising the most important advantage of living - taking my important decisions without being flown away by other people's influence. I read books, travelled (in my own limits) and spoke to many people just so to draw the courage to declare my decision. I moulded my thinking so as to muster courage to articulate my dreams. This is the path I set out to enter the path of education sector and being a change agent in our society:

Initial thinking:
I always knew deep in my heart that IT industry was not my cup of tea. I choose to do engineering at an age where I was not emotionally strong enough to fight for my choice. I lacked the maturity to understand myself and as does happen with most other middle class youngsters, I too ended up in an engineering college. I do not say I hated my subjects but I couldn't imagine being in that field for a lifetime. Sixth semester was when I decided I would quit the field of electronics and communication. Although I had a GPA of 9.0/10.0 which is a very high standard to qualify as a good engineer, I did not provide the field any justice. For the sake of electronic industry and myself, I quit being a mediocre engineer and continued to dream of another career.

First step:
I got into one of the big four consulting companies (owing to my very good communication skills and aptitude although definitely not because of my electronics knowledge) and decided to stay put there until I could define my dream perfectly.

It hurt my conscience many a times that I am not doing 100% justice to my job. I convinced myself that it is okay to be on the wrong path for a while if that path joins the bigger path you wish to be on. As Steve Jobs said in his Stanford speech, one can connect the dots looking backwards not forwards. This has been true with my case since my stint with consulting gave me friends, resources and time needed for self-introspection. I had nothing to lose but a lot to gain.

I understood that since childhood education has been very dear to me. If I can do something relentlessly forever then it's got to be issues related to education. I applied and got offers from 3 foreign universities for an MBA in social entrepreneurship, two with scholarships upto 15 lacs INR. I got offers from two prestigious fellowships in India, one being Teach For India(TFI). There! I had many tickets to enter the field of social service in education.

Why I do what I chose?
 After a lot of thinking, I took an informed decision of joining TFI movement. TFI is a perfect fit for my ambitions because

  • TFI has restored the honour into the lustre lost old profession of teaching. Here I do not have to teach but I must transform my kids' lives. There are hundreds who have already done that. Thousands of kids came out of poverty, abuse and negligence to have a normal chance at living because of TFI. 
  • TFI provides idealistic youngsters like me an opportunity to combat the educational inequity crisis in our nation heads on. 
  • TFI is a leadership movement. I can learn more things in this fellowship than I could learn being at any other place. 
  • TFI has put me amidst a bunch of high achievers who have jumped into the bandwagon of eradicating poor quality education. Your success is decided by the people you work with and I am completely convinced that I can grow as a tremendous leader embodying patience, humility and a sense of possibility. 
  • TFI has created a structure where every single person involved is welcome to grow and achieve excellence irrespective of whether  is s/he a student, staff or fellow. 
  • TFI is an organisation where leaders truly inspire juniors and they all speak a single language of hope and service.
  • TFI folks taught me the spelling of coolness.

    Here is one of the lot to redefine hope:
Journey and the future
In the next two years of TFI fellowship, I will be responsible for the lives of 40+ kids and it is my capability that their future depends on. Teaching a kid with life lessons is a challenge and I am confident that I am equipped to take up that challenge 40 times over in two years. The curriculum will be like nothing seen before, the methods completely innovative and the love entirely infinite. I will be provided the support system of TFI staff at every step I stumble and it is my responsibility along with fellow cohorts to transform the kids' lives for better. 

The future holds nothing but hopes for my kids. I have met children from low income societies who have transcended all limitations of society because of the excellent education and love they have received from past fellows. I have made a promise to myself that I would work humbly in every way to transform the life of as many kids as possible through education. 

Somebody has to go polish the stars,
They’re looking a little bit dull.
Somebody has to go polish the stars,
For the eagles and starlings and gulls
Have all been complaining they’re tarnished and worn,
They say they want new ones we cannot afford.
So please get your rags
And your polishing jars,
Somebody has to go polish the stars.
-Shel Sliverstein

I can speak volumes about how TFI has changed me in such a little time. One incidence worth mentioning is how my perception of gentleness and love changed. Never in my life did I pet an animal before. But today I wanted to hold a puppy and talk to him for a minute. For a person who has never been closer than 1ft to an animal this is a great feat. It shows about the power of the nurturing environment I am in. I hope to change, I hope to transform myself and the society.

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
-Maya Angelou 


  1. All the best Appi.. I wish your journey with TFI to be wonderful.

  2. It takes a lot of courage to give up all that you had ( in your case, your educational qualification and the salary it could fetch) and pursue your dream...hats off! Here's wishing you all the very best! Arpitha, you rock :)

  3. Wooooo .. Many youngsters will be able to relate to the post, at least the first half. Felt like I was reading my own story.. In my opinion, if readers are able to connect to your story then you have arrived and rock in the art of story telling :D ..

    Wish you all the success in your endeavor !

    1. :)Thank you Kavya.
      If anybody wants to take something away from my story then it would be "it is all right to make wrong decisions. You will make 1 right decision for every 3 wrong decisions taken and funny thing is you might not stick to that decision for long. Dreams change, you change but it is only important to laugh and live. Nothing else matters."

  4. Ummma :-) More power to your dreams and madness

  5. Good initiative...keep continuing....all d best :)

  6. Awesome dude. Love you and hope all your dreams come true. :-)