UPAY Writing Contest – Runner Up 1

Theme: What makes a good teacher?

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First Runner Up: Poorva Singhai

Think about something, a subject or any activity which you were taught as a child and still dread it today. The one thing which comes to my mind right now or any time for that matter is, MATHEMATICS. I guess most of you will be able to relate with me, here. Definitely, not flaunting, but I could never understand why I used to score well in all my subjects but not in math. It all became clear, the reason behind my poor scores in math, when I got hold of this amazing book called, “Outliers”, which I recommend everybody to read. “The problem with math education is the sink-or-swim approach. Everything is rapid fire, and the kids who get it first are the ones who are rewarded. So there comes to be a feeling that there are people who can do math and there are people who aren’t math people.” However, my math teacher did not understand this. She did not understand that learning is not a competition; she could not understand that some kids require an extended amount of time to understand a topic, and which gives them more time to sit and digest everything that’s going on—to review, to do things at a much slower pace. Kids can ask any questions they want and they can go back over material and not feel the time pressure. This makes the subject meaningful and the kids see a clear relationship between effort and reward. It is important for a teacher to understand how important it is for him/her, to give her students the sufficient amount of time to grasp the topic and not make learning a competition. Let me list down 5 qualities, which in my experience a great teacher should possess:

  1. A great teacher should think like a kid. If a teacher is giving out information in a complicated way then the kids are going to get bored. So you have got to make it in a fun way. We often see kids losing interest in the middle of a chapter/topic. A teacher should devise ways to come up with creative ways of thinking to engage a student’s attention and one of the ways is imitate their way of thinking. The kids want us to understand them, to know what is going on their head, and they want us to see the world inside them.
  2. A great teacher isn’t in the classroom. Think about a something which you learnt as a child and still remember it, till today. This reminds me of a subject, biology, which I loved, but was having a hard time learning a topic, the plant system. Our biology teacher, who happens to be a great inspiration in my life, took us to the ground garden. She plucked a small rose with its stem and roots intact and explained everything, from xylem-phloem to cross pollination. Big words? But I still remember them! Why? Because, it was not theory but a practical. A teacher needs to make that extra effort to make their students learn and not just simply mug. A student wants to know what we study or learn in class is actually applicable in the real world. This is something which makes them curious and know more about that subject.
  3. A good teacher loves to teach but a great teacher loves to learn. The reason this is significant is that, kids do not see their teachers learning, they see them teaching, but they wish they learn along with them. What if a teacher entered in a classroom and say, “I don’t know what we are going to learn today, but let’s find out together?” Or if the students saw their teacher struggling and eventually discovering the answer. Kids want to be inspired by the idea that learning is significant, but they don’t see it in school and hence it is important for a great teacher to demonstrate it to them.
  4. A great teacher understands that the kids have life outside the school. I am not sure if every one of you reading this has watched Hichki, a Rani Mukherjee film, or not. Where, this teacher (Rani’s character) is trying to civilize few slum children in school full of rich and privileged kids. The teacher did not judge them on their poor background rather went to each individual’s home to assess their behavior and understand their situation. This made her earn those kids confidence and made them realize that she is not there to ridicule them unlike the other teachers, but actually want them to learn. Thus, a great teacher notices when there is struggle; they don’t make assumptions about what a kid can or cannot do; they wait, watch, hear their students and protects them. They understand that there is life after school which is not same for all.
  5. A great teacher should have a good sense of humor. I know we have all had one teacher, whose class we used to always look forward to, no matter how tough the subject was and still remember him/her fondly yet today. Quality jokes or fun activities keep students engaged and helps teacher get through a tough or a boring topic. Students keep learning and listening intuitively in hope of hearing a good joke as a milestone in between the lecture and without realizing grasp that topic.


I would like to end this article by quoting these thought provoking lines by Malala Yousafzai- “One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world”

I hope to become that teacher some day 🙂







UPAY Writing Contest – Winning Entry

Theme: What makes a Good Teacher?

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-10 at 14.46.46Winner: Ankit Anand

The cornerstone of human civilisation has been acquiring and propagation of knowledge since ancient times. The spirit of innovation and creativity separates human from other beings. The famous philosopher Rene Descartes, while saying- “I think, therefore I am”, has credited the existence of human beings on their thinking ability. He was talking about the individual human. Besides individual excellence, the essence of human society definitely is based on propagation of knowledge to the coming generations. This essential function is performed through the Teachers.


