On first steps, and why they’re the hardest thing in the world


The first step is often the hardest one.

We fret, we worry. It is always scary and the stress exhausts us.

The first step is also the most vulnerable one. Here we are, putting out our best front, not sure if the world will accept our new reality or reject it.

That’s why the first steps are also the most beautiful.

Because when – and it is a rare chance – the world accepts what we’ve delicately put in it, all of the pain and all of the hardship seems worth it.

Our job then is simple. For all the 99 rejections, to be there for each other, reminding each other that eventually we will make it. To console each other in an uncertain moment, to cheer when a leap of faith happens.

And what better way to come to that realization than to pick it up from Taleemabad Schools.

The drawing you see below is what a delicate moment feels like. When a teacher in the science class reads a Taleemabad lesson plan and asks our students to draw the brain. I’ve seen it live – they all hesitate. They all look scared.

What if they do it wrong? What if they get scolded?

But gently, they get nudged by their teacher and by our lesson plans. Their safe space emerges. They make all kinds of brains. Some look like flowers, some like stars, some like a math copy.

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The teacher encourages all of them. She points to the positive – yes a brain has portions like a math copy. Yes, the flower pattern does resemble the grooves of the brain surface.

The students beam. You can see the shift in the class, in their perspective, in their confidence.

The rest of the story is one that we all know – they watch Taleemabad videos, they do our activities, build the models we’ve so painstakingly described in the lesson plans and eventually arrive at a bigger, better understanding of the brain.

One student bravely asks if his relative has damaged one part of his brain because he cannot move his limbs. The teacher says that could be one reason. They muse on this hypothesis, and then move on. The teacher is not uncomfortable not knowing. The students are comfortable just being curious.

The teacher is not uncomfortable not knowing. The students are comfortable just being curious.

That’s the magic of a Taleemabad classroom. That’s what we’re building together. When it works, a Taleemabad classroom is one of the best places I’ve been to in my ten years as a teacher, and almost two decades as a student.

We’re building one of the most alternative, craziest, scalable classrooms this country has witnessed. And we’re doing it for those who’ve been priced out of it all of their lives.

Enjoy fuzzy brains below – this is what learning actually looks like when its happening.

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Faisal Abdullah
Author: Faisal Abdullah

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