Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What makes my experience with Teach for India great?


I am writing a post after two months. Even without the post, the blog is buzzing with visitors.

I am grateful. :-) Thank you.

This is the first post where I am going to write about what made my Teach for India experience great. I am going to begin with three people who made the difference

1.The best boss  - Emma Francis
2. The civil war peer- Nakul Arora
3. The leader and the Hero - Shashank Shukla

1. Emma Francis, the British girl came to Teach for India with experience of 7 years as an educator in Teach First and Uganada. Ms. Francis has taught merely with chalk and black board in Uganda to almost 200 students per week and several teenagers in Britain. Honestly, she is the most supporting person I have ever seen. She totally adapted herself in Delhi, wearing salwaar kameez within two months. She gives such a great insight about the work that you are doing, that you will have your jaw drop. Her convictions are universal - that means she has come out of from the well of the little worlds. Her sense of India in one year is more than most Indians born here. Her focus is clear  - whether you are becoming a leader you can and whether you are building on your strengths as you grow with the experience. So she is not working for herself clearly. But for the people she is responsible for. Talk about great women - in real sense of word - talk about Emma. She is extremely practical in her approach, superbly mature focusing on development of fellows she is managing. If you haven't done a task and she grasps that you arent doing it for genuine reason, she will just not force to do it. You dont have to find excuses. If she understands that you are innovating in your school, she will not force you to meet some organizational deadline. If she understands that you are exhausted, she will not force you to attend a meeting you otherwise definitely should.

What happens when you have a boss like that?
(a) You come closer to your real self.
(b) You get feedback on the leader in you and not one of those manufactured leaders who knows how to work on MS Excel and give presentations or write emails
(c) You are cared and valued. You are professionally bound to grow in that environment, learning to take charge of situations, feeling responsible towards your work and not feeling burdened at all.
(d) You are led by example. Teach for India is all about being a leader to your children. If your manager is leading you by example, making you feel how you are trusted and cared, why won't you learn to do the same to your children?

2. Nakul Arora - here you have, the young brimming talker who wants to fly high, fight all the evil roots, learn  to be perfect and save the country. Too young for accomplishing all of them but yet trying hard to stay on the road. Here I have one of the most contradicting peer, who is a friend from the civil war because he remembers to be at war with me. We drain out each other, pointing out hypocrisies or stupid arguments. And yet we stick together only because we point out each other's hypocrisies and stupid arguments. We are jealous of each other, preachy, competitive and showing-off all the time, feeling extremely happy when the other fails, impressing each other's students and trying to make them against their teacher. Yet we know that we celebrate each other accomplishments, are heartbroken when other person's efforts go down the drain and dream that the other persons's reach the potential he is born with.
I dream that Nakul reaches the potential he is born with. I dream that a young man of 23 does not have to suffer because he is choosing the most difficult path out there. I dream he fulfills all dreams of his youth because unlike others he has set himself out to on a path to accomplish those dreams and hold very high expectations of himself. The dreams that are not about being a star or a celebrity but to be a great man - to be a man of this country. I hope he does not have to make sacrifices his path might ask for. I hope his greatest strength of seeking the truth is not let down by the world. I hope his hope ignites the fire in many others. 

His life's endeavors sets him apart from people of his age and even elder to him. What is my biggest learning from working with Nakul is his constant pursuit of seeking the truth - in himself and in people

What happens when you have a peer like that?
(a) You learn to be truthful. He will never allow you to give yourself any false ideas. If you cant speak truth to yourself, he will speak it to you on your face. You can fight about it with him and tell him doesn't understand but you will know soon who didn't.
(b) you are having a healthy competition.You know you are fighting but deep down you know winning doesnt matter.
(c) you team up! because you have a peer who thinks on similar lines. Nakul and I have delivered very high quality resources in Teach for India because we keep each other on toes and are very honest to each other.
(d) you keep finding your true North. You constantly ask the other the outcome of a particular action. You know no listening will happen but eventually admittance of wrong action will. You learn from your mistakes because the other person has already pointed out that to you.
(e) You learn to share - your aspirations and life's endeavor because you have a professional feedback and yet a personal care
(f) you learn to have lots of tea - because you are so exhausted fighting!
3. Shashank Shukla - If you are in a business school or corporate or undergrad and thinking where are all the leaders have gone from this country, have a break and come and see Shashank bhaiya in action. A year before, he was the first person who raised his voice for the street children - the last customers of educational inequity and extorted to Teach for India to experiment in a place which does not have anything similar to a normal Teach for India classroom. Within a year, four fellows are continuing the work he started. The lone ranger, the fixer of the sinking ship, someone who had turned around a hell to heaven, a courageous leader, a visionary who can prophesise the outcome of his decisions even before the uncertain dynamics come to play, the teacher who never had to raise a voice on his rebellious teenagers students to obey, the patriot who deferred his admit to Harvard for he thinks he is still not done with his work for the homeless of the country, the manager who knows how to delegate work to people rendered as inefficient and uninspired, a hero who stands for right thing 100% of time, a mentor who can tell you on your face whats wrong with you and you wont mind. This is Shashank Shukla for you, one of the greatest alumni Teach for India will have and one of the greatest example of men this generation can produce

What happens when you have a leader like him in front of your eyes?
(a) Guess what!You know what being a leader takes - the exhaustion, forgetting self, standing up, getting your hands dirty in cleaning and burning all the negativity, taking care of people who might or might not choose to care back, fighting for people who might not be grateful  or in fact even appreciate
(b) Guess next! You will witness something impossible happening in front of your eyes every time you see him in action. Forget the movies or text books, you can closely watch a hero in real life.
(c) you wish you are a movie director because his story deserves to be told to every Indian
(d) You can do your job! You dont have to worry about someone else's job because the leader is taking care.And you will not slack from you job because the leader is taking care of that too.
(d) you feel you are exhausted and you wonder where the hell Shashank bhaiya gets that energy and you get back to your work. Oh! he transfers his infectious energy and conviction all the time!

This has been my experience with Teach for India, great because of great people in it.The greatness you never usually see because of the mad rush of money, shopping and EMIs. You see this greatness because the people in it had courage to leave their country, well-paying jobs, relationships or defer a Harvard admit and going all out for their real motto - discovery of self and live a life of honor more than materialism, security and inhibitions.

I give my salute to each one of them. I am grateful that I deserved to see the greatness they have.