The role of teaching is divided among the components and institutions of society. The parents, and especially mother is the best teacher during early childhood phase. The role of society and institutions like schools, colleges, universities etc. comes next. Nearly everyone has to play the role of teacher in one way or another. Like the survival of a Cub depends upon the hunting taught by her mother, the survival of a kid depends on the lessons he has learned from the society.


Being a matter of survival, the question- “what makes a good teacher” is of vital significance. Traditionally a good teacher has been portrayed as one having vast knowledge, a strict disciplinarian, and maybe having the halo of enlightenment behind his head. The field of study was rigidly fixed by him. Cometh the Renaissance, a good teacher became a guiding light with high degree of individual liberty granted to students. This led to development of new ideas and tools on which our modern civilisation is based upon. This paradigm has continued in various shapes, though the traditional way of teaching still dominates the traditional societies.


The qualities of a good teacher would essentially include – dedication towards the goal, indomitable will to make a student better, good observational skills etc. He should also have patience and perseverance. A good teacher should have all the qualities of a good student. He should be inquisitive, a constant learner and should inquire logic surrounding the processes and beliefs. He should be able to inculcate way of rational and scientific thinking in his students.  And finally he should be honest with himself and his students.


The list of qualities is innumerable and ideally, such an ideal teacher should not exist. This is the very reason of strong dissatisfaction among parents about their demand of a good teacher, even after paying hefty fees. There is a need to be practical and that’s why the concept of a good teacher needs a drastic change.


A look into the lives of great personalities and analysis of qualities of their teacher can give us a clear view. Though, there are innumerable good stories about teacher imparting good qualities too, let us focus on few negative examples to get the point. Gandhi’s teacher in class five wanted him to copy from one of his classmates during inspection. Thomas Edison’s teacher had given up on him during his childhood. The teacher of Buddha would sincerely not have advised him to go to jungle and achieve enlightenment. We can see that each of these had made their own path. Where did they learn to follow those path? That’s the role and lessons from society. As such, the society becomes a good teacher.


Teaching the kids to respect the values that make our society and simultaneously asking them to rebel against the values that are irrational and unscientific should be the role of a teacher. This becomes the duty of each individual. Nowadays, a student can learn a lot from internet courses. So, the role of teacher is to become a guiding light and help him differentiate between what is good and what is bad.


The dynamic and subjective nature of good and bad makes teaching a mammoth task. The work should be divided among each and every person of a society. The role of youth becomes very important as he is the most contemporary of the student. This is where the role of NGOs become important to attract the youth and other diverse personalities to impart different perspectives to the kids.


Thus, we can say that one who honestly tries to impart knowledge and values in others is a good teacher. He should know his limitations and be honest and faithful to his pupil about his limitations. Also, the diversity among teachers will bring diversity among the experiences and will be useful for ethical-moral education. This makes the role of NGOs important for socio-economic-moral development of individual, society and nation. They should work in coordination with the traditional schooling system to bring the best out of the coming generation to make the human civilisation achieve its potential in a sustainable manner.


August – The Month Gone by in our Gurgaon centers

Month – August 2017 
Zone – Gurgaon 
1. HEALTH CHECK UP CAMPS: Secretary Operations- Mr. Akhil Mahajan
Health check-up camp was organized at 2 center’s(Sikanderpur and Sec 57 center) in the month of August. 55 students were covered at Sikanderpur center and 13 students were covered at Sec 57 center. Tablet for worm infection was given to each student. Basic health check-up was done of all students and if any student was found having an issue, it was noted for further action. Local people from slums also came from treatment/awareness.
-Akhil Mahajan
2. Sec 57 Centre : Centre Head – Mrs. Anju Pandey
The August month was both eventful and challenging for all of us at our center, sector-57. During the first week, when few families began to shift from the area, the number of children coming to the center drastically came down! After waiting for two days for things to normalize, we decided to visit the remaining families. It was then we found out that they feel unsafe walking down to the park, their center! We counseled the parents and the children for this. We suggested them for taking turns to drop their kids and come to the class together in a group. To our surprise the very next day the class strength was back up!
To celebrate our Independence Day, we had organized a sports day where every child participated. It was so heartwarming to see their enthusiasm! They sportingly learned and played new games, races, learned motivational song etc. To mark this auspicious day, we held another eventful activity day where kids made the National flag, talked about how to keep their surroundings clean, learned about their freedom fighters, sang and danced on patriotic songs.
During this month, one of our challenges was to conduct regular classes when the rains were pouring. To tackle this, our team members came out with a brilliant solution. They spoke to the lady caretaker of a nearby unoccupied apartment, for conducting the classes during rain and heat. She happily agreed as her child, Naman, was also coming to us.
It is rightly said: Where there is a will, there is a way!!

