Life as a teacher in an NGO


So life got a li’l boring, the air smelled stale, the cloud looked a leaden grey, instead of a brightish blue. And that’s when the opportunity to teach kids dropped from the good heavens. Usually people would throw reactions like, ‘such a fun job’, ‘You get to be with kids, how lucky?’…but FYI it’s not all fun and games. And if you think you have aced your zen game, try and spend a considerable amount of time with the little monsters, and you will realise that you are nowhere close to grabbing the title of Ms calm and composed, Ms sweet and soft-spoken etc etc.

Day 1 was perfect – Smart introduction –check – rules implemented – check – class goes exactly as per the lesson plan – check – In short I start singing para para paradise by Coldplay in my head, it all went that good.

The real challenge begins after a few days when the novelty begins to wear off. When you get an opposite reaction for every request. Student X write, but he will make sure he dreams and wanders into a far off wonderland, student Y answer, but she will damn well make sure she gives the most shameless grin ever for not knowing the answer. And there are also a few studious ones who have the hearing capacity of a bat, and will probably correct the teacher (if she’s ever made a mistake) before she even realises that she’s made one.

Working in an NGO and teaching kids has taught me that keeping calm is an art that one must learn to cultivate over a period of time because every day is pure unadulterated madness in a school, especially if you are dealing with kids. Someone gets hurt, someone gets bored, someone gives you the angriest glare ever, waiting to punch you in the face – handling this handful lot is definitely a task.

But it also gives you fresh perspective about stepping into the shoes of an educator, and the most essential thing I learnt – it’s very important to be observant. Of course it’s cool to garner extra knowledge, make sure your lessons are engaging, and treat that classroom centre like a stage and perform like an actor, but it’s also important to comprehend why certain kids behave the way they do.

This NGO also arranged for home visits, where I discovered a lot about how they live and what influences their behaviour. It’s a myth that people from impoverished backgrounds don’t care about their kid’s learning much. Case in point – Sitting in a cramped corner, witnessing a family of 5 staying in one tiny room with an attached kitchen, my eyes suddenly wander into an interesting space. White board, markers, a make-do laptop, sparkly pencils – the father had made all arrangements to make learning fun for his kids, despite living in close quarters.

The other thing I picked up is to let go. There are times we try too hard to hammer something into the child’s head, adopting various strategies thinking that the kid will finally absorb all that stuff like sponge absorbs water, but instead – poof! They go blank. I learnt the art of letting go. A very senior teacher told me this during my stint, “There comes a point in their lives, when they just start grasping whatever they can, till then just give them exposure, do your bit and forget about the rest.” She said that with a lot of conviction and I believe her.

Educating can be a real voice disabling, headache facilitating, bursting with anger kinda job, and kids can be a real pain in the ass. But what’s surprising is that they can also be amazingly sweet and entertaining. They can be addictive. They will write you birthday letters. The will bully you as if they are your friends, they will also give you unsolicited advice at times. This reminds me of a line from a letter that a kid wrote to me once, which read –“Teacher, you will change various schools, but you will always remain in my heat.” He meant heart of course. And the memory that will continue to bring about a giggle is, when a student very confidently stated that he will meet me someday when he’s all grown up and take me to Barcelona to meet Messi, who happens to be his favourite player.

So bottom-line: if you think your zen game is spot on, think again, or go work with kids!
















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