How I Tried To Become The Teacher That My Students Deserve; One Day At A Time

Posted on February 4, 2014 in Education

By Mohini Bishnoi:

Didi, you not know how to teach?” The beautiful little girl named Nidhi stared up at me, her mouth twisted in disapproval. Her new teacher was a major disappointment, a let-down in every way- not being able to get my class to sit down and breaking up fights every 5 minutes. “I’m new, Nidhi”, I answered, hoping to keep the despair out of my voice. “I’m new to teaching. Maybe you could help me? Would you like to help me take attendance each day?”

imageNidhi merely sighed in exasperation, took the attendance register off my hands, and walked away. And I was left watching her with a feeling of desolation and frustration. How had I ended up here?

A month before this, at my own Institute at FLAME, I had felt very differently. The world was my oyster. I was going to swoop in, wave my wand and change my children’s lives. I had resolved to have faith in my children no matter what. And yet, now, 3 weeks into my classroom, faith was the last thing on my mind. Each day was worse than the previous one. I had given up all hope of growing- now I was merely surviving one day to the next, one lesson to the next, one minute to the next. And Nidhi was watching me.

One evening, after a particularly harrowing day, I sat busily grading papers. I pulled out Nidhi’s paper and unbidden, her words came to my mind again “Didi you not know how to teach?” The words still hurt me, made me feel vulnerable. I tried to think about why she had said that. Did she blame me? Did she hate me? As I wrote 100% in red ink on her paper it came to me in a flash. Nidhi knew she deserved a great teacher. She didn’t blame me, she didn’t even hate me. All she knew was that she had a right to an excellent teacher. And that was when I made up my mind- I was going to be that teacher.

It was an excruciatingly slow process. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. But things slowly started to change. My class learnt to stop running around. I learnt to plan better. The good days became more frequent. I learn to live through the bad days, going back with more purpose each day. Stories, theatre and books brought joy into my tumultuous classroom. And on the days when it felt like I couldn’t go on- I thought of Nidhi. How she had grown, how she had become the responsible leader of my class, the keeper of peace, the serious thinker. Each day she grew, and each day she helped me keep faith.

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Today, with one year of teaching behind me, I cannot say that I have truly become everything that Nidhi deserves. But I can say this- at least I know I have tried. In many ways I have failed. But there have been successes. And the true success was a note that Nidhi handed to me-

I love Mohini Didi so much because didi, you teach me so so many things. I learn maths and reading. I learn Gandhi and Alice and so so many stories. Didi, you work so so hard for us and you not eat lunch. When I become big I also want to help to people like Mohini Didi.

Note: Application for 2014 fellowship are now open. Last date to apply– 5th February