A letter to Sir


This is a nice letter of appreciation written by Goody Goody to Sir:

I have thought of writing something about you many times. Every time I open the word document or hold a pen between my fingers and start thinking about you, my thought travels a similar path down my mind. It starts with exploring the innumerable facets of you that can be captured. It ends with complete awe of your limitless capabilities and I am tentative to start, fearing I would fail to encapsulate everything about you, every person that you are, every role that you have played, every risk that you have taken, every battle that you have won, every moment that you have gifted.

Today I am determined to continue. Whatever little bit I can chronicle about you, that’s still better than not writing a word. Because –

Everyone must know about the different roles that you have played.

They should know you have been the most innovative teacher, finding out the best books and movies for us, carrying the discussion from pages of books to the outer world, from movies to real-life, and teaching them in the best possible settings, sometimes while watching the rain or sometimes while sitting under the sun. You would agree to our demands about discussing Life is Beautiful while watching the rain or discussing Catcher in the Rye sitting on the staircase outside the admin while enjoying the cool breeze. Those were some of the perfect times in our lives, reading the perfectly chosen books in the perfect settings with the perfect teacher.

They should know you have been the best of friends, sharing stories with us, playing with us, hearing us out when we had grievances, lending a helping hand whenever we needed. You would share stories from your IIT days and work days, drawing lessons, at the same time entertaining us. You would be the most excited player in the field of Great Game. Even when we were small, you would take us seriously and treat us as equals.

They should know that you are the best guardian, guiding us to the correct path, making us able individuals to face the difficult world. You knew how unhappy we would be in Indian colleges, so you took on the unknown difficulty of admitting us to US colleges or taking the unconventional path of keeping some of us in the school. You told us not to trust anything or anyone blindly. By discussing about work and about relationships, you prepared us for life. You talked about unhappiness and many ways it would find us. You asked us to have a higher cause than just wealth and fame.

Everyone must know about the different people that you have been in your life.

They should know that you have been a risk-taker, who chose to give up a settled life, leave a high-paying job, keep the luxury of metro-cities behind, and come to a small tier-III town to start your entrepreneurial venture.

They should know that you didn’t just choose to remain an entrepreneur, but you also became a social activist. You could have very well limited yourself to making the school successful, catering to the demands of the parents, but you remained firm on your stand about Engineering and IITs, letting no students take the path which has destroyed so many childhood and career. You even became a columnist, talking about how the craze for engineering career should stop. Through your relentless drive, you saved a lot of lives from becoming victims of  their parents’ unfulfilled dreams.

They should know that you are a free-thinker and a revolutionary who could challenge Indian education system. You reimagined the whole system; you banned textbooks in the school despite a lot of opposition, in the process even renouncing your own identity and claims to earlier fame. Because you valued the truth above all, so you were not even deterred to say that your academic credentials were products of a wrong system. You criticised IITs without choosing to make it your identity, you opposed the Indian exam-system even though you were a state-ranker in the same system.

They should know that when you taught history it felt like you have experienced it first-hand. When you taught movies it felt like you have been in the shoes of those characters. When you taught us math I saw you deriving the formulas from scratch in front of my eyes. You could have probably invented some of those formulas if you had chosen a different, more specialised path. You didn’t just teach these subjects, you put the insights gained from them to practical use, sometimes using Lenin’s strategy or sometimes Gandhi’s.

Everyone must know about the beautiful moments that you have gifted.

They should know that inside and outside the classroom it was a pleasure to be with you. You would always be entertaining us, making us laugh with your jokes, making us more knowledgeable about the world, coming up with great ideas or tweets right in front of us. Sitting right at the Theque, while listening to Bollywood music being played in the background, you came up with an explanation of why cheap music is produced more now as opposed to medieval times. Sitting right at the lunch table, you started a furious debate between bucketists and showerists, in the common meeting you started a debate between chair-ists and floor-ists, spoon-ists and hand-ists – all these were fun but at the same time intellectually stimulating as we understood how we are instinctively but unnecessarily drawn towards the Western culture.

