a visit with the Raja

I went visiting Raja Azam Khan's family last Sunday.. when the Raja asked me about progress on the garden I told him where I was at ….how i have been meeting resistance from the principal, in wanting to involve and include the entire school community's participation. Particularly the parents and the children themselves. He picked the phone, called the principal and asked for a meeting with all concerned in three days. A printed hand delivered invitation for said meeting was sent out promptly by the principal to the board and PTA members, including myself.. still resisting inviting all the parents, choosing instead to have the PTA members tell the rest what my work is all about and what I expect from the community. He had argued forcefully with me a few weeks earlier that it was my job to invite whoever I wished and tell them about my work, the garden had nothing to do with his job to teach and to run a school…so having relented and sent the invite himself was a compromise I was happy with.

On July 12, one board member Haji Fida Ali, and two PTA members showed up along with Raja Azam Khan himself, who is a trustee. A teacher or two floated in and out – I had wanted them all present, including all the children. Specially since I had requested the art and language teachers to have all their classes draw pictures of their dream school garden as well as write a paragraph about any garden related topic including poems as part of the final term exams which were going on last week. Some classes did the work others didn't bother or weren't made to. I'd gone through almost 40 drawings and created a master wish list.. one poem and one short essay was also submitted, both extremely well written. I'd made a poster with three of the best drawings, taped this large poster as well as the interns laminated plan drawing on two poster boards and had them placed in the meeting room. I wanted the children to talk about their ideas and the two students read their poem and essay to the audience….give them a prize each (id wrapped a pen set for the essay writer and a new fancy dupatta along with a packet of nasturtium seeds for each) all in an attempt to bring this future garden into the classroom, and be able to explain its importance without a whole lot of e

xplanations to everyone present – particularly the reluctant principal.

I'd also invited all my interns to attend – three showed up – so that I could introduce the project to the school community from its inception to where it is today and where I envision it to go in the future. with the exception of one PTA member id met all present before, and talked plenty already. It was the rest of the parents whom i really wanted to address, to elicit their monetary and physical help.
The principal did not want classes to be disrupted nor saw the merit or necessity to include all the students in this meeting of board members, trustees and PTA reps..so we conducted the first part of the meeting without the children. But when I began to explain their work of the last week I asked the school secretary to please have the classes who had submitted these drawings and writings come and attend…they were paraded in. The girls painfully shy, sat awkwardly on chairs right by the big wigs while the boys sat on the floor infront…the poem was read by its author (a seventh grader Sayedah Iraqi) to claps from all and the surprised and pleased as punch look on the Principal's face – credit taken!
The drawings were discussed – the students were asked to come forward and explain them, and so it went….I gave my gifts, and dialogue ensued….the kids went back to class while the rest of us had tea and snacks (which i hosted) and then took everyone down to the grounds to explain what will go where, keeping the wishes and ideas of the school children in mind as well as what the teachers and principal had suggested. A revised and more cohesive plan that would include everyone's ideas would be drawn up. A follow up meeting with the parents would ensue after summer break to bring them into the fold.
The Raja's presence and gentle but firm push in the right direction, has eased the way some.