I arrive in a neighborhood foreign to my knowledge, surrounded by strangers staring at me as if I am an exotic creature that just escaped the circus. I’m lost and it’s the first day of my apprenticeship. Oh no, this is already a bad impression. I’m struggling to hold myself together. I’m scared.. Mujhe dar lug raha hai! Help me! And my phone has no service. Pull yourself together! You’ll figure this out! Ring ring ring! Finally! I have service, but I don’t recognize this number. I answer the phone so anxious and full of hope that the person on the other side holds the key to my relief. “Hello Alexis! Where are you? Are you okay?” God did not forsake me! He still lives. I couldn’t have been happier. I was then greeted by another fellow and my supervisor and was lead to the school, which was in a very inconvenient location. As a visitor, there was literally no way for me, or let along anyone to find this school that was tucked away in a sketchy ally of a low class neighborhood. I walk into this dark, dusty, and quite dirty old building (sorry for the asthmatics like me) greeted by the stares of the cutest little Indian children I had ever seen in my life. All of them were dressed according to dress code. I was now in their world. I was in their space, so as a visitor I took this opportunity to observe and learn from them.
After meeting my supervisor and mentors, I was directed to my classrooms and welcomed by a sweet standing ovation, which was also accompanied by a unison, “Good morning Didi. Have a nice day Didi”. Didi is the term used as a gesture of respect, and it simply means “older sister”. All of their faces lightened with excitement because they love visitors and the many questions they can ask, and get answers to. Whenever their teacher would leave the children would surround me with so many questions, and at the time I had box braids, so they would even pull my hair, which I had to learn to be very firm about to prevent from happening. Slowly, I started to notice that the dynamic of their school was a lot different than the set up I was raised with. Although, I can relate to the struggles of attending a government school the experience was not as blunt as what these children deal with and see from a day-to-day basis. Many of the students come from quite violent backgrounds and they have been exposed to things that challenge their childhood. Knowing this, it made me feel the need to always keep my attitude with them loving and encouraging. These children need all of the love and positive vibes they can get.
The lack of staffing at the school creates a huge issue when it comes to properly keeping order. Since staffing is so low, the school environment is not very supportive of a conducive learning experience in which students can properly be supported as par their learning needs. There is a huge lack of emphasis on fundamental things like reading. For example; there is a room on the first floor of the school labeled as “library”, and it was not until recently that I found out about it. I found this to be very conflicting because even though I attended a few government schools back in the U.S, we at least had the privilege of being pressured to read. We had a library with a plethora of books that ranged from a wide variety of topics. There was a book to capture the interest of every child, and there was also a certain motivation encouraged by an enthusiastic librarian who sold the beauty of reading to each and every one of our hearts. Observing the dynamic of these classrooms has really shown me how complex learning is, and how unique each student is. I am looking forward to getting to know these students more as the year progresses, and I am excited to become a temporary positive motivating source in their lives.