It should be obvious that students of all ages, for we are always learning new things over the course of our lives, are most invested in what they love. Be it a sphere of the arts, a sport, a subject of study, or what have you, having the privilege of watching someone describe what they are most passionate about will most likely result in smiles and genuine joy from both sides. It’s a natural reaction — we as creators with interests desire to impart our joys upon others, in hope of making them feel how we feel. During my time at Ankuri teaching in the local Inter College this theory has been put to the test time after time and always with the same predicted result. And it never gets old.
I have had a few specific instances of hidden passions (at least from me) emerging in class and all of them have furthered this belief; education without consideration of what the students love is not as effective as the blending of what students need to know with what they are passionate about. I have seen this idea unfold first-hand and, especially when teaching English, bridging the divide between school and interests is not a difficult river to cross.
One day in class after a lesson on sentence structure, I noticed a few of the students had large notebooks next to their backpacks. I quickly realized they were spiral-bound portfolios. When we dismissed the class for the day, a few of the students immediately shot their hands behind them and grabbed their notebooks, with concentrated eyes on the front of the classroom and me. Bear in mind, this was completely unprompted. We hadn’t even mentioned the books despite my insane amounts of curiosity. Before everyone left class, the students placed their notebooks on the front desks and opened the first pages. What I saw, I could not believe. Brilliant paintings of pristine flowers and villagers and mountain vistas. One specific flower I was drawn to reflected orange and yellow in my glasses. The stem weaved over itself elegantly and looked as though it was simply napping on the page, poised to grow out into the classroom. There were also some monochrome pencil sketches of flowers and mountains that I personally admired as someone who, while typically behind a notebook, confines himself to penciled words instead of drawing.
A few weeks later as more and more students started bringing their drawings to class, I had arguably one of the most enlightening conversations with someone at the school. The Indian Day of Independence on August 15 was a week away and students had been learning routines and songs and painting pieces for the large celebration. When a student brought me to a new room I hadn’t ventured into yet, which happened to be the art room, I was faced with an absolutely stunning painting of the Hindu God of Dance Nataraja the student was working on. My jaw dropped, the detail and shading astounding. After some minor details were added, the painting was to be framed and hung on stage at the ceremony. I heard a voice from the corner of the room.
“Do you like it?”, the woman said.
I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm when I responded, saying it was incredible. The woman introduced herself as the art teacher for the Inter College, the fearless leader behind all of the beautiful pieces I had been shown over the past weeks. We began talking about the painting and its role in the Independence Day celebration when she expressed her gratitude towards the interns for showing genuine interest in the students’ pieces. She said it almost as if artistic praise didn’t happen often at the school. Just then, the gong rang and I had to run to class. I thanked her so much for her work and said I can’t wait to see the painting on stage in its frame.
People need motivation to create. Whether this motivation comes solely from within, from an inane desire to make and build and bring beauty into the world, or from mentor figures encouraging artists to keep working and to discover the truths of the planet, it is clear the product would not exist without an urge to make it in the first place. Education is a powerful tool but without investment from both the student and the teacher, roots do not take to the soil. By fostering a community of excitement and pride around passions, a bond is formed between the student and the teacher and is very difficult to break. From here, the imparting of knowledge can flow across the stream with ease. I believe this with every fiber in my body and I hope Ankuri interns can act as role models for other schools in Dehradun. I hope, one day, the encouragement of passions is common and meaningful rather than an extraordinary event.