Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Redemption


To prevent fan’s air from next room, I pushed the door to close it. It was 6:30AM. I lighted an agarbatti to pray after a long time. I closed my eyes. It was a hard day yesterday at school and I wanted, very selfishly, to be blessed with more patience today. When I opened my eyes, I saw smoke changing direction because of the air coming through the slit of the door. A strange thought crossed my mind - what if one day I can unleash that power within to change direction even when the door is closed.

School’s assembly started at 7:40 AM. I was standing behind my class to take mental attendance. Gurdeep hadn’t come today as well. That small child cries whenever he comes to school. His parents were mute and he also was not blessed with good speaking ability. He was having an impeded brain as well. Everyday he shows up with fresh injuries - someone keeps showing power on the weak. His peers in class laugh at him when he tries to speak-up. He never feels hungry during recess. He cannot repeat whatever I am saying - even in Hindi. To see a dream of building his comprehension skills  may require a Hubble’s telescope.  It is so hard to believe that I can change direction of his life. And if I can’t see myself seeing it, how will I make him believe?

Oh! Even Mahek is absent today. She gets bored in class because she is a little ahead of everyone. I closed my eyes again.

It is so hard to manage a bell curve. It reminded me of a heated argument with my boss few months ago in what seems like a past life when I didn’t like that he gave a reward to someone I thought didn’t deserve instead of someone who did. Now I can so easily see these are so difficult decisions. I tend to create exception for that weaker child but is it a right choice considering that I might be destroying his self-esteem? How much scaffolded questions I will be able to create for children like Mahek so that their learning path is not retraced?

I wish to have a redemption from this small myopic life. I want to see a dream for each kid, love them equally, respond to them with 100% enthusiasm 100% of time, plan in a way that it never require remediation with any kid, and become a world-class instructor with constrained resources. I need to be all of it. I need to be all of it real fast!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Letter to my team in previous company

Hello everyone,

Sorry I have not emailed you in a long time. I haven't forgotten. It's just that last few days have been crazy.

So, I started teaching from this Monday and have officially become a teacher. Currently, I am managing two classrooms as another Teach for India fellow is undergoing training. He will be joining in another three weeks to manage one of the classrooms.

Before recess break, I teach Class 2 and after recess I teach Class 3. And managing two classrooms of 35 kids each is very hard. Most of the students are from very poor background. These are first-generation learners. Most of the mothers are housemaids, or do laundry, or are toy-makers. They cannot even read students' diaries I write.

I have a kid who is about to loose his sight completely in few months. He comes to school because he loves to learn. And whatever homework I give, he makes sure he finishes it. A very self-motivated child. I have another student who has some issues with his motor skills. He cannot even repeat a simple word I speak.

I have taken diagnostic test for students to assess their current English and Maths level according to EI standards. 100% of my students have scored less than 50%. The situation is really appalling.

By rote memorization, Students have learnt to read the words. But they don't understand meaning of them. So, they don't even know the meaning of "Have you got it?" or "Didi is dancing" or "Crying" or "Angry"

Teaching is very hard. One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But there are lot of inspirations in Teach for India staff and fellows. Like my current Program Manager lived all her life in UK and taught in Uganda in her first year. She managed 400 kids in a week in different shifts teaching continuously for 15 hours. I have to manage just 35 after three weeks.

I miss office sometimes. I miss the times I did Server-Application Data Scenarios or resolved Birth Certificate Issues or did those conference calls or had Dosa and tea breaks. They were good times. Challenging but comfortable in lot of ways.

But here I am, at the place where I am needed more badly than anywhere else. I have a vision. These kids should become capable of taking their families out of abject poverty. But currently these kids are not invested  that can make this even a remote possibility. I have a huge challenge in hand. I hope I can live to see it through.

I no longer have well-polished conference rooms or an air-conditioned workstation. I eat chalk dust everyday in harsh Delhi summers. I don't even have that kind of pay check as I used to have. My life has gone for a complete 360 degrees toss. I don't mind. I sleep well. Really well!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

As I began to Teach for India!


There are dozens of times when you wonder about the purpose of life. After all we are just a speck in this giant scheme of things. You talk about spirituality and about worthiness.  But you usually don’t find a definite answer.

There are dozens of times when you try to balance your life between comforts and pain. Watching Shawshank Redemption on a hot sunny day reminds you that somebody crawled five football fields of shit for redemption. But you usually get muddled up in small petty issues of laundry and broken relationships. And you thought you had a great pain.

There are dozens of times when trust does not work, hope is a dangerous thing and optimism is lethal. You take great risks, you thought you calculated, but life takes you to another inconclusive direction. And if you are objective enough you may realize what action of yours led to what.

There are dozens of times when love seems too dangerous. You see your friends making compromises that are giving immense pain to their souls. You have seen their tears and you know they are hurting themselves badly. And then you are forced to think how love is supposed to be. But you still fall in love.
There are dozens of times when you feel less caring towards your family. You know you should have done better and take more care of them. And you promise to do better!

And then a beautiful day in your life comes. You neither need a definite answer, nor you feel your own pain. You are really not worried about direction of your life and you are not perturbed about who is your soulmate. You know you will soon have ability to keep promises and you are organized as if you are ready for the free fall. You learn how to live the moment and even better - how to make it!

This beautiful day came yesterday as I began to Teach for India!