And who can ever forget the joke “There is a bit of Horse in Mule”, when you wanted to say how Mule has become arrogant, similar to Horse. The double meaning must have gone past many present in the room.

They should know that you made our lives more enriched, more fulfilling by keeping us away from the addiction of smartphone and internet. We are not affected by fake news, our brains are not spoiled by playing endless video games, we are so much better off by not being part of the endless hatred being spewed on social media.

They should know you taught us to appreciate not only good movies and books, but also music. Who can forget those times when you played Mozart’s music every day before beginning the class? Who can forget the sweet melody of the Beethoven’s symphonies and Vivaldi’s concertos?

I am yet to say how smartly you solved the problem of recruiting teachers, how savvily you moulded the opinion of the people of this town, how you keep the non-teaching staff happy and united, how astutely you got your way even after keeping everyone happy.

In front of all your achievements, contributions, and the ones I couldn’t still capture, I feel too small to be even be a chronicler. A letter is not enough to tell about you to others; an entire book can be written on you, and maybe it will be written someday.

To Sir, with gratitude


Urgi’s heartfelt letter to Sir on the occasion of Teacher’s Day, 2019:

Dear Sir,

It’s teachers day today but I was wondering whether one day is enough to celebrate and appreciate all you have done for us over the last many years. Over almost the last decade that you have taught us, you have toiled for us and everyday, through bits and pieces, built into us the foundations through which we could become someday worthy and able members of society, capable of being successful in almost every endeavor that life throws at us.

There are not many people who can do this and it would be unfair to say that you’ve only been a teacher to us, in the conventional sense that is. You’ve been to us much more than that, to us you’ve been like a mentor who has prepared us for life by arming us with the set of skills that’s required for survival. To us you taught not only how to fight the battle of formal education, which is merely temporary in nature, but something much more permanent, the battle of life itself.

In many a ways to us you taught these various skills.

One such skill which you built in us was the need for thought. It was you who taught to us that in the end it was the thought that counted and the thinker that was rewarded, and so we must learn to think if we wanted to be successful in life. From a very early age this is what you prioritized in us and not something the other schools prioritized, to mug up and then throw up in the exam.

Having built into us the ability to think, to be our own person and not a sheep, you then tried to make us all into mature and responsible human beings. This you did through various ingenious ways. One of those ways was that you made us run the school with you so that we would develop some of the skills and organizational abilities needed to run, well, organizations.

But to get to the adult life in which the learning of all these skills would pay off we first needed to pass some hurdles. We had to first pass the barriers that had been put in place by society in terms of formal education. For this you taught us, and taught us you did phenomenally. Instead of making us memorize things that we could have then written in exams you gave us real learning. All the subjects that needed to be learnt you taught us the concepts and principles of and that too in the most interesting way possible. The results of these teachings were immediately evident as most of us ended up getting top scores and grades in almost every exam we gave.

In all the ways that I mentioned till now you’ve enriched us as a group. But to me personally you have helped a hundred times as well to become a better person in every aspect.

One such time was when last year I had gone off track by thinking of colleges as the ultimate destination for fame and glory in life, thinking of them as paradise even. But thankfully you became aware of the illusory bubble in which I was living and brought me back to reality.

This, though one of the greatest ways in which you’ve helped me, compares not at all when taking into consideration the inspiration you’ve constantly been to me throughout the last decade or so. Before there was the need to do well in exams for my own sake, my motivation to do better everyday came from you. In you I saw somebody I wanted to be like, somebody worthy of being like, somebody smart and compassionate and caring. To me as a result you were like a parental figure, a guiding force.

Finally, though this really could go on, the most fundamental way in which you have changed my life, and everybody elses’ really, is due to the fact that you opened this school. With this school you provided to us a magical and radical place in a place where tried and failed convention really had the upper hand. By opening this school you changed our lives forever.

