Meet Roshan. He is a Software Engineer in a leading IT services company in Pune. His parents are among the thousands of immigrants who made Pune their home in the ’70s. Both studied in schools that offered vernacular instruction and wanted their children to have all the advantages they never did. Roshan was enrolled in a school with English as the medium of instruction. Roshan has faced a few challenges in his career – most of them to do with his lack of confidence when communicating in English. His lack of confidence is a detriment to his growth. He fears to say the wrong thing, or worse still saying something incorrectly and being laughed at. So he holds his tongue even when he has the answers.
This story isn’t unusual. If anything it is a popular theme.
It could have been my story, but for my English teacher, Teresa Lobo. Flashback to my 12-year-old self. I wasn’t confident speaking English, and this affected my studies – I was distracted and always up to some mischief. Mrs Lobo helped me find my solid ground. She nudged me to push past my perceptions and the boundaries of my making and to conquer my fears that were the only things holding me back. Most of all she taught me one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned in my life – never to consider myself inferior or superior to anyone; never to judge myself relative to someone else’s capabilities or talent.
I carried her lessons with me as I progressed through life. I trained as a software engineer, and while I walked the path I had chosen there was a need in me to share what she taught me with others. Sometime in 2011, I was asked to help prepare six students from Latur for interviews. These students had good scores. They were hard working and sincere. They also had big ambitions. The only obstacle in their path was their interview. They were low on confidence, not about their area of specialisation, but about communicating this knowledge orally in English. Unfortunately in India, without the basic ability to communicate in English, more often than not, you aren’t even considered a suitable candidate no matter what your credentials. As I helped them get comfortable speaking and offering their views in English, I had my aha moment. I realised I wanted to take the lessons Mrs Lobo had taught me to a wider audience. And Teresa’s Learning Centre was born.
Mrs Lobo passed away when I was still in college so she never really got to meet the man I have become. Nor did she get to see how I am using what she taught me to change other lives just like she changed mine. Teresa’s Learning Centre is my tribute to her.