I arrive at the school gate in the Fort area of Mumbai in good time on the morning of my second day in India. I wasn’t expecting to go to school on my holiday. That was until I heard about Clap Global. Now I am the guest speaker for a class of 13-year-olds.
Shirin (the co-founder of Clap Global) meets me at the school gate and takes me to the class teacher, Ms Seema, who helps me get ready. Two days before leaving for India I received a PowerPoint presentation template to prepare for my talk. It included slides for my country, hometown, family and a range of other topics relating to my life, home, traditions and issues that are important in my country. In between work and packing I pulled together photos and illustrations for a talk I hoped would be entertaining and educational. It will be a long hour with the class if I have to do all the talking!
The students seem like a lively bunch when I enter the classroom but they soon settle down. They are quiet as I introduce myself and begin my presentation, but when I ask them questions their enthusiasm can barely be contained. “What do you know about Britain?” I ask as I introduce my home country. “Brexit!” is the first in a rapid-fire round of responses.
It’s early November and like many Brits I am wearing a poppy. When I ask what it’s for, one child suggests Christmas. I explain it is worn for Remembrance Day on November 11 when we remember those who died in the two world wars. I show pictures of ceremonies at the Cenotaph in London and explain how the nation observes two minutes silence to remember those who lost their lives at war.
To contrast this sombre topic I treat the class to some British music. With its upbeat message of love and peace, The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” is the perfect antidote to misery and war. I ask the class to stand up and sing along but when the first verse starts I’m the only one singing as I point to the words on the screen. A few students join in on the chorus and I cheer them on. By the second chorus, everyone is singing so loud that the caretaker puts his head around the door to see what’s going on.
The second part of the session is a Q&A. It’s hard to keep up as I am bombarded with questions about my life, interests, travels, experiences and opinions on everything from politics to football. One boy asks if I speak Hindi and teaches me how to introduce myself, much to the amusement of the class. I manage to ask a few questions as well and learn about the students’ own travels, places to visit in Mumbai and grim predictions that air pollution in the city will keep getting worse.
After the discussion, each student writes me a short letter of thanks. “It was an incredible experience to ask you questions and gain knowledge about your country,” is one typical comment. “I would not have known a lot of things if you had not come here,” is another. There is a confident prediction that I will be famous one day: “We kids will be proud to say that, yes, he had come to our school.” Many of them mention learning about Remembrance Day. One girl writes: “Whenever I see a poppy again, I will always think of you.”
By the end of the lesson, I am surrounded by kids asking questions and taking selfies. It’s an overwhelming moment and I feel proud to have actually taught them something. It is another small contribution to Clap Global’s mission of bringing a global perspective to education to raise a more compassionate new generation.
The original version of this article was published on Wander Wisdom.