March 2020

CONQUERING THE BARRIERS

I have been of the opinion that the content of the study material should be such that could be challenging for the students. I was assigned a task to train students on English.  These students were going through a six-month program on Life Transformation skills. I thought it best to apply the training regimes that were applied by my teachers back in the day when I was in school. I was of the opinion that a constant practice schedule and a few tips and tricks can help these students enhance their knowledge about English speaking. However, it took me sometime to realize that I was not considering a very important factor!

Our team leader had been handling one of the batches of students hailing from a small tehsil in Maharashtra. He asked me to review a number of videos that the students had sent. This was a task given to them, wherein they had to introduce themselves in English. I was expecting a bunch of mistakes from the students, but somewhere I was sure that I will receive a considerably good performance from all of the students. When I went through the videos, I was quite delighted to see that they had all recorded themselves and were speaking in English – which is not a normal case for any rural youth in India.  However, I noticed that all the students were speaking as per a particular script. All of them were following the very same pattern, needless to mention the frequent grammatical errors. At the very first instance I knew that this procedure will never help them speak English fluently.

My team leader and I were convinced that we needed to employ a more targeted method, defined by RSA, for a fundamental enhancement in their skills. It was quite clear by their performance that in their attempt to use correct grammar, the flow of thoughts was being hampered. We addressed this point in the conference calls with the batch and apprised the students about a few ways that can help them enhance the flow of thoughts. One of the advices that we extended to the students was to think in English, and make it a habit.  The rationale that RSA has for this approach is that most people face trouble with speaking English because they first translate a statement in English in their mind and then try to speak the same. This is one of the biggest reasons that hamper the fluency in spoken English. We knew we had to get this in their minds, so we did the best we could to make them understand.

Instilling a new procedure in the minds of the students was no walk in the park. We assigned them a simple task to do. We asked the students to look around the room they are in and see if they could name all the articles in English. In addition to this we asked them to make a list of the things they couldn’t name. Once they we ab le to name all the articles in their room, we extended the scope of the exercise, now we asked them to try to name everything that they see in their daily lives in English. We instructed them to make it a habit to refer to those articles in English only. This was the kind of exercise which would take a lot of time to adapt for anyone who is not well versed with speaking in English, therefore we were at peace with the fact that we won’t see big changes anytime soon.

However, the students welcomed the idea and proceeded as per our instructions. The initial steps of this procedure were definitely tough for the students. The students never gave up and persevered through it all. What really boosted our enthusiasm was the fact that in a short span of two weeks we could notice that the students were now more confident with their sentence formation and pronunciation. The efforts of the students were clearly visible in their performance yet we insisted on giving them more time to let this habit sink in.   

Time flew and we kept on nurturing this habit in their minds to think in English. After a span of one month, once again we assigned them the task of recording a video about any topic of their choice. We received a prompt response from the students, which in itself suggested that they were more confident and keen on sharing what they had to say. The videos that were sent to us were way better than the previous ones. This time the students were more creative in their videos. All of the students chose a variety of topics to speak about. These topics ranged from explaining about their future plans to current affairs. Although all the students performed exceptionally well, a few out of them stood out from the crowd as they exhibited extraordinary growth in the confidence level. Not only their confidence but also their imagination, decorated their efforts to produce a beautiful result. The improvement is now clearly visible in all the students of the batch. Most have found their confidence while some are yet to find it, nevertheless there is definitely a positive growth in their personality.

Every batch of students that we deal with strengthens our understanding about human potential and human behavior. This batch of students strengthened our belief that all hindrances that we face in doing anything are mostly mental barriers. These blockades can be dealt with in multiple ways and the way we deal with them greatly affects the outcome.

Guiding, Educating, training and supporting such individuals brings about a positive change in the lives of the students and prepares them for any possible challenge that life may throw at them. Once they make it through this process, they begin seeking excellence over success, knowledge over money and happiness over fame. Getting in touch with his inner self enables them enough to value the basic essence of life and strengthens them to face all adversities and make their dreams a reality…          

The Change in Thinking

Ruralshores Skills Academy (RSA) has been working for the betterment of youth in rural areas since 2012. I started working with them from September 2019. During the last six months, I have visited various centres and trained more than 300 youth.  During my first visit to Sausar (Madhya Pradesh) I met 19 young people who had opted for the training program known as Life Transformation Program (LTP). Before working with RSA I used to give classroom trainings but now I had to give the same training with different methods. At First, I was not sure that this kind of training will have any future but my thinking changed after a few break-throughs.

During my first visit to Sausar I met the participants. After meeting all of the participants I understood that they needed a lot of improvement. I was still confused that how this kind of training can help them out. All my confusions faded away after I saw their responses in the first month. I could see exceptional changes in the participants. Their confidence level had increased and they had started replying in English.

Few examples that I think are worth mentioning are, specifically, Mona and Suraj. These two were just like any of the other students. They both started doing the program in June 2019 but by September 2019 their English communication had improved a lot. A huge change was evident in their work also. Suraj got promotion and Mona was the star performer for three consecutive months. The other participants of that batch had also improved performance exponentially.

The biggest reason for the success of this program is that during the program people were actively involved in self-learning and they were not judged by their mistakes. The curriculum is such that a mere 15 minute class every day is enough to complete this program. This program is showing commendable results in all of the other centres as well.

The entire LTP program is divided into six months. After six months most of the participants saw a huge change in their thinking and their way of handling situations. The first part of the program focuses totally on spoken English while the second part is more about soft skills and life skills. Most of the students lack these basic skills that are covered in this program. In my most humble opinion more youngsters and working professionals should join this program to enhance their skill set so that they could prepare themselves for the challenges that lay ahead in their lives and progress towards a better future and career.