April 21, 2013

Career workshop with municipal school kids

It has been a month full of creative satisfaction till now. If by any chance you happened to read the maktion turns 5 post, then you would have come across my 4 diverse activities planned for April 2013 in order to keep the creative juice flowing. Apart from the exciting work at office, I had a great time attending a social meetup, then came GOI's hackathon where I created an infographic on Education in India which received the first prize! This was followed by a website UI review to bring out the researcher in me and finally conducted a career workshop on April 16, 2013 for 37 students from standard V of Shivri Cross Mumbai Public School at Sewri, Mumbai. In this post, I'm going to share my interaction with the very bright municipal school kids to discuss "career".

I came to know about this opportunity on twitter through Alison (@albarrett09) who retweeted someone's tweet asking for volunteers for various activities for Teach For India class in Sewri.

Most of these opportunities show up on twitter through some connection. Like in this case, it was because of Alison whom I have been following for her education related tweets. In the past, I have happily volunteered for art workshop and puppet play at Municipal Schools and so it didn't take me even a minute to respond to Himani (@greenrains), a Teach for India fellow and told her that I would like to take the career workshop as I like interacting with students on education and career related topics. I believe that if each one of us who are supposedly stable can give back to the society then we can collectively bring some change. What students lack in municipal schools today is adequate guidance and this was a good opportunity to cultivate minds. Having said that, it was a challenge this time as here I had to interact with 37 Standard V students who barely know the world at large. I knew I had to keep it simple and do something creative and captivating for them. I decided to conduct an interactive game session which was based on my color question cards for PowerPoint training. If that game could work with grown-ups, then I had no reason to believe that it won't work with students who are considered more creative and outward. The planning had already started in my mind from that moment and I shared the flow of the career workshop with Himani a day in advance:
  1. General chat with the students about their studies and ambitions. (15-20 mins)
  2. "I want to become..." career activity where all 37 students will be provided a Career Color Card and they have to mention:
    - Name of the student
    - Subjects they like
    - Subjects they don't like
    - What do they want to become?
    - How can they fulfill their ambitions?
  3. Interactive Game 

The basic idea of the Career Color Card interactive game was to build excitement and enthusiasm among the students as a topic on "career" could have been boring for some. I was clear that I wanted all 37 students and not just the academically bright ones to listen well and actively participate. Once Himani and her co-teacher introduced me to the class, I started talking about people, education and jobs. I was impressed with the students as all of them could understand English and were even giving replies in English. I went on to ask "What is career? Has anyone of you heard the word career?". I could see blank stares and knew that this was the objective of my next 3 hours - to give them some idea about what career is. Now, some of you may question that aren't Standard V students too young for discussing about career? Yes, they are. I've always felt that in our education system we are not guided well at the right time. Everyone things that the student will become an A or a B, but do all become A or a B? No. But, if you provide some guidance or even a pep talk about a different profession, and you never know it might just click and the student can consider that as a career option. In today's hyper-connected world of multiple opportunities, it's advisable to give guidance from early on. At least try, there's no harm in talking.

I explained the term "career" in simple terms and told them that career is your life's journey which connects your education, qualification and job. It is never-ending and will stay with you for life. I could see confused faces and switched to a lighter discussion. I asked "Why do you all study?", and got some very good responses. Collectively, they told me that they study to:

  • Become knowledgeable
  • Get a job to meet new people
  • Get a job to go to new places

Fair enough! These kids had some idea about how education and jobs are linked and it was a signal that now I should start the Career Color Card game. We randomly distributed the cards and then asked all the students to fill in the details on their card. I went bench to bench to see if they had any difficulty and they need assistance. It was overwhelming to see how bright those kids were and everyone wrote an answer. Once they did that, they were grouped together as per the color on their Career Card and I asked them to choose their team leader by consensus. So, the four teams were - Green (Team 1 led by Ayan), Blue (Team 2 led by Nausheen), Yellow (Team 3 led by Sajida) and Red (Team 4 led by Rinaaz).  Every team had almost 7 or 8 students and sat in the same rows. After 10 minutes, the team leaders were asked to collect the Career Cards and the responses were collated. Their aspirations (what they wanted to become) were classified into broad categories to arrive at a holistic overview of all the different fields the students could think of. This categorization helped address career related discussions per profession, instead of talking to every student individually. I started with the Green team followed by Blue, Yellow and Red and we listed down all the non-matching professions per team. It came out that among the class, there were 11 unique professions the students listed down. This was incredible as it was the first time they were doing such an exercise and could actually think about what they would like to become. I talked on each profession for 2-3 minutes sharing what kind of subjects they should like (also tried connecting it with their subject responses), how many years it takes and what kind of exams (government, colleges, NDA, etc) they will have to take up. Some of the students really paid good attention and asked me questions. I felt very good adding value to them, and they opened up well by half-time. I asked them to note down the points they like on the back side of their cards and keep it safely at home to refer to it whenever they feel like. Take a look at the 11 job categories mentioned by them, aren't they interesting?

  1. Police
  2. Engineer
  3. Pilot
  4. Teacher
  5. Painter
  6. Artist
  7. Soldier
  8. Doctor
  9. Prime Minister!
  10. Doctor
  11. Air Hostess

I was told that they have one more activity after my career workshop, hence had to cut down the game (I were to ask them to come with a friend's card and then share with the class how s/he could become that). Before the actual session, I had tweeted asking for career tips for these students.

I got the following responses which I compiled and gave as a printout to Himani so that she can distribute to the class:
  • Value of books and friendship.
  • Never compete with others. Simply be what they are and strive for the best. 
  • Do only what you think you can be passionate about, every single day of your life. Discard any other career option.
  • Gain knowledge, be passionate in what you do and focus on what you do. Team spirit is a fourth dimension added.
  • Be honest to yourself, learn from each other and focus on application of knowledge.
  • Honesty (most imp), focus, and hard work! Rest all is taken care off!

These are small things but in these formative years, it can inspire a few. Students really value such inputs. Below are some photos of the Career Color Cards and the classroom. I really like the last team photo, scroll slowly to glance through the curiosity and energy in those little eyes.

Once the class workshop ended, I said Goodbye to everyone and left. Their next session didn't happen so Himani did something exciting. She took all the students upstairs for the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and they were extremely excited. Before going, they all said a big thank you! It was a nice feeling and I hope they really do well in life as they are our future.

Four days later, I took part in a twitter chat #edu4all where we were discussing about education for the girl child and I shared my experience with all. It felt nice when Meera Sanyal (@meerasanyal) who was the panelist read my suggestions and appreciated. Many more folks read it and my only intention was to tell that it's possible to contribute in our own little way when we're passionate about something and want to create a better India.

I hope some day these wonderful students read this blog and share with me what they'll become in life as I'm confident we have a bright India ahead. I will wait for their response here as that feeling will be priceless. If you have any comments or feedback, then please leave a comment below as I would like to hear from you. And, if you are from some school and would like me to come and interact with your students, then contact me here.

Keep educating,


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