The Story of Kक्षा [Kaksha]
A year and a half ago, one of our co-founders, Shruti, felt that the curriculum did not offer students the path to grow holistically, as learning outcomes were only result oriented. As an experiment, she thought of sharing with her students her favourite novel, Tuesdays with Morrie, and developed a curriculum based on it focusing on kindness and compassion. Students who could not read their textbooks fluently due to low reading levels, two months later showed improvement in reading levels and were also kind and compassionate towards each other. She reached out to other educators to help her solve this problem of holistic learning.
Our founding team met for the first time on 5th April in a CCD at Connaught Place. Over a cup of coffee, we tried to understand each other and what our collective vision for Kक्षा [Kaksha] would look like. We all believed in the power of books and novels and we all wanted our students to experience that power. At that point, we didn’t quite know how we would do it.
Also in April, another one of our co-founders, Tarini decided to try teaching Charlotte’s Web in her grade 2 classroom. She wanted to see if students were receptive to the long novel which was so different from their textbooks. She also wanted to understand how elementary students could be taught novels when they barely knew how to read. Students were extremely excited about the book and loved exploring it through fun activities and even retained the new information they learnt! This strengthened our collective belief that Kक्षा [Kaksha] had the power to change the way learning currently looked like.
In May there was the practice pitch for the Be-The-Change-Project (BTCP) Track offered by Teach for India to hone social entrepreneurship and project management skills. Our team began working on the pitch but it didn’t go as planned. We lacked clarity and were even called a ‘shit-sandwich’ by one of the panelists because there were too many things we wanted to do and not much clarity on how we were going to do them. The panel also suggested we try a lean pilot to experiment and see if our proposed curriculum actually works or not.
We decided to take the feedback in our stride, reflect to get more clarity and plan for a lean pilot. We carried out a survey to gauge the need for novels in which 96% of the respondents said they felt there was a need for a novel in the classroom! We decided to conduct a lean pilot study using the novel ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. We even planned to induct volunteers to help us plan our curriculum.
We met at a Barista in North Delhi and ended up spending the entire day there designing the survey, creating an action plan for the pilot and planning for volunteers. Since the summer holidays were on, we created our curriculum at breakneck speed and began the pilot.
Anam, one of our co-founders, conducted the pilot with 8 of her students in a learning centre in West Delhi. She was amazed to see how much the students enjoyed the process and just how much they managed to learn in the two weeks of exploring The Little Prince together. This introduction to novels proved life altering for these students as they continued reading novels and books and to this day call Anam for book recommendations.
Our pilot proved our intended outcomes, students fell in love with learning and reading, they imbibed values and mindsets and also became more aware and expressive. This led to creating a rubric to gauge student growth based on love for novels, love for learning (which included knowledge and values and mindsets) and awareness and expression.
We started moving ahead with full speed and inducted volunteers to plan for two new novels - Charlotte’s Web and The Help.
As August drew closer, it was time for the final pitch for the BTCP Track. We were nervous but had refined our idea as well as got evidence to back us this time! Even though we knew what we were doing and had discussed it as a team we were still struggling to put it across to other people clearly. And so, one day before the actual pitch, Shubham and Tarini sat down with another friend, Sayantan and really fleshed out what exactly Kaksha was intending to do. We then came up with our problem statement, “How can we foster love for learning in students when their textbooks can’t offer sufficient depth and excitement?” We all got on a call later that night and were delighted that we had finally been able to put down our intention in words.
This time, the pitch went extremely well! All the panelists were extremely happy and had no further feedback. The same panelist who had called us a ‘shit sandwich’ now said that he would put his money on us! Kक्षा [Kaksha] was selected for the BTCP Track and there has been no looking back ever since!
We repurposed our plans to make them more user friendly and engaging. We invited the new Teach for India fellows to join our core team. We have a resource bank of five novels - The Little Prince, Charlotte’s Web, The Help, The Enchanted Wood and Tuesdays with Morrie. We also have two virtual packets - The Little Prince and Rewriting Fairy Tales.
And now we are finally taking the plunge into the real world by turning Kक्षा [Kaksha] into an actual organization!