Last but not the least, Rakshabandhan festival was celebrated by making Rakhi by all the children.

I want to give credit to our very desirous and buoyant team who inspire the people around them!!
Anju Pandey

3. Sohna Road Centre: Centre Head- Mrs. Sapna Tyagi 

“Strength and growth come only through constant efforts and struggle.”
As there are a lot of students at Sohna Road Center it was too difficult to manage and teach them properly. So as discussed with Varun we decided to split classes on alternate days. But this was likely to cause the students irregular. Now it the challenge to regularize and discipline them. But with our constant efforts, they are coming back on the track.
Students who were not going to school also required to be admitted. Some of them didn’t have birth certificates so I went to the mini-secretariat for the affidavit and talked to Education officer also. Three students were unable to purchase books and uniform so for two students Gaurav Ji advocate arranged a donation of Rs 4000.  For the third one, our Volunteer Smeeta Basak purchased all the books.
Our Volunteer Vaishali Ahuja also donated 40 notebooks. Snacks and fruits distribution was done by Dr.  Satish Chandra and Saumya Bansal. Our Volunteer Siddharth shah arranged 5 big size whiteboards and water bottles from his office.
Independence day was celebrated. Apart from the cultural program, our students played a drama on girls education.
This is how our august month was.
Thanks, everyone for your time and support.
Sapna Tyagi
4. Sikandarpur Centre: Centre Head – Mrs. Rupali Paranjape
As monsoon is at its peak, it was a challenge to conduct regular classes. The month of monsoon sees some important festivals and events. However, with the support of enthusiastic volunteers, we could manage to celebrate Independence Day and Raksha Bandhan at the center. Both festivals were celebrated with religious zeal and fervour. Children had an opportunity to show their creativity thru making Rakhi’s and Indian flag which truly made these events more unique.
We also conducted our first health check-up session at our center in August month.
It’s been almost a year I am visiting this centre and share a great bonding not only with the children but also with the people residing in neighbourhood. We are thankful to Mr. Virendra Yadav who allowed us to run the school in the temple premises. Also a big thank you to Reena and her family to allow us to keep all the required stuff,  at their small and cozy home, we are using on a daily basis. Special thanks to all priceless volunteers for their constant support in every possible way.
Rupali Paranjape

Not all heroes wear capes

“ Full time is difficult due to commitments to our job but UPAY has every second of the rest of my time “ That is one of the answers, resolute and full of grit, that we received on asking volunteers of UPAY if they would consider teaching full time, instead of volunteering.


The concept of volunteering never ceases to amaze me. After all, why would a person freely offer to take part in organised work without being paid for it? With so much of ambition floating around, time does seem priceless. Free time, the time found apart from work and the hustle of life is all the more precious. Yet, day in and day out we see people spending their time (and in some cases money) in volunteering for a cause. Nobody makes them do it, they don’t need to do it. They do it by choice. I have also come across people saying that volunteers are able to give very little time for the cause. But we must remember that giving even a little, when you already have less, requires great character. Moreover, drop by drop makes an ocean!

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members
– M. K. Gandhi

Even we set the benchmark of daily income ridiculously low at 28 rupees per day, approximately 30% of India’s population still lives below the poverty line.
If in today’s world you have 2 meals a day without having to worry about whether you will be having the next meal, if you have a place to call home and if you have people who care about you, you are among the privileged. And with such a huge disparity in the distribution of wealth in India, it becomes all the more imperative that the privileged give back to the ecosystem. This is where volunteering has had huge success. When we hear about the success stories of children like Taniya Gupta, a girl from Mouda who scored 94.6% in her class 10 exams (SSC), the spirit and purpose of volunteering is truly reinforced.   

