Dear DPS East, Sukanaya ma’am, and the class of 4M,
I want to thank you for allowing me into your lives for the past 6 weeks. DPS East was amazing school and I’m so lucky to have been able to be there. I’m unbelievably blessed to be able to meet such caring people who have no doubt etched their names in my heart. I’m going to look back on my time here at DPS East with the fondest of memories. The hospitality Kacy, Ollie and I were shown was truly awe-inspiring and something I want to emulate.
Before coming to India, I was nervous. Nervous about being in a new country, nervous about teaching, nervous about almost everything. My nerves were eased instantly when I met a smiling Manila Ma’am and gracious Sukanaya Ma’am. Sukanaya, thank you so much for opening your class, life and heart to me the past month. You’re always a smiling face and you’ve truly shown me how great an educator could be. The students really respect and admire you and it’s been amazing to see you teach.
To the kids of 4M, 4H, 4E, and 4L, thank you all for letting me into your lives. I hope I taught you a fraction of what you taught me. You’re beautiful smile, intelligent questions, and hilarious stories will be missed dearly. From the first day I waked into your classes, you all impressed me. These kids are so smart, beautiful, kind inside and out. I’m going to miss the “Good Morning Ma’am”s and the million questions.
To all of DPS East, I will miss you so much. Thank you for a truly eye-opening and life-changing experience.
It’s our final week here in India! It crazy to say that knowing we just arrived a short time ago. I’ve learned so much about the country, the school, and myself during my stay and it’s so sad to see it come to an end. While I love India and definitely plan on returning, a group of us have noticed that first plans don’t necessarily work out. We all had a Plan A and we most likely ended on Plan C’s. Here’s a quick list of what we’re talking about:
Wanting to walk to our favorite restaurant at 6; it starts pouring at 5:50
Expecting a hot shower; you take a cold bucket shower
Walk into the shower; the power goes out, the water doesn’t work, & the bucket’s empty
Wants to FaceTime your mom; wifi doesn’t work
Go to three different cafés with wifi to finish your blogs; every cafés wifi isn’t working
Think you can go to Starbucks, get coffee & get wifi; wifis out
Pay for chai expecting masala chai; gets tea bag
Tries to order uber; uber cancels 3 different times so you grab a rickshaw and get overcharged
Trying to be fit and active by going on a run in the park; Monsoon season hits harder than ever
Takes malaria medicine; you’re allergic and break out in a rash
Thinks you’re safe and without any problems using uber; driver gets lost and you have no clue where you are
While this may be frustrating at times, we end up making a joke and almost a game out of it. There are times I hear “Oh no that sounds like a plan A we better change that!” and I laugh because they are probably right. It’s funny to see just how far a plan can go. And, on the case Plan A actually does work out, it makes us even more grateful. India, you definitely keep us on our toes. Plan C is starting to become Plan A.
This past weekend, our group traveled with Saumya from Magnolia to The Art of Living Ashram. This is a serene campus for meditation. We left Casa at around 3 and within an hour, we were at The Art of Living. It was a beautiful, green area that was extremely calming. We walked around the grounds and saw a large area surrounding a lake. On the lake, there was a stage where we learned the Guru would sit and lead meditations or speeches. We continued the tour and visited a temple-looking building where the meditation would be taking place.
When I think of meditation, I imagine silence and long, drawn out “ohms”. I thought it would be something mirroring the end of a yoga class back in the states. This definitely wasn’t the case. We walked in to the temple and it was a circular building with marble stairs. After grabbing two pillows, we sat and began to relax. We got there a little early so we had ample time to relax before the meditation began.
At 6, music began to play and people began to sit and quiet down. The temple was separated in half, between women and males. After the first song, the music began to pick up and people began to clap and sing along. I couldn’t help but smile when people got up and started dancing. It was a full blown party. This lasted about an hour and it was impossible not to smile when all this was happening. I loved experiencing this meditation. It was so happy and celebratory. I would be happy to go again.