So Sir, for all of this I’m greatly thankful. Thank you for teaching us the skills we needed to survive in this world. Thank you for providing us with a wonderful childhood by opening a school of wonders. And above all thank you for being such an inspirational parental figure who was always there for us. So Sir, THANK YOU for all this and with this I wish to say to you happy Teachers Day, though to me you have been a lot more than that.

To Sir

-From Urgi

Our beloved Common Meeting


This is Ma’am’s writing about our Common Meeting reminiscing some of the great enriching and fun-filled moments that we have shared together.

We stayed in the Karidhya Campus for not very long but we were perfectly at home there. The intimate structure of the building, the two small fields — where we played football and badminton, the middle courtyard — which was our cricket pitch, along with the forest outside was a very well-loved campus. The middle courtyard was particularly memorable for various other reasons.

The common tiffin time was great fun. We remember how the whole school used to have food together sitting along the corridors. The food would be over soon, but fun and frivolity will continue for a long time. There would be imaginary games where students will play perfectly synchronized cricket matches at the absence of any cricket bat or ball!

The 4 o’clock time was also very memorable. Again, the entire school will be congregating, chattering and bantering away; saying the last few things of the day to us and to their friends, the last few smiles and waving of goodbyes until we met again the next day. Through the lunchtime and 4 o’clock time, we all became close, and the whole school, irrespective of class boundaries, became a single group of friends.

Our shift to the current campus in Husnabad was exciting. This campus was a huge upgrade from our earlier school buildings. It was far bigger compared to both of our earlier campuses — in Dangalpara and in Karidhya. Our new campus had a large field in the middle of the compound bordered by the cottage-styled classrooms on two sides and the big L-shaped two storied building at the far end. We moved from a four-roomed school building in Dangalpara to finally a 20+ roomed campus with a lot of open spaces.

But as the space increased, the intimacy reduced. After the initial excitement of shifting to the new campus was over, we realised that students were becoming strangers to each other gradually. All the classes had separate tiffin time, inside particular tiffin rooms. Even at 4 o’clock, when the school will get over, students would be scattered all over the large campus — making it impossible to have some common fun or talk before we call it a day.

The idea of common meeting was borne out of this dissatisfaction of the students gradually becoming distant from each other. We decided the bring back the familiarity, to have some common time with the whole school (or most of it) — even if it is through some artificial structure of a daily meeting at a particular time slot. Hence started our Common Meeting.

We were not very sure what would be the topic of discussion in this new Common Meeting. What we were sure of was that we wanted to meet and talk to all of you together every day. We decided that if on certain days we run out of our usual banter, then our Plan B would be to discuss some EVS slides with you. Somehow in all these months and years, Plan B never had to be used. And now that we look back on all our common meetings we understand that between us we never needed a Plan B, the Plan A always worked and that is half an hour a day of talking to all of you together without any agenda, without any plan. The topics of discussions just appeared every day as we met you. We had to tell you so much about the world, about our country, about our town, our neighbourhood, about the school, about you. We never ran out of conversations.

The Common Meeting had a humble start — the sole objective of which was to keep in touch, was to keep the conversations going. But it became much, much bigger than that over the course of time. What did we not discuss in these meetings! Topics varying from why a student has hygiene issues to why poor countries have more corruption; from topics of economics to topics of relationship; from analysing the news of Suri to analysing the behaviour of global politicians. No discussion was off-limit and nothing was beyond questioning. Out of many memorable common meetings that we had a few that would always be close to my heart:

There was one where Sir read out and explained you the meaning of one of Wilfred Owen’s poem — Disabled. The poem was a very traumatic and moving account of an ex-soldier, crippled by the war. The common class, which is normally always full of laughter fell absolutely silent during this discussion. The usual chatter while leaving the room was also not there. We are not sure if you understood all the words and sentences of the poem but we understood that you felt something much deeper that day, that you grew up a bit that day. They say certain emotions cannot be seen or touched. But you did touch empathy that day, you did touch the sense of futility of war that day, you did touch a very pure side of yourself, which I hope have made all of you a little wiser and a little better people.

