Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Taking Risks

Dear Tomorrow,

Today, I tried two new things.

One day you will see for yourself that I have a vividly spontaneous self who often bites off way more than her mouth can hold or tummy can digest. Today, I was convinced I bit off more than I could handle in trying to share a part of my home, my culture, and my heritage with a child. A student from my old school is exploring India as her area of study and I got to create a learning experience for and with her! We began from her questions and curiosities about India and built on her prior knowledge and ideas. We went to my favorite Indian store and spent over an hour taking in the smells, sounds, and sights it brought to life and to our senses. Dan and I have been to this store many times, but walking through those familiar aisles with a curious and thoughtful 7 year old and a caring teacher-friend is a whole new experience. My new eyes, ears, and nose experienced a place I thought I knew so well - so differently.

At the store, I noticed many things I hadn't ever, despite my many trips there. We counted the many types of dals (over 15 variations!); noticed the similarities and differences between Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan spices; learned about a basil seed drink, and more! One of my favorite experiences as a teacher was to unlearn and relearn a concept to help a young person understand it better. I still cherish learning about calculus to explore a question a 9 year old once asked me:

If 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 = 1, why does .3333...+  .3333... +  .3333... = .9999...?

Sharing a part of me - a part of my Indianness with a young person who was curious about India - was very special! It helped me learn more about my own heritage and ask more questions about myself. 

Anyhow, going to Indian store led to another new thing: making samosas with two young people! The first and last time I made samosas was with Dan for my classmates in college...9 years ago! In my head, I thought - Hey! How hard can it be? I watched a few videos, double checked some recipes to make sure I had the right idea and then plunged into it! They turned out to be pretty yummy and even kids who didn't seem too daring, went for seconds! It was great to see children take ownership of their questions, their creation, and their exploration of something new. And to be a part of that was an honor.

My other new thing was making a sari! For a doll! Umm...this definitely took some stupidity mixed with my previously mentioned Hey! How hard can it be? attitude. Turns out - it wasn't the easiest, but it was fun and ended up looking fine. It's still in the first draft phase and needs sewing - but it looks mostly like a sari and it's not bad for our first time making one! 


These experiences affirmed a few flaws and strengths of mine. I am mostly willing to try anything once. I may seem spontaneous, but my rather active imagination usually ponders most outcomes of situations I have never encountered and probably never will, so I take risks - but they're calculated and cautious (and at the least tested-by-imagination). I usually follow my heart and work hard to create a positive outcome. I overestimate my abilities sometimes. And it's that very naive jump-off-a-cliffiness about me that lets me try new things and take risks. I have become much more comfortable over the last few years about being wrong and things not being perfect. I allow myself to make mistakes and push myself to learn from them. Today exemplified this for me - trying hard with two new things, being okay with failure, and being prepared to guide a student through the steps of trying, failing, learning, adjusting, and retrying. 

We didn't fail. We tried our best. And I hope she enjoyed the experience. I did and I'm grateful for all that teaching has taught me. 

I hope you never stop learning - about yourself and the world you walk in. I hope you take risks that help you grow. I hope you remember that everyone makes misnakes. I hope you have the courage to learn from your experiences. I hope you are brave enough to admit when you're wrong. I hope you are kind enough to call something perfect and cajole yourself to walk away from something with pride when you've worked hard enough on it. I hope that we can practice this together. I can't wait to learn, fail, stand up on our feet, make mistakes, grow, try, and take risks with you.

Lovingly,
-Suparna

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