This past Friday, a group of us joined the girls at Vidyashilp Academy on a field trip to a government school. Kayla, Laura, Kacy, Ollie and I visited Maddie and Liz at school before we left. Vidyashilp has a beautiful campus and it’s always amazing going to visit. Liz took us on a mini tour while Maddie was teaching a lesson and we all joined together for lunch. After this, we left for People’s Trust Vocational Training Center with a couple 6th standard sections. The school was tucked away in a little village outside of Bangalore. The teachers that accompanied the 6th standard sections had the students help teach different material to the children at the government school. We looked around in the classrooms and noticed the children deep in focus in different subjects. After a brief look around, we returned the to the 6th standard students and listened while they taught science, English, and math. It was amazing to not only see these students teach lessons, but also teach in a completely different language. Many of the kids at People’s Trust spoke Kannada, one of the many languages in Karnataka. It amazes me every day to see the kids speak two sometimes three different languages.
We then went on a tour around the grounds at People’s Trust. The principal led us, showing us a temple, the residency program and other aspects of the school. This school has a program that allows students who may not have a home to live at the school during their studies. I was completely impressed with the generosity of the principal at People’s Trust.
We asked the 6th standard teachers why they bring students to this government school. They answered us, stating that it shows the children who attend Vidyashilp how lucky they are. I’m so happy that I got to accompany the Vidyashilp girls on this field trip. It was truly eye-opening and amazing to see.
Testing is important for any number of reasons, whether it’s to see what you know, what you learned, or what you think. Today marked the second day of exams for my fourth standard section. The test to be tackled today: English.
For weeks prior to this, Sukanaya has spent every moment in the classroom preparing her students. We’ve read stories aloud, discussed themes and morals, dissected the grammer. It was all for this exam. The students seemed eager to begin and finish this exam. I asked a boy in my section, Adam (his name is changed to keep anonymity) how he was feeling before this exam. “I’m nervous but I will do well. Last year, I got 31 marks on my English exam out of 40 marks so I will do better than that. On science, I got 39 marks. I only missed one!” It amazed me that Adam remembered his scores to the last exam and I realized just how important these tests are. While I was growing up, I never felt a pressure to study for a standardized test. These kids felt the need to study. I told Adam that he was going to well and there was no need to worry. Not wanting to distract the students, I left the class and retreated to the library. It started in the morning after the first period and lasted about 3 periods. After an hour and a half, the kids were finished.
I came back to the classroom and asked the students how they did. Adam ran over to me and said, “I did so well! There was one question which I didn’t know. It was about a poet. But only one!” He was so relieved about his performance that I felt a calm come over him. We went over the answers so the kids could see their marks. After every section, children would whoop and holler about their scores. It was amazing to see how happy they were in their performances.
In the following days, the children in fourth standard will be tested over Math, Hindi, and Social Studies to name a few. I was asking Sukanaya about the grading of these tests. I just imagined the scores would be sent out to a company for them to mark. She told me that she will mark the exams and they must be returned to the students by the 30th. She has a little over 10 days to grade about 160 exams. I do not envy her position. The children will then move on to another section of the class and prepare for the next exams. But in the mean time, they’ll play their favorite game called Atlas.
Atlas is a simple game played with 2 people. One child will begin by saying a country or city, and the other child will respond with a country/city beginning with the letter the last one ended on. For example: one kid might say Pakistan, then the next may respond with Nepal. This game can go on forever and makes me feel extremely inadequate in my recollection of countries.
The knowledge the kids hold is incredible to me. Even their games revolve around what they know. There’s not a doubt in my mind that their exams will go extremely well.
After our trip to Coorg, we drove to Mysore just in time to see the palace light up. The palace was built in 1399 by the royal family of Mysore. Its grand nature and exquisite architecture did not disappoint.
That Monday morning, we loaded the bus and headed to the Regional Institute of Education to have conversations with other future educators. We arrived and sat around a conference table with the Principal, department heads, and educators. We described our process of teaches educators. We talked about the different phases, the senior year on sight program (SYOSP) and student teaching cycles. I learned that in India, there is a country wide test future educators must pass. They experience 20 weeks as a “student teacher” and then go into their prospective focus areas.
