Facilitation In A Classroom: An Amalgamation Of Languages

by | Jul 4, 2023

Your first language is Malayalam and you have a moderate ability to communicate in Hindi. You are assigned a class of 11 students whose mother tongue is Odia, with a basic understanding of Hindi. The subject to be taught – Introductory Sociology and Anthropology. English is not a medium you wish to use for teaching. How should you teach them? How can you engage the class? Most importantly, how can you connect with them?

These were some of the initial queries that crossed my mind as I prepared myself to begin teaching the students enrolled in the Diploma in Community Health Practise (DCHP) course. DCHP is a program offered by Swasthya Swaraj in collaboration with Centurion University. It is a two-year residential programme, and upon graduation, students work with Swasthya Swaraj as community health workers. My first batch consisted of 11 girls.

Read more: DCHP – A Case Study For Human Centred Design Approach

The Language Of Dance And Music

Dance, dance, dance! The answer was right in front of me all along.

Dance is a huge part of the culture here, among the tribal people of Kalahandi. I first noticed this during our adolescent girls’ club meetings, where all sessions culminate in a dance. The Sambalpuri song Chatni is a crowd favourite.

Taking this as my inspiration, I decided to start dancing with the DCHP students. We began with Sambalpuri songs and later ventured into exploring songs in different languages. It turned out to be a wonderful way to learn about other cultures. For instance, we swayed to the English song May Day, recommended by an acquaintance. The Telugu song Saami from the movie Pushpa is also a popular one, especially its catchy hook-step. Starting each class with a dance allowed the group to physically explore their surroundings and gradually become comfortable with each other as their inhibitions vanished away. Adding in silly steps elicited laughter and fostered a sense of camaraderie among us.

The Language Of Acceptance

After the energetic dancing subsided and the class settled down, it was time to address the language barrier. I had two options – English or Hindi. I chose to go ahead with Hindi as the class was more comfortable with it. Establishing common ground with the students is crucial. I understood, from my own experience as a student, how demoralizing and intimidating it can be to sit through classes conducted in a language one doesn’t understand. I wanted to create an environment free of intimidation.

By acknowledging the uniqueness of each student and recognizing their diverse learning styles, I was able to simplify concepts such as Resource Mapping in Sociology or Human Culture in Social Anthropology and translate them from English to Hindi in relatable words. Incorporating visual aids such as videos with Odia narrations, tremendously improved their understanding of the concepts.

The Language Of Mutual Respect

I encouraged the students to voice their doubts and queries freely. The primary goal was to enable them to express themselves comfortably in any language or even through gestures if necessary. Not all students step forward to participate. For every five who do it, there is usually one who hesitates. These students are always on my radar. I ensure their inclusion by posing non-threatening questions that encourage them to slowly open up. Complex topics are marked complete only after peer-learning sessions, where students learn from one another through discussions.

The DCHP class engaged in peer learning activity

The Language Of Mind

As the classes progressed, I realized the importance of adopting a student’s mindset even while teaching. In this case, the girls, coming from tribal backgrounds, have a wealth of knowledge about local cultures and society. Incorporating their insights into our social anthropology discussions was eye-opening and reinforced the importance of lifelong learning.

Being Receptive To Feedback

Actively seeking feedback both during and after the sessions helped me adapt my teaching style to the needs of the class. Through trial and error, I employed various teaching methods, and this iterative process made me fall in love with teaching. A classroom primarily belongs to the students. Anyone who enters a class needs to embrace a student’s mindset, no matter their role or position.

In conclusion, I invite you to ponder this question: What does your ideal classroom look like? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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