I knew I loved you before I met you…

…is not something I can say to a child in my class. Or any child I intend to help as a teacher.

My biggest apprehension before coming here was if I’d love my students, or like hanging around them for so long. I’m someone who escapes to the closest mall if kids are coming home. I don’t like entertaining kids who have the unfortunate luck of accompanying their parents on house-visits. And so, I thought I’d be averse to handling kids all day. I care about them kids, but it’s easier from a distance, isn’t it?

So, that was one fear I wanted dispelled, and soon enough it was. In my first week, I met the MAYA kids. These are 30 under-privileged kids from TFI schools who’ve been selected to be a part of a musical this November and they’ve been undergoing training for the past year after school. These kids are wiser than I was at their age. Obviously, they’ve been through a hell lot more than I have at 24. C is one of these kids.

C began breaking through a wall I have up- not because I want to keep people out, but because I’m naturally reserved when it comes to being affectionate, at least in public. The other day she planted a big kiss on my face after dinner, and another day after that, over lunch, she sang a mushy song to me about missing me when I’m gone, ‘handprint on her heart’ etc, and the day she was leaving she gave me a note and teared up.  I have NO IDEA what I’ve done for her to deserve her love. But that happened. I guess I tend to underestimate the value of spending time with children. What might seem to be a conversation that takes effort (because the kid has a hard time understanding English), or a time of playing games that bore me, or simply listening to a kid like C ramble on and throw  pertinent questions at me- might actually mean a lot to the child. And when I do realise how much I matter to a kid, it makes me want to be all they deserve.

Summer school happens during our training time in Institute. I’ve got a 6th grade class that I teach with 3 other Fellows. In my short time with them, I’ve realised that there comes a point when I begin to see the kid as more than just a child in my class. I begin to see the kid that is so eager to learn and  carries on in class so cheerfully that you wouldn’t think she was raised by a single mum who’s mentally unstable; I admire the family that sends the kid to school in well-ironed clothes eventhough 4 of them live in a house that’s half the size of my bedroom; I see a little man inside the 12 year old boy whose dad’s dead, mum works 2 jobs, and it’s upto him to cook lunch for himself. When I actually see these children as more than just disruptive, slow or regular students, and instead see a bunch of hopeful kids or families looking to ME to show them doors to a better life, it’s then that my self-centred core cracks a little, and then I begin to love them.

I don’t know how good my love for them is, but I hope it grows and I hope it’s enough to make me work hard to always be what they need.

My summer school students locating France on the map

My summer school students locating France on the map