Until next time, India!

Friday morning we flew from Bangalore to Delhi and then took a 6 hour bus ride to Agra. We left Casa for the airport at 10am and did not make it to Agra until 10:30pm! A very long day of travel. It felt weird saying goodbye to Casa, our home for the past 6 weeks. We woke up really early on Saturday morning to go to the Taj Mahal. And my first thought that morning when I stepped outside was not about how excited I was to see one of the seven wonders of the world- but how incredibly hot it was! Bangalore’s temperature was very mild and pleasant, normally 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. But wow, Agra’s weather made a St. Louis summer (which we all know is unbearable) look appealing! I don’t think I would have survived 6 weeks in Agra. Within the first ten minutes of arriving at the Taj Mahal we were all drenched in a sweat that made us look like we had just stepped out of the shower. But it was all worth it when we laid eyes on the Taj Mahal!

They were doing some repair work on the minaret towers but it did not take away from the overwhelming beauty of the mausoleum. After taking many pictures of the outside we got to go to take a look of the Taj Mahal on the inside. Our tour guide told us the story of how the Taj Mahal was built. The tomb was built as a symbol of love for the Mughal King’s favorite wife after she died. The King’s love can be seen in everything from the smallest detail of carvings marble to the inlaid gems and stones.The whole experience was breathtaking and surreal. After the Taj Mahal, we went and visited Agra Red Fort where the royal family had stayed. This is where the King who built the Taj Mahal and his family lived. We drove back to Delhi and checked into a hotel for a couple hours to shower, nap, and eat dinner before we left for the airport at 1 am. We flew 4 hours from Delhi to Abu Dhabi. And then a 16 hours from Abu Dhabi to Dallas. Even though I made it home, it took my suitcase another day to make it back. I was just happy it got lost on the way home instead of the way there! It was so good seeing my family. I hadn’t realized how much I missed them!

It’s been a little weird adjusting back to life at home. There is no endless honking or traffic, I can’t barter for the price of things, and I can pet every dog I see. Bangalore is my second home and I will always miss it. But it is good to be back home with my friends and family. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Girish, Gabrielle, my parents, and everyone who made this trip possible. I really have had the best experience. I’m excited to take back all that I have learned to my future classroom! I’ve made relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime and India will always hold a very special place in my heart. Goodbye for now India, I will see you again someday.

Namaste,
Abbyimage

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Goodbye DPS-N!

This post is coming a little late because it has been a crazy hectic last couple of days in India. Thursday was our last day of school in Bangalore and when I said goodbye to DPS-N. It started off just like any other day and it wasn’t until the end of the day when Jill, Sarah, and I were drinking coffee in Manju ma’m’s office (the principal) with Geeta ma’m (the primary school’s vice principal) and Sowmya ma’m that it hit me we were leaving. To say it was hard to say goodbye is an understatement. Over the course of the last 6 weeks I have grown so close with the students, teachers, and staff and it was hard to imagine I may never see many of them again. DPS-N has become my home, where I have grown immensely as an educator and a person. I hope that I will be able to visit the school and all the amazing people sometime soon again. I wrote a thank you note to the DPS-N students, teachers, and staff about my amazing experience these past 6 weeks. I’ve attached it below.

Thursday evening we had a group reflection and a celebratory dinner. We also had our Bollywood dance performance for the dance we had been learning. A dance instructor had come to teach us the dance at Casa for a few days after school to teach Jill, Sarah, Chrissy, Kacy, Laura, and I. It was so fun! Mehar ma’m, Suniti ma’m, Sowmya ma’m, and Rena ma’m (the vice principal of the high school) surprised Jill, Sarah, and I by coming to watch our dance performance and to the celebratory dinner. It was nice to be able to spend more time with them and share all of our groups experiences with them over the last 6 weeks. The food was so delicious, a good last Indian meal. There were a few tears shed after dinner but we comforted ourselves by saying it wasn’t goodbye, but until next time (as they say in Indian culture). I do believe wholeheartedly I will see them again, whether that will be in India or the United States. I know it is not goodbye forever.