There was another very memorable and quite different incident that comes to my mind — when we had bought chairs for the Common Room. The Meeting which used to be held with you sitting on the floor was to change — from then on you would be sitting on chairs. I remember a fiery debate ensued between ‘floorists’ and ‘chairists’ about this. Strong arguments were made in favour of and against the new move of putting chairs in the room. Nothing has ever been so serious and so funny at the same time!

Then there was the ‘Clueless Contest’ — towards the very beginning. At that point we realised that most of you didn’t even know each others’ names. So a contest was organised to figure out who knew the least number of their fellow students. I remember Mars calling everyone Adrija, like choosing all Bs in a multiple choice question paper! We have come very far from those days, not only you know everyone’s names now, you also know their traits intimately.

One other day we wanted to show you the absurdity of Bollywood movies; and we showed you selected clips from certain blockbusters. By looking at Bacchan’s and Mithun’s heroics, and Shahrukh’s absurdly romantic expressions, the whole room burst into laughter. But there was a bigger point: that those movies feed us myths about justice and romanticism that’s harmful to us as a society. If the reality is grim, we need to see it in our movies, so that people are moved to do something about it.

In the common meeting we invented the ‘Mollie Disease’ (name given to the habit of endlessly wasting time), ‘Rajarshi Disease’ (when you talk more than you listen), — and often through these clear diagnoses, these diseases got cured. At least, you became more aware of your flaws and imperfections. You are not always able to change yourself or control your impulses, but due to the common meeting, there is better self-awareness in every one of you. As you got to know yourselves, you got to understand others and your surroundings better, resulting in many memorable tweets from you which were wise beyond your years.

There are so many more events that cloud my memory as I am writing this that entire volumes can be written about our discussions on these meetings.

We say to outsiders that the Common Meeting is our take on the traditional Assembly of standard schools. But that’s slightly untrue. The Common Meeting has no comparison, no equivalent anywhere in the world. Perhaps in a few years’ time, when some of you have already ventured out into the world, settling down in your new life, making new friends, trying to make them acquainted with your past life, with your roots, you might want to talk about this very exciting thing that happened every day in your school, the most enjoyable and memorable part of your school life — the Common Meeting; you might be able to tell them various anecdotes, various funny incidents, you might be able to sew various pieces of your memory about the Meeting and present to them the best that you can. Your friends will nod, show interest, be curious, they might say that they understand what you are talking about and they can understand it must be been a great experience to be part of something like this, but trust me, they will never know. The moments that we shared together in the Common Meeting has become a part of you, has made you but even then most articulate of you will probably not be able to put words to the magic that we have together been part of.

For you


Ma’am’s writing about the school and Sir:

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.

What makes our school perfect?


As part of a recent writing exercise, many students wrote about what part of the school experience is truly special and unforgettable. This is Sir’s response to their writing:

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In many years that I ran the school, I have never stopped being astonished at the forgiving nature of children.

There are many occasions when I have rebuked you. Sometimes I even expressed my displeasure and disappointment in quite harsh words. I am quite articulate, and the downside of that articulation is that my rebukes can be quite brutal. Of late, those sharp words have often been directed at you for not reading with pleasure, for not reflecting and introspecting, for having shallow conversations, for being mentally lazy – overall for not engaging with the world around.

Overall, of late, I have not really shown much affection towards you. Displeasure took precedence. Common meetings, which were earlier full of laughter, became a somber occasion. From my side, there was a feeling that if you do not appreciate those great tweets, if you don’t engage during those great movies, and if you don’t love those great books, then you don’t really love the school.

