Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kyonne R. ILR'18, Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning: Heightening Our Capacity for Global Service

My name is Kyonne R. ('18) and this past summer I had the distinct privilege of participating in the ILR in India program. After completing some introductory courses on gender, culture, language, and labor in this new context, I was able to join one of India’s premier non-profit organizations, which has set out to address the needs of the nation’s most vulnerable populations. This partnership was an opportunity for change makers from across the globe to coalesce for one singular purpose, which was to heighten our joint capacities for public service.
Kyonne and Dr. Ramkumar, his mentor and supervisor at VTCL
This year, the Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning launched a new, cutting-edge dual immersion program to increase rates of English proficiency amongst tribal populations. I had the honor and privilege of assisting in the management and development of this program – an endeavor which I would say was rather successful. Relying on my previous experiences documenting effective practices in K-12 schools across the U.S., I joined a team of educators in their efforts to develop innovative communication strategies for student-student and teacher-student interactions. After a period of both active and passive classroom observations, I hosted training sessions to explore strategies for taking this newly established English-instruction program to the next level. Throughout this experience, I felt as though my skill sets were welcomed. I felt like part of a team. And beyond our efforts to meet this primary goal, I was also able to engage teachers and administrators in discussions that I believe will continue to spur organizational success for this esteemed institution. 

Playing games with the youngest VTCL students.
Although my primary focus was on communication strategies, the overarching goal for this partnership was to build the capacity of teachers and administrators as they continue to meet the needs of India's tribal student populations. With this broader goal in mind, I advocated for the use of employee self-assessments as an opportunity for teachers and administrators to regularly evaluate their own professional development. I also discussed the potential benefits and challenges associated with collaborative teaching environments – hopefully so that administrators could make more informed decisions on how to utilize teams as part of their approach. Lastly, I shared some effective practices for increasing extrinsic motivation for students with disabilities – students who have the potential to be left behind if they aren’t engaged in ways that are palatable for them. Looking back, I think that my professors from the ILR School's OB and HR departments would have been proud of my contributions! 

I was surprised by how open the teachers and administrators were to my suggestions, but what I took away from this experience was the importance of honest self-assessment in all realms of public service. Although I had expected some pushback, my colleagues at the Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning welcomed my analysis for its potential to help them in their quests to serve a marginalized community. They were less interested in praises and more focused on developing their own human capital - an approach which I will adopt and carry with me for the rest of my life. 

Having successfully completed this program, I am still in awe of the school's teachers and administrators, who continue to make strides in the provision of high-quality educational opportunities for a diversifying rural student population. This experience has deepened my commitment to making a difference for urban student populations back home, as I use these and other experiences to prepare for a career in education consulting and nonprofit management. 

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