Where the smiles are in abundance…

It was the first internship and we interned under Teach For India. As the name suggests, we were to handle and teach young children who were receiving education under this organisation. Teach For India is basically a non-profit organisation that makes it a point to provide quality education to low income schools. It has done a great task over the years, recruiting dedicated Fellows via their Fellowship programmes. The Fellows who work under this organisation, do this work out of passion for sharing knowledge with children who do not have such facilities in life.

My school was ten minutes away from the hostel and it was not much of a trouble. I was happy with the arrangements. The day I met my Fellow, I was apprehensive. Later, she turned out to be a gentle lady and I appreciated the fact that she was really nice to me. As I entered the class, a room full of smiles and expressions greeted me. The little children stood up and wished me. I scanned the class. The walls had charts on them full of inspirational quotes and random hand drawn images. The Fellow exchanged a warm smile and handed me a book. It was the Gulmohar reader-the book that I used to read study as a little girl. I flipped through the pages and the chapters seemed easy. “Take a seat and observe the class till I finish this chapter.” she said. I went behind and took an empty seat. She resumed with the mathematics chapter and I observed every child. Some of them turned around to steal a glance at me. I tried to get accustomed to them.

After a week, I was officially going to teach them for a month. The children greeted me and I returned them the greetings. I could feel their positive vibe. I took the book and read the first chapter.It was about a dog and his bullying peers. It was an absolute pleasure taking the responsibility as a teacher, occasionally using the blackboard for further explanation. The class was divided into four groups. Group one and two were academically weak and group three and four were strong, catching up with the latest lessons in the class. My Fellow gave me the latter. I asked them to introduce themselves with their name and age. I was handling the sixth standard and there was a vast age difference in the group itself. A few were of twelve years and the maximum age limit was fourteen years. My Fellow told me, “The government has come up with a new rule. Even if the students score the lowest in their finals, we cannot let them flunk the academic year. It is now mandatory to give them a passing report.”

I decided that I wanted to instill a new confidence in the young minds. They had a lot of errors in their notebook. There was just one boy in the group who was the topper of the class. “Vidur!” he called himself. He was a bright and an industrious student. He had a certain spark of intelligence in his eyes and he was always ready to answer. I noticed the girls sitting in the front desk. They were innocent and avoided making any eye contact with me. I assured all of them that I was a friend and a guide and if they would cooperate, I would help them in return. They turned out to be the most obedient children I ever taught.

I explained them at great lengths about each chapter that we did daily. I mentioned them some vocabulary that they needed to mentally register and verbally use it. I drew images on the board so that I could drive home the point that I was trying to make. I stated the rules of grammar and told them the importance of a good and a legible handwriting. After two weeks, they felt relaxed and could successfully connect to what I was explaining. My Fellow was pleased with the progress that we were making as a class. Sometimes, she handed me the responsibilities of making charts. I was bad at making crafts and I would invariably hand over my art and craft assignments to my mother as a child. I would always get an A grade for it and the credit always went to my mother who would help me during emergency times. I completed my chart work and my Fellow put it up in the class. She was relieved off the burden of making charts. It was humble of her to apologize for the task she was making me do but I did not complain. I was more than happy to help.

“Will you please fill the marks register for me. It is really time consuming and I trust you with the task. I am really sorry for troubling you but please don’t stress yourself.” She passed a weak smile.

“It is perfectly okay because I love to help. I love the children and they are really intelligent.” I returned a genuine smile assuring her of my responsibility.

I grew attached to the children. Daily they would bombard me with new incidents that would happen with them and some anecdotes that I still remember. It was a small group and so I was able to concentrate on each one. There were some naughty children too but they were adorable because they reminded me of my own young neighbours back in my home town.  It took me four months of patience and persistent teaching to get the children to learn the ropes of answering questions in their notebook. They were bright children I thought. They had misery and unfortunate incidents at some point in their life but when these lovely pupils filled the classroom, sadness evaporated and laughter rushed into the space.

At the end of the month, the children were preparing to leave for their Christmas vacation. They told me, “Didi, please join us for the Christmas party. We will eat and have a lot of fun.” I assured them that I would come to meet them.

There were two children in the group who would narrate me their personal encounter with insects and animals. Some of the students were forever silent and I urged them to open up. At the end of the day, they were a group of happy pupils, learning lessons in unison. They were ever ready to learn. They were silently inquisitive but something would stop them from openly clarifying their doubts. I sensed it.

On 24th of December, I could not attend the small party due to some unknown reason and that was the last day of meeting them that I missed. I felt bad but did not regret it. It was a sweet experience that left me satisfied altogether. Later, in the evening, I went over to my Fellow’s residence. She told me that I was missed and that they had a lovely party in the morning. She told me her plans of going back home and retiring from the Fellowship programme for some time. She wanted to take care of her mother. I respected her decision because it is not easy to handle an entire class of restless minds all day. They played truant time to time but they were pardoned later.

“The kids told me that they always get female teachers. Now they want a male teacher who is like a father figure to them. The group was missing you and they expected you at the party. They made a mess out of the food they ate. Do come to the school sometimes and if you have time, come and teach them. It made my work easy and you were handling them so well.” I looked into her eyes and I could read the sincerity about the remark. It was a cold wintry evening and the leaves of the tree we sat under, rustled. She offered me coffee but I politely declined. I took leave but it left a wholesome smile on my face.




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