When I took a headlong plunge into changing careers back in 2015, I had no idea what was in store for me. All I knew deep down inside that I was taking a measured calculative risk. I had spent months analysing and weighing out the pros against the cons. Pros was aplenty, so were the cons. I mean, I could just fail as a teacher and then it would all be another huge mess to clean up. I was straddling between two options; either an analytics course to up-skill or an entirely different unknown path.
I chose the unknown and what a fabulous journey it has been so far! Picking up books and course materials after a point in my life was quite a challenge in itself. Plus I had to study through harsh Delhi winters and I also managed to successfully train Aathukar in making Bournvita just the way I liked it! It is such a win-win situation, right? Unfortunately not, the real challenge actually lies outside the training territory when you’re put in charge of training / teaching / facilitating real human beings.
One interview led to another, and I found myself in an NGO that teaches English to under-privileged kids. After what seemed to be a really long training, I was assigned a centre of my own; the manager promised that I was going to be in-charge of transforming the lives of 60 odd children. So, I walked into what would be my classroom only to be confounded by an eerie sense of emptiness. In a short while, I was brought up to speed by my co-facilitator and long story short, I was entirely in charge of building three batches of students from scratch! Sounds crazy, right?
That was the beginning of a brand new career. In the 6 months I spent in the NGO, I did learn a great deal about teaching, motivating students, learning to be disciplined and in the process disciplining children, learning to lead by example, also figured out in a strange way that I could simplify and breakdown information to easily understandable bits and most importantly, I realised that I could teach and inspire students in my own little way!
When you look at teaching as a profession, it seems rather easy; all you can see is a fixed content and a teacher leading a classroom. But what you don’t get to see is the amount of effort that goes on behind the scenes, the amount of time spent in preparing for each session, thinking like a student to come up with possible curve balls, coming up with interesting anecdotes and instances to help them correlate it with reality and what not. It definitely is not a walk in the park! You have to be on your toes, literally and figuratively and constantly work towards maintaining that dynamic environment, which by the way is easier said than done.
Facilitating pushes you to the very limits of your patience, especially for somebody like me, who can spot errors, but what I couldn’t do is – help you understand why it is wrong and how you can correct it. All my life I’ve sat in the back benches making fun of people who made mistakes, but today I realise that pin-pointing is the easiest step, the steps that follow to help that individual correct that takes a huge amount of effort, patience and perseverance.
This idea reinforced itself a lot more prominently when I started teaching / training individuals. This is an entirely different ball game because, in a classroom, you can always switch your attention between students, but in an individual class, your sole focus is on that person sitting across you in a virtual environment. What’s been amazing so far is, I’ve come across people in their 40s come in to up-skill themselves and that’s fascinating, because most of us believe that education ends in college.
The most demanding aspect is to be able to switch roles rather effortlessly; one moment you’re a teacher talking about some grammar rule, the next you’re a facilitator making a bunch of students or an individual think, and then you have to switch to storytelling to reinforce the learning. There are moments when you have to be a motivator and help them believe that it’s not an insurmountable task. But you know what? The high you get when the point hits home is priceless!
It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster and I’m enjoying every bit of it! I never came to realise that until my last day of work at the NGO, when I bid goodbye to 30 odd teary eyed faces. Here’s hoping that I’ll never get tired of doing this, because, just when I was about to leave the class, a bunch of kids came running out to hug me and it really did look like that, tussi na jao scene from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I had no idea I could make a teeny tiny difference in the lives of students I interact with.
That’s the moment along with so many others is what I will look back on and hold on to, when somebody tells me that teaching is good time-pass!