As I was walking up the stairs of the Ashwini centre last Saturday, I was convinced that I was at the wrong address. I was told there would be teachers and a bunch of students between 8th and 10th standard. This led me to believe there would be noise from the students who cared little for education and noise from the teachers who were flustered with having to yell over and over again to gauge their attention. The absence of this noise when I entered the room made me worry that I’d entered the wrong building and would soon be held liable for trespassing!
When I reached upstairs, I was more than astonished to see students sitting quietly in groups of three to five, each being taught by one teacher. I walked past rooms filled with students asking doubts to their teachers, some listening intently and of course, some pretending to care while playing with a bunch of threads underneath the table. I walked over to one table where the teacher was using a PPT to explain to children the classification of the plant and animal kingdom and was awed by the way these children were able to provide quick answers to all my questions. I asked the teacher why he chose to use a PPT instead of books and pens. He said that he had read somewhere that providing visuals through technology aids their understanding, helping students learn and remember concepts better.
I move from there to another room and come across a group of five teachers-all from the same friend circle-taking a ten minute break from their two hour classes. I asked them about their experience at the Trust and what they said made me realize the effort and the hard work they put into understanding the concepts they learnt around six years ago only to come and teach children here. They said ‘The energy that these kids bring with them is infectious. They make you want to get better at teaching because they are getting better at learning. They make you nervous with the questions they ask because you sometimes honestly have no idea what they are talking about.’
There was another group of girls sitting to the far end of the room next to a stack of books that were essential when I was growing up. When I asked these girls if they were writing a test-an assumption I made because I spotted question papers and answer papers-they said they were writing an imposition for doing badly on a test. Shruti, their volunteer-coordinator, had asked them to write the answers to the test paper eight times. I also met Maniam, a student who had completed his board exams in the trust, and is now in the eleventh grade studying Economics, Data Entry and Home Science, with dreams of entering the business of hotel management someday, while continuing to pursue his dreams of becoming a cricketer too.
I don’t know if I was serious enough to study hard for a test in a subject I cared very little about (read science) or if I was curious enough to send chills down my teachers’ spines before they entered class or if I was determined enough to know what I wanted to do once I had completed my school. I do know now, that having curious, intellectually stimulated students is what the country needs right now and if that means impositions, anxious teachers and students with wild dreams, so be it.
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