My favorite part of India is YOU.

I spent 6 weeks in India. That estimates to about 1008 hours or 60,480 minutes. I can guarantee that each and every moment will live on with me forever and has impacted my life in the most positive of ways. I want to make a special shot-out to Gabrielle, Suman, Girish, and the many donors who made this trip possible. Six months ago, I did not think I would have been able to go to India, but here I am writing about the most amazing experience to date. I also want to thank the teachers, director, and students of Magnolia who made this a trip to remember. I have learned more than I ever thought I could and have grown to love and cherish a culture that prior to this trip I knew very little about.

During this journey, I have had many first’s.

  • Drank out of my first coconut
  • Rode a bike through India traffic
  • Let a monkey eat out of my hair
  • Went on a safari
  • Went white water rafting
  • Pet an elephant
  • See the Taj Mahal
  • Successfully rode in a rickshaw
  • Experienced an Indian monsoon
  • Got henna on my hands
  • Used my first squatting toilet (which is not as bad as I thought it would be!)

Although India has the most beautiful architecture and is filled with the most vibrant colors, the amazing sites and experiences would be nothing without the people I met along the way. To quote one of my favorite movies, Into the Wild, “Happiness is only real when shared.” On the trip, I met some of the most wonderful people with the most beautiful of souls. I made some new friends and even some best friends. I wouldn’t trade them for even the most amazing sites in India. Some say that happiness is not about the destination but about the journey getting there and that couldn’t be more true. I have had so many laughs and many unforgettable conversations. At the end of the day, I am more likely to remember my students smiling faces and the hilarious moments during my trip in India rather than the Taj Mahal.

Now, I wanted to make a special thanks to some people that have impacted me the most.

Laura & Ollie:

Words cannot describe how much you both mean to me. You have been with me since day one of the trip and I can promise both of you that this trip would not have been the same without you. Thank you for making me laugh uncontrollably throughout the entire trip and for introducing me to the fun game of “Capitalism.” I have enjoyed all the movies we watched together on the trip and meeting such friends as Krishna and Bala along the way. I loved our crazy adventures and the even more crazy experiences of taking rickshaws and trying to find transportation throughout India. I loved all of our late night conversations and pillow-talks. You both have let me open up to you without the fear of being judged and I am so grateful for that and I hope you experienced the same with me. I have loved all of our failed attempts of taking photos together, which I know will make me laugh when I look back at them years from now. Laura, with your loving, compassionate, and expressive personality and Ollie, with your spontaneous, honest, and bold personality created the perfect balance for me. You will both be in my heart forever and I am excited to see you both soon!

Suman:

Going to foreign country thousands of miles away from familiarity can be an overwhelming and terrifying experience. It takes a special person like yourself to make India feel like a second home. You make the planning and logistics of our time here seem effortless, although I know there is much work and preparation that goes on behind the scenes. Thank you for creating a safe and comfortable experience for us that has allowed me to grow as a person and an educator. I feel like we connected right off the bat and have many commonalities between us! I will miss our talks and the laughs we have shared along the way! I hope we get a chance to meet again, but for now I hope to keep in contact with you through email or Facebook. This trip has meant the world to me, so thank you for making this journey possible! Thanks again for being our ‘Indian mom” and Wonder Woman! ❤

And last, but certainly not least, my students:

To the 6th, 7th, and 8th standard students at Magnolia that I had the wonderful privilege to work with, thank you for making this experience a special one that will live on with me forever. You were my favorite part of each day and I always woke up excited know that I would get to see you all at school! Thank you for allowing me to teach and observe in each of your classes and it has been such a pleasure getting to know each and every one of you. Thank you for your patience as I tried learning your names and butchered the pronunciation. I will miss the good times we shared and the many laughs we had. My last day at Magnolia was the hardest. It took all of my strength to hold back the tears as I was saying good-bye. I loved all of the thoughtful gifts, good-bye letters, and the many, many friendship bracelets I received. After spending six weeks with all of you, I know for a fact that teaching is the career for me. I was initially worried about working with middle school students since I am used to teaching high school students, but you all made my job easy and I loved every second working with you all and I hope you enjoyed the time we shared together. I wish you all the best of luck for the rest of this school year and I hope one day we get the chance to meet again!

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At the end of the day, 6 weeks went by too fast, but no matter how long the trip is, saying good-bye will not get any easier. But nothing worth having ever is. I have left India with a heavy heart that misses everyone I have met, but my heart is also filled with many life-changing memories and experiences. Thank you all for everything and I hope to see you all soon.

Until we meet again,

Tay ❤

From an anxious heart, to a heart at peace.

Since the theme this past week at Magnolia Public School is “Happiness & Health,” I thought I would write a post about this concept, especially how it relates to my life.

Due to genetic and environmental factors in my life, anxiety has always been a part of me, whether I like it or not. It does not define me, but I cannot deny that it has not affected my life in a substantial way. Doctors have asked me “Why is your pulse so high?” Basic decision-making can be absolutely crippling. Apprehension and doubt flood my