In the past academic year a lot has conspired, as I went from being a struggling student, who passed my bachelors with (surprisingly) great grades, to becoming a teacher and telling students how it is okay to not be great at studies.
I graduated in May 2016 and though I was not struggling to pass my bachelors, I was struggling, through the few hours of sleep I could manage, to do decently well. After graduating I joined a think tank, and left in 5 weeks, and then starting working on a brain child I’ve always wanted to invest time, energy and money in – an educational centre. So my family and I, started Happy Triangle Foundation where we curate activities around earth-awareness, including aspects like story telling and public speaking.
As a non-governmental organisation, which is not for profit we have a bunch of children who come from economically challenged backgrounds, and some who are embarrassed to admit that they study in hindi or marathi medium schools. Thus, our medium of conversation was in hindi and aim was always to establish a sense of equality no matter which language they study in.
Here are three of many things I learnt from them-
1. In order to learn you have to be shameless
I thought I was a shameless student, who would ask too many questions. My father often says my most spoken words are – ‘I have a question’. But only after meeting and spending time with these children did I realise how much curiosity is yet missing in me. Any new topic introduced would shoot of this learning process I like to call, ‘chaos to clarity’ process. Keep in mind these kids range from 10 to 14 years, who are talkative and how. The ‘chaos to clarity’ process goes like this –
Some obedient children raise their hands to ask me questions, while I answer them few will relentlessly go on saying ‘didi didi didi didi’, meanwhile some sub-conversations will start on the sides, once a child gives a suitable answer everyone will either appreciate, or have follow-up questions, or say ‘sunaee nahi diyaa / I couldn’t hear anything’, and such things go on.
But after these series of questions are over, they understand the question and are led to the answer. This process teaches to learn many ways of understanding a question, by asking questions unabashedly.
2. To improve you must be aware of your shortcomings, more than your blessings
In a class dedicated to thought and meditation, I asked what they must do to be better human beings, and their focus was largely to know, understand, accept and move ahead of our shortcomings. This answer that came out of our discussions outlined such a mature understanding of how we must perceive our disadvantages, that come as naturally as many advantages and behaviours. A conclusion I derived after that class discussion, was how only being conscious of the the wound can we heal it.
3. Use your teacher’s teachings on your teacher’s teachings
Through out my series of classes with them, I have one recurring theme – the need to question. Kya > Kyun > Kaise / What > Why > How ; are the questions I ask them to ask anyone that introduces them to some new information, to know more, and check for verification of their facts. After all, every fact is a polished opinion. Asking these questions can help you understand the question better and also find the hidden bias in every explanation.
In my experience with them, every time that I have been asked these questions on my attempt to introduce a new topic – it has been a little victory for the curious and constantly creative students.