We then gathered in a room where we met other future teachers. Here we discussed what it meant to be a “global citizen”. In today’s world, everyone is connected in some way internationally, whether that’s through pen pals, social media, or family. We discussed with Indian educators what that would mean in a classroom setting. Many students discussed their wish to stray away from the syllabus and teach in a global way. This is a hard topic to dissect; but, we attempted. We then discussed exams. At least in DPS East, the school year is divided into 4 exams. I equate them to Midterms and Finals. The kids study for these tests, pass them, and then move on. We discussed this process as well as the American system of standardized tests. One professor stood up and said something that I have not been able to shake. She said, “We have to look at our exams and see what we are testing for. Are we marking to see what the child knows or what the child does not know?”
This got me thinking about our standardized tests. Standardized tests are a judge of the teacher, not so much the student. I started thinking about the tests given to students and I’m questioning what we are testing the students. It seems like both India and America have yet to find a solution to these memorization tests.
After visiting the Institute, we had a quick lunch and went on our way. While this weekend was a nice getaway, it was amazing to be back at Casa.
This weekend we took a little trip away from Bangalore and arrived at a peaceful little town known for its plantations- Coorg. Coorg was unbelievably beautiful and a very different scene than the one in Bangalore. Nestled in a quiet valley, Coorg is surrounded by mountains and greenery. If I thought Lal Bagh was Eden, Coorg might just be heaven.
We arrived after a quick 8 hour bus ride and we were all extremely tired. After dinner, we went back to our rooms and rested for the day ahead.
We woke up at 8 am and prepared for the day. Two things were on the agenda: elephants and river rafting. We arrived at Dubare Elephant Camp and rode a boat across the river to the elephant sanctuary. Just to the left of the boat, elephants were lounging in the water waiting to get bathed. I watched as a young boy who couldn’t had been more than 11 washing an elephant. It was amazing to see the relationship between man and elephant. We went into the camp where there was a station to feed the elephants. We all took turns stroking the trunks of the elephants. One thing that stuck out to me was that some of these elephants only had one tusk. I was suddenly relieved that they were in a place where they were being protected.
After seeing the elephants, we went on to begin river rafting. I was sure I would fall into the river, me being as uncoordinated as I am. Things went extraordinarily well as we oared our way through the river. We turned it into a competition of which raft could reach the destination faster. After a few rapids, my boat got into a groove. About halfway through, we decide we needed to cool off and jumped into the river. I had a moment where I thought to myself “Wow. I’m in India, I’m swimming in a river. When am I ever going to be able to say that again?” It was easily the coolest moment I’ve had. We jumped back into the raft and continued on our way. Our rafting instructor noticed we were up for any adventure and he decided we were going to go under a tree that was just above the water. It was so fun, even when we got stuck and had to push our way through. At the end of the voyage, we decided to paddle against the current and the front part of our boat was emerged quickly. We did this about 5 times so everyone could be at the front of the boat.
Then, we all went out to lunch in our soaking clothes and went back to the hotel. We relaxed and got ready for the next excursion of the day. We went back to the city and walked around a local park. There was a drop off where you could have seen the entire city, if it were not for the fog. For some reason, there was music blaring around the fountain at this park. Bundles of people were gathered around the fountain and began dancing. I couldn’t help but think of how great a venue that park would be for a concert.
This weekend trip was a special for one more reason: MY BEST FRIEND/SISTER GOT ENGAGED!!! I’ve known this was happening for a couple weeks so I made sure I was up by 3 am in order to be awake for the engagement. It was beautiful, the ring is beautiful, she was beautiful. Of course, I was devastated that I couldn’t be there to experience it first hand but life gets in the way sometimes. Our families and friends gathered together and celebrated as my sister and her fiancé, Duncan, formally began their life as one. They’re a pretty cute couple, if you ask me.