Most of the students mentioned in the article have their father drive auto-rickshaw for a living. Personal conversations on varied accounts stretched over a timeline of two long years revealed that they were ALL proud of the struggle, hard-work and the responsibility that their parents had taken up. Some of them would share that their parents were really bright academically but due to limited opportunities available back then and as a result of the fleeting resources, they had to sacrifice their dreams and take up jobs, unwillingly.
Two things that make me very positive about my students’ outlook (1) The students are aware that life isn’t easy- it hasn’t been easy for their parents. (2) They are empathetic towards what their parents had to go through for practically no fault of their own. They feel they have the opportunity to rise, something that their parents did not. They somehow feel ‘responsible’ to succeed!
Dedicating this article to the students who with their different outlook towards life are challenging the set notions and norms!
When I think of students exceptionally smart with numbers, I get reminded of two of them who had a unique ability to solve a given problem in multiple ways – a rare and a very impressive talent! This ability to think through got Ismail Mulla and Shivani Pardeshi to score an impressive 93/100 and 92/100 in their State Board Math Exam!
If Shivani was passionate, Ismail was effortlessly brilliant. On one hand, I had Ismail, who never scored anything less than 100% ever since I mentored him (he wasn’t really happy with 93! I too believe that he still deserved better). On the other, I had Shivani who would solve no less than a hundred sums a day and be sweet enough to pass it on as a ‘gift’ to me!
If NASA inspires one, SRK inspires the other! One believes in exploring the universe while other blissfully resides in the ‘SRK universe’ – introducing Aniket Naidu, the universe guy and Aftab Kherati, Chief Fan @ SRK.
From understanding the toughest of concepts about the universe to even cracking jokes like it ‘rains’ sapphire on Saturn, Aniket has a future-leaning towards science, exploration and universe. Math and Memory, his forte! His teachers think he has a photographic memory!
Like most of us, Aftab is a huge SRK fan. Shah Rukh Khan represents to Aftab what a human being CAN potentially do with his life! What makes me extremely positive about Aftab is his reason to admire his star. In his own words – “Not just his style, his life.” He shares his greatest wish is to meet SRK once and thank him personally for making millions like Aftab realise the ‘sense of possibility’ in the truest of sense. Aftab is successful as a student by all accounts hope he takes a similar trajectory!
Naveen Bhandare was candid when he shared that he did not really ‘know’ if he was rich or poor? He shared that all he had to do was ask his mother and if the request was genuine, he would get it.
To me, it only went on to say the story of love and sacrifice which Naveen was aware of. No wonder relationships and personal connections drive him. Naveen became one of the toppers in Math, rising from one of the lowest performing students. Reason: Believing him and encouraging words, that’s it! Naveen would connect to a level where he would give me a hug every single day before leaving. Every student is capable, it’s just the right approach that works wonders!
After Srikant Bhaiya, Hindi teacher and my colleague visited Reena Yadav’s community, he shared that he respected Reena all the more. Reena was one of the most sincere students, someone who would never complain or give excuses. She comes from a very violent community and braves it all. Reena is very attached to her father who prays that Reena gets the kind of success in life that she deserves. God willing, bravery and confidence would get her there.
When you are an amazing footballer and that is where your heart lies. You see your parents work as hard as possible and have dreams for you (which you care about and respect). What do you do? Bend it like Beckham? Balance academics and sports! Nitin Jaiswal, the gifted footballer does exactly that! At such a tender age being so responsible makes Nitin a proud son of a proud father. All he wishes for is a better football scope in India. We do share that emotion! Don’t we?
To walk with head held high when things are difficult is power. Naveen, Reena and Nitin define the same.
The Bakery Shop made with lots of love underperforming set Faizan Ansari on to a different path for a couple of months. He could understand the difficult times and for the same, the quiet and shy Faizan decided to take a break from studies and help his father till things got a little better. We had mixed reaction to his choice but we all agreed with his emotions. He had scored well and had got selected to attend one of the best schools in Pune. He is joining this academic year finally and yes, his bakery is doing absolutely fine! His efforts and sacrifices, after all, had to pay off!
Thanks to some of our movies from the past and the ‘great’ TV Serials, even I was naive not to actually understand the dynamics of a step-mother daughter relationship. Swapnali Nigade and her mother are true champions when it comes to loving, caring and respecting each other. Swapnali and Ismail were the Head Girl and Head Boy of the school respectively and they commanded respect. Being fluent and vocal in 3 languages added to her qualities to lead. Putting stereotypes to rest – achieved! Kudos to Swapnali for her values, respect for a relationship, brilliance and of course her leadership abilities!
Sibling rivalry is a common behaviour, my student Nihal Bagwan never gave in to it. Math was never Nihal’s strength initially and his brother, Salman was the Math champion. Nihal’s goodness and that he is one of the most secured persons I have known, made us all love him and take a note of how to redefine positivity, on a personal note. These things are in no way easy to manage, especially when you are in the same section as your brother and that you are in your teenage! Nihal would never give up. He would mention the reason for him to work was ‘trying to get the best of what he was capable of’. He worked the hardest. What genuinely rewarded him was his attitude! Best part – I can say it with confidence, he did his best! What a great achievement it is to be able to bring out the best in oneself!
Loving a family member, understanding what they could have achieved and still realising that none of that happened, unfortunately, is hard-hitting, real and raw. Altaf Saudagar’s father was very bright academically and he had to compromise with his dreams because of a sudden tragedy in the family. Altaf is one of the brightest kids in the class and is equally ambitious. The idea driving him to achieve is that he feels that he has to ‘compensate’ for his father’s lost goals and give his parents a life they deserved all through. Reena and Altaf share this passion in common – to not just work for themselves but share the credits with parents, who rightly deserve it.
Being an architect of one’s own life is heroic and Shagufta Khan led by example. Coming from a very orthodox family, her education was always in doubts. Shagufta initially thought she wasn’t good with numbers, a common ‘self-doubt’ phase that we all go through at some point. She herself realised it wasn’t true. The revelation: when she could solve all that I had taught for 45 odd minutes in mere 5 minutes! She spoke with everyone – her math teacher, the principal and me to finally shift to the more challenging designed math – Regular Math as per the Maharashtra SSC Board structure. She pleasantly surprised the class by scoring 90%+ (46/50) in her very first exam and went on to score a respectable 81/100 in her State Board Exams. The best news: She wants to become a Math teacher herself. We share a common vision: ABCD-M – Any Body Can Do Math! Cool, isn’t it?
Marks cannot and should not be the only way to judge. Every student is different and the difference should be celebrated. A world without difference would be monotonous and boring! Moral of this story at least – Celebrate goodness, celebrate differences! Every kid is special. We as responsible teachers must spot their strengths, identify their weaknesses and help them identify their roles for a better world. After all, we don’t need just Einsteins, we are in huge need of leaders, sportsmen, artists and of course ‘honest’ journalists!
Disclaimer : I, Satyam Mishra have personally reached out to every single student of mine and got their consent to include the details of their challenges and their really inspiring reflections. I request the readers to be empathetic towards it.
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.