We can't name the school here but it was a small, privately owned school on the outskirts of Calcutta. The teachers were all brought in by bus from various parts of the upmarket section of the city — many of them were freshly trained, on their first job. The school caters to the hinterland which includes children of factory workers who are first generation learners.  In fact, they comprise the larger part of the school's population, paying very low fees since the school is subsidized by a trust.

The Principal invited us to run a teaching techniques workshop and find out why the teachers were facing several difficulties ... not necessarily academic.

Using skills of facilitation and listening, my colleague and I had to abandon our feature rich slide show on how to teach better when we heard the problems they had.  The Major Problem was they they felt that the Principal was not going to change a thing and their problems would outlast the workshop.

Some of the choice ones ...

Children were asked to bring letters from their parents when they had been absent. The letters came, neatly typed on the same typewriter with the same language on all — "stomach trouble", "headache" ... the problem was that the factory worker parents could neither read nor write. So, a local entrepreneur did the letters, signed them and sent them in.  The child of course informed the teacher that he had been to his uncle's house!

Children came daily without doing their homework - so would you, if you had no electricity at home, nor anyone to assist you.

The upshot of this was that the teachers agreed that some of the strange practices (like the letters) should go and that they should be allowed to stay back in school for 90 minutes to allow them to help the kids complete the homework. No extra pay, no perks, just allow them to work overtime henceforth!

The Principal, leaned upon by us, agreed.  That's change. Systemic change!