THE WINDOW

Indiana Nunez Sharer - India


February 8, 2016

                                           

There is this window in the room.

 It covers a large portion of the right hand
wall and consists of three sliding planes which can be moved to one side or the
other in order to open. The window is tinted, although some of the darker shade
has peeled off revealing the color it used to be in its original state of
making. You could really call this window a nice window, a great addition to
the room. Anyone could give you preprocessed answers to the benefits of a
window in a room, the benefits of this
particular window in this particular
room. Perhaps we have been to this room, perhaps not. Perhaps our experience
has shown us why this is a good
window. Perhaps it is a great window
but recently, I learned something new. I learned that in fact, knowing all
about glass paneled, room enhancing windows is not equal to simply and solely,
well, making them work.

This particular window belongs to a
classroom, a fourth grade classroom with what used to be green walls. Now the
walls have acquired graying scratches and growing chips from the straying hands
over the years of crowded class time. The classroom officially belongs to
whoever owns it, and then it technically belongs to the school that rents it.
Beyond that, the space and time belongs to the small Indian children within it,
or at least I hope it should. This classroom is where I spend my mornings. I
start the day here with the children until their teacher, Hemalata, arrives. Then
in groups, as the day progresses, take out the ones who are having most
difficulties to work with them on a more individual basis. In that small period
of time, the beginning-of-the-day one where I am alone with all the children, I
am able to interact with them as a whole. This yes, and among other things, I
also get to acknowledge that damn sliding glass window.

This window is what slaps me in the
face on a daily basis because I am unfailingly reminded of reality. I am
reminded of what something can be in theory and what it becomes in practice. I
am reminded of humility, as I now see how much I was lacking it. I was lacking
it in the way I spoke about what education should be and frankly, I was showing
no respect to those who are working within it. You see, I realized that I have
been very privileged throughout my education and that I was given time,
attention, and resources to make it a very holistic one. Due to this, everything
I believe education should be – spacious, creative, self-directed with guidance
– seemed liked the most obvious answer. I must say that I even somewhat
condemned, although that may be a bit of a harsh word, standardized education
systems which lacked these things.

What I believe education should be
has not necessarily changed or even the fact that I think it needs to change
has changed. What has become different is that I now see that although these
ideals are great it has almost broken me to come to realize that I can barely
even implement them myself. When we speak of changing education, it must be
remembered that those that it is being changed for will most likely come in
large numbers, few hours, and small spaces. Goals must not be undermined, but
creating a holistic system for a large scale education is not an easy
achievement to fulfill. This is because anytime a system is created, all will
not benefit, but it is difficult to create something so large without a system
itself.

Further, what strikes me most is
the reoccurring thought that there is no single rare solution. It seems at
times there is a competition for which model provides the best education for a
child. If it is to be considered that every child is individual, then one model
could not suffice, but countless would be needed. This especially considering
the millions of children that inhabit the planet and the millions more that
continue to come in. With this in mind and posing the idea that the battle is
not for the perfect model but for the most useful application, what we need to
work towards is creating a bigger investment into the workforce behind it rather
than the system it is through. That, that is what I believe the question at
hand is. It is not about what the perfect education should be, but what the best
way it can be applied and adapted, even in difficult circumstances.

On most days, this window in my
classroom creates an argument. It creates an argument on who has the privilege
of receiving the open side it. Back and forth, back and forth it slides and
still no consensus can be reached. The children, they look at me wide eyed, as
if expecting me to solve this and the truth is, I don’t know how. At first, I
felt shattered because I could not believe that a window was doing this, was
making such a mess in the room and within me. Now, when the argument erupts, I
stand there, look at the mocking window, and have no choice but accept it and
move on, at least temporarily. This is what I have learned from the children so
far, and what I have simultaneously become more confused about. They made me
realize that it isn’t just a window at hand, it isn’t just the education
itself.

It is all of us, in the room,
together.

Indiana Nunez Sharer