“The beautiful stars visible to me at night disappeared the next morning!
The beautiful sunlight striking on me dimmed that evening!
But the spark in those little one’s eyes,
That sparkles with a shine so bright,
will remain with me forever
and will surely light up the path of few more desires!”
With Open Arms
DECEMBER 21ST, 2019
At the beginning of the project, I had believed that I would be the STAR Volunteer out of the sheer love that I possess for the kids and this was the one happy opportunity. Nope, I didn’t become that perhaps neither for the project or nor for myself. And it doesn’t even matter till the time I stayed one for the kids. However, I couldn’t become the one “Star” due to my slight irregularity and failure of service.
Yes, it’s all happy and good for the first 3 weeks but then there are days when you puzzle and juggle between your own messed up set of priorities. You miss classes, you miss the kids but you also miss your own self. It was only later that I reflected and found how easy and pathetic it becomes to neglect the kids only because they will always-always accept you back with open arms. Away from the intention and rather concerned, my class would always come running to me. Inquiring, demanding and awaiting answers on why I didn’t show up the previous week. They would ask- “Ma’am tabiyat theek thi aapki?” , “Ab aap kese ho?”, “Pata hai yeh hua tha kal…”. I think somewhere between our own struggles, we have rather manifested and internalized the give and take culture a lot too much. Had the same class been of my friends, maybe I would have been more cautious, more scared and more careful about neglecting them. One might say that it is only a personal flaw that I possessed on doing such a mistake. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Nonetheless, my message is to all the coming volunteers on remembering why you became the part of this beautiful space at first. They will always accept you with open arms but remember, It’s the one class you missed that could’ve made the difference. Thank you for teaching me, sensitizing me and accepting me.
THE ONLY STRINGS ATTACHED
OCTOBER 24TH, 2019
“Between what is meant and what is said and what is said and what was meant, most of the love is lost”-Gibran
Entered the college at eight
Stole some glances as I moved past the class
Running thirty minutes late
Found some scattered stars
Smileys, stickers, worksheet tasks
And all the friendly red pen marks
Your genial shouty votes
“Good afternoon” sing-song, the thankyou ma’am
Like a warm overbearing coat
In the most innocent ways
I slip in mine too, sneakily-boo
Like a child in giant haste
As we create this match
At the end of class, I reflect back on time
Oh, you are my only strings attached.
MY LESSON WAS COMPLETE
-SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2019
I am in the Delhi metro, with a light head, a heavy heart, and a sore throat-
These are indeed the physical implications of teaching ten, very young, abled
and enthusiastic women aged between 12-14, for two hours straight. They have
a test tomorrow which is supposedly considered an apt (perhaps, only)
the motivation for any average kid in our country’s context, when learning about
monarch histories of the 12th century; But they didn’t really care for the marks
“Why would they, after all?”
I recalled the words of my English teacher at school, while she taught me
Spender’s poetry- A poem about slum children who belonged to one sour-cream
classroom. I didn’t believe her then and refuse to submit even now.
The children actually care, maybe not about things like “Why some wars
happened the way they did;” but surely about “Why Raziya Sultan was opposed
by the nobles and thus dethroned when she was equally efficient to her
brothers?” Believe it or not, they raised this question in all might and I was
more than happy to talk about the magic words of “Equality”, “Independence”,
“Respect” and “Potential”. I saw them raising more questions, the simple ones
and perhaps the most foundational of all and so the room was not as foggy as
before, for now, I observed some eyes twinkle, a nod exchanged and an
“Unko (Raziya) ko apne tarike se kaam karna accha lagta tha toh voh ek
Swatantra (independent) aurat hui na?” was one such statement a girl made
while we went on talking about the dethroning of the subject. I was about to
confirm what she had said, before which, another one chose to do it on my
behalf- “Nahi…Voh ek Swatantra Rani hui, Sultan. Hena Ma’am?”, she had
corrected us. I simply smiled in relief; my lesson was complete.
Isn’t a piece of cake but is definitely worth it!
