The feeling of getting the students through the board exams and into college is quite inexplicable. When we look back today, it brings a flash of memories…every single one carved so well in our minds. This school is indeed unique- totally one of its kind!
8 hours in school, seemed unimaginable. Not just for students, but even teachers. It all started with putting down procedures, school values, uniforms and schedules. Even then it was a daunting task. But we worked as a TEAM.
The school has been functioning keeping in mind certain crucial pointers to provide a holistic learning experience. These questions have guided the team at every stage of the design – investing the parents in the mission through an orientation program, choosing a long eight-hour-day of instruction (as opposed to five-six hours in most other schools), spending break-time with students building personal relationships, doing remedial classes before and after school and even on holidays, having a daily reading slot, choosing to focus on theme-based units in languages despite the pressure to finish the textbooks, giving career awareness and exposure to students, offering career guidance and counselling support through a structured advisory program – where each teacher acts as a parent for a group of students, guiding them through day to day challenges.
The school values are what we see most of our students living by. Not just the students, many teachers, at different points in time have exemplified these values.
Challenges? A zillion. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that every passing week brought a fresh challenge. As our Advisories (Counselling sessions) with the students progressed, we began to come to terms with the harsh realities of our kids. Some lived without electricity; some woke up at 4 am, cleaning cars to gather money for daily expenses. Some faced the brutalities of being a girl child, while others traveled for more than an hour and a half to get to and from school. Each student gave it their best shot. As teachers, the challenges spanned from catering to mixed learning levels to using eight hours in the best possible manner. Being at the top of our planning and keeping in mind the big picture. Working together to mentor students who struggled the most, as well as creating rigorous activities for the high performing students. Enveloping values with every class while being very strict about behaviour expectations. Making students ready for life, while not losing the sense of their day-to-day difficulties. Addressing student needs while keeping in mind the parent expectations.
The focus was never only the board exams. We did tend towards this goal, but were always mindful of becoming better humans, making our little contributions to the society and eventually being happy.
Today, when we look at the kids seeking admissions to the allotted colleges, cheering each other for making it to some of the top colleges, supporting each other to make choices, volunteering with us to help out in the art class or simply being around in school, convincing their parents of their choices and making such crucial life decisions, we are filled with immense pride, joy and hope.
Our school leader often spoke of Truth and Hope. And we have not only witnessed but also been active participants- both producers and consumers- of this play of Truth and Hope.
Chinmaya Potnis teaches literacy at the Acharya Vinoba Bhave School and was a 2012 Teach For India Fellow.