The Secret Of Becoming
“There’s a lot to do, there’s a lot to change, people’s opinion, the norm of accepting excuses to not support girl’s education and much more that seems impossible. But all I’ll do is- keep trying”
Take a moment to think, is education all about just teaching students the concepts and logics of Mathematics & Science, developing their understanding of English & Hindi literatures and making them aware of History & Geography of the world? Is the knowledge of these concepts enough for students to lead a successful life where they are able to meet the challenges of the 21st century? Today, the focus is commonly on the subject knowledge and most of us forget that there’s more to enable students to lead fulfilling lives – social etiquettes, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, importance of basic hygiene and building a healthy environment for themselves. Mamta ma’am is one such teacher who recognized the silent cry for help of the students in her school.
Mrs. Mamta Kumari, born and brought up in the Vaishali district in Bihar, has been teaching since 2014 and is currently a primary teacher of Utkramit Madhya Vidhyalaya, a government school located in Lalganj in her state. She was a very hard working student and took tuitions in her village to pay for her college fees. Similarly, she paved her way to become a postgraduate too. That’s how she learnt a very important lesson of life- for some people, life doesn’t always come that easy, but dedication and hard work can lead one towards success and prosperity.
In 2011, when it was announced that Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) exams would be conducted for the first time in Bihar, she didn’t waste a single day and resolved to apply for it. And that’s how her journey of becoming a teacher who is adamant to make government schools ideal, started.
In 2015, she enrolled herself for a Diploma course in Elementary Education (D. El. Ed), which was a huge learning experience for her. She met some highly motivated teachers with whom she could share challenges, build her understanding and brainstorm ideas. It was then that she learnt a very important lesson that every teacher should know- each student is different and so is their learning capacity. Meaning, teaching mechanism cannot be the same either. Absorbing in all the learnings that she could, she brought major changes to her teaching techniques that soon started reflecting in her students’ report cards.
Working with loyalty and integrity
On having been an active member of government school, the views and opinions regarding a government school that people usually hold, upsets her. She is very much adamant on bringing change in it and says- “It’s my mission in life to contribute as much as I can to change the narrative and make the government schools, an ideal one.”
The school in which Mamta ma’am works, takes initiatives to spread awareness regarding the importance of education in one’s life and encourage parents to send their wards to schools. While the school was trying to bring more students to class, Mrs. Kumari, personally made sure that those who attended her class should also learn the first lesson of enjoying a decent life – the importance of maintaining personal cleanliness and hygiene. But was it as easy as it sounds? You guessed it right, NO!
Entering into the classroom that is filled with students is a great moment to live, she says, but to watch them in a condition that makes you feel perhaps a storm had just passed through the class, wasn’t the best of it. Most of the students came straight from the work that they used to do to support their families, financially. The uniforms, therefore, were in the most pitiable condition as they themselves were. No child, who is coming to school to become a learned person, should have to compromise on enjoying the decency that comes with being a part of it and she made sure of that. She requested, urged and even gave an earful to parents when they visited for the parents teacher meeting- a necessity that initially was only on papers. Her consistent efforts motivated other teachers in the school to join her in the efforts to leverage PTM to make students and parents understand the importance of personal hygiene in practice, not just in theory.
Evangelizing the necessity of PTM
Initially, Mrs. Mamta shares, she was surprised that the concept of PTM was nowhere to be seen in the school. On probing a bit, the ignorance of those around, disturbed her deeply. She looked back to her student life, how she has always derived motivation from within and resolved to take the command of making PTM a regular activity in her school. Her first step was to make fellow teachers understand the need of conducting the meet- to understand where the students are coming from, the challenges that they are facing and involving parents in the learning process of their children. With their support, she was able to derive more active participation from others and eventually, of the parents which further helped build a strong relationship with them, especially during the pandemic.
With Covid19 spreading across the nation, everything suddenly came to a halt, she had to return back to Patna, her hometown. Sitting idle and not being able to do something constructive for her students wasn’t something she was used to. She reflected for a while on how she can ensure continuous learning for her students. And joined the WhatsApp group with other teachers who were planning to make videos and resources on lessons to be circulated on WhatsApp for the children. She observed that not many students actively participated. Before she could discuss it with others to find any solutions, she found herself on the way to the students home. She learnt that most of the students didn’t have basic gadgets at all times for online learning and some of those who did, lacked the technical knowledge to operate. She herself taught them to make use of Google meet to attend classes and access resources that were being shared on the group. This, not just helped students but intrigued parents to know more about it and themselves become the facilitators at home.
On asking how she envisions her future, she proudly answers “There’s a lot to do, there’s a lot to change, people’s opinion, the norm of accepting excuses to not support girl’s education and much more that seems impossible. But all I’ll do is- keep trying” Isn’t that’s all one needs to do to make the magic happen? And this reminds us of a very mesmerizing quote from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett-
“Of course there must be lots of magic in the world, perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”