Saturday, March 05, 2016

My Why

While I haven't been blogging, I have been writing more religiously than ever before in the form of weekly reflections to empty my mind and synthesize my learning. Over the last few months, I have been exploring the many reasons behind why I do what I do. I am going to capture all these reasons in this one post on my blog.

Story 1: Students' Self-Awareness 
I saw a beautiful example of the connect between the classroom and community, through the learning circle Siddharth conducts every morning with his kids. It was great to see the students discussing issues like "challenges faced by working women" in which Siddharth roped in the guest Ms. Kamal Bajwa, who was accompanying me. Kids asked questions like "What were the problems you faced as student?","What values did you show to overcome them?","Are those values still useful?" (not exactly with this grammar, but headed in this direction).

I asked them why their first response to getting into groups was to find other people of their gender. A student named Pawan said that "When we are outside class, people make fun of us if they see a boy and a girl together." It was great for me to see a grade 4 student being aware of the society's action and not basing his choice on judgement of the opposite gender.

Story 2: Inspiration from and for Parents

I went to the community with Archana to understand the root cause for the lack of educational attainment. The first round of primary research indicated factors like financial constraints, lack of secondary schools, interest in studies and safety as the top reasons. The five-why approach brought out two startling beliefs that lie at the core of the challenge - the belief that every child is God's gift and the belief that women are entitled to nothing but the service of men. The underlying challenge was fundamentally different than what the symptomatic challenge was. I was amazed at Aliya's parents ability to articulate the problem with its many complexities. Given their views, actions and own journey of change, I feel safe to know Aliya and her sisters are on a different life path and happy that I have contributed to their journey in some way.

Story 3: The Change In Your People 
I was thinking about the reflections that Meghana, Gowtham, Ashwini and Navneeth shared at the end of the EoU step back in terms of their observations on the way the team operates and the beliefs that drive our choices. The first time we had the conversation in our MY Retreat in October, we spent almost 2.5 hours debating where we were on some of these aspects. Most of us had an increased sense of awareness of how we were operating which helped us align in 30 minutes this time. I saw a similar trend emerge in our strategy discussion that followed where we weren't just open and honest with one another, but open and honest about our own beliefs - using the words "I see", "I wonder" and "I think" with increasing confidence over the two rounds of discussion.

Story 4: Alignment With What You Truly Love 
I enjoy photographing, writing, travelling, strategic thinking and teaching science for I love creative expression, perspectives and curiousity. Underlying these is my inherent habit of observing, learning, detailing, creating and sharing and a tad-bit of adventure. Underneath all of this, lies my love for confirming or discovering patterns in the way people around me and I make choices that impact the world. This probably explains why I could do with little photographing, writing or travelling during the peak of my classroom journey because I was fully indulging in my love for patterns while executing my plans for the classroom. It explains why I enjoyed teaching science more than math in the secondary grades because I could make the students see connection between their choices and their world everyday. It explains why my hobbies are all the ones that allow me to be a spectator than an active participant (for example, sports). It explains why operational delays tire me and strategy and reflection excite me. My current role allows me to focus on what I love for a large part of my time.

Story 5: Lowering the Stakes Without Lowering Expectations 

Each of my eight team members are extremely passionate about children and work relentlessly towards their educational outcomes. However, we know the work we do is hard and we do laugh our way through the stressful phases. This balancing of lowering the stakes without lowering expectations and remaining focused without stopping to see the lighter side of things is crucial to sustenance in our work. Lucky to have a team aspiring for this very balance!

Story 6: The People 

Not a day goes by when I don't feel challenged, pushed and provoked by someone who I work with. Having worked in other organizations before, I know it is a rarity.

Story 7: Opportunity to Change Mindsets 

What the world needs is people who are aware of multiple aspects of the ground realities, who process information they intake with wisdom and empathy and who question with reason have the humility to admit they were wrong. Through the spaces we create and the change makers we meet, we have the opportunity to do just that.

Story 8: Better Humans, Not Human Resources 

 It was interesting to hear Jo share that curiosity is the need of the hour in our education system. Our system has evolved to systemically remove it from every child's psyche. These young girls conforming to an 'acceptable pose' in the photograph made me wonder how we have created an assembly line to churn out better human resources instead of better humans.

Story 8: Power of the Collective 

 The problem we're trying to solve is complex, but to think we can do it alone is foolhardy. Bringing stakeholders together to build a shared understanding is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Story 9: Change in Students 

Many many stories of values learnt and followed, goals set and achieved, challenges endured and overcome and beliefs lost and restored.

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