Over the past few weeks, we have been teaching English to children in grades 6-12. At first it was a little difficult, especially since we arrived a day late and missed a lecture about the culture and education system in India. The very first day we were thrown into the classroom with no introduction or background on the students and were expected to teach. Though it didn’t take us long to find our rhythm and improve their English, the kids have done their fair share of teaching, too. We want to share the seven lessons we have learned from the children and community members since being here:
1. Being fortunate is all relative.
The values in India differ from those in the US in the sense that it doesn’t matter how much material wealth you have or where you come from. The kids we teach live in slums right outside the school complex and yet they come to class with smiles on their faces, eager to learn and excited to spend time playing sports on the field with their friends.
2. The ability to do back-flips and handstands does not come naturally.
As a gymnast and a wrestler, we both have good body control. Some of the kids share this same trait and some of them only think they do. The kids asked us to do some gymnastics with them and most of them were fearless … to a fault. From attempting back-flips and landing on their knees to doing partner flips and landing flat on their backs, the kids tried to become gymnasts in one day. We did see our lessons pay off a little bit when one of the boys landed a perfect back-flip in the school dance.
3. You’re more afraid of the kids than the kids are of you.
Whether it is in the classroom or on the field, the kids ask question after question because they want to know everything about our lives back home. There are no boundaries, and they are not afraid to correct you when they see a mistake on the chalk board.
“We can confidently say the two weeks we have been here have been some of the happiest times of our lives and that is due to the fact that the children are always so joyful.”
4. Our stay is short, but our friendships and connections will last forever.
Three weeks is not enough time to teach English, sports and even more generally to teach about our experiences as student athletes. But even so, building relationships is one of the most important parts of this experience. When we see the kids faces light up every morning, we are reminded how grateful we are to be spreading our knowledge to kids who are equally as grateful to be receiving it. It will be extremely difficult to leave, but the friendships we will carry with us forever.
5. There is no such thing as a third-world country: we all live in one world.
There were so many expectations of what India and the people of India would be like. However, the kids have showed us that at the end of the day people are people. It doesn’t matter the background or different cultures, the majority of people in the world crave personal relationships and happiness and this stands true with our students. Though they had many questions about where we came from, they all accepted us and treated us as one of them. We are all a community regardless of economic and cultural differences.
6. Happiness and smiles are contagious.
The children have taught us how far a smile can go. Every morning the children greet us with a smile and a handshake, and it makes us extremely happy. When something is lost because of the language barrier, a smile makes it better. We can confidently say the two weeks we have been here have been some of the happiest times of our lives and that is due to the fact that the children are always so joyful. They spread their happiness to everybody in our group, every single day.
7. The will to play the game is what counts.
Although trash lines the 12-foot walls that border the grounds and the balls are typically flat, there is always a child there. They see past these conditions and have dreams of becoming professional athletes. Their eagerness and love of the game overpowers any obstacles that stand in their way. Oftentimes it is easy for us to forget how grateful we are to have the opportunity to be athletes at great universities but every day we arrive to the school we are reminded why we love our sport.