The Classroom, Part II
At 12:30 in the afternoon, we walked up to the Dharavi transit school. Thousands of children crowded the small courtyard outside of the school. 2500 of them had just finished school and were going home for the afternoon; another 2500 were entering for the afternoon session. Just like the sea of people at the Ganesh temple, the sea of young schoolchildren was overwhelming. Some ran around screaming. Others played street cricket, and still others quietly went to and from school. Regardless, all that passed us said hi. Countless kids reached out to shake my hand and ask "What is your name?" or "How are you?" When I asked how they were, the universal answer was, "I am fine." When a student from Amit's class saw Julianna and I, he immediately ran up to hug us. "Hi baya! Hi didi!" he said. (Baya, in Hindi, means 'big brother' while didi means 'big sister'). Eventually, after making our way through countless blue and white uniforms, we found Amit's classroom. I thought that the students would be less excited to see us today, but I was wrong. They greeted us with high-fives and chants of "Didi!" and "Baya!" When I took out my camera to take photographs of the classroom, half of the boys immediately put their arms around each other in a manner highly reminiscent of the group photos that we ourselves take. Their smiles, yet again, were interminable.
We then spent most of the day administering the assessments that Teach for India uses to measure progress; one in listening comprehension and the other in reading fluency. Today I came to understand, to a greater degree, the kinds of challenges Amit faces in learning, as in his class, there is an incredible range of capability. That is not to say, of course, that the students don't all have great capacity - they do. Rather, it is to say that the extent that this capacity has been converted into capability is drastically different from student to student. Some students answered every question perfectly, while other could not understand the directions. Throughout the day, I constantly asked myself how Amit manages to teach to such a wide range, and to be honest, I am still uncertain.
The day finished with the most consecutive high-fives I have ever received. After singing Julianna and I a song about watermelons, they bombarded us with high-fives. The students simply could not get enough of them. And in this, I was once again amazed that despite so few resources and so many obstacles, these kids and the TFI fellows maintain powerful enthusiasm for education. I can only hope that such enthusiasm finds a host in others throughout India and the world.
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