I was of only 21 year old when I joined The Levelfield School, back in 2012. The school was by then two-years old and located in a two and a half roomed tiny building in Dangalpara. To tell you the truth, even though I had already read many good things about the school, the look of the building did make me a little sceptical about the quality of education here. Coming from a metro city myself, a supposed good school conjures the image of a large building with multiple facilities. I would, however, later on hear from many of you how some of your best memories are from that tiny school building. And within the first few months of my job I too understood how not even the largest building of the world can equal the quality of education imparted here.
I joined towards the end of the ongoing summer vacation where all the teachers were preparing for the classes of the imminent new session. That was my first proper interaction with Sir (I met him briefly and formally for my interview before that).
Most of you don’t have much experience of how schools normally function. From my own experience I can tell you that a Principal of a school is always supposed to be in his own office, occasionally taking a stroll to scare students into maintaining some temporary discipline. And you can almost never see or even know who the owner of the school is.
But there was Sir, sitting with the teachers, on the floor, discussing the story of A Little Princess and teaching us how to take a class. That was the very first of many, many such sessions that he would personally conduct. If he was training us on Kakuro, he would also solve them with us. If he was training us on writing concise and precise answers, like we would expect you to write, he would also write with us. He could have used only this one booklet as an example to show how to lead a discussion in the class but he painstakingly discussed every English, Math and EVS material with the teachers so that we teachers would discuss each of those stories, each of those sums with the students in the exact way that he would have done himself.
That is the thought behind pretty much everything that has ever been done in the school. He loves all of you so much that he wanted to explain the beauty of every story, wonder of every puzzle, the story behind every social phenomenon to each one of you personally. Through all the teacher-training sessions and later, by writing the Math and English explanations in Delta himself, he was attempting his best to be present in all the classes, to personally teach every one of you. We, teachers, in our varying abilities have tried to emulate him, to give you a feeling that it is indeed him who is talking to you.
The story of why Sir set up the school is well known to all of you. He thought many things were not right about our education system because in spite of 17–20 years of ‘education’ it was still producing unskilled, unthinking and unemployable young people. But once he started the school, he could gradually fathom how many things were wrong in almost every level of education. Right from the ill-chosen story books to mind-numbing textbooks, from the misguided dreams of your parents to the red-taped bureaucratic difficulties of getting affiliation, his arena of struggle became larger and larger over time. He understood the outside world is so full of flaws and imperfection that he must, all his talent and might, protect you.
If you look at all the activities of school over the years, through these lenses, you will be able to understand the thought behind them better. In the initial years, Sir wrote or re-wrote all the reading materials for you so that you don’t stumble upon difficult vocabulary and lose interest in reading. He personally read all the books and watched all the movies before making them school materials to make sure they will be interesting for you. He searched all over to find the most exciting and intelligent puzzles for you. He personally made all the sums of the word-problem booklet to make sure they are just appropriately challenging for you. He repeatedly asked your parents not to expose you to television, mobile phones or internet so that you don’t dumb down. He spoke to your parents on multiple occasions to make sure they don’t direct you to the wrong direction of tuition classes or textbooks so that your childhood and brain are not ruined.
In the later years, he struggled against much more difficult things so that you can have an uninterrupted happy childhood and hopefully, in the future, a meaningful life beyond the school years. Then the struggles were about finding and having a exam-board that will not jeopardize your childhood; they were about finding and making sure that you can get admitted to the best colleges of the world where the experience will be somewhat akin to the world-class education that you received here; they were about directing you to the kind of profession which will ensure both wealth and happiness for you. Sir’s love for you is so all-encompassing that not only he tries to create a perfect life for you inside the school, he keeps thinking about how you can continue to have the perfect life even after you leave the school and enter your adult life.
Even though it was quite a task to get the more conventional CBSE affiliation, we still decided to junk it and risk the scepticism of the parent community and went for the Cambridge affiliation. It was done so that you can continue learning the way you always did in this school and don’t have to cram textbooks from a young age.
He held numerous meeting and wrote several articles for your parents so that they don’t force their age-old engineering-medical dreams onto you. Although what the students do after graduating from school is not the concern of any school, but Sir could not bear the thought of you being miserable in some college or some job in any part of the world, at any time of your life. That was the reason why he designed the Paths.
There are many more things he didn’t need to do, and still he could have made enough money and fame for the school. Instead of personally running it, he could have appointed a Principal to run the school, like almost all school-owners do. He may not have spent so many hours in training the teachers or making Delta or could have left the job of teaching to private tuitions, as most schools do. He could have used some books from some random publisher as school teaching materials instead of making each one of them personally. He could have inflicted the textbooks onto you from class six, according to your parents’ wish. He could have given IIT-JEE coaching to you and placed most of you in the IITs or similar engineering colleges — actually, it would have been far easier than preparing you for SAT, a multitude of Subject Tests and APs, Cambridge board exam and it would have made your parents’ happier. He could have made his life easier and made the school far more acceptable with the parents by doing all these and you wouldn’t have understood a thing, because you wouldn’t have known any better; because the world and particularly a country like ours know nothing better.
But he did all that he did only for you, because he loves each one of you more than anything else in the world. Now that you all are almost grown up and have the maturity and ability to understand all these, a good way for you to appreciate and acknowledge his struggle for you would be in the attempt to be like him. Though, it’s not really possible to emulate him wholly, but all of you can try to be interested in helping and improving other people, to be interested in meaningful work, to be excited about other people’s talent. No matter what work you do in the future, try to make a bit of the world, irrespective of how small it is, as perfect as he made the school.