SEPTEMBER 4, 2019
My first class was on the 5th of October. Drenched in the rain, exhausted after college and half frustrated following Google Maps’ confusing directions, I reached the center. As I walked up the steps of Shiksha Rath, the NGO at GTB Nagar, I was anxious. But the moment I entered, I was welcomed with lots of beaming faces and warm greetings. I felt relieved. The task set out for my first day to teach seventh-grade kids Science. Easy, I thought till I saw the textbooks; Science in Hindi! I didn’t remember the last time I had read Hindi but here I was with 4 kids looking at me waiting to start. I interacted with them, asking them their names, talking to them, taking note of the difficulties they were facing while studying. I tried clearing their doubts, as well as I could and also giving them tips on how to remember the parts of the digestive system among other things. My 1st-day teaching, which was also my first time, made me realize how much I love it. The kids were very receptive and open. It felt as if I had been teaching them for months. You could see the marks of violence on their hands and see the drive to receive a good education in their eyes at the same time. It amazed me. It has motivated me to put in more efforts, patience, and love into teaching them.
One of the best feelings I’ve had in quite some time has been when little Anisha of 3rd grade, a potential artist indeed, asked me to draw for her so that she could color it. After I did, she drew a girl with a crown on her head and said, “Didi, ye AAP ho”. For me, it was a masterpiece. I knew why I had joined Wordsworth right then.
Teaching impatient kids who wouldn’t sit at the table for more than 5 minutes isn’t a piece of cake, but it is worth it!
September 4, 2019
Two weeks back, I began my Wordsworth journey. Before beginning, I was in deep angst if I’ll be able to relate to the underprivileged children and if I’ll be able to impact their lives positively. As I entered the centre on the very first day, a cluster of children came to me and greeted me with a Good afternoon and asked me what my name was. Bewildered at how smart these kids were and how I had underestimated their potential, I knew right at that moment-“this journey is just a little about me changing their lives, but more about them changing mine”
The first two kids I taught were Lakshmi and Simran, Lakshmi loved drawing, while Simran was fond of dancing. Two different personalities, but a common string between them was their strong urge to keep learning and move ahead in their lives. After teaching them environmental science for an hour, I talked to them about their life and their dreams. In a life bred with poverty, these children didn’t have a single frown to show for it. They were some of the happiest people I knew. After the class got over, Lakshmi gifted me a beautiful drawing on a paper. I was never expecting anything in return—let alone an honest, artistic effort. I said “you didn’t have to do this!” —to which she smilingly replied: “it was my wish”. But in that lovely drawing, I see much more than gratitude, kindness, and maturity; I see empowerment and. strength There’s almost an unwritten dialogue in that gift, which tells me that she doesn’t see herself as a charity case. If she can’t pay me back in money, then she’d find other means of letting me know how she felt—that extended beyond words.
There were times, with the pandemonium of a full noisy class bursting upon me. Asking-“Didi, didi. Yeh check kardo”, “Didi, yeh samajh nahi aa raha” – I’d walk home feeling like sawdust has been poured down my throat. It did get tiresome. But, I realized they looked up at me because they wanted love and appreciation They were small and so loving. You could just give them a quarter of your faith.
What I’ve learned in these few days are no matter what the circumstances, these children can and will work hard if they know that someone in their life is supporting them. Without this kind of support network, many kids will sincerely begin to believe that they won’t succeed in school. I entered the centre for the third time. Only this time, the kids remembered my name and asked me-“Will you teach us today, Ria didi?” And I knew I had made my little place in their lives.
The Euphoria of the initial days
September 24, 2018
After an interesting session, while on my way back a few days ago, something struck me. Isn’t it interesting to know how a simple gesture, a thing here and there can completely turn your day around for something better or worse? It could be a compliment, a conversation, a gesture, even a hug for that matter.
That day they challenged me with few of their very intelligent riddles. I couldn’t even get close to the actual answers and as soon as I would give up they would yell the answer. Their faces would light up with happiness, and their look would convey ‘see we know so much’. At that point, even after making a complete fool of myself, I could not help myself but smile looking at their joyous faces. This is how even the smallest acts or people can make your day; your life better.
It’s been a month for me now and I look forward to classes. I look forward to seeing them and teach them. Hearing from them, their vibe and the environment these children create is so difficult to find in our everyday hustle. If you think that you are doing a good deed by teaching them then I suggest, think twice because it is THEM who are making you realize that how much there is to life and so many reasons to be actually happy. The humungous amount of laughter and fun will make you alive and push you to live in the present instead of cribbing and worrying about the inevitable future. I have honestly in all these days never seen any of them being upset or ever talking about anything negative in life. They get upset only while narrating the little anecdotes of how strict their teachers are at school.