However, as I read through your writing about what it is that you love most about the school, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the common meeting still remains your favourite (in spite of my repeated scoldings during the common meeting). You fondly talked about discussions on movies, tweets, Sapiens and Mughals. Many of you talked about the ‘perfection’ that our school represents.

That got me thinking: what makes our school perfect? What is it about our school’s idea that’s worth preserving? Most outsiders might think it is the great scores in IGCSEs, APs, SATs that makes our school great. Most of them would think the US college admissions will further cement that greatness.

However, our school was always great, always perfect, even when it was located in a small rented building in Dangalpara. Maybe it was even more perfect than it is now. What made our school perfect was that I was always happy seeing the students in the morning, and students were happy entering the school, and that happiness came from the classroom experience. I did not care about scores. I knew that the scores, results, university admissions will happen when the time comes. I wanted to create a place where you feel happy learning. I wanted to create a place where you feel loved.

And it was out of that love I did everything. My dislike for textbooks came from that love. I wanted to protect you from textbooks and exams as long as possible. I wanted you to enjoy reading, so I simplified many books so that you are not deterred by difficult words. But of course I wanted you to learn new words too, so we set out to make vocabulary discussions fun: so much fun that they inspired a couple of pages in my ‘Superschool’ story.

Even that story was written because I wanted to entertain my class. We always read stories about other people’s lives, but our lives here are also fascinating – and my students that time demanded that I write about ‘us’.

We conceived the Twitter initiative so that you can first enjoy writing short, stylized sentences before you have to write long, boring essays for exams. We made many interesting exercises like Pair Pattern or Multiplication Kakuro so that you do not find Arithmetic to be a series of mind-numbing calculations.

I wanted you to know history, but not complain about the subject like the way we did in our childhood days. So we dug out books like Mughal series, Century Trilogy, or Animal Farm, or movies like ‘Life is Beautiful’ or ‘Danton’. Every bit of the school, every material, every class was planned so that you feel happy learning.

So that’s really at the crux of the ‘perfection’ that many of you talked about in your writing: we created a place where you feel happy learning. We created a place where you feel loved. That’s the reason for all our hard work, all the battle with the society.

And it felt very good to see that you understand it at a deeper level, so much so that all the recent rebuke could not eclipse it. You instinctively knew that the scolding was not really for the scores, but it was an appeal to you to enjoy the truly enjoyable things about the school: beautiful literature, the insightful discussions, and the great movies.

May we together always try to preserve this perfection. From our side, we will try to keep the school experience as happy and enjoyable as it always was. From your side, you must remain curious about the world, responsible about yourself and others, and as nice and innocent as you always have been.

 

A thank-you note


Sir wrote this letter to us (Class X, 2017) on the Children’s Day, 2017.

During the hectic routine of the day, running from class to class, dealing with day-to-day issues, I never got the time to say to you these two very important words:

Thank you.

Thank you for giving me the best moments of my life.

Of course, we had a lot of fun-filled moments in the class. But for me, the best moments have been the ones when along with you, I could also grow.

In some of those magical moments, inspired by you, I discovered talents within me I never knew existed. For you, I wrote the ‘Big Questions’, I translated the ‘Court’ song, and I even wrote an unfinished story.

Then there were contemplative moments which were equally memorable. Who can forget discussing Sapiens, sitting outside in the sun on winter afternoons? In those moments, as we discussed theories and connected those to our lives, we learnt a bit about ourselves, too.

There are times when I have been harsh and demanding. There are times when I scolded you unreasonably. Sometimes the burden of running the school took its toll, and I was not in my best moods and you had to bear the brunt. But you had always forgiven me, ready to smile and talk as soon as I was ready.

As you grew and developed capabilities better than most adults, you always remained innocent children, free of all the vices of adulthood.

Thank you for helping me build this school. After all, every bit of the school’s teaching materials, from Jinni Stories to Homo Deus, were first made for you. In every event, you have been with me, working side by side. As you learnt from your work, I learnt how education should truly be.

