It seems like a distant dream when I could finish all my planning the night before (even if that meant sleeping at 2 AM) and wake up for a relaxed morning of compiling papers and some light grading with my morning coffee. Since coming back from the holidays, it seems as if things don’t really want to even think about slowing down.
Teach for All
Literally as soon as I got back, I immediately got swept into the frenzy of the Teach for All Conference taking place in Mumbai. When I say literally, I mean it. I came back, dropped my bags at home, and immediately went to finish up last minute preparations at our committee leader’s house until 4 AM. And then, of course, woke up at 8 AM to prep for the first day back at school! Needless to say, they were a crazy few days, but amongst the most fulfilling ones I’ve had since moving here.
Teachers, staff, students, and other guests from 22 different Teach for All countries gathered in Mumbai to discuss Contextual Student Vision and Leadership. All the Learning Circles during the conference were facilitated by TFI students – which was incredible. With three weeks of training, they had morphed into amazing orators and thoughtful probers, pushing people to think deeper and question more. Every day I interacted with them, their eloquence and clarity of thought amazed me. In a way, it really contextualized the work we are doing on a larger scale for me.
Back to School
But returning to school wasn’t what I expected. For some reason, us first year fellows had this impression that life gets easier post-Diwali in the classroom. We had heard these mystical legends of kids magically morphing into semi-automated robots who listen to everything you say. (In retrospect, I feel a little uncomfortable that I was looking forward to that).
In any case, as you can probably imagine, that didn’t happen. In fact, we were in for a rude awakening. Somehow, I felt things got worse. I had higher expectations from myself and the classroom. I was like, “Okay, so the first three months of me making allowable mistakes are over, let’s get this shit in order!” And…well, you can imagine how badly that turned out. You never stop making mistakes – you just learn not to make the same ones more than a couple of times.
That being said, I guess we have made progress in the past six weeks. They’ve certainly made me go through a rollercoaster of emotions on a weekly basis. I’ve tried implementing a wide range of trackers, to help both them and me keep track of progress. I’ve been amazed by how much they respond to repetition, which to me seems boring. I’ve been depressed by their lack of empathy for each other. I’ve been happy to see them behaving like playful kids during lunch hours. I’ve been proud of the improvement in their learning. I’ve been embarrassed by their lack of understanding. I’ve been over the moon at their enthusiasm for learning. I’ve been in tears when lessons fell apart due to behavioral issues. I’ve been frustrated with the lack of infrastructure in school. I’ve been angry with people who can’t prioritize the children’s well-being over personal needs. I’ve been confused – basically all the time, about everything.
I think this is why this Fellowship is as much a learning process for me as for the kids. The emotional maturity needed to respond appropriately to the myriad of situations we are faced with cannot be underestimated.
It’s been so long that I can hardly explain what’s been happening, so here are a few snapshots of the past few weeks to make it more real.