coffee date #47 with meera bhatt
my granddaughter, ed + psych major, freshie 🥺, future kickass teacher, DE&I advocate, Montgomery native, forever sober sista, fellow older sister of a younger brother, an-appreciator-of-the-little-things
me: mexican hot chocolate | meera: mexican hot chocolate
location: small world coffee, princeton
Meera Bhatt. A queen.
Remember coffee date #35? Coffee date #35 is my child and Meera is coffee date #35‘s child, so that makes Meera my grandchild. Meera was also on the dance team this year, making it easy to bond with her. We managed to break through the ice rather quickly.
Meera is an opinionated queen. She has values and she sticks by those values. She’s a fierce advocate for teaching and aiding children in the education field AND she works to make the college a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place for all. It makes my heart all fuzzy when I see people acting on and vocalizing their passions because we only live once ya’ll.
Meera also has this unique ability to make people feel valued. For example, I’ve only recently begun to call myself a writer and put my writings out into the scary online world. Meera is almost always the first person to shoot me a text and say “Esha, this was such an amazing read. I loved it!” For any creatives reading this, you know how much it means when someone validates your work. Meera makes me feel like my words have meaning and that truly means the world to me.
In addition to commenting about my creative work, she makes me feel valued by shooting me random texts like these (see below) out of nowhere – call me a weirdo for screenshotting & saving texts, but text messages like these just make my life:
Watch out world, Meera Bhatt is about to ensure that all teachers are equipped with the tools to help children learn and grow. Diving into the world of Meera Bhatt…
- the beauty of college
Unfortunately, we live in a world where education is still largely a privilege. For some, receiving a high school education is in-and-of-itself extraordinary, while for others, going to college is seen as the ‘normal’ thing to do.
Every child/student, who has a love & desire for learning deserves the right to education and the ability to have access to universities. Not everyone has to go to college because getting a degree does not define one as a person, but just having the access and ability to choose is something that should be made available for all.
This is because college is not really about academics – at least they way I see it. The best part of college for me is how it gave me the space to explore myself outside of the academic arena. While in college, I learned so much about myself and the people around me.
“I am just so much more free. Everyone has a different purpose because we are all here for different purposes.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
Meera described to me how going to a competitive high school made her regularly compare herself to her peers (whether she wanted to or not), impacting her overall mental health. In college, on the other hand, Meera is not restricted to a certain population of students; college opens the door for you to meet people from different walks of life – different majors, different ethnicities, different socioeconomic statuses, different values. Thus, this automatically reduces the ability to compare yourself academically to those around you because those around you aren’t even in the same academic realm as you.
Additionally, Meera mentioned that high schools are cliquey. I agree. For those of us who didn’t do a lot of moving, we’re often confined to the same group of people from elementary school all the way to high school, so it is somewhat natural that everyone stays within their own bubble of people.
Once you get to college, that bubble bursts real fast because you’re no longer (potentially) with those same people. Thus, everyone is getting a fresh start to cultivate relationships with people.
“I don’t have to be confined to that. I can have friends from all different walks of life. I value my one-on-one friendships and smaller groups of people.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
Along with teaching me about other people, college also taught me A LOT about myself. I learned that I love spending time by myself. Before living on-campus, I obviously never lived alone; and thus, never had the opportunity to explore the option of being alone. Once I got to college, I realized how much I love having pockets of time to spend by myself and deciding what to do with that time – shall I go on a walk? should I get some frutta? shall I binge some Netflix? should I do some writing?
College also showed me what I value in people and helped me create boundaries for myself if people don’t meet those values. This has been splendid for my emotional/mental wellbeing because I am so much more in tune with my social battery and energy when I am around people. Do I sense my battery draining, increasing, or staying constant when I’m around these people? Is it because of the people or is it because of the environment?
College is life-changing.
- ‘the legacy kid’
Meera Bhatt is the daughter of well educated and accomplished parents, who went to college at kickass universities in the U.S. I am also the daughter of well-educated and accomplished parents, who went to college in India. Thus, my parents were navigating the idea of the U.S. college system with me when it came time for college apps and kinda just learned on-the-go.
Meera, on the other hand, already had parents who understood how the U.S. college system worked. Thus, I wanted to know if there, perhaps, was more pressure for her to do well academically and attend one of her parents’ alma mater.
“They would constantly tell me that I am on my own path.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
This part of the conversation made me feel warm inside 🙂
Meera explained that her parents never placed any sort of pressure on her to follow after them. In fact, her parents would repeatedly remind her that their path is their own and Meera’s path is her own. She need not attend the most prestigious universities in the U.S. just because they did.
Although her parents never placed any kind of pressure, Meera mentioned that there were occasional people who would comment, “Why aren’t you using your legacy? I’d use it if I was you.”
Meera explained that her parents always believed and have told her:
“You have to deserve to go there in some way. It’s not just the legacy that will get you in. It’s what you want to do and also that you will make good use of the education that you are getting.”
As mentioned before, college is life-changing and is so much more than just academics. Thus, finding the right fit is crucial and it does not matter what university gave you a degree if that university did not provide a space for you to grow and soar.
“I think we lose sight of what is wrong in this world really quickly as soon as we step away from it. At the same time, stepping away from a situation is sometimes necessary to see what’s actually wrong and also for yourself to be able to breathe.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
In the advocacy world, burnout is so real and this is because advocates are constantly engulfed with information about how screwed up the world is. Thus, breaks are necessary in an effort to avoid burnout and ensure better emotional/mental well being.