Thank you for inspiring me to get better and let me grow with you.

Thank you for being the examples that all adults should follow.

Let’s go out for dinner


A letter from class VII teacher to her students, on the occasion of Children’s Day 2017.

Your first day of class II was my first day of being a teacher.

As I write this, I am about to complete my sixth year in Levelfield. But funnily, I never wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to do something real, something that could make lives better. I did not think working in a school fit the bill.

Teachers giving mind-numbingly boring lectures, students whispering between themselves, calling teachers by funny names, memorizing books full of useless stuff to pass exams – my own school experience haunted me enough not to think of going back to schools ever again.

Luckily for me, Levelfield was the first place I came for a job interview. From what I read about the school before applying, it seemed very different from most average schools. All it took to change my mind completely about the teaching profession was the Big Question booklet that I saw on my day of interview.

Should we eat animals?

Why are some countries rich and some others poor?

Is greed good?

I was bowled over. Can education be like this? Can schools really teach kids sensible stuff?

I was more than eager to join.

On the first day of my job, I entered the class with a mix of apprehension and excitement. What I was here to do was much more than teaching Math and English.

When I asked Sir about what the milestones for my class would be, I was left stunned by his response.

I was told that the final milestone that I must achieve is that the students as a group must be interesting and fun to be with. The objective of every lesson taught would be to finally make them intelligent, rational, sensible people – the kind you can go to dinner with and enjoy the conversation.

Taking a bunch of kids out for dinner and enjoying the conversation, now that was a far more difficult target compared to getting them to pass an exam.

***

So there I was, first day on that work target.

You came in, one by one, gave inquisitive smiles, said good morning, whispered between each other – “new teacher?”, your curious eyes wanted to judge how this one was going to be? Strict? Friendly? Indifferent? Boring? Entertaining?

I tried to get familiar with your names, asked you to be a little patient with me. I would be able to tell which one of you was Sharmin and which one was Sabnam in a week’s time.

As the day proceeded, followed by weeks and months, I got to know all of you a little better – not only by your names, but by your naughtiness, your concentration, your conversations, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses. Yes, all of you were unique but all of you were similar too. Soumyabrata was the brat, Sounak – the weirdo, Aritra – the serious one, Sharmin – the nice one, Shreya – the nervous one.

But when I told you a story, when I taught you a new puzzle, when I tried to make you familiar with this world in which you have to struggle and survive one day, you all listened with rapt attention, eyes fixed on me, devouring every sentence I say, eagerly learning whatever I could teach you.

You did accept me as your teacher and as your friend.

I taught you to write grammatically correct sentences and do multiplication and division. I explained to you the meanings of new words from the stories that you read. I explained the world around as simply as possible, asked the boys and girls to be friends with each other, play together, have tiffin together.

I told you – friendship is important. In this class, all of you must be friends with each other.  You must not form smaller groups. You must not whisper to each other’s ears, there shouldn’t be secrets between yourselves. Girls must not talk only to girls. Boys must not refuse to take the girls in the games of football or cricket. You all must be together. Always.

***

Six years have passed since the time I first entered your classroom. Now you are no longer cute babies, no longer as naïve and as innocent as you used to be. Bordering on adolescence, you are growing up to be mature and responsible people. And you amaze me.

I am amazed to see Sharmin unfazed by the questions of the Leaders of Tomorrow contest, winning the appreciation of a hundred parents with every answer she gives.

I am amazed to see Aritra, being so earnest and so humble in spite of being the smartest in the whole school. I can see that his questioning mind and zeal for learning is going to stay with him throughout his life.

I am amazed to see Abhranil’s dedication in making a conversation interesting, his desire to entertain his audience, his responsibility towards the school and his friends. I can see what a good-hearted person he is going to be.

I am amazed to see Mahek’s confidence and no-nonsense approach. The whole world, with all its strength, will never be able to bully her.

