In the middle of this month we welcomed Jessica Conway to Dharavi, where she will be working closely with our Educational Programs Director, Jonny Clarke, on our English Teacher Training program. This three week course, started on the 25th April and aims to prepare teachers to deliver our English curriculum to people living and working in Dharavi.
A really exciting (and busy) time! Nonetheless, Jess found 10 minutes to sit down and tell us about why she’s here and what she hopes to achieve in her time here.
Hi Jess, welcome to Dharavi. This is your first time in India. How are you finding it so far?
“I’m not sure I have the words to describe my first week in India… but I’ll try! I suppose the thing that has struck me the most since I arrived is the friendliness of the people here, and their constant striving to help me out when I get stuck, especially when trying to get taxis and rickshaws! This is something that unfortunately doesn’t happen so much in London… The food has been absolutely wonderful, I’ve tried so many new dishes – dosa is my new favourite thing and I would quite happily have chikoo milkshakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve visited some amazing places, such as the hill station Matheran, the Gandhi museum in Mumbai and the Hanging Gardens. I’m having such a wonderful and exciting time! I still need to get used to the heat, and my Hindi definitely needs some work, but I really don’t think I could have asked for a better first week.”
What do you do back in London?
“I’m the Director of Studies of an English Language school called EC English. We are a very large organisation, with schools in the UK, Malta, South Africa, Canada and the US. I am responsible for the academic department of our London school. The school is located in Euston, near King’s Cross station, and is very busy. We currently have around 300 students, and this will go up to around 500 in the summer. I am responsible for around 35 teachers, of varying levels of experience. My team and I work closely with our teachers to help them develop their teaching skills and to ensure our students have the best experience possible. Our students come from all over the world: Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Russia, Italy, France, Switzerland, Taiwan, Panama… a real mix! Most of them are studying English in order to get the qualifications they need to study at universities in the UK or US, or to improve their career prospects. We have students from the age of 16 to 80! It’s a great place to work – I get to meet so many interesting people and every day is different.”
What inspired you to come over here with us?
“I’ve known Jonny (Reality Gives Educational Programs Director) since 2013, and have heard him talk with such passion about the work that Reality Gives does here in Dharavi. We’ve often spoken about the problems with English language provision here, and the need for professional, enthusiastic and caring teachers who can deliver the materials effectively. Being able to communicate successfully in English can provide the people of Dharavi with so many more opportunities… when I was given the opportunity to take a sabbatical from work and come out to India to help create and deliver this training I obviously jumped at the chance! This experience is also beneficial for my own professional development… the students who study at my school are extremely privileged and I was keen to experience English language provision in a different setting, and with students for whom having the English language as a skill can be totally life-changing.
For two months before I came here Jonny and I worked tirelessly to put the course together – my entire flat was a sea of sticky notes! It’s been so rewarding though – we are only 4 days into the course and I can already see such potential in our trainees and how it is benefitting the students in the teaching practice sessions.”
What would you like to achieve during your time here?
“By the end of the course I would like us to have unlocked the potential (of which there is an incredible amount!) in our six trainees. I want them to be able to deliver the Reality Gives materials in the most effective way possible, and to be able to inject their own style and creativity into their teaching. I’d like them to have increased confidence, language awareness, and a bank of teaching techniques and go-to materials to help them engage their students and facilitate their language learning. When the course is finished, Jonny and I will take some time to reflect on the course, do further observations of the trainees, and see if anything needs to be tweaked, so that it can be delivered to other trainees in Dharavi and eventually in other parts of India too. I know that this is Jonny’s (and now also my) dream, and judging by the way the course is going so far, it’s absolutely achievable. Exciting times!”.