"fired up, ready to go!"
For the past two days, I've been visiting the classroom of Arnab, a Teach for India fellow, and have had a truly life-altering experience. The first time that I visited the Dharavi school I would be working in, I was struck by the contrast between it and the schools I've known- being used to Andover's beautiful campus and great facilities, I was surprised by the lack of resources that these teachers and students have to work with, and by the problems this poses. From learning that there were 8 different schools hosted in one building to hearing the screeching noises of the traffic and people right outside of the classrooms, I realized that this under-resourced school was but one of many in India, and that I had only seen a sliver of what many experience each day. Nevertheless, I headed into class optimistic, and as Arnab's class' favorite chant goes, 'fired up and ready to go'. The class began by the kids teaching me about their rules and values, and I was so impressed by the kids' motivation to participate in the class discussion. Arnab was great at encouraging them to voice their thoughts, and his attitude stood in contrast to another classroom I had seen, in which about 40 children sat copying down a short paragraph over and over without even comprehending what was being written. This problem-posing method of teaching seemed to be infinitely more engaging for the students, and it kept even a class of 41 focused (for a time!) I've really enjoyed getting to know the children better during the school day. Though I've mostly been helping administer assessments, I feel as if I am really becoming a part of the class, the childrens 'didi' (big sister), rather than being just a visiting volunteer. I was even able to share my love of art with one of the students before class today- a young boy named Samir turned towards me and asked what I liked to do. I replied that I loved to paint and draw, and his face lit up with excitement. He quickly pulled out three notebooks full of beautiful drawings of cartoons, flowers, and his 'favourite god, Ganesh', and I enthused about them, making him smile with pride. Experiences like this give me great hope for India's future. Though it is a sector in need of much help, and access to schooling is not yet available to many Indian children, I feel that with teachers like Arnab, the involvement of people who genuinely want to make a long-term difference, and the amazing talent so abundant in students like Samir, education could be an extremely important tool in social change in not just India, but the world.