My little compassionate teacher

I have eighteen first cousins just on my mom’s side because she comes from a family of ten children. For as long as I can remember, at all family gatherings, I pretended to be a teacher to most of my younger or same-age cousins. My role play had nothing to do with what I wanted to do in life. Rather it was my way of keeping them in line as most of my uncles and aunts entrusted me with the responsibility. In fact, growing up I never dreamt of becoming a teacher or even thought that passion had any role in trying to become a teacher.

            One of Oishi’s very astute babysitters (whom she called Autin, instead of auntie), once said, “Sharmistha, it is easy to manage Oishi during group games. All you need to do is put her in charge and she will take care of other kids for me.” Oishi was only two years old then. She is almost seventeen now – a strong-willed, compassionate and kind person.

            Amongst all these she has developed a true passion for teaching; something I never thought was possible in a sixteen year old girl. She had been teaching in various capacities for more than a year now. At first she took a course called Youth Teaching Youth co-teaching math to middle school students with her teacher. Then she did her Girls Scout Gold award project teaching math to kids in Trenton. This year she took Youth Teaching Youth once again instead of study hall because she wanted to get more experience as a teacher. Finally, she got a job teaching math in a tutoring center. She wants to be a math teacher and spread the love of math among kids. I still do not quite understand her passion at this tender age but it is uplifting and inspiring to see my little munchkin trying to make a mark in this world in her own way.

            Despite all my efforts to understand how she feels when she teaches, I do not fully comprehend the depth of it. So I want to end with this entry from her teacher’s journal.

“I found out today that I didn’t make the callbacks for Silver Lining, a very selective school singing group. I had envisioned myself on the risers with the rest of the Silver Lining group ever since 9th grade, but never had the courage to try until this year (my senior year). Finding out that that would never happen really saddened me. I guess it makes sense now considering I’ve never had any formal vocal training.

            When I walked into the middle school, even the security guard noticed my difference in mood. When I walked into Scanlan’s classroom, she asked me to teach the rest of the lesson. I said yes despite my mood because I’ve made it a point to grab every opportunity possible to teach.

            At first, I tried to force myself to focus while teaching the kids. I tried speaking a little louder too. It didn’t work. However, once I let my teaching instincts take over, everything turned around. I smiled, and I was engaged just enough to seem okay. I explained Venn Diagrams and had the students shout out the answers. That got me excited.

            I realized that I’m a natural teacher no matter what anyone says. I’m proud to be able to say that my teaching instincts are more proficient than my mind.”

Sharmistha’s Book

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Sharmistha Das

Sharmistha Das, an Indian immigrant engineer and entrepreneur, is the author of "From Hindustan Cables Limited - Journey of a Small-Town Indian Immigrant Woman". Every South Asian woman who has immigrated to America will identify with the adventurous journey of Sharmistha Das. Born in a small rural company town of Hindustan Cables Limited in Bengal, India, Sharmistha grew up with her brother, mother and father in a simple home without running water or furniture, but with a great amount of love. Supported by her parents, she left her hometown for Kolkata and became the first female engineer from her community. After her marriage, she moved to Bangkok, Thailand and finally to America, the land of opportunity and heartache. While working and bringing up her daughter, she got her Masters in Business Administration and started her own business. Unthinkable for a girl from Hindustan Cables, she got divorced in 2012 and adapted to a new life as a single woman and as a single mother. Sharmistha’s story will inspire any women to dare to live her dreams.

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