Not just these children in particular but every child finds happiness and fun in every activity and that’s why their faces glow the entire time.
Children bring along with them a breeze of enthusiasm and carefreeness and if we adults started to live life the way they do, we would love and appreciate our life a bit more.
-Vibhuti Sikand (Teacher Volunteer)
Take a roller-coaster ride aboard this learning curve
July 16, 2018
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
– Dr. Seuss, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut
It is now a well-established fact that reading is an indisputable source of knowledge, pleasure, happiness and moral courage. It is one of the best habits that one can inculcate in order to grow, learn and conquer.
While looking for some internship options The WordsWorth Project caught my attention with it’s simple but crucial objective of spreading literacy through reading. Every child in this country is entitled to not just the basic educational rights but also a chance at leading a fulfilling and creative life. As readers, our lives have been enriched by the joy of reading. However, from my experience at The WordsWorth Project, I can vouch that enabling someone to read multiplies that joy many times over. And so, I urge my fellow readers or simply those who seek to spread joy and enlightenment to engage with our endeavor.
Children are a powerhouse of energy and if this energy is utilized in a positive manner the results would be exciting and empowering. My job was to teach the children yet, unknowingly, I myself got so much to learn in turn by them. Their energy is contagious, their anecdotes hilarious, their life narratives inspiring and their laughter perpetual. Despite the burdens of school, they have much to say and want to make the most of their time. During the initial few days, their constant chitter-chatter gave me a slight headache but eventually, these lovely stories became a cherishable memory for me.
Joining The WordsWorth Project has been a wonderful learning experience and I insist that you let yourself have a roller-coaster ride aboard this learning curve. All you have to do is fill this application form:
December 18, 2016
In the month of July 2016, I came across a Facebook post saying that The Wordsworth
Project is looking for volunteers. At that time, I was not aware of what the project was all about. So, I read about it and something about it fascinated me. I quickly filled up their form and gladly waited for a phone call.
When the call came, I was pleased. I knew this would a positive step. But I had no professional experience of teaching or even handling kids. When the recruitment meeting took place, the team along with Varsha and Priyanka, shared their experiences and gave us ideas of how to go about the learning process for kids.
The first class was the most difficult one, but the most memorable one too. I was assigned three kids of the fourth standard. When I sat with them to start the class, they seemed blank but were kind to me. I was afraid that making friends with them would be a problem, but it wasn’t! The kids are so disciplined and welcoming, it becomes impossible not to get attached to them.
Over the weeks, I used different techniques and ideas to teach them how to read and understand the basic words in English. I would play games with them, ask them riddles, draw for them to make them learn the words and what not. I learnt so much about myself, my patience, my strengths as a teacher and my weaknesses as well.
The best part about The WordsWorth Project is that it does not restrict its volunteers with guidelines or a syllabus. It gives us the platform to explore and improvise on our teaching skills. I never implied any rules or gave the kids any extra work. I let them be who they are and let them dwell into the environment. It took them time to get used to the language, but they never disrespected any part of the process.
The four hours a week became my escape from my own small problems and complaints. I used to look forward to spending time with the kids. And as I’m writing this article, I realise how much I miss the kids and their laughter. Thank you to The WordsWorth Project for giving me so much.
-Ishita Lakra, Teacher Volunteer
A Fresh Perspective of Innocence
April 2, 2017
I have been teaching kids for The WordsWorth Project, for the past two months now. Making the decision to do this came about spontaneously one night when I stumbled upon a WhatsApp message talking about this initiative and I was hooked.
It’s been two months and so far in this experience of a mutual alliance where knowledge played the mediator. I learnt things from them about how Prince is an avid fan of Ajay Devgn and even wrote a letter to him when I asked the kids to write one to whoever they admire, and how Reema feels Chutki from the storybook that we once read teaches us about independence and responsibilities.
The kids are fascinated by wisdom and to be contributing to that, to be helping them fill their brains with the constellations and the vastness of the universe while they sit there, jaw dropped, ruminating over the number of things they don’t know about, but want to, simply makes my day.
There have been times when they were disinterested in reading the books, times when they just wanted to play a game and we did. I had never ever played the game ‘Mafia’ before in my life, but that changed soon and for the better!
Going to the Khan Market Centre each week, and playing with the kids and teaching these little humans provides a fresh perspective of innocence. I am more than glad that I took on this volunteer work because had I not, I wouldn’t have met Reema and Prince, who are the sweetest little humans I’ve ever met.