 

August 4th, 2016
Dear DPS-North Students, Teachers, and Staff,

Before I left for India, I was really nervous. I had recently been accepted into Phase II of the Elementary Education Program and I was worried that I would not be prepared to student teach. I was also nervous to be in an entirely different culture and worried I would not feel accepted. However, my worries quickly vanished as the DPS-North staff and students welcomed me with open arms. Not only am I not nervous or worried anymore, thanks to DPS-N I feel like I have a purpose and a home in Bangalore. I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you for welcoming Sarah, Jill, and I into your home at DPS-North. In the past 6 weeks, I have felt so welcomed, appreciated, and loved. I have met so many friendly faces and had many unforgettable experiences. I have learned so much about myself and what it means to be a great educator. Thank you for the amazing experience, I feel truly at home here.

DPS-N continues to amaze me every day. With over 6000 students and 30 acres, the school is massive! But because of the closeness and kindness of everyone, it does not feel that way at all. You are all a family. Each student, teacher, and staff member is so proud of DPS-N (as you should be) and it is very admirable. I amazed by the passion of the students. In each class when ma’m asks the class a question, hands shoot up and students wave them feverishly begging for the ma’m to call on them. Students are eager to learn and to dive deeper into the curriculum as well. I had the pleasure of observing the mock UN conference and the students participating in the conference were so impressive! It was evident that they spent countless hours researching and preparing to know their position perfectly. I hope to encourage even half their enthusiasm and passion with my future students. I attended a fifth standard debate and the Say No to Facebook assembly. I loved how both of these events were student-led and I was amazed by the grace and confidence of these students. They stood on stage in front of their peers and teachers arguing their positions on whether “Time not spent in studies is wasted” and why children under the age of 13 should “Say no to Facebook” and other social media sites. Even in the first standard English class I observed, the teacher had students talk about themselves in front of their classmates to encourage talking in front of others. As a 20 year old, I still struggle with public speaking in large groups and these students did it with such ease. I am so impressed with how passionate, talented, graceful, and confident DPS-N students are! I am amazed by the teachers as well. Teachers at DPS-N have the perfect balance of nurture and authority in their classrooms. They have such close relationships with students and I hope to achieve that in my future classroom as well. I love how each day the staff comes to school with a smile on their face. I can tell that they actually want to be at school despite what might be going on in their personal lives. They take care of every individual and make guests feel welcomed. DPS-N is one of a kind place.

I will miss so much about DPS-N when I am back at home. I will miss Chandarakantha and Masala chai tea breaks in Geeta ma’m’s office. I will miss 1st and 2nd standard yoga with Shivitsala. I will miss Dahl and Belgium chocolate ice cream in the canteen. I will miss students saying good morning ma’m when I walk into a classroom. I will miss Mehar ma’m and helping her teach classes 2K, 1B, 1F, and 1I. I will miss Reya, Zoya, Saaraah, and all the smiling faces of the students. And Indria ma’m, Sudha ma’m, Suniti ma’m, Ayesha ma’m, Deepa ma’m, and many other teachers.

Thank you class 2A and Aparna ma’m for allowing me to teach my first lesson. Thank you Mehar ma’m for being my role model and sister across the world. You are an amazing teacher and I have learned so much from you! Chandarakantha thank you for taking care of Jill, Sarah, and I for these past 6 weeks. We love you! Thank you Geeta ma’m for all the hugs and smiles, I will miss you so much! Sowmya, thank you for being our Indian mom. You have taken us in as your own for the past 6 weeks and made sure we had the best possible experience. We love you so much! You are our family and I know I will see you soon again. And lastly, thank you to Manju ma’m! Thank you for making this internship possible. And thank you for taking time out of your schedule to make sure Jill, Sarah, and I see everything DPS-N and India has to offer. You are an amazing leader and role model to all females in education! You inspire me!

This has been the best experience, one I will remember for the rest of my life! Thank you again to all of the DPS-N students and staff! I hope to return the hospitality one day, if you are ever in the USA near St. Louis, MO please contact me! Saying goodbye to DPS-N is really hard, I am not ready to leave! I feel very privileged to have spent these past 6 weeks with you in DPS-N and in the crazy colorful city of Bangalore I now call my second home. Please keep in touch.

