Loving to Learn
In America, you would never assume that most students love to learn. Most people imagine the typical American school full of students rudely chewing gum, gossiping, disrespecting the teacher, and blatantly not learning. The only student who actually tries in school is the teacher’s pet, an outsider who is constantly picked on. Although compared to India, America has a fantastic education program, it seems like no American actually enjoys learning and if someone does, then it is completely unacceptable.
Going to the school with the Teach for India Fellows today, I expected so see rowdy children just wanting to play, especially because of their young age. However when I attended, I was amazed and shocked at the dedication and enthusiasm of each student. Children kept questioning us, asking about anything and everything they could think of. I had never seen students so courageous to speak, especially to foreigners. Most children their age would have shied away glancing nervously to us random teenagers. However, students sat next to me and carried on a conversation more easily than some adults, in a language still pretty new to them.
During school assembly, each student was almost jumping up and down trying to attract the attention of the teachers and perform his or her talent. The whole time, I kept remembering the struggles we as the Niswarth group faced trying to get over our stage fright when we were invited to sing in front of our peers. Once we entered the classroom, again I was stunned to see almost every student participating in class. The students, becoming a mini-teacher, made sure that even the shy ones talked in class. When we asked some student what was their hobby, a handful responded with reading or studying, responses rarely heard in the USA. With the many difficulties the children face, it is amazing that they value their education so much.
What influenced their great attitude?
The most obvious response is their teachers. The Teach for India fellows have profoundly changed these students’ lives. It is wonderful just to see how you can’t tell where these students come from, but it is clear that they love to learn. Each fellow’s compassion towards his students is palpable. It is so apparent that they respect and look up to their didi (the Indian word for sister and what the students call the fellows). However, even in schools with presumably the best teachers, such as Andover, most students groan whenever someone even mentions class. Although the phenomenal teachers definitely contribute greatly to the students’ attitude, it most definitely can not be the sole influence.
What else could be an instrumental factor?
For these students, education is not only a right, but a privilege. It opens opportunities to lift their family out of poverty and reach their dreams. Every student realizes why education is so important. In America, where education is a requirement by law, students attend school because they are forced. Students don’t value their education nor understand its importance. They take advantage of this phenomenal chance because they don’t realize its rarity in other parts of the world. Even on my first day, I realized that there was definitely something special about Teach for India. It has traits that would greatly improve the American system. Hopefully, their love of learning will rub off onto me.