I walked into my first classroom about three years ago. As I entered the door, 30 expectant eyes turned to me and I felt a lurch in my stomach. While I was feeling nervous, those innocent hearts were sizing me up…and knowing that didn’t help. Over the next few months, they tested me and judged me to see if this didi would stick around.
As I continued to hold my ground, try different techniques, get to know each child – what makes him tick, what makes her laugh, what makes him excited, what bores her – I slowly gained their confidence and I was accepted. And that made it all the more challenging because now I knew they trusted me with their future.
Along with colors, games, fun and play in the classrooms, there were tears, frustration and doubt back at home on days when I felt I hadn’t made an iota of difference in the class. On my train ride back home on one of such days, I broke down. Rahul, one of the 10 year olds, with whom I had been working especially hard the last couple of months, wasn’t showing any progress. I had tried various techniques with him but he couldn’t even write a few words, couldn’t do any math problem, couldn’t read a single sentence.
Along with the tears, however, came the determination and belief that every child in my class will learn. Yet, as I worked with him over the next few months I didn’t see any results. And then it was April – almost the end of the term. We were revising the concepts done through the year and I asked the class to do an assignment. As the children started doing the work, I glanced over at Rahul and saw him fiddling with his pencil. Fifteen minutes later, I could not believe when he came up to me, showed me his completed work, got it corrected and came back with his mistakes corrected!! All those months of frustration vanished away just like that – in a moment.
End of the term however, the slum community that my kids lived in was razed out and they were shifted to a community in Mankhurd. A new center was opened up and a new teacher joined in. I missed them terribly but work and life caught up. 3 years later, I went into that class for assessments. Words cannot express what I felt when I saw Rahul’s essay on ‘if I had wings’:
“Birds have wings. I dreamed yesterday that I had wings and I am also flying with the birds in the sky with colourful wings. If I had wings I would fly in the sky with birds. Birds will get a surprise to see a man flying in the sky with them. I will wake up in the morning and go to school by flying in the sky. I will help old people by flying while crossing the road. I will race with birds in the sky and when I will win I will become the king of the sky and of the birds. I will enjoy with my wings. I pray to God asking him to give me wings for flying in the sky. I would love to fly in the sky.”
Rahul – I am so proud of you.