More than three decades into the education system and Aditi Misra looks and sounds the same when I was in school. She claims she is getting older, but I am yet to see any telltale signs of that. The passion, the energy, the zing and her love for students and education and innovation continue unabated.
Nothing has changed. If anything, her continued association with children and the education system combined with the power of technology has only added to the life of many students like me who have been lucky to be taught or guided by her.
She has been a wonderful teacher, guide and mentor. Her love for the subject she was teaching –history in this case, was infectious and had us thoroughly enjoy our classes with her. Everything was made interesting and exciting in class. Classroom learning was interspersed with fun activities like museum trips and even the occasional movie trip. She was so much fun inside and outside the classroom. Always the one to show love, she had a way of ensuring that her love and regard for us did not make us indisciplined. Till date I am surprised how she manages to give out so much love to her students and still commands discipline.
She says, “I tell my students that what is wrong is wrong. I will care about you but if you are wrong, I will also check you and correct you. And if you understand that then you will always have my love.”
Born in Lucknow she did her initial schooling from six different schools as her father was in the army. The last seven years of her schooling was from Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram where she was the first batch of grade eleventh and twelfth.
A graduation in history from LSR in 1982 and a post graduation in the same from Delhi University saw her become more and more determined about following her heart and becoming a teacher.
Since her family was not into education or had ever been in this stream, there were multiple questions and suggestions on her choice of profession. She stuck on and knew what she wanted to do. Today she shares that many of her contemporaries who had frowned upon her choice are either not working or bored with what they are doing.
After her graduation she joined DPS, R. K. Puram and thus started her career at, her alma mater in 1985. She found a great mentor in Shyama Chona who was her class teacher from grade ninth to grade twelfth.
When the new DPS branch was opening in Vasant Kunj, Shyama Chona pushed her to move out of R K Puram to Vasant Kunj for she saw this as a great career opportunity for Aditi to grow and spread her wings. Though upset, Aditi decided to go ahead with her teacher and mentor’s advice.
She left R. K. Puram and joined Vasant Kunj in 1994 as one of the founding team.
I call it my karma bhumi because I learnt a lot over there. When you set up a new school it is a completely different ballgame and the then Principal allowed us to experiment and do all things we could to improve education and add value to the lives of our students.
It was at Vasant Kunj that I met Aditi ma’am and had the opportunity to learn so much from her.
In 2001, a new chapter was to begin in Aditi’s life. A new branch was being set up in Gurgaon. She moved
out of DPS, Vasant Kunj to set up the new initiative at Gurgaon in October 2001. “When I came here I was a young head of the school, waiting for a principal to join but then they decided to make me the principal. I have never said no to people or opportunities. I believe that something good comes of every opportunity.”In the last decade and a half, Aditi Misra has some wonderful things to show—the life of the 6000 students in school and then the kids of the Siksha Kendra whose numbers have grown over the years.
Talking about the Siksha Kendra she says, “When I started the school, I realized that in the afternoon the school used to be empty and the kids from the nearby villages could do with some basic remedial classes in English and other subjects. A few of our teachers decided to join hands and we got started.”
The response Shiksha Kendra has received has been overwhelming. What started as afternoon classes for 100-150 kids from nearby villages increased to 800 students in five years and to 1200 in ten years. The
1200 kids she shares receive genuine love and nurturing from the other kids in the school. Be it their Christmas wish list or organizing an annual picnic for them, the morning shift school students and their parents are always there to help out, whether by sharing clothes, woollens in winters or sometime just monetary support. It is a system where everything is given out of love and the kids of the Shiksha Kendra never feel they are wearing hand me down clothes or using old books.She says, “Even though we came from well to do families we never believed in use and throw. From clothes and books etc. everything was shared with cousins. We believed in recycle and re-use and that is what I tell all my kids.”
“Every year we do one carnival and its proceeds go to the Siksha Kendra. Over the year parents too, for different occasions come and put in money into the kitty and get a receipt for it. So what started, as a small idea has now become the most pulsating, warm and energy driven part of the school.”
Talking about the growth of Shiksha Kendra she says,
It has been a learning curve for me and has encouraged me to do more and made me realize that when you want to do something good, then the universe conspires and there are no problems only opportunities that open up.
Another pet project of hers has been the skill development centre where people who could not learn a skill or want to learn skills can join the centre and acquire those skills.
On the subject of internet changing our lives and its effect upon the teaching community she clearly states that –
We are not the repository of knowledge any more. The content available online has changed that. If you call yourself a good teacher then you will understand that you are a guidance facilitator where you help students to sift through information. Every teacher must understand and be happy with the fact that possibly the kids collectively know more than us today. So if you can accept that then you can make education great by making it more participatory than one sided. In fact the vast bank of content available to kids today have allowed us to assess children on creativity, content, presentation like never before.
The one thing that students according to her need to take note of is, “It is not important what you know, but what you do with what you know. Also if you want to succeed no matter how intelligent you need to be a team player.”
What keeps her going is – “This too shall pass.” Given her love for education and teaching she says that she has never once felt like giving up.
She has received commendable support from her teachers and her family. Talking about her husband she says, “He has been extremely supportive and helpful. I think he is one of the most emancipated and most forward thinking husbands and his support has helped me immensely in my journey.”
In her graduation days she was also into Odissi, which she decided to let go off to focus completely on her teaching.
Given her long years of experience in this field one of the few changes she would love to see in the sector is work curriculum. “Open school curriculum has not been changed in ages. For example if you are teaching democracy to kids who are working as guards or selling tea part time then the example of Italy does not work. Teach them things that matter – why education is important, why one should pay attention to hygiene etc.”
Talking about changing things for senior school kids she says, “They are under so much pressure to perform and that needs to change because while schools have increased exponentially but colleges have not increased nor have they increased their seats. So most children want to go out and study. Once they go away they won’t come back.”
This teacher leaves us with a very important learning and great hope for the future –
Children are the best things that have happened to human kind, they can do anything when they want to. When we did a no poly bag campaign in school, its usage stopped. From kids to senior students to teachers everyone started using cloth bags.
“Children have become change makers. They have become my best gurus, I have learnt by watching them.”