Until next time and namaste,
Abby Jozwiakowski

Friends, Fellowship, and Education Outside of School

Friday night Mehar ma’m (the 1st and 2nd standard math teacher I spend almost all of my time with at DPS-N) invited Sarah and I out to dinner with her family! We went to an Arabic restaurant called Savoury. I know I always say that it was some of the best food I have ever eaten… but this WAS the best chicken I have ever eaten! If we didn’t have 5 days left in Bangalore I would go there at least once a week for dinner. Mehar’s 7 year-old and 9 year-old daughters joined us along with Mehar’s husband. They are the cutest family and I hope to be as goofy, kind, and loving as they are one day with my family. I loved sharing a meal with them and getting to know more about their lives . We talked about everything from our families, to life in America, favorite Bollywood and Hollywood actors and actresses, and much more. Mehar ma’m is such a role model for me at school, and it was so fun to also see her outside of school with her family. Sarah and I left very full and happy!

Saturday there was a state-wide water strike from 6am-6pm. There were no shops or restaurants open, and no cabs or rickshaws, so we had a catch up day at Casa. We just spent the day getting a lot of last minute things done because the last week will fly by! In the evening, Sarah, Jill, I are went to Sowmya’s home for tea. I really enjoyed meeting her husband, son, and daughter. Their home is beautiful and we enjoyed chatting with them. I could have stayed there all night! It will be so hard to say goodbye to Sowmya this week. After tea, we went to Suniti ma’m’s home for dinner with her family. Suniti ma’m is a 3rd and 4th standard science teacher Sarah spends a lot of time with. She lives in the same apartment complex as Sowmya – making our travel for the night easy. Dinner was absolutely delicious and it was another family we loved getting to know while enjoying a meal. They were so nice and welcoming and we just had the best time with them!

Sunday morning most of the group got mehndi (henna) done again for our last week in Bangalore. See picture below of it. After that, we went to brunch with a man who works for the US embassy in Delhi. He used to teach high school social studies in New York and was very interested in our program and wanted to know all about it! It was really nice meeting him and talking to him about all the possibilities one can do abroad.

I loved meeting Mehar, Sowmya, and Suniti ma’m outside of school and getting to know them better. I really hope we will keep in touch when I return home. The relationships and memories I’ve made here I think will last a lifetime!

Namaste,
Abby

No School and The ISKCON Temple

This week has been a a little crazier than others. We started Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with an unexpected holiday from school because of a bus strike. While the students were probably jumping with joy – like we did in grade school on snow days – the 11 of us were very upset. With only a week and a half left in Bangalore, every school day is so precious to us! The Bangalore city bus drivers were demanding a 30% increase in wages from the government. Even though the school bus drivers were not members of the group on strike, the principals at the school cancelled school because they were worried about the safety of the children riding buses to school. DPS-North has 6,500 students and many of the students and teachers ride buses, so the school just wanted to be safe rather than sorry.

On Tuesday Sowmya ma’m (our coordinator at DPS-North and “mom in Bangalore” as Sarah and I call her) invited Jill, Sarah, and I to the ISKCON temple in Bangalore with her parents. ISKCON stands for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and there are many ISKCON temples in India and across the world, even some in the USA. ISKCON is a free temple and that also gives a free meal to anyone who walks through the door. Their food is made without any meat, eggs, onions, and garlic because they believe that it is not pure and your body should be pure for Krishna. Any leftover food they have at the end of the day they donate and bus it out to hungry children at low-income government schools. The first thing that struck me when we arrived was how beautiful the temple was, sitting high on the hill, glistening white with lots of decoration. We removed our shoes and entered the temple by stepping on 51 stones while chanting the mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”. It is said that by chanting the mantra you are addressing and connecting to the god Krishna and his energy. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but even if we were I don’t believe it would have done it justice. The inside of the temple was breathtaking, especially the high ceilings that were filled with paintings from the episodes of Krishna’s life. I liked hearing Sowmya and her mom explain the stories to us. Her mom is incredibly knowledgeable about Krishna and even went on a 20 day tour visiting all the sacred spots of Krishna’s life! After the temple, Sowmya and her parents took us to lunch at one of the restaurants nearby. The food was so yummy and I was amazed as the restaurant similarly did not use eggs, onions, or garlic in any of their dishes! We left feeling full and happy!