I am amazed by all of you – by your tweets, by your screenplays, by your arguments, by your questions.

I am amazed when I see you expressing opinions about the evils of the society.

When you don’t buy into the prejudices about skin colour, gender, religion that the society may have tried to teach you.

When you display your sense of humour with witty jokes.

When you can connect the movies that I showed you and the stories I taught you with real experiences, news, and politics and see the patterns in the world for yourself.

When you are excited by your friends’ achievements, which shows that you have not grown up to be selfish individuals, competing to get ahead at the expense of others.

My heart fills with pride seeing your capabilities, your potential, your goodness.

***

Every passing day is one day less that you and I have together. But I don’t worry about it much. I know my job is almost done. You all have shaped up to be responsible and sensible people who are going to make this world a slightly better place. The lessons that I could teach you are not going to be forgotten after you write your exams. They are going to be with you, they are going to make each one of you a better person.

I think I am ready to go out for dinner with you now.

Teacher’s day card for Sir


A beautiful card made by Kirti, Mahek, Nafisha, and Sharmin of Class 7 (2017).

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In the obscure town of Suri, a bunch of students straining very hard to solve Japanese puzzles as fast as possible. This place, run by an ordinary man with a crazy idea, Arghya Banerjee, is unique. Students don’t learn mind-boggling history and don’t memorize formulas. They learn to think rationally and they learn real-life skills.

Sir, we five students feel very lucky to be associated with this school. During our time in this school, we have learnt the things which are going to help us in this selfish world. We thank you heartily and wish you a happy teacher’s day.

Happy Teacher’s day


A very nice poem dedicated to Sir on Teacher’s day by Ipsita, Sania, Bratati, Shambhavi, Prajna, Sharanyaa of Class 8-9 (2017). 

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We see you coming at two-o clock,
We grunt and sigh- Oh my god!
It’s physics time, open your books
Read magnetism, and the law of Hooke’s
We read and read, some fall asleep
We read and hear the pages flip
Then you start your discussion,
And all our grudges fade
You drift away from the topic
And we get more engaged
We become so absorbed in your talk
We lose track of time,
And in an unexpected way,
We hear your alarm chime
We close our books and sigh,
Now it’s time to say goodbye

***

Going to school is a burden for most students. But not for us. Everyday we reach school with a happy mood. Laughing and talking. As we enter the common room, we wonder what topic will be discussed by you today, and wait to enjoy yet another day in the school. In this common class, as you discuss about global news, you open our eyes to the real world. We look forward to even physic classes, because at times you make the atmosphere there from serious to funny by drifting from the topic of mass, force, and acceleration. You try to bring the best out of everyone by punishing them for their misdeeds and rewarding them for their good work. Maybe one day, when we have grown up, we will look back at our past, remembering our school days and the excellent environment you had provided for us, and that day, we would be intensely thankful to you for it, as we are now.

A Birthday Wish


This is a birthday wish from Tanushree Sow Mondal of Class IX (2016) to Rhea Banerjee of Class IX (2016). Class IX  students have been together for the last seven years. Tanushree attempts to describe the transformation she has seen in Rhea over the years.

I still remember my first day at school; new place, new people and the scared little me. Then I saw her. When everyone else still needed time to adjust to the new atmosphere, she had set out on exploring the school. I still remember the mischieves that marked her first year at school; the sneaky glances at the copies of other students, or the time she bit a fellow classmate. Then the quibbles over her punishment.

Time passed so quickly that we failed to notice the small changes in her, until she had transformed beyond recognition. The smiling face was gone, the nonstop chattering had ceased. The girl whose eyes lit up at the screening of Mr. Bean’s holiday, now aspires to be like Michael Corleone. The girl who once disliked English, is now the Shakespeare of our class.

Sometimes her transformed self fills us with pride. But then somewhere, a part of the heart wants the cute old friend back.

