Hokey Pokey

Today was another great day at Vidyashilp. I sat in on lessons with first and second graders. I started my morning by watching a first grade lesson on vowels. While the students were writing five words in their notebooks and underlining the vowels in each word, one student started crying. He said he did not feel well and when the teacher asked him what was wrong, he said that writing gives him a tummy ache and that he wanted to go home and play. A lot of the first graders are having a hard time adjusting to school all day as they just started in June. This student spent the whole class crying and at the end the class decided they would sing him a song to make him feel better. All of his classmates were so concerned about how upset he was and wanted to make him happy. They all stood up and sang the hokey pokey for him and it was one of the most adorable things I have ever witnessed.

After English with the first graders was over, I made my way to my daily yoga class. Today, the class was much more intense than yesterday, but the students cheered me on as I attempted some positions I have never even seen. These students are extremely flexible and have mastered very difficult poses. I am very impressed by their yoga skills. By the end of the class I was pretty sweaty, but all smiles as we posed for a class selfie. I have some new moves to practice and can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow.

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Fourth of July

Today is the Fourth of July, which is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. However, it is obviously a holiday only celebrated in the United States. This morning I caught myself thinking about how I normally spend the fourth at the pool with my friends and how a year ago I never would have thought that I would instead be in India! Unlike other years, today I got to spend the day in English classes with 1st, 4th, and 5th graders. It was my first day actually sitting in on classes at Vidyashilp Academy. I started my day with a first grade lesson called, “Go Out and Enjoy.” It was a lesson focused around the keywords of what to pack for a picnic. The first graders were all very eager to share their ideas of what foods to bring. After this class, I took a break from academics and joined a yoga class. I was very excited because I do a lot of yoga at home. I then went to a fourth grade class where they had a lesson called, “Despicable Duos.” This lesson was about “The Twits” by Roald Dahl. They read it as a class and discussed the characteristics of the Twits, focusing on the meaning of exaggeration and how it was used. There was also a lot of humor in there. Finally, I went to a fifth grade class where the lesson was about “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The class discussed how to use clues to put pieces together. At first, they used me as an example. The class picked out clues about me to decide how they knew where I was from. From different parts of my appearance to my accent (the deciding factor between the US and the UK), the students “decided” I was probably from the United States. So far, the English classes that I have seen are not much different than the United States and share many of the same components. The lessons each had an overall theme and keywords that the class went over together while the students wrote them down in their notebooks. I noticed in the two older grades that the reading material was also similar. When discussing Sherlock Holmes, the students compared him to Nancy Drew. I found this specific lesson to feel very familiar and easily could have been a lesson in a class at my grade school.

The biggest difference that I have seen so far is not in the lessons themselves, but in the teaching system. Teachers are not assigned to one grade or classroom. Instead, the teachers have their subject, for example English, and only teach English. The teacher goes to different grades throughout the day to teach their subject while the students stay in their same room. A teacher might teach a first grade class and then go to a fifth grade class right after. I am used to our elementary system where we are given a grade and stay with just our class all day. It is interesting to see how the same teacher has to change their way of teaching throughout the day depending on which grade they are in at the time.

As for Bangalore, I am still getting used to the city. I am finding that I am finally beginning to recognize places and know my whereabouts a little better. For those of you who know me, directions and navigation are not my strength so I feel I am doing pretty good so far. After only a week, the group is already frustrated with getting ripped off by rickshaws and we have turned to ubering (lol) until we know our way around a little more. Yesterday, a few of us ubered to check out the Bengaluru Hard Rock Café for lunch. It was very yummy! Tonight, a group of us is planning to attend a crowd favorite, Plan B, for dinner to celebrate the Fourth of July- India style.

My First Week In Bangalore

by: Courtney Kreb

I am finally getting around to writing my first blog post after being in Bangalore, India for almost a full week and what a week it has been. It has been a whirlwind full of activities, some that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Everything here is just so new and different to me. Even after much preparation and talking to those who went on the trip last year, nothing can truly prepare you for Bangalore. The city is exciting, huge, loud and truly has so much to offer. From riding in rickshaws to figuring out how to pay group bills in rupees and how much that means in dollars, it would be hard to fully describe everything that my mind has been taking in. There are some things that will take time for me to adjust to, like BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper), and other things that after a week I am already used to and find comforting. From day one I have found that everyone here is so hospitable. Every single interaction with people I have had in Bangalore has been extremely pleasant compared to the United States. Not only are the people here welcoming and friendly, but they make you feel right at home. When I stop to ask questions, especially about my gluten free diet, I get the sense that they actually want to help me and have gone out of their way many times to do so. Everyone has been so accommodating and made me feel very comfortable eating here which was my biggest concern going into the trip. It continues to amaze me how personable the people of Bangalore are compared to at home. This has me often finding myself wondering what the people I meet in Bangalore would think if they visited Chicago.

As for the schools, they are amazing in every way possible. As a group, we toured all four of the schools that students in our group will be placed at for the next six weeks. I was shocked by the size of the schools and the amount of land they sit on. Every single school was beautiful and unique in its own way. I will be at Vidyashilp Academy with two other students, Liz and Maddie, during my time here. From what I have seen so far after the tour and my first day there, this school is fantastic. After just one day with the teachers and students there, I am eager to get back and see more. As I continue to blog I cannot wait to share with you my experiences at Vidyashilp and all that I learn about their intriguing schooling system.

P.S. Bangalore is 10.5 hours ahead of Chicago