A blackboard in the living room
Vandana Bist is an illustrator, writer and children’s author. After graduating from the Delhi College of Art she started working as an illustrator with publishers like Katha, Penguin, Rupa, Harper Collins, Ratna Sagar, and Children’s Book Trust besides others. She has been writing since 1989 and her specific areas of interest are adult fiction, poetry and workshop outlines in schools. In 2014, she began her own venture called Akka Bakka, with two colleagues. Teaching children is her passion and something she greatly enjoys.
Q. You have been an illustrator by profession for more than two decades. When and why did you decide to take up home tuitions in English?
A. I have been passionate about drawing and writing ever since I was a child. While I formally trained to become an illustrator, I continued writing....initially only for myself, and later for publishing...albeit intermittently. Writing in English was a natural choice. My student life was spent in convent schools and at home too, my mother spoke to us mostly in English and kept a strict ear to our pronunciation and language.
When my children started school, and as I went with them through their school life, I had the chance to understand a very curious situation that most children in the public schools were going through and the situation remains almost the same even today.
While most parents are very eager to send their children to ' English Medium ' schools...in the hope that they will come out well equipped to face a world that gives much weightage to the language...they fail to realize that in school, the children are most of the time in a quasi-English environment...and then come home to be again to be enveloped in the environment of their mother tongue. How then can the young ones ever reinforce their speaking and writing skills and face a curriculum that stresses so much on both the latter and former?
It was this troubling predicament of the school kids that made me take up home tuitions in English. I wanted to expose children to the friendly way of learning a language as eccentric as English. It’s another thing of course, that I love being with children and that I love the language and its eccentricities!
Q. How do you keep up with the changing styles of teaching and with the syllabus at school?
A. I read up a lot on how teachers in other parts of the world have been successful in teaching English to children whose first language is another. I try to combine those techniques with our own linguistic traditions and I have come up with many modules that address a variety of problems the children in our schools face when confronted with the language.
I have friends who are teachers in public schools and with their help, I keep myself updated on the syllabus. Besides... Google is an old friend now!
Q. Household chores and work can often create conflicting situations when working out of a home. What is your mantra for balancing both the fronts?
A. As I mentioned before, I do have much more time now than I had when my children were younger. With time on my side, I am able to plan my day well. I am also very grateful to the two domestic helps I have. They are a great support. My family too has encouraged me to follow my passion and I am thankful for that as well.
Q. Are your teaching methods different from those at schools? Is there anything unique about your teaching style?
A. Yes...my teaching methods are different. As I had mentioned earlier, I was greatly troubled by the situations I had seen the children face with the language when my kids were in schools. Now, as a tutor, I try to make an earnest effort to make the learning of the language more fun and stress-free. My students are encouraged or rather strictly expected to read a story book a week. I have a huge collection of storybooks for children of all ages and my students are free to borrow books of their choice.
Q. Is the income earned from your tuitions satisfactory?
A. The income is good and steadily on the rise. A command over the English language is always helpful and quintessential. The satisfaction is great, I enjoy the work I do and I make learning fun for my kids!