Teaching is one of my passions. My name is Manika Bhatia. I am a 12 year old girl, studying in 7th grade at North Gwinnett middle school in suburbs of Atlanta. I enjoy playing basketball, swimming, volunteering with kids, and spending time with friends and family. When I grow up, I would like to be a corporate lawyer.  But in the meantime, I am enjoying teaching.

I was vacationing in India for three weeks this summer, and wanted to do something interesting during the trip. There was a school near where I was staying in Gurgaon (suburb of New Delhi), but it was not just any school. It was a school for under privileged kids who’s parents could not afford to send them to a regular school. The 70 some students there received free books, uniforms, lunches, and more importantly a FREE education.

The person who started this school was a retired Army general, and he was the one who got me teaching these amazing kids. My family and I had actually gone to sponsor a lunch for the students, and that’s when the principal of the school took me aside and told me I would be a great volunteer teacher with some of the characteristics I have. Since I love kids and love to teach, I decide to take on the challenge.

The school started every day at 8 am and ended around 2 pm. That meant I had to wake up at 7:30am every morning, but I’m glad I did it. Each day,  the students greeted me with “Good morning ma’am.” Even though the students didn’t have many materialistic things, they certainly had a lot of discipline. I taught third, fourth, and fifth grades. I taught them everything from math, science, social studies, to Hindi and English.

One major difference which I found between schools here and schools in India was the atmosphere in which they were learning in. See, school here in the US are well constructed birck-and-mortal buildings with central air conditioning. But in India, this school was under a thatched roof separated by curtains to divide up the classes. It was extremely hot and we only had 1 fan. By the time I was done teaching, my whole body was sweating. I honestly don’t know how I managed for 3 weeks, but as I taught the students, I became  more and more comfortable with them so I didn’t really mind the heat.

Manika in India

The students were very kind and considerate always asking me, “ma’am do you need more chalk?” Or “ma’am should I get you some water?” We all did many fun things together, like going outdoors, racing, and playing traditional Indian games. We also found a way to have fun learning by solving quizzes in teams. The winning team got chocolates. I felt the older teachers were actually jealous of my learning methods because all the students wanted to be in my “fun” class.

I loved every single student at that school, but most importantly I loved the experience I got to have teaching wonderful students. The Dean of the school even told me, “You are better than any of my professional teachers!”

~ By guest blogger, Manika Bhatia, a middle school student in Atlanta who volunteered teaching at a school during her summer vacation in India. If you are interested in volunteering at this school, please call Mr JD Khurana at the Gurunanak Seva Sansthan, phone +91 93133  40478.