I loved being with Sowmya and her family outside of DPS-North and getting to experience part of their culture with them. It was fun meeting Sowmya’s parents, they were so sweet! As always, I am very thankful for Sowmya’s kindness and for taking us to ISKCON with her family. I don’t know how we will ever be able to thank her for all she does for us! This week went by so fast and it’s very hard to believe we only have 4 days left of school. It doesn’t feel real to me that we are leaving so soon 😦 .

Namaste,

Abby

The experiences don’t stop for the weekend!

This past Saturday, the teachers and staff at DPS-North had a teacher workday, and Sarah and I were invited to participate! We started off the morning in Geetha ma’m’s (the primary school’s vice principal) 10th standard home science class. The home science class sometimes meets on Saturdays to practice cooking they can’t complete during normal school hours. Everyone raves about Geetha ma’m’s cooking so we were very excited to experience it! The class was learning about meal preparation and methods of cooking. The three types of cooking we learned were by moist heat (boiling, pressure cooking, etc.), dry heat (baking, grilling, etc), and frying. We made french fries and boiled potatoes to see the differences in texture and taste on food using a different cooking method. We also made fried carrots, pressure cooked rice and vegetables. Geetha ma’m made everything look so effortless and it was nice getting to know 10th standard students, Zoya and Saarah, while preparing a meal together. They were fun to talk to and reminded of my own 9th grade sister Kate. The meal at the end was very yummy and it was so fun learning how to cook Indian food from such an experienced cook!

After the home science class, Sarah and I attended a workshop for primary (elementary) school teachers led by Geetha ma’m. The workshop was on creating quality circle time in the classroom. Circle time is sitting in a circle with all the students in the classroom sharing your thoughts and feelings. It is important because it creates a closer connection between the teacher and students, and between the students. Quality Circle Time (QCT) also teaches taking turns, valuing all contributions, eye contact, positivity, and much more. During the workshop we (the teachers) engaged in QCT ourselves and learned some lessons we can implement during QCT. One of the examples we learned is “passing a smile”. Each student, one at a time, turns to the person to the right of them and gives a genuine smile while looking directly in their peer’s eyes. Another example we learned is, turning to the person to the right and saying “I like _____(type of candy). I like_______ (type of flower).” Another tip we learned for QCT was to have a conch (object like a teddy bear) to encourage taking turns speaking, so whoever had the conch or teddy bear would be the only person speaking. The workshop was very interesting and I can’t wait to implement what I learned in my future classroom! I am so lucky and thankful that DPS-North includes Sarah and I in their teacher learning experiences.

Sunday most of the group and I attended Bangalore’s Ashram’s Art of Living. Ashram is a non-domination center for reflection and retreat for people of all backgrounds to celebrate together. While walking to the meditation center I saw the cutest stray puppy ever. I decided to break my rule of not touching the strays because four weeks is way too long without petting an animal! I miss my cat Ace and dog Buddy so much. See picture of the puppy below. The meditation center was absolutely beautiful. It was decorated in Indian motifs, but had a gold symbol of every religion on the walls. Before the mediation service began, we were supposed to quietly sit and meditate. I thought the service was going to be a quiet experience about looking inward but instead it was a celebration! There was singing and musical instruments, and people were dancing everywhere. Although I could not understand a word of the music, it was impossible not to feel as happy as those around you who were dancing and singing. The positive energy and joy was contagious. It was eye opening to see all these people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions celebrate life together, and an experience I will never forget.

I can’t believe we have less than two weeks left in India! The days seem to go by faster and faster. I have learned so much in the past month and enjoyed so many new experiences. I’ve grown as an individual and an educator. India will always have a special place in my heart.

Namaste,
Abby

First lesson!

