By: Natasha Kanitkar & Juliana Wojtenko
While students were busy scrambling to prepare for the start of the 2018 school year, Junior Rosie Pipada was busy teaching students English at Prashanti Vidya Mandir School in Kota, India. During the summer of 2017, Pipada visited her family in India. After seeing students struggling to learn English at school, she realized that she wanted to dedicate her free time to making a difference in those kids’ lives. After a bit of logistical coordination, she informed the school that during the following summer, she would teach the kids English lessons. This past August, she eagerly showed up at the Prashanti Vidya Mandir School to begin her project.
Upon arriving, she got her own classroom to teach kids, some kindergartners, and others high schoolers. Drawing inspiration from her favorite elementary school teachers, Pipada adjusted her teaching style to help the kids learn as much English as possible. For instance, Pipada spoke in almost fluent English to the older kids in order to challenge them to do the same; Pipada rarely shifted to Hindi for clarification. She prepared a comprehensive curriculum for three full weeks—six days a week, five hours a day. She focused on improving the kids’ grammar, touching upon nouns, adjectives, verbs, and a number of other components. Pipada, however, did face a few roadblocks, especially when teaching the trickier parts of English, such as ending sentences with ‘-es,’and ‘-s.’ Nevertheless, her students seemed to really appreciate Pipada’s teaching efforts and had a genuine desire to learn the language. “Their eyes would light up and they would get really excited. It was nice to see people excited about something as simple as grammar, something that we take for granted,” said Pipada.
Being only a little older than most of the kids she was teaching, Pipada was appreciative of how the kids responded to her lessons. Students called her “Didi,” which means sister in Hindi, or “Rosie Ma’am,” which shows respect towards a teacher in India. Even older students showed their gratefulness for Rosie’s efforts. Pipada does, however, recall one instance when an eight year old girl disrespected her.
One girl in Pipada’s second grade class called her a name in Hindi which Pipada did not understand. She went back home to ask her mom what it meant and was shocked to hear that the term was extremely derogatory. But instead of holding a grudge, Pipada got to work, teaching her how to read and eventually earneing the girl’s respect. On the school’s Friendship Day, the girl even gave Pipada a friendship bracelet as a token of gratitude. “If you show kids a little bit of love, they give a lot back. I got her a book, a small act, and she gave so much love back. She was more receptive in class, she paid attention to me, and she wasn’t saying mean things anymore,” Pipada said.
Apart from her project to teach English, Pipada also accomplished something equally remarkable. While teaching, a girl complained about not being able to see the board. Logically, Pipada moved the girl towards the front of the room. After she confessed to still not being able to see the board, however, Pipada determined that something was wrong. Not completely fluent in Hindi, she asked her mom to write a note to the girl’s parents, asking them to take her to an ophthalmologist.
Soon after a phone conversation with her mother and her family’s doctor, the doctor recommended a qualified government eye doctor who was happy to help. Within ten minutes, arrangements were made and the next day the doctor arrived at the school to not only care for the girl, but also for the other 125 students in both the primary school and girls’ college on the second floor. With the help of family donations and the cooperation of a local optician, Pipada and her family provided 27 students with eyeglasses. “It was so amazing how quickly plans could be made to help other people,” Pipada said. Numerous other students were also prescribed eye drops for untreated infections, a treatment that only cost them 15 rupees which is equivalent to no more than twenty five cents in the United States.
Having accomplished so much in so little time, Pipada plans on returning to the Prashanti Vidya Mandir school next summer, maybe even making the trip a tradition that will last through her college years. “I really loved it. It was really nice to see where the love of learning comes. I would love to teach professionally at some point in my life as an adult,” said Pipada.