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together
– African Proverb

We asked some questions to some of the volunteers at UPAY this week to understand why they do what they do. What keeps them motivated and what do they expect out of it.
It was overwhelming to read that an absolute 100% do it for the cause at hand. They want to bring about the change. They want to give back and share the knowledge that they are lucky enough to possess. Another huge statistic that stands out, is the response to the question about expectations from volunteering. Not a single response was completely around the volunteers self.  All of them want to see progress, happiness, positivity in the students that they are teaching. The results of the students, sharing of experience and building of meaningful mentor-mentee relations with the children are the biggest motivators for the volunteers at UPAY.

Sometimes we are so caught up in working for the cause that we forget to realise who the agents of change are.

We often blame the govt for not doing enough, but few of us act ourselves. If we want a change, we need to BE THE CHANGE. Many take this small but significant step toward changing the status quo. Let’s take a step back to thank and appreciate all the volunteers at UPAY, who, in their capacity, are doing the much needed execution of the ground work.

I imagine someday, somewhere down the line, you will get to hear about the success of the kid you taught years back. I think even a million dollar paycheck cannot replace the feeling that you will have then.  

Mohit Durge


Wriiten by: Deboshree Bhattacharya
“Life is a constant journey of trying to open your eyes. I am just beginning the journey and my eyes aren’t fully open yet”
In the outskirts of Nagpur, she belongs to the family of a farmer having 7 members. She started attending our classes at Reach & Teach Rahadi center in 6th Grade. Sincere in her studies, she always scored good marks. She even got a melodious voice and sings really well. Having secured 1st division in 10th standard, we came to know about her having Nyctalopia, a disorder which makes it impossible for her to see at low light. Alongside initial treatment, she managed to continue her studies and cleared 12th standard with good marks.
After a couple of months, when she was nowhere seen in our campus, one of her teachers enquired about her, only to know that her disability has started to take a toll and unfortunately she had to discontinue her studies. This news sent a wave of shock as she was one of the most passionate and hardworking students of our institution. Not only her physical state, but mental well being was at stake. It became difficult for her to go out of the home, even for small jobs.
After much deliberation, it was known that two of her sisters also have the same problem and had been undergone treatment but of no use! Considering the economic conditions and societal pressures, depression was sure to take over her and her family.
Trying to find a solution to every problem, our helping hands (volunteers) helped her get out of the agony. She was taken to several places over the period of time to get properly treated; best of the doctors, famous hospitals, sophisticated techniques, advanced treatments, from modern medicine to herbal remedies, only to be disappointed.
When nothing worked in favor, They tried to engage her and helped her to join them as a volunteer and Teach the kids and tried hard to convince her to pursue singing, given she had a really beautiful voice.
Daughter of Gitabai and Chandrabhanaji Shebe, Karishma, then a STUDENT, is now our regular TEACHER and teaches English. She is accompanied by her own students from her home to our center. Interestingly, in spite of low-to-no visibility in the evening, she teaches her students efficiently and takes care of each of them. Not only this, thousands of people witnessed her magical performance at our Foundation day celebration along with her troupe and praise poured in for her bravery, confidence, and brilliant vocal quality.
Click to Watch her performance: https://youtu.be/hfVtoAR-Jek
We weren’t matured enough to understand what is correct and what is not. Education was always the last thing on our list. When UPAY came to our village, we slowly opened our minds and started enjoying studies. Now I love learning, but despite having resources and guidance, I couldn’t continue my studies because unlike other girls, I can’t see properly. My teachers from UPAY have helped me a lot to get proper treatment, they took me to several hospitals and doctors but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Nevertheless, I am happy now, being able to do something & contribute with them. They inspire me a lot to pursue singing and take efforts so that I can perform well. They say God gifted me with such a sweet voice, but I say, God, gifted me with Team UPAY. Like them, I wish to teach more students and take UPAY’s glory to the top.” says Karishma, a student-turned teacher, who teaches English at Rahadi village center in Mauda district.
It’s not the blindness within that stops us from growing, but being blind by giving no eye to the problems around you, is what makes you an actual BLIND person!
Therefore, We are trying hard to get Karishma enrolled under a good music trainer and help her take up music as her career.
Can you help Karishma fulfill her dreams? Be her solution, be her guardian.