Meera notes that the idea of forgetting also relates to media coverage. When media channels cover information about the major problems occurring in the world (i.e. wars, reproductive rights, global concerns, etc.), people see it and some may even internalize to create some sort of change. Once the channels stop sharing as much information about those problems and steer towards other stories (which are important in their own breath), we tend to forget about the wars overseas and the attack on women’s rights in the U.S. It’s just how our brains work – we remember the things that we see continuously.
- why the teaching profession?
I LOVE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW THEIR HEARTS. Meera Bhatt is one of them. Her love for teaching is so pure and she is pursuing it with so much love and compassion.
Meera explained that hearing about the inequities within the education system during her time in high school further propelled her into the education field. Here are some of those inequities that we talked about:
- Where you live determines so much of the access of schooling you get. Living in the same zip code for multiple generations can make it difficult for families to break out of poverty and provide better educational opportunities for their next generations. Meera stated that through various immigrant stories, she learned that the beauty of the U.S. lies in the fact that lives can change in just one generation. But for people who have been living in the U.S. and in the same area for multiple generations, they’re only surrounded by what they see. Thus, Meera argues that we [children of immigrant families who created a privileged and safe life for us] are lucky to have come from backgrounds where we’ve seen people in prestigious positions, enabling us to believe that we can be that too.
“They think they can only do what they see. Children who have only seen their parents working minimum wage jobs and not really having teachers who care, think that that’s what they’re amounted to as well, which should not be the case.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
- There’s, depending on the school, so much emphasis on careers and grades. Meera believes that there is so much more that is important, which we lose out on when we’re trained to only do things for the sake of our grades. Social awareness, for example, is a crucial skill that every child should have – whether or not it’s related to our grades. Meera stated that this is the job of teachers: explaining to students that “we are just a small speck on this moving ball” and raise more internal, social, and global awareness. Teachers have the ability to shape children’s minds and not everyone has that type of access and care available to them when they go back home.
“There’s a whole war going on right now. I feel like we forget that sometimes.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
- Students from bilingual backgrounds are more likely to be dismissed and not be taken as seriously. Meera mentioned this quote she read online: “when someone messes up a word in English, just know that they know that word and a thousand more in their other language(s).” Language, more specifically English, plays such a huge role in prestige in the educational system in the U.S. and even across the world. Knowing English is seen as a status symbol and represents that you are educated. This diminishes the beauty and worth of the plethora of other languages that exist and should continue to exist. I understand that it is beneficial to have a universal language to have a medium to communicate through, but living during a time where technology is so readily available does not require that same level of emphasis on knowing a single language for survival.
“Whatever disabilities or problems that they [ESL students] might have are not diagnosed as seriously because it’s all amounted to the second language. But we forget that when someone speaks another language, they still know what they are talking about in their language.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
- the U.S. isn’t the most amazing country
After spending some time in India this year, I have come to the conclusion that the U.S. is not the greatest country in the world. Many Americans have an exceptionalist attitude, meaning we think we are superior to or more unique compared to the people of other nations. Throughout my history classes, I was always taught of how incredible America is because of our geographical privilege, impeccable democracy that supposedly gives everyone a voice, the ‘American Dream,’ and so on.
In addition to my schooling, the fact that I am the daughter of immigrant parents further embedded in me that the U.S. is an incredible country. I, like Meera, have the utmost gratitude for this country for providing my parents with the space to create a home here, but that does not mean that I must overlook everything else.
“I will forever be grateful to the U.S. for giving my grandparents and parents this wonderful opportunity of shaping their lives here.” – Meera Bhatt, 2023
A clip into the American problems that Meera is not overlooking:
Here’s a perfect reminder for all of us Americans:
Allow me to summarize (all of this information can be found on so.informed):
- The U.S. ranks 24th in ‘personal freedom.’ Personal freedom includes things like personal safety, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and expression, etc. In the past couple years alone, the U.S. has seen an increase in racism, police brutality, AAPI hate, school shootings – should I keep going?
- The U.S. is a gunsick nation. There was a point in 2023, when there were more mass shootings than days. Let that sink in.
- The U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rate of any peer nation. More specifically, pregnant Black women are three times more likely to die compared to white women.
- “The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world with nearly 2 million people behind bars.”
- The U.S. spends more on healthcare per person than any peer country. But the health outcomes are not so different from the rest of the nations spending less on healthcare per person. What’s happening?
- The U.S. and women. Gender pay gap, maternity leave, legal rights. For a country that prides itself on equality, it sure does not abide by its stated values.
- The U.S. does not rank #1 in any area when it comes to education. It also “holds the largest amount of student loan debt.”
- Reminder: The U.S. has child labor, poverty, homelessness, and any other problem that we Americans think is a ‘non-American’ problem.
With all of this being said, I want to note that I love everything that the U.S. has given me – my family, friends, college, love, and a home. The point of this discussion was to simply give myself and those reading a reality check.
One thought on “Meera Bhatt”
Really an eye opener for folks like us the first immigrants taking US to be the best. Though it gave us and our families the needed break it is a reality not the #1 in many aspects like the general perception.
Great writing and more so it is so good to know about Meera and her passion to teach.