This week I gave my first real lesson! I was so nervous and excited as I eagerly began preparing my lesson on feminine and masculine nouns (gender nouns) for a second standard English class. I did not want to disappoint the teachers or students! In part of my lesson, I passed out post-it notes with a masculine or feminine noun written on it. I told students that if they had the word “waiter”, their partner would have the word “waitress “. Or if they had the word “mother” their partner would have “father”. The students were gushing with excitement as they hurriedly found their partner with the opposite word written on a post-it and sat down. The pairs then had to decide which noun was feminine and which was masculine and correctly put it in the columns on the board. It was so fun! I happened to be walking by one of the boys in the classroom who had the noun “queen”, and his partner, a girl in the classroom, had the noun “king”. The boy asked the girl to switch post-it’s with him since he was a boy and she was a girl. It was so cute and funny! Overall, the lesson went very well, although I did have to break into a quick head shoulders knees and toes in the middle of the lesson to regain the students attention after the post-it activity! The kids were so cute at the end as they said “Abby ma’m don’t leave! When can you teach us again?” I think those comments made my entire trip! I am so blessed to have taught my first lesson in India.

I am also so thankful for the DPS-North’s guidance! I had never planned or taught a lesson before so it was nice to learn from such experts. I’m especially thankful for Jyoti ma’m teaching me how to make a lesson plan, Aparna ma’m for turning her classroom over to me, and Sowmya ma’m for coordinating it all and taking such wonderful pictures! It’s been a month since I’ve arrived in Bangalore and this week was a little bit harder than others as I started to get a little homesick. But it’s experiences like these that remind me why I’m so lucky to be here.

Namaste,
Abby

Teachers bring light to the world

I am writing this post on our bus ride home from a fun-filled weekend spent in Coorg and Mysore. On Friday we skipped school and made the six hour trip to Coorg- which actually ended up taking eight hours due to our multiple stops for lunch, tea, and washroom breaks. We arrived in Coorg late Friday Night. On Saturday morning we visited the Dubare Elephant Camp where we got to watch the elephants take baths, feed them, and see the elephants up close! While unfortunately we did not get a chance to ride the elephants, it was so majestic to be near the elephants! After the elephant camp, we went river rafting on the Cauvery river. While I have been white water rafting before, this time was a lot more fun! I think it was just the fact that I was rafting and swimming in an Indian river!

 

Sunday morning we woke up at 5:30 am to take an off-road jeep tour through the mountains. This was an extreme off-road tour, all of us in the jeep were holding on for dear life. Kacy and I were in the back of the jeep and we were gripping onto the seats in front of so hard so we wouldn’t propel forward bc they are no seat belts in these kind of jeeps! The view of the mountains and lush greenery was breathtaking and much different than the fast-paced city of Bangalore. After the tour we came back to our hotel to eat breakfast and then we went to Abby Falls to see the waterfall which was equally beautiful! Then we made the three hour trip to Mysore. Sunday night we visited the Mysore palace and got to see the palace lit up! It was so amazing. See before and after pictures below.

 
My favorite part of the whole weekend was our visit to the Regional Institute of Education-Mysore this morning. There we got to interact with students studying to become teachers in India and their faculty. It was so nice to meet people just like us! We discussed issues across education such as the role of testing, how to become a global citizen, breaking away from textbook curriculum, and the stereotypes associated with the teaching profession. While we came up with no solutions, I really liked what one of the professors of RIEM had to say about testing students. She said, “Don’t test to test. Test for the betterment of the student”. And as I sat and talked with a few of the students who were beginning their third year of the program as well, I found our opinions so similar despite our different cultures and education systems.

What resonated with me the most during our discussion at RIEM was one of the students sharing her frustrations with the stereotype of the teaching profession. She explained that in India no one grows up wanting to be a teacher. They grow up wanting to be a doctor or an engineer and only when they fail at that do they decide to become a teacher. I’ve had similar experiences to this in the United States. I’ve always thought about being a teacher but it wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I really decided that’s who I wanted to be. And from that moment on so many people have continued to questioned my decision. They would all ask, “Why do you want to be a teacher when they make no money? Aren’t you smarter than that, can’t you become a doctor or lawyer?” As if teaching does not require intellect or higher-order thinking. This young woman though called to us as future teachers to help increase value for the teaching profession and all professions for that matter. She ended her thoughts by saying, “Teachers bring light to the world”. Each day, my experiences here in India continually reaffirm my desire to become a future educator. And I can only hope through my teaching I will be lucky enough to bring light into someones world.

Namaste,
Abby