Emine Sharma is a LEGO enthusiast currently living in Delhi. An urban educator whose past work was based in Detroit, Michigan. She has an M.Ed in Instructional Technology focusing on combining educational pedagogy with e-Learning. Another focus of Emine is determining how to make schooling a more humanizing experience by centering curriculum around the learners’ context and then inputting content so it is relevant. She believes that it is important to determine how the learner learns best, their interests, and their goals to make their experience unique and meaningful.
Where are you from?
How long have you been in India?
Approximately one year.
What brought you to India?
Love and for better opportunities for both my husband and I. I’m married to a pretty cool Delhi native, probably the coolest out there (then again I’m biased).
What do you love most about being here?
Well, of course, the cuisine! I thank god everyday for gracing this earth with Indian food. Indian (South Asian) food to me is the most soulful, sensational and exhilarating cuisine I have ever eaten.
On a more serious note, I love that India stays true to itself. Nothing is monotonous and that is beautiful. I love how real life is and how you must remain in the present moment to appreciate what is happening around you (or you risk getting hit by something). I love being forced through a hurricane of cognitive dissonance as I try to hold onto my fickle social construct of reality. I love the abundance,the families, the people and the children I teach.
India has been very good to me and I’m grateful for that. The families I work with have been so welcoming and children I teach are super sharp. I look forward to going to work every day and really getting to know the community.
Are there any great moments that particularly stand out for you?
Many great moments have been had. Getting my OCI card is definitely a great moment, but isn’t the top.
My top moment in India would be having my first student enrol in my LEGO™ class. His name was Kabir. Prior to having my LEGO™ classes up and running I was filled with doubts and insecurities about my own performance and skills. I was in a new country, let alone a country that is world renown for its output of highly educated people, the country that produces the most engineers. The children and families in Delhi deserve something great and I didn’t want to let people down.
I wanted to create a space that was a hybrid of American-like facilities packed with colour, supplies and loads of Lego. Yet I wanted to design a curriculum with the girt and tenacity of an Indian education. My students in Delhi were coming to me with a huge wealth of knowledge, but had nowhere to practically use it. I didn’t want my students to feel like they were back in class. I wanted it to be a space where they could tinker and experiment. I wanted them to enjoy coming to their LEGO™ classes because they felt empowered by what they were doing.
Kabir and other students enrolled in my first session. Things just started to fall into place after that. They left happy and thoroughly enjoyed with what they were doing. I relaxed, thinking, “I’m an educator, I got this.”
I ran a summer camp which was hugely successful. When it was finished I left for North America. While I was away from India I could not stop obsessing over what I wanted to do when I got back to Delhi. I was obsessively planning the new kits I wanted to purchase, the new age groups I wanted to teach, the new First LEGO™ League team I wanted to construct, the colour of the walls, the decals and most importantly the curriculum. I spent much of my time in the US and Canada researching and lesson planning. I just really wanted to go back to India and get it going, so I left my husband in Canada and spent the month of August alone in Delhi. That month alone finally made Delhi feel like home.
I got my Zeki Jaan LEGO™ classes back up and running. I’m proud to say that this session has been my most successful session by leaps and bounds. There is always more room to grow, but I’m headed in the direction.
What have been your greatest integration challenges?
That would be getting used to being around people almost 24/7. Just in one morning alone I can have up to seven people stop by in a matter of two hours. That’s unheard of where I’m from, but now that I’m used to it and I wouldn’t change it.
Of course the traffic can be daunting, but that’s a challenge we’re all dealing with.
Have there been any individuals or organisations who particularly helped with your move and integration?
100% my in laws, and of course, my awesome husband made this move happen and seamless. My mother-in-law in particular is an individual who has not only helped my integration into India, but is definitely someone I look to as a mentor in life.
By fate, I married into a family of educators, my mother-in-law being a principal. She handles her job with finesse. Even during times of intense pressure she’s able to bounce back to her normal pragmatic, supportive and most importantly loving self. She’s ahead of her time. She manages austerely with the grace that female energy tends to bring. To have her support in my LEGO™ venture has been a blessing. I’m lucky to have her in my life.
Have you joined any networking groups?
Meetup has been a great place to meet people doing cool things. For instance, I was able to connect my LEGO™ students with a makerspace called Nuts and Boltz. They offer really neat workshops like drone making, woodworking, and workshops on Aurdino. They helped my First LEGO™ League team design their project prototype and I’m very grateful for that. There is such a talented bunch of people at Nuts and Boltz.
Do you have any practical tips for ex-pats moving to India about how to integrate or deal with cultural differences?
Go with the flow. Let go of anything you thought you knew and don’t try to control everything. Initially things might be hard to get used to, but that’s because it’s all brand new.
Don’t get emotional when things don’t go as planned, because there is a high chance they won’t and that’s the fun part of life. Just be present and content.
Continue to grow my LEGO™ classes and reach out to more youth. I’d love to collaborate more with other organisations and continue to support other teacherpreneurs. The face of education is changing globally so it’s a fascinating time to see what educators are coming up with. Continue to offer a solid service to families and to grow their children’s skill set.
- Website: www.zekijaan.com
- Email: [email protected]
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/zekijaan
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/zeren_emine
This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Mumbai Committee Member Abhishek Chandola.
Photo credits:Najah Photography, Toronto, ON, Canada