-Ankita Dhar Karmakar, Teacher Volunteer
A Year Has Passed
April 19, 2017
A year has passed but it seems like I met the kids only yesterday, when their smiles invited me to the room. There’s no denying that kids are always filled with the kind of energy that intrigues you and your eyes start to press you to smile a complacent grin.
I am familiar with every kid now and they recognise me. When I enter the class they ask me to be their teacher for the day. There seems to be a nexus among us as I know what they want to study and they know what might upset me. Their ebullient ‘good afternoon’ makes my day and a hi-five while bidding goodbye is what they love the most.
Now, if you think such kids are intellectually weak or uninterested in studies, you are in a nescient universe. They are bright, diligent and I confide in their capabilities. My weekly meetings with them made me learn that Ankit is a consummate sketcher, Tanya is a fashionista, Sudhir is a quick learner and Sharwan is an all-rounder. I know the academic areas they are weak in and I plan their course of study accordingly. Shivam is weak with spellings so I play hangman with him in which he has to guess the correct spelling. Ankit and Sharwan are weak with Hindi spellings. So, I get them to write the meaning of English words in Hindi.
As time passed by, I realised that the happiness is two-way. I was equally zestful to meet them as they were to meet me. If I had a bad day, they could make it better. I’d bring them gifts to express my happiness and my confidence in them. I still remember my birthday when I distributed chocolates to them and they quickly made me two birthday cards. Since they did not know how to spell ‘Happy Birthday’ they asked me to spell it and wrote it on the card, and I smiled as I realised how pure these souls are.
Everyone dreams. Monu wants to be a pilot. I did not want this career goal to be an irony in any way; a child from lower middle class, with meager facilities but intense curiosity, dreams to fly and explore the cosmos of what all he could do from up there. While Monu dreams of flying planes, Tanya dreams of being an art teacher. But she’s afraid she has to submit to the norms of society and marry one day without accomplishing her dreams. Every child has the right to accomplish dreams. However, in a world of extreme inequalities, cultural rigidity, and poverty; one becomes docile to one’s financial conditions and societal norms and gives up on the dreams. We, on the other hand, who are educated and well-off, take no steps to make a change in the society with the abilities we have. It is now time that we become sensitive to such issues; give our best to educate the masses and liberate the future of our nation from the shackles of stereotypes.
Sakshi Maurya, Operations Manager
Of Dictation and Dreams
July 13, 2017
It was my fifth class and that day I was to test their spellings. I work with three kids: Tanya who loves to write 3, Nikita who is very smart and quite aware of it and Sharwan, the brightest of the bunch. Sheets out, pencils were drawn and it was time for dictation.
Boy, these kids are competitive! They were hiding their pages as if they were not spelling ‘Giraffe’ and ‘Hippopotamus’ but writing down the most secret of nuclear codes. On every right word, I could see their happiness. How simple it is to be happy! Just get a word right. And we had burned the midnight oil, slaving over JEE books.
Whenever someone got a word wrong, they tried even harder to get the next one right. One can only imagine how serious these kids are about their learning and competition. Oh, what wonders they would do if given the opportunity and guidance.
Once the marks were announced, Sharwan was calm even though he scored the highest. Nikita had always been on the heels of Sharwan and here she was again, crestfallen and nearly there. Tanya was a bit upset. That girl is bright but you always have to push her. In only a span of two hours, I got to see so many emotions. As a student, I was not aware of so many things that we go through. Yet, on the faces of these kids, we can see ourselves again.
Another anecdote is from the first time I worked with the older kids. I had imagined them to be unruly and rude and even harder to manage. Unfortunately, we are all humans and fall prey to our personal prejudices. However, those guys showed me how to be a bigger man. They talked about how some people are disrespectful to them just because they come from a specific section of the society. They talked about their will to learn and the foremost lesson that they had imbibed from life, “good things never come easy”. In their eyes, I saw a fierce will to learn and work for the good things. One of the boys talked about his dream of joining the army. One girl was excited about learning at a college where she won a dance competition. Ramjas was the name of the college.
Looking back, I really hope these kids learned something from me because I definitely learned how to be a better person from each and every one of them.
Now, I would urge you all to make some memories for yourself and learn something which you can learn only in a classroom with these kids. Join us as a teacher volunteer!
Saurabh K. Sharma, Summer Volunteer