Teach For India Diaries #20:The madness and the magic!

I had been meaning to write about how mad the past two years have driven me for a long time. All my posts so far talk about the fabulous, innovative and perfect teaching moments at school with children. But only a Teach for India fellow would relate to what I am writing about below. These are the moments that almost make you give up…

Like in any other profession, there are some inconveniences of being a teacher. I will share the moments that drove me crazy and made me hit rock bottom.

  1. When ever after devising the most innovative (of course according to me) Classroom management tracker, there were kids who didn’t want to be managed!
  2. When 22 kids out of 31 wanted to run around, not listen to you, scream at the top of their voices only on the day that you were being observed by your project manager and principal both.
  3. When even after teaching a simple objective like looking for answers to factual questions using key words numerous times, and after mastering it on their weekly assessments; a majority of the class doesn’t attempt the question in their monthly assessments!
  4. When some kids disrespect library books and don’t want to read books, period. All after you have worked your brains off to raise funds for new books.
  5. When after teaching for 7 classes continuously without a break, the only class you have free goes into substituting another class.
  6. When more than half of your class underperforms because they CAN’T/DON’T read and comprehend the question.
  7. When it strikes you that most kids in your class have lost their childhood innocence because they are exposed to too much too soon too many times. When living in violent communities where fathers and uncles are alcoholic, women often suppressed and abused, when kindness is rare; becomes the norm.
  8. When no matter how much you do, how many dreams you have for them, how many nights you don’t sleep hoping and wishing that at least a few kids grow up to be the best individuals they can be, you don’t absolutely know for sure if your wishes and dreams for them will come true.

Now when all eight things mentioned above happen on one day, you are driven mad enough to want the school bell to ring as soon as it can, you want to drive back home as swiftly as the car can take you, and reach home to take a long deep breath and a shower (because you almost never have time to shower in the morning), to settle down once again to prepare for the next day. Often the days and nights blur into endless worksheets, lesson plans, charts, props, material gathering, manipulative collection and assessment sheets. Family and friends wonder if you are alive, and you wonder if you will ever live a normal life again.

There have been days, and won’t sugar coat it, when I really felt like I was not cut out for this. There are days when you feel like you can’t get out of this alive. There are days when you don’t remember the last time you saw your friends or spoke to your family or ate a decent meal outside at a nice place. These are the days on which for a split second you think of all the things you could have been doing, if you weren’t a “Teach for India Fellow”.

But then you think of this day when:

  1. When during a class you find that a child gives 100% attention to your every instruction also performs a 100% on your test.
  2. When you walk around the class watching kids on the one off perfect day working just the way you want them to on their own assignments with pin drop silence!
  3. When you look at a child becoming a leader, taking ownership of every other child’s learning in his group.
  4. When they make your birthday the most special event of the century pooling in money to buy you a pen, or making a gazillion birthday cards out of ruled notebook pages and crayons!
  5. When the weakest child sitting in a corner with complete concentration, holds out his fingers trying to add 2 and 3 in his mind for his worksheet.
  6. When after a long day at the zoo, each child goes to sleep on the bus ride home, and you wonder how harmless and adorable even the most monstrous child looks as he sleeps.
  7. When you know that 62 individuals will miss you terribly if you don’t show up at work; the next day of course you are flooded with “We missed you cards” and group hugs!
  8. When after a long day’s work while leaving school, every child wants to give you a big hug, a smile and you feel for a moment that they will do just fine when they grow up!

And then you realize that being a teacher has far more rewards than inconveniences. The magical moments just don’t let you give up πŸ™‚ This post is dedicated to the ever optimistic fellows at my school, Kripa Hidani and Arnab Thodker who are here for all the magical moments and encourage each of us to look out for the magic as often as possible! I miss you both a lot!

Even on the last day of school, as we hosted the year end party for our kids, I didn’t feel any emotion as my fellowship came to an end. There were a million “Please don’t go didi!”s and “We love you and will miss you!”s. But today many days later as I sit down to write about how mad Teach for India drove me, I suddenly realize that the kids will actually move on and find a new didi/bhaiya to pester but I will miss them all my life. Because for me they were my only 62 monster kids. They will be much missed 😦

Today I stare at my computer screen and wonder- “Does it really help to share all the crazy times with you all? Why not just leave it at the fun times?” But then unless I showed you how dark and scary and hopeless it can get, how will you appreciate the silver lining in the clouds and of course the magic that comes with being a Teach for India fellow πŸ™‚

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