By Sanya Sagar:
When I graduated from school, I wanted to be a geneticist. Three years into my education at Delhi University, I wanted to have nothing to do with Science anymore. The way we ‘learnt’ had turned my dream into a chore that consisted of memorising paragraphs. I have worked in the education sector for four years since then and have had the fortune to observe various classrooms, students, teachers, and educational set-ups within the country. I have also been a Fellow at Teach For India. Although each set-up suffers from specific, contextual problems, almost all of them have one thing in common – classes are uninspiring, grey, impersonal. Without classrooms and teachers that captivate students and inspire interest, the most passionate dreams will continue to be abandoned.
The Learning & Teaching Program at Harvard University aims to make a greater impact in the lives of learners, and I now have a chance to learn how to do this for our public schools in India.
I have been shortlisted for a programme at Harvard University. To be able to develop curriculum and programmes for public schools in India, I need a better understanding of how children learn and the best teaching practices from around the world. This programme will help me develop skills that I need to be better at, so I can ensure that every student in the classroom is able to obtain the education they deserve.
My story is the story of those children who learn in spite of a system that doesn’t encourage them to. They learn in their own ways. These are the stories of just a few of them.
Anuj* – Anuj used to hate waking up early in the morning. He’d always be the last kid to reach school. But everything changed the day we planted seeds in little-used cups! Anuj couldn’t believe what was happening. He’d be at the gate before it even opened every morning. He’d run into the classroom to check on everyone’s plants, and when the leaves came he’d touch them and talk to them. In that time, his engagement in class went up. Every time he struggled with something, all I had to do was connect it to plants. Education is about building connections with things we love.
Shalini* – Shalini’s parents left their village and came to Delhi for one reason only. “She’s not going to get married like every other girl in our village. If we had stayed on, everyone there would have made sure she does. Her father and I will do everything we need to to make sure she studies. Goes to college. Has a career. She’s a girl and she will do everything she wishes to do,” said her mother to me one day. Shalini works very hard, even when teachers don’t show up, because she knows the worth of studying. But her mother works even harder.
Dilshad* – Dilshad controlled the classroom. At the beginning, nobody would listen to me when I told them to sit down. They wouldn’t listen because Dilshad wouldn’t. One day, exhausted in the Delhi summer, I gave up. I sat on my desk and let the children do what they wanted to do, and I began to cry (don’t do this if you’re a teacher, it’s very unbecoming). Dilshad saw me and went to every child to ask them to sit down quietly. In five minutes, there was absolute silence. Dilshad is the youngest child in a very big family. His parents are old, his sisters are married, he never really had anyone who took the time to listen to him. Every day, I listened to him. And the day I needed him to listen to me, he did. Education also means to empathise. To care.
Nothing will make me happier than attending this course and coming back to reach out to more children and see the smiles on their faces. Your support is what I really need right now to make this dream a reality.
You can help me change the way children are taught here, and help give them a brighter future.
*Some names have been changed.