I used to visit my friend quite often. Sometimes when I was there, her kid used to ask me some doubts in her Science lessons. Being a Science enthusiast and one who enjoys teaching especially little kids, I used to enjoy clearing her doubts.
Sometime back, when the kid moved to the next higher class, my friend asked me if I can help the kid on a somewhat regular basis as and when my time permits, of course. I was elated.
Well, out of the several thoughts that came to my mind, I felt that it was a wonderful opportunity to ignite interest in Science in a young mind. Being somebody who is a staunch supporter of education, I saw it as blessing for me to play a teeny-weeny role in someone's education and more so a girl child's education.
It also brought back some very nice memories of how a certain gentleman (a friend's brother's friend) used to take so much time, interest and effort in sharing his knowledge freely, with me and my friend about a particular subject. Both of us used to finish our classes and head straight out to his house for the lessons. No matter how tired that gentleman was from his long hours at work, as soon as he saw us waiting, he used to freshen up very quickly, get coffee (and sometimes even snacks) for all three of us and then sit down for imparting the knowledge. He used to make sure that we have understood the topics correctly no matter how many times he had to repeat or how much time it took. He never accepted even a single rupee from us, but only wished us well after equipping us with the much required knowledge. If at all we have achieved something in our lives today, his contribution certainly counts. Such selfless dedication is something of a rarity when paid tuition rule the day. And when my friend asked me to help her kid, I saw this as a Godsend 'pay-forward' for that very helpful gentleman's kindness.
As I sit with the child for the lessons, I become creative in articulating concepts in ways that the kid can relate to, understand and appreciate. I now see primary school teachers with more respect and admiration for their stamina & creativity. I have learnt the extent of my patience on myself when I try to see concepts through a child's eyes. I have learnt to think on the fly to make up stories which will help me draw simple parallels to scientific concepts and ideas. I have learnt to dig deep into my dormant memories to come up with appropriate simple experiments to help her see, feel, hear, understand and more importantly appreciate Science and the way it is applied in every day life. I have learnt how much joy and satisfaction one gets when one sees the light of understanding lighting up a child's eyes. The "A-ha" moments make it worth the while. It is so exciting to see her eyes all lit up, bubbling with questions and unable to hold them back.
Of course, internet and youtube is certainly a huge help, which we did not have when we were studying and trying to understand so many concepts like for example, how a heart functions. Everything about how a heart functions was left to our imagination what with only a grainy black and white pencil sketch of the heart accompanying the explanation.
It feels so good to go back to the basics and read about them all over again.
One day my friend told me that she was trying to teach some English lessons to the kid and she was finding it hard. The kid suddenly told her that "Aunty makes learning so much fun and does not let go till I learn correctly". Then, my friend said that she also adopted the methods I use and after that things went fine. When I heard that, I felt that maybe I was doing something right if the kid is actually enjoying learning with me. I learnt to slowly develop confidence in my teaching abilities.
We adults after getting a degree or double degree and so on, think that we know a lot. Maybe we do. From this experience, I can safely say that our learning and understanding is really tested when we try to explain complex concepts to a little kid who has hardly any knowledge of the world around him. It's like trying to explain the taste of coffee to a person who has never seen, heard of, smelled or tasted coffee in his life before.
Suddenly, I started to wonder who is teaching whom.