Your friend of many years stands up purposefully to share a problem with the class - fearlessly!
I moved to Delhi 4 months ago on a 12 hour notice to work on Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum for 7 Lakhs students in Delhi. Given the scale of the vision, how diverse the team was and my lack of experience in working with a Govt system, I had to challenge myself and be entrepreneurial - trying new ways of doing things, learning about my strengths, learning to understand and empathise with others, bouncing back from failure, dreaming big in small tasks and doing them with high quality. The curriculum rollout is planned for July, but we realised that testing the content with students is crucial before that could happen. Therefore, we picked 24 schools as a sample space to pilot the curriculum with over 5000 students. We realised that feedback from classrooms was essential to introduce enhancements into the content. Before I share further, I’d like you to go back to your high school classroom and imagine the following 2 experiences happening there.
Your friend of many years sitting next to you stands up purposefully and says, he wants to share a problem with the class. He lives in a small one room house with his large family and can’t decide whether to study early in the morning or late at night. You listen intently and wonder silently why you’ve never known this about him. You don’t make fun of him for his situation and neither does anyone else in the classroom. Once he has finished articulating his problem, the teacher pleasantly encourages him to try and think of a solution. Your friend opines that using a smaller study lamp at night might make it easier on his family. You have just found out something new about your friend of many years that is relatable. The best part? Now you know there is a place among your friends and teachers where you can speak out about your everyday problems no matter how trivial they are and try and work on solving them collectively, without being made to feel shameful about them.
That girl who always sits in the left corner of the first bench. The one who never speaks. She stands up and talks about a classroom activity she has been trying for the past few weeks. She says the activity helps her focus on her breathing and on the various sounds around her, whilst being mindful of herself and her place in the space around her. She talks about a second group activity that she participated in and tells the classroom that she was able to invent a faster solution to the problem at hand when she realised the value of trusting her friends and working with them as a team. She cheerfully ends sharing her thoughts by saying that the activities helped her find skills in herself that she never knew she possessed. A shy and quiet girl from your high school classroom is happily talking about identifying and understanding yourself before worrying about others around you, about trusting your friends, leaning on them and letting them lean on you to solve a tough problem, about finding things within yourself that make you proud of who you are. You’re listening to her intently along with the rest of the classroom without making fun of her positivity and joy as you feel it spread out and cover you like a blanket.
These experiences are in fact real and were shared by Nisha and Abhishek in only the third week of the pilot. As an observer, I saw hundred other students share their problems, speak their mind with trust that they are not being judged or laughed at, we realised that if the curriculum can enable students to such an extent in just three weeks, then the program in its final form would have significant impact on students. These student experiences have inspired us and motivated us to do our best to ensure a successful rollout of the program.
We are now more confident than ever that this curriculum has the potential to make students believe in themselves and their peers, to dream big and know that their dreams are achievable.