Around this time last year I had sent in my Apni Shala fellowship application. Even the mere thought of working at Apni Shala Foundation was thrilling for me. Although I had some experience working with children at a remand home, I had been looking for a place that would not only provide opportunities for working directly with young children but also give me the necessary support to improve my facilitation skills. Apni Shala seemed like the right fit for me! Soon after applying I was gone for a holiday, but before that I made it a point to leave an alternate number in the application form in case the organisation decided to call during my absence. While on the trip, not one day went by without me wondering, Kya unhone call kiya hoga?(Would they have called?), Will I get the fellowship? and so on. As soon as I returned, I checked with my friend if there were any phone calls or messages for me from Apni Shala. Sadly, there was none.
And then, one rainy August morning, I received an interview call from Apni Shala. The next day, a bit nervous, as I entered the office, I found a group of young people sitting at their desks, doing their work while also keeping the atmosphere lively and vibrant. That gave me some relief.
The interview was over, and I was happy with the way it went. For the next round of interview I had to come prepared for a demo session on a given topic, namely, “emotions”. I was pretty confident about my session plan. However, to my surprise, I did not have real students to test my plan on, but there were four or five Apni Shala team members who posed as students! That was unnerving for me. When the demo got over, I was relieved. By the end of the day, I received an email saying “YOU ARE SELECTED AS A FELLOW AT APNI SHALA”. I was overwhelmed and just too excited to start on my new role.
In the beginning I was really quiet and shy since I was the last among the fellows to join. And because the rest had already started doing sessions at the allotted schools, it felt like I had plenty to catch up on.
My initial weeks, that is the induction period, comprised a lot of reading to get myself acquainted with the various styles of pedagogy. I would sit with different team members at different times in a day who would help me get an understanding of the social emotional learning (SEL) model and how it is implemented inside classrooms and beyond. It also helped that I was already aware of SEL. My training also involved observing few Apni Shala sessions and making notes, also recording the challenges that one might face at a typical SEL classroom. Finally that day arrived when I could conduct my very first session in a school. I was feeling confident and at the same time ecstatic about getting to do what I was preparing myself for all this while. From that point I kept going onward and there has been no stopping me.
The Apni Shala Fellowship programme gave me the opportunity to engage with people from diverse backgrounds. We have interacted not only with young people (studying at primary and secondary sections) but also with their parents and especially with the teachers and school principals — all of them equally important stakeholders in creating a healthy environment for the development of each child.
As far as the professional development of the team members go, Apni Shala pays careful attention by taking each one through various capacity-building workshops — the effects of which reach beyond a person’s professional to personal life. One such programme is the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) workshop. The SEED programme has exposed me to the various aspects, ideas, beliefs and notions as they exist in the society and the world at large, just as I was urged to confront so many ideas about my subjective self.
The fellowship programme served as a great platform for me to explore my strengths and weaknesses. It gave me an insight into how government partnerships work, its processes and especially the needfulness of SEL programmes in one’s life.
For the past nine months, we four fellows have been on our toes. It does feels like we have given the best of our potentials. My team of colleagues has made each day at work worth my while as they were always around to help and guide me at every juncture. I met people who are so different than I am and yet we connected. My workspace and the people here have made me more adjusting and accepting of others. They have taught me to trust the process as it unwinds itself.
With all the unlearning, learning, making new friends, meeting new students, planning and executing school-wise events, creating session plans, post-session documentations, in between filling the attendance trackers and other serious work there were plenty occasions of serious fun — it seems like we have covered a lot of ground, come a long distance in a very short span of time. This journey is going to remain an unforgettable one.
About the author: Krutika Khare works as a programme fellow with Apni Shala.She holds a Bachelor in Arts degree with a major in Psychology. Krutika has previously worked with children from Dongri Remand Home, and as a mentor for Buddy Life Educare, coaching children in behavioural issues