‘English With A Touch of Politics: How I Teach Language Online’

“Example of ‘OR’: Delhi University does not teach how to survive a fascist regime OR entire political science.”
Madri Kakoti
My Report
A teacher from Assam using social and political affairs as examples to teach English. | (Photo: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)
A teacher from Assam using social and political affairs as examples to teach English.

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma
Video Producer: Aliza Noor

Ever since the pandemic began in March, India’s teachers have been learning and adjusting to new forms of teaching, I am a teacher from Assam, also known as the ‘Neighbourhood Teacher’. Over the course of the last few months, I have found a way of teaching English language – using recent social and political examples – to my students.

Having completed my education from DU and then JNU, I teach Linguistics in a University in Uttar Pradesh. From a lot of terms like migrants to COVID-19 and farmers, I make sure I include whatever I can in my lectures.

One of lectures on conjunctions and nouns go something like this:
“How do we use 'for'? Media houses are obsessed with showing Rhea Chakraborty's case, FOR attention must be diverted from the falling GDP, you see?”

The reason behind making sure that my students are rooted in a socio-political context is because when a student is able to visualise what I am teaching, they internalise the concept better and it stays with them longer. Then, it becomes more than what has to be studied for the exams.

What Pushed Me to Impart Political Awareness?

The pandemic has affected each of us differently. For me, it has been more mental than physical. Initially, as we settled into work from home, thousands of migrant labourers began their journey homeward on foot, and soon a sense of survivor's guilt set in.

I was furious at the whole state of affairs, the apathy of the people at the helm and the helplessness of everyone else. My family and I did what we could, but every night, as I lay down, the guilt remained.

Moreover, recently, my father in his own talk show shared all his inhibitions and spoke of issues that mattered. That gave me immense strength. Hence, I decided to combine my vocation with my passion: Teaching and political awareness.

For example to teach countable nouns, I gave the examples of ‘20 politicians, one resort,’ ‘300 crores,’ and ‘5.12 million COVID-19 cases.’ Adding that the claim by the government of not having any data on deaths of migrants is also a countable noun and not an uncountable one!


Online Classes vs Teaching in Person

As teachers it was a given that we had to adjust and learn new teaching, new learning, and new management systems, which was not a problem for me as I have always been for the use of modern technology in the classroom.

What do I miss? I miss having students in the class, cracking a joke in the middle of a lesson or giving a particularly funny example and seeing them all laugh. But I like teaching online as well. It is just a lot more work than before.

Why Such Discourse Is Necessary

My videos are an outcome of the current socio-political climate. There was a time when the leaders could be argued with questioned and held accountable for their actions. Not anymore. The people who question are abused arrested, murdered, and lynched, etc.

Which is why we have to find ways of talking about this in ways that it doesn’t end up offending the higher authorities, and this is also why I definitely plan to continue teaching English concepts in ways students of today can relate to.

It is imperative that in the present discourse of division, hatred and the ‘self vs the other’ narrative, a discourse reminding the young generation of their rights to dissent to protest, to question, to love should also exist.

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