Teach for India Diaries 7 : The invisibles

In any classroom there are always those two or three students who are lost in their own world through all instruction, home works, worksheets and exams. Think back to your school and try to remember them. Did we ever pay attention to those who didn’t portray any sort of real talent as a child? Are we too easy to shun these kids as “the invisibles”?

Harshal and saif are two such sweethearts in my class. I say sweethearts because they are! They have no care in the world. I wish I was more like them! They have no concern for worksheets, or exams, or sitting in their designated magic boxes, or even me running around after them in class to get them to do any of the above. They will always be found together; outside the classroom, smiling at me with the goofiest smiles when I try to lift them up like baby monkeys back to their place. It is impossible to be stern with them. God knows I have tried. For a minute they will be on task and the next they have disappeared! Harshal’s mother left him when he was a baby. His father and grandparents have raised him. He has a slight speech disability and pauses three seconds before saying anything. He relies on his million dollar smile to do most of the talking J Most people know Saif as the brother of Bilal who is the topper of the class next door. Everyone is shocked about how the two brothers are like chalk and cheese. Saif will not sit in a place for more than a fraction of a second and Bilal is the math wizard in the next class. I usually run around class trying to catch Harshal and Saif while also simultaneously taking a reading comprehension lesson for the remaining 30 kids!

If you walk into my class on most days you will find both the partners in crime making a small house under the chair too big for them with mats and discussing what seems to be the next plot to drive me crazy!  They will be invariably missing. The first place I look in is the little space behind each door in the classroom. The next is in the small gap between the wall and the cupboard. The third are the corridors outside the classroom where they practice running. Yesterday I couldn’t find them for almost all through the class when they finally sprung out with a look that read “You should have looked under the pink table silly!”. I pray they don’t find a new place for me to discover!

I usually sit with them when my other kids are independently working to try and teach them what they missed. Every day they put my patience and perseverance to test. I used to always think that why cant I just get these two kids to sit down for more than a minute. But when I saw their Christmas cards day before yesterday and realized that they were actually paying attention through all the antics is when I realized that every kid has a unique way of learning and my whim of wanting them in their designated place should not hamper that. I have finally mastered the  Zen style of dealing with them as opposed to my earlier dismay! I count to ten and all along tell myself that they are learning more in the ten minutes that I spend with them individually than they are in the whole 45 minute session. I sometimes wonder what the future holds for them…I don’t know and maybe it doesn’t matter really. Looking at their Christmas cards I know they’ll do just fine. All I need to do is ensure that they get the most amazing childhood they possibly can get…

So think about the question that I posed to you in the beginning. How many such invisible kids do you remember in class? I always remembered the academic achiever, the best sportsman, the powerful orator or the self proclaimed bully. But as a teacher I know that years down the line it is not the academic achievers or the best writers that I will remember. Considering the number of sleepless nights Harshal and Saif have given me, I know which kids I am going to day dream about years down the line! 

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