Dream for the Superclass


On Children’s day 2015, parents were asked to write about their dream for their children. Most of us (Class VIII of 2015), though, could not get our parents to write. So we asked Sir to write about his dream for us. This is what he wrote:

Life is suffering. There is no justice in life. The world, from the dawn of civilization, has not been a very kind place. There have been unspeakable violence and ruthless exploitation that human beings have unleashed upon each other. Unlike the animal world, we don’t kill and exploit each other for mere survival. Rather, it’s for our insatiable desire to accumulate more, at the expense of others.

I dream that every student of our class – the superclass – one day will make our world a little better. Sometimes we feel frustrated that we are just grains of sands and our work makes very little difference. But then, it does. Every small positive thing that we do makes the world a little fairer, a little kinder, and little more rational. And those small steps add up.

But before we think small, let’s dream big.

I dream there will be a future Richard Dawkins among you – fighting against intolerance, bigotry and the virus of faith.

I dream there will be a future Roger Ebert among you – opening up the world of beautiful movies to millions of people.

I dream there will be a future George Orwell among you – taking on the might of dictators with just the power of words.

I dream there will be a future Carl Sagan among you – opening our eyes to the wonders of the universe and the smallness of our selfish pursuits.

I can go on. There are countless people who made our experience in this world a little better. You may think you may not have as big an impact as those famous people. But aim high. It does not matter what dreams I have for you. You must have big dreams for yourself.

***

In a few year’s time, this classroom will be empty. You will have spread your wings and gone away. I dream that your life remains as much fun-filled as it is in this classroom. I dream of you – all of you together – in another campus, in a bigger arena. I hope the friendships that you forge in this classroom remain for ever.

Long time after you have finished college, I dream that you will all meet one day, in a sort of a reunion, in another corner of the world. I dream that you will talk about the most perfect place that you were once part of. I dream that it will inspire you to make the world around you a little less imperfect, in your own small way.

A card for Sir


Sir (Arghya Banerjee) has been taking class of the current batch of Class IX from the time they joined the school. Here is a card given by the students of Class IX for him on Teacher’s Day (2016), appreciating his involvement with them and apologising for their mistakes.

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Seven years back, our class was not the same. We didn’t know each other, and we were too young to realise the big difference the school was going to make in our lives. Now our group of thirteen has become so close that we are almost like a family.

Throughout all these years we have spent together, you have devoted all your time and energy in making us learn, without once complaining about how gruelling a job it is to run a school or how busy you are at all times. However, we never reciprocated the enthusiasm and effort you take in teaching us. There have been so many times when we have failed you and demotivated you, be it by breaking rules or shirking work. Our mistakes, though natural in children, were disappointing because we were supposed to be products of the school. All the same you have always forgiven us.

The day we all leave the class and go our own separate ways, we will look back and remember the teacher who never gave up on us.

I like my school because…


From the small building in Dangal para to the Husbabad Campus with top-notch infrastructure, it’s been a long journey. In the beginning there was difficulty getting the parents to accept our unconventional teaching methods. After our achievements, now it can be said without doubt that The Levelfield School is one of the best. Tanushree Sow Mondal of Class VII (2014) writes about the school being a big change in her life.  

The Levelfield School has brought over a big change in me. I had gone through a period difficulty trying to adjust to the dull and looming atmosphere in my old school. The Levelfield School was the first place which not only recognized my talent but also gave respect to it. The students aren’t taught to deal with board exams, but with the struggle in life itself. I love EVS classes which explain why and how things happen to be the way they are. Even history, which a few years ago was just a revision of dates for me, has become something to learn lessons from.

Apart from the exceptional quality of education, there are a few other things I would have never been able to acquire hadn’t I been admitted to this school. For example, the books that we read in our spare time, or the thinking-oriented games and exercises, etc. The teachers here have trust in us and our work. We often get to help them in events like Contest Week, etc. I really feel grateful and lucky to be associated with The Levelfield School.