Working as a Teaching Assistant for Gifted Children – An Experience and a Half!
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
This summer, I interned with GenWise Talent Development, and entered the world of experiential, hands-on GATE, assisting instruction for a two-week long summer program in Bangalore, and one in Hyderabad.
Reading about giftedness is one thing – I’ve skimmed through the papers, immersed myself in the books, hungrily consumed the articles. Being in a classroom with these intensely curious, engaged, sharp students is, however, a whole different ball game.
First, I was able to assist world-class scholars with a burning passion to educate and share knowledge. The students and I spent time with Professor Dr. Sukanya Sinha, scientist at the Indian Statistical Institute and Founder-Director of Curiouscity Science Education, conducting experiments on density, creating clinometers from scratch, and exploring mathematical conjectures through stimulating puzzles and tricks. We visited a sustainable living community and navigated challenges in the environment with Professor Dr. Radha Gopalan, who has been an environmental consultant and activist, PhD from IIT in hand, for two decades. Professor Dr. Hari Krishna dove head-first into the world of logic, symmetry, and visual spatial reasoning with the students, helping them understand the world and its dimensions (and even building larger than life soma blocks!). Professor Balaram, former Chairman of the National Institute of Design, taught our Hyderabad batch of students the art of problem solving (complete with a visit to IKEA), and Professor Utpal Chattopadhyay – whose own PhD pursuit started at the age of 19 – opened up the magical world of Physics to the curious minds. There were approximately 15 instructors, and a large team – GenWise, Pravaha, Sattva, and IIIT-Hyderabad – working on making these two programs a success.
What truly made this experience special for me, however, was the children. To see them really flourish through play, their own individual quest for knowledge, and an environment where they are encouraged to truly be themselves, was a big takeaway. They studied Physics and Engineering and Math and Development – but also Gender and Media and Literacy Woodwork and Socio-Emotional learning. Each small group was assigned to a Residential Counsellor who made every moment of the day, post-classes, memorable – from t-shirt painting to ‘GenWise Olympics’ to DJ and Karaoke nights to common meals to bonfires to quizzes to the nightly RC Huddle.
Every moment of the day was enriched by learning, sharing, and nurturing. To be understood, as a child, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I believe that these children – gifted, exceptional, and evergreen – found a home for their passions and curiosities at these two camps, felt understood, and learnt a lesson in just how many possibilities the world holds for them.
At the end of the camps, the students left with graduation hats, appreciation letters, and teary goodbyes. Beyond this, however, I think they left with the newfound knowledge that they can do, be, and pursue anything they want to and more.