The Man loved to teach children through experiments, demonstrations, and toys. He’s been involved in the education sector for 5 years, but when he realized that municipal school children weren’t able to understand concepts as well as children from other schools, he decided to focus his creative efforts specifically on these children.
During one such focused session, he stumbled upon an ApniShala class, and marvelled at the critical thinking and reasoning the facilitators were able to elicit. Later, he checked the organization’s site, saw those same children in one of the photos, and immediately decided that he wanted in. This is where his journey began—one that challenged him, gave him joy, made him wonder, and forged everlasting friendships.
After a brief training period, he took over a class from an experienced facilitator. He practiced and trained extensively for that first class. On D-day, the kids looked at him wide-eyed—some even with dismay (they really did like the previous facilitator). The Man had a task on his hands, and got down to work! He started out with a story of a parrot and likened their sessions and courses for the year to different stages in the parrot’s life. They listened with rapt attention and were excited about this journey with him.
The children were assigned to different groups and embarked on separate projects, including alcoholism, unclean water, fights in the community, and littering. As most of us find, defining these project topics and questions is difficult. They wracked their brains and so did he. They were frustrated and so was he. They even began calling him “Sawal-wala bhaiyya” at one point!
Well, thank God for Stage 2! That involved data collection: going out into the community and interviewing people. The kids loved that part, but they soon realized that no one in Mumbai likes answering surveys. They were scared at first, but reassured by the Man, they persevered! They even devised ways in which they were more likely to get answers from people, like saying “Thank you” before even asking the question; the ingenuity of children!
Data analysis was even more fun. They collated data and opinions and could easily write out a report. But no! They wanted to be original, create an impact, and have fun. They organized rallies and plays. They even joined the groups and created links between the 4 main topics and came up with suggestions.
The Man sat back, taking it all in. Sure, he helped, but he learnt even more. He learned that children already know so much and are already very perceptive. All they need is a rudder pointing them in the right direction. From that point forward, he aimed to be a facilitator, rather than just a teacher.
The Man uses his cycle to travel around Mumbai, as he feels other modes of transport are very crowded. This did not escape the keen eye of the kids. On being asked why he can’t just drive a car (he was old enough, they reasoned!), he explained that this keeps him healthy, reduces pollution, and helps the endangered cycle industry (of all demographics, children would be most likely to care about the cycle industry).
He has learnt so many things from the children in just 10 months. Just like riding a cycle, he knows he will never ever forget them.