Hope is what the world survives on – the blind conviction that things will be better tomorrow. And while we’re still grappling with a disturbing and uncertain present that is full of war, rape, corruption and intolerance, it is the hope of a brighter future and stories of hope that make us optimistic. I believe that education is the reset button – the one thing that can still save us from a downward spiraling tomorrow. And I especially believe in the power of educators like the good guys at Teach For India (TFI). I personally know a couple of friends who are past and current teachers at Teach for India. Their immense dedication, enthusiasm and sheer hard work is nothing short of awe inspiring. But it’s the stories that emerge from such classrooms that gives you a glimmer of that bright future we are waiting for. One of these amazing friends of mine shared this story that according to me, is a testimony of positivity and hope for the future.
So the teachers at Teach for India are encouraged to use positive reinforcement, innovative teaching mechanisms and aids to help their students learn. One of the most popular mode of encouragement they use is – the High Five! As a gesture it is filled with encouragement and cuts across student-teacher differences to establish a relationships that goes beyond the classroom – That of friendship. So my friend Elgiva used the High Five frequently in her classroom during her year as a teacher in the public school affiliated with TFI. Of course, as any teacher, especially a Teach for India fellow, at the end of that year she waved goodbye to her kids just hoping – like any other teacher- that she’s sent them off better than when they started the year with her. But she only realised the magnitude of the impact she and her fellows were making on the kids the next year when she heard about the teacher who had inherited her class. The guy was a public school teacher who was simply used to the public school way of doing things – which included hitting children when he failed to get them to learn something. During one of his classes when he couldn’t make a child respond to the lesson, he raised his hand and approached the student, as if to hit him. But this was no ordinary child – this was a child trained to respond and reciprocate with positivity. And so instead of cowering in the corner in the face of a raised hand, the boy raised his hand right back at the teacher- and high fived him!
The surprised teacher was completely taken by surprised, and just walked away after a moment, never fully comprehending what had just happened. That moment must have been just a one-off event to him – but for the crumbling education system in India, it was a huge victory. Imagine a world in which lower-income children, or children of any class for that matter, grow up with a thirst for knowledge, and unafraid of making mistakes or the fear of having hands raised on them, because they are were raised on high fives!
That is what hope looks like!
The Reluctant Writer