I had a very busy morning that day. An urgent task came up that I needed to take care of right there and then. Not a good timing; it should have been a free morning so I can be available 100% for my daughter’s event at her new school. Rushing and working on my cell phone I got to her school where she was waiting for me. She always complain that I work all the time. I had promised I will be there and moved my schedule accordingly.

When I got there she was happy, shy and nervous at the same time. This wasn't the first school event neither was this the first display of her creativity that I was about to observe but over the years she has gotten very private about her work. A brilliant mind yet hesitant to share her knowledge and skills out of an apprehension of judgment, criticism and compliment. Is it social anxiety or being an introvert? I don’t know for certain but we tend to put labels on everything.

She opened the door for me and I walked in. It’s a small class of 10 middle schoolers. All carry their distinct abilities at various creativity level. This is not your usual school you see in Pakistan. This one is different. Kids here do not carry bags weighing 50 pounds every day, they don’t have to study 5 hours of tuition from multiple teachers after school hours and then spend more hours for homework. Best of all, their creative minds are excited, critical thinking is a norm here, hands on experiences, social skills, and learning is their forte. Kids there, learn about themselves as well as other humans and apply their own individual strengths to help each other grow, evolve and progress. One of my favorites, these kids are not judged and compared with their classmates based on the grades they score on standardized tests every few days.

Imagine the pressure, the stress of finishing homework and comprehend every single item on it? And then if you fail you are punished in front of your whole class. Now imagine the trauma of humiliation! Need I say about the corporal physical punishments? Yes. It happens. We all know it happens and we all have been desensitized to it believing that it is the only way our kids can be put under more and immense pressure to rote the entire syllabus and get straight As. Since when did we stop focusing on our children care more about grades; since when we stopped loving our own kids that we let someone else strike their tender bodies and bruise their innocent minds with humiliation.

As soon as walked in the class, I was greeted by all the kids, parents and teachers. At the tables, which they call their “workstations” their hero charts were displayed that included their strengths according to their own observation, their weaknesses, their favourite places to visit, whom they consider their hero and why? And their love language among other things. Each child was unique and each had all those attributes. Later on, speeches were scheduled by each child that they were supposed to read to us. I put my phone on silent on the side, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat in a chair that was designated for parents. All the children were sitting at their designated chairs on the left side. She was one of the last few to speak. I could catch her looking at me and when our eyes met she would smile but she was constantly rocking back and forth in her seat, evidently, she was nervous or getting stressed out.

I could see her being apprehensive yet determined to go through it. Just because she might become shy or feel embarrassed, I decided against taking any photos myself lest it may deter her from going forward. Every student came to the rostrum and spoke about their, strengths and weaknesses, acknowledge what they feel needs to get better in their personalities and what would they like to be written on their tombstone when they die. Scary and dark thought but it gave them another perspective towards their life. The speeches ended with a question for parents and teachers if they would help the kids achieve their goals.

When it was her turn, she started talking and broke down in tears profusely. I was frozen in my seat struggling to go to her or stay put to see what she does. Next second her guide and the School Head, Ramiza, approached her and stood next to her helping her read the whole speech. She stopped crying but she was sobbing through the whole performance but she did not give up and did not turn away and she finished it with Ramiza’s help and support. All parents there motivated her especially one dad who gave the most powerful motivational clap and buck-up call.

Holding my tears back I could barely hear her speak every word. “She conquered the monster,” Ali Faraz, the Co-founder and School Head of American Acton Academy, said to her.  She truly did. He later in reply to my message in the parents' group wrote, “She is a very brave and strong young woman, I knew that she would not leave the stage, and she didn’t. I told her, we are all on a hero’s journey but today you will have to kill your monster and at the end she killed the monster.”

I couldn't be more proud of her I couldn't be more appreciative of the environment Acton provides for her and I couldn’t be more of a fan of any school ever. The amount of support, motivation, rich environment for kids to learn and grow in a way that is relaxed, enjoyable and truly “fun” this place provides is remarkable.

Later in the event, we were all shown a video that was completely made by the kids without any adult intervention, including the bloopers. They wrote it, they shot it, they edited it and they compiled it.

It was an emotional moment for me and my daughter, she overcame her worst fear and anxiety. I was completely devastated at the amount of pain she might have stored in herself that made her breakdown like that and moved and totally overwhelmed by the support, immense TLC and motivation Ramiza, all eagles and Acton provided and once again, and a big thank you to the motivating parents. I am a rebeliever!

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education: Mark Twain