For seven very inspiring enriching years, I have had the opportunity of living and teaching at Rajghat, on the banks of the Ganga. During this time, many have come here to live an inwardly rich life. Many have left too. But inevitably people feel inexpressively fascinated, drawn by the 'ancientness' and mystical beauty of the place.
When I joined Rajghat as a teacher / house parent, it was a totally new direction in life for me. With a keen interest in education but with a certain hesitancy about my abilities (inabilities?), I plunged into the field of education and the 'teaching-learning' process. Until then, one had associated 'learning' with students and'teaching' with adults.
Entering classroom on the first day to find 25 pairs of eyes focused on you, expectant, ready to listen, was like being under the spotlight. . .. . . Heart beating fast, trying to assimilate the situation and the mood, one collected oneself quickly. The response and the responsibility began.
Children are very friendly beings, most willing to let you enter into their world - the entry fee being 'affection'. They paved my way into their world. How? With their questions, their abundant energy, mischievous nature, eagerness for everything. Their innocence and exuberence were like a gentle breeze that blew in the classroom creating the learning atmosphere. And I found myself simply responding to that.
As the days proceeded, I sensed a certain rhythm in their learning and a certain capacity I too was developing for teaching. And that was my first contact with the process of learning - learning to teach and learning to learn. Both the children and I were in a similar state of mind. This by itself created an atmosphere of 'learning together' . It was a period of discoveries and relationships.
It is natural that different children respond differently and at their own respective pace. So finding the common and distinctly different factors, and reaching out to them accordingly with patience and affection is very important, I found. If a child gets what he deserves to receive, he is better prepared for the next step.
A teacher who likes to experiment and explore often feels the constraints of time, syllabus, number of classes, tests.. ... If there are certain elements brought in by outer structures (to which one has to bow to some extent), there are also elements operating within, which are deterrents to the 'learning atmosphere'. Whether at a macro or a micro level (it operates so subtly that one is very often not conscious ofit), our own urge to get results, quick results, better results keeps us working at the target level rather than being conscious of the effect such an attitude has on the quality of learning and the atmosphere. The fine balance between the fulfilment of objectives and the space for quality learning needs to be found. If teaching is an art, learning to teach is also an art by itself! To compromise with the quality only leads to damage which is not very easily repaired. Sometimes after a frustrating, uneventful or unenthusiastic class, I would wonder what went wrong. Very often I would wonder whether I was doing justice (later I was made to question this very aspect of 'doing justice') to my responsibility, for I felt the greatest damage is done when the urge to learn is curbed or killed.
Gradually I found that my students' involvement was the best judge of my efforts. As a teacher, and also as a human being, one must grow and be in contact with the learning process which basically requires one to be in a learning state of mind, a receptive state. To become an authority within oneself as a teacher is the greatest danger a teacher faces.
I have felt, during the last 7 years, more like a student than a teacher for I was getting a taste of what it is to observe, to question, to listen - to oneself and to the other - not to condemn oneself or the other, to take mistakes in the right spirit, to listen to the voices outside and the voice within...
What began as learning to teach led to learning about oneself - one also had to face one's limitations as an inescapable reality! At times, I would wonder: Is there a need to be passionate about the process and detached about the end? What does it mean to work selflessly?
There may be nothing really new in what has been shared here. Yet, when one sees, one discovers something for oneself, the joy of discovery, joy of learning is what makes it new and unique. The journey continues...