Week one in India is complete. After 3 days of observing and teaching, I feel completely comfortable and overwhelmingly accepted at DPS East. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said these were three of the best days of my life and my computer crashed on Wednesday so that’s saying a lot. My first class on Thursday was with Sanjana mam for 5th grade English. I started as I did the day before, expecting to remain an observer for most of the lesson but it wasn’t long before I was leading the entire class. The workbook had a simple map drawn on which the students had to write the direction they needed to travel to get from one place to the next. Sanjana asked them which way they should go to get to the treasure and the students’ responses ranged from “Dig a tunnel” to “Don’t go.” The students weren’t taking the book work seriously and it was frustrating Sanjana. I asked her if I could try something and she was happy to let me. I asked the students if the lesson was too easy for them to which they responded unanimously “Yes!” I had one student come to the board and draw a compass rose. Then he told us how he remembers how the directions go. “I just think N.E.W.S”, he said as he moved his fingers in a zig-zag motion. This opened up into a discussion of everyone’s different ways of remembering the cardinal directions. I shared with them the “sun is rising in the east and setting in the west” and told them my family was asleep right now because it’s dark in the US. We were interrupted by the bell just after we began a game where the best artist and geographer from each group came to the board, while Sanjana and I would choose the winner based on the most accurate map of India and the surrounding countries.
The next class I lead from the beginning. The lesson involved a story about two traders, one honest and one greedy. The students are not assigned homework but most of them do the reading ahead of time so instead of reading the lesson again in class as Sanjana had done, the students summarized the story taking turns at the front of the class while I acted out each scene next to them. I hadn’t noticed any grammar mistakes to address so we focused on higher order thinking skills. To go along with the theme of the story, each student shared a time they felt they were cheated or felt they had cheated someone. The discussion on what it means to make a fair trade opened up into the different ways we make trades with our environment. They talked about trees and how they take in carbon dioxide and convert it to water and oxygen for us to breath, the petroleum we mine and the effect too much CO2 and not enough plants to convert it has on the ozone layer, and so on. When we reached the end of that topic, I asked them to forget everything we had just talked about. “Now, can anyone tell me what the word ‘fair’ means?”, I asked. “Fair means to make an equal trade with someone”, one of them said. “Ok? That’s one correct answer, but there are two more.” It took them awhile but eventually they responded, “A fair could be like a carnival!” and “A person has fair skin if they are very pale.” This then turned into a lesson on homonyms. Once they mastered that, I showed them homographs and homophones, and had them list as many as possible on the board in teams.
This morning, after assembly, was activity time. I joined an 8th standard class. The assignment was to mime out in groups one of several topics ranging from gender discrimination to hygiene. My group chose racial discrimination. I was blown away at the pace, complexity, and enthusiasm with which they brainstormed. With 5 characters, they wanted to show the story of a white man (me) and a dark man who are starving in a famine and who give the same number of rupees to a man selling grain. When the white man receives far more grain than than the dark man, the dark man becomes frustrated and demands justice, so two policemen come in but the businessman takes them to the back room and bribes them. One of them takes the bribe and kicks the dark man on the floor, the other accepts the bribe but then locks both the evil men in jail. All while I sit happily enjoying my fat bag of grain, refusing to share with the dark man. The teacher and I judged 8 groups on several criteria, giving the win to the group who mimed 3 stinky, unhygienic men who were refused into the gates of heaven because of their stench.
I coached gymnastics the rest of the day. DPS East currently only offers aerobics and yoga but they are planning to start gymnastics lessons in July. In classes of +50 students, we worked on backbends, handstands, tripods, stretches etc. After three 8th standard and one 5th standard class this size, I was completely exhausted but Darsherit, the coach, wanted me to do one more so I decided for this one I wasn’t going to try to talk over anyone. We started with a 3 minute meditation and then began stretches. It seemed almost every kid constantly had something to say. There wasn’t any silence that needed to be filled so I coached the entire class without speaking a word, only demonstrating, motioning and spotting. The class was a breeze and no one seemed to care that I chose not to speak. Nice to know that can actually work!
The students here are amazing. They are enthusiastic about academics and sports beyond comprehension. It makes the job of the teacher much easier. It isn’t the teacher’s job to motivate the students. The teacher only offers his/her services, but if students don’t want to learn, they aren’t forced to. There is no detention and very little punishment of any kind at DPS East. A large portion of the motivation and discipline of the students comes from the parents. It sounds like they are as involved in the child’s education as the teacher.
I’m having fun explaining what pole vaulting is, sharing pictures of my family, and learning about theirs. I was recommended a few Bollywood films: Dhoom, PK, and the Koi Mil Gaya/Krish series. I’ve also discovered the best chicken Hariyali Kababs and Onion Samosas are just down the street. Tony and I went there yesterday and cracked the highly complex system that is ordering from Fanoos. But now that I got it, I very much plan to abuse it.
Life is good in India. Miss you all back home. Love and peace,