Saturday, May 30, 2015

Their Legacy

I just completed the first week in my new role. Through the week, I had a growing understanding of what I must do to achieve my goals and fulfil my responsibilities. Moreover, I had a deepening understanding of how the fellowship had changed me to be able to see everything through a different lens. 

While talking to the incoming cohort of Bangalore city, I realised how much of my present self is a function of the experiences of the last two years with my students in Jafari. Those 35 kids have left an imprint on my life that changed me in ways I am only beginning to imagine. 

My children taught me to be thankful for everything that was going right. I remember a time when I was struggling with class in the absence of my team members. This absence had thrown a spanner on my ambitious plans. I stopped seeing the outcomes of my actions until I receive a letter from Mehak, one of my students. She said it was a difficult time for them and me. In my actions, she saw my strength to stand up for my friends to help their children.  In my high expectations, she saw my believe that they could all be excellent. In the link to vision slide of every lesson, she saw how each lesson was not only teaching her Maths and Science but making her a better person. The values I was focusing on were self control and teamwork, but she was learning much more than what I had intended. 

Having a strong focus on excellence meant I set unrealistic expectations from myself. Not meeting those expectations led to a constant feeling of pessimism. In my conversations with children who faced far more challenges in their 12 years than I have in the 29 years of my life, I learnt optimism. I learnt that it is okay to let go. If not today, then tomorrow we will get there. It's useless to make a small failure a representative of who you are. Your time in your life is flying and every day spent without hope and purpose is a day wasted. Even more so in the fellowship when you cumulatively have only 320 days for a herculean task. 

Being strong at critical thinking and problem solving often made me not see the humane side of things. I used to struggle in understanding the people behind the roles and identifying the place they were coming from. Often, I was hard on my children when I started teaching because I did not know them. To solve for their problems in classroom forced me to understand their stories - to truly feel what they were going through. Seeking to understand them showed me the power of empathy in planting seeds of change. 

Being in the classroom, I learnt to trust others and believe in the power of collaboration. In class, the only ones truly in control are the students. The only way for me to be able to change the weather was to let go of the illusion of control and empower the students - it was only then that I would be able to reach out to every child across the achievement spectrum in my classroom. The more I did that - the more it freed up my bandwidth to focus on bigger goals that I had for my students and the more it made my students drive their own learning.  

Lastly, I learnt the value of grit - just sticking out through those difficult phases. My children came to school despite not being able to sleep at night for the lack of electricity and the excess of heat. They came to school despite their mother being hospitalised. The girls did all their homework despite having to do a far share of the housework. I had to persevere in the classroom as they persevered in their own lives. A stream that flows constantly can permanently shape a mountain. Nothing never changes. 

During the two years of the fellowship, I did not travel much. However, the fellowship took me to  more places that I had never imagined, beautiful places that were hidden inside me waiting to be discovered. My 35 companions helped me view the places through different lens. I don't know if I had transformational impact on the children, but I surely had a transformational journey.