White Chalks, Black Boards and Grey Classrooms

In the classroom of a government-aided school where I teach, two worlds collide. One, is the children’s, a world of dreams and hope, of song and poetry. The other, is, well, the world, the ‘big scary real’ world, as they say. A world of survival and commerce, of struggle and dismay. 

As a teacher of students who are 10 years old on an average, it is never easy to bring these two worlds together, in a way that does not leave them confused. It is a challenge to allow the children to imagine, as well as, to be in tune with reality.

How does a teacher do that? This is a daunting question.

In my small journey so far, as a teacher, I have been trying to answer  this question everytime I am in the classroom, and even when I am outside it. I have been picking up little signals to build an answer. And what I have learnt is that there is no one single answer.  It an answer that itself is full of change, contradiction and even, conflict.

There is an answer. But, the answer, is not black and white. It is neither black nor white. It is neither wrong, nor right. It is a combination of the learnings in the classroom that are fine-tuned every single day, until the perfect mix of black and white forms a subtle shade of grey.

To accept this is a scary feeling. We are so used to having and black and white answer for everything, that it is scary to live in this grey zone. However, to be able to do that is to be able to create a world in the classroom, which is neither too far from the student’s present situation nor from her future aspiration.

As teachers, then, the way for us is to accept the idea of ‘grey’,  to wade in its multi-directinal waves, to take every learning from our journeys and try to alter this wave a little bit each day, and mostly, to have the courage to stay there till these two worlds, this black and this white, come together to show us how truly beautiful grey can be…

I have written this poem below,not just as a reflection, but as an ode, to all my teachers who did that for me, and also to the ones who now, work with me and help me to do this for my students.


Life unfolds before you

Right before your eyes

Life, as you’d imagined

Life, as it is.

Juggling pieces of both

you try to keep them


All the balls in the air.

All the chalk, all the worksheets…

You twist and tweak

A little more here

A little less there.

In the air.

Sometimes, they tumble.

Other times, they crash.

On the floor.

Outside the door.

Life, as you’d imagined

Crumbles into white dust

Under the big black board

Life, as it it out there.

You change, you try, try every way

As tears from the stagnant waters

Wash the hope of tomorrow

With the truth of today.

Words become harsh, ideas rust.

In the white dust

Of what was written

And what you thought you could write.

The big black board and empty pages

Your struggle and their fight.

Life, as you’d imagined.

Life, as it is.

Too much white dust

For, too little white salt.

A long brown scale,

Sharp eyes

And invisible assault.

Juggle, balance to keep all

The balls in the air.

Sounds of laughter and cries of a complain

A letter in earnest

An apology mastered to fiegn.

White dust.

White dust.

Blinds you black.

Till all you see is grey

You are not you

They are not they.

And the lives come together

Your fists, you partly clench

And some arms are open wide.

Some ears begin to listen

And some eyes read.

Some voices are heard, soft and slured.

Some voices are lowered

Some beliefs are blurred.

White dust.

White dust

Rises from the floor

Comes inside from the

Punishment door

White dust

Forms some lines

Hope and despair.

Life, as you’d imagined

Lends a hand

Life, as it is

Alters a stance.

And somewhere,

In a little heart

White dust

Leaves its light

On a big black board

Shining bright.

A small grey step is taken.

A little heart is calmed

And a little heart is shaken.

White dust.

White dust and black board

White and Black

Is forsaken.

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