Better than chocolates

Voices - 20 September 2017

Sneha Srinivasan (Cohort 2016) shares her thoughts and key learnings in a recent Q & A we had with her.

Why did you join the Teach First NZ programme?

There were three reasons:

1.   Injustice has always fascinated me. What I mean is that I’ve often wondered why humans are the way we are now and have been in the past, also how and why do inequalities exist. When I joined the TFNZ programme, there was not a lot of awareness about the educational inequality in New Zealand, it was almost as if people refused to believe it. Our education system is one of high quality! Yet, interestingly, a lot of people don’t exactly fit into the equation for quality education.

2.  I had strong opinions about education, but I wasn’t sure how to turn my thoughts into reality while pursuing a career in a technological field. I truly believe that in order to create a better future for everyone, there needs to be a shift in mindset, which can be done by properly educating the future generation.

3.  I wanted to contribute to people’s lives, in a way that was more than just sitting in a lab shooting lasers, although I did enjoy that. This might sound a bit cheesy, but I wanted a more fulfilling career where I would feel like I am making a difference, for myself and for those around me.

Tell me about the impact the Teach First NZ programme has had on you- what have been your key learnings?

My journey through Teach First has been a massive learning curve, sort of like driving around a tight bend at 50km//h when it clearly says 25km/h. I’ve become more confident in communicating my thoughts. Teach First NZ helped me explore many aspects like identity, vulnerability and culture, in different ways. I realised that I’ve been a bit sheltered in the past and only now am I beginning to see things for what they really are.

Can you share with us a time when you feel like you've had a real “aha” moment with a student?

One day I received an email from a colleague reminding me to check my pigeonhole for a little surprise. Eagerly (who doesn’t love surprises) that is what I did, secretly hoping for chocolates. What I found, however, was better than chocolates.

“Miss Srinivasan. 
I love science, and I really like the way that you make science easy to learn. The best class that I have. Thank you. ”

It turns out some students were asked to write a friendly note to a teacher of their choice, someone who they appreciate and I just so happened to be one of the lucky recipients.

I’m always mindful of what I say and do around my students but I don’t consciously think about the impact I have on each student so it becomes very easy to be engrossed in my own thoughts about how students perceive me. So, reading this note made me realise that even when I feel like I’m not a good teacher or that I may be letting my students down, students’ perceptions are often different. Even though it was just one note, this note burst my thought bubble and opened my eyes. Students, I realised, regardless of age or any other characteristics can be very honest and forthcoming, for which I will always be grateful.

What advice would you give to someone who's joining C18?

Be open-minded. Expect to have things not go your way. Most importantly, remember WHY you joined this programme, that should be your mantra for every time you feel like giving up or feel like you’re not a good teacher – which are very common feelings.