Alissa Lopez Serfozo – Spotlight on Service: NIRMAN
NIRMAN is truly a place that unveils itself to the willing participant. My first time stepping onto the colorful campus as a new intern, I felt apprehensive towards the rather overwhelming amount of opportunities available at my service site. My supervisor asked directly, "What do you want to teach here?" Frankly, I did not know where to start, so I just started.
All-throughout my first month, I immersed myself in the fast pace of teaching English and Arts to students of the primary section. I assumed, rather prematurely, that I had found my steadfast niche. Five months later, I realize my role has stayed the same in some aspects, while also having evolved dramatically.
I still teach the same two subjects, but have taken on additional classes in the secondary section (my classes range from grade 2-11). Moreover, the contributions I make to NIRMAN's community extend beyond the classroom. I design logos and brochures, manage school soft boards, decorate for café openings, and moderate the school's first ever yearbook. I counsel secondary students preparing for college in the near future, tutor eighth and ninth grade students in Spanish, and teach English to pre-nursery and nursery school teachers (unlike the older grades of the primary section and the secondary section which is purely English-Medium, the lower grades of the primary section speak mostly in Hindi). My exact title grows more vague as time passes (Intern? Teacher? Interior designer?). Perhaps this is a testament to how much I am invested in NIRMAN's vision, or rather a testament to how much fun I am having.
NIRMAN's effectiveness as an NGO emanates from the contributions made by those devoted to the school's progressive direction. It has taken me 5 months of interning to truly grasp this concept. As an alternative education school with a curriculum rooted in artistic expression, this foundation organically leads to success. Regardless of foreign backgrounds, different ages, unique instructing styles, and non-synchronized strengths - creative, academic, and those in between - teachers learn from one another at NIRMAN. Lesson plans, goals, and intentions all vary, but ultimately function, despite the rather predictable hiccups of miscommunication along the way.
Perhaps the school's versatile nature is a testament to NIRMAN's true artistic appeal. I have seen interns come and go, all of whom have travelled great distances to see their innovative teaching methods come to fruition. Some courses and workshops they have taught include: cognitive development through movement, found poetry, musical theatre improvisation, and studying the environment through an art medium. With NIRMAN as a creative host, these artistic lessons have been possible.
Sure, my schedule is undeniably hectic. I meet with some classes more than others and often substitute for other teachers with little time notice in advance. Occasionally I find it odd that I am called "Alissa Madam Ji" by students born in my same generation and even teach students who were born in the same year as I. I still grow frustrated when it takes far too long to issue materials for my Art class, and giggle when two coworkers direct me to one another for a laptop that is nowhere to be found. Yes, NIRMAN is quirky, yet I don't lose sight of its overall motto and effectiveness. I am just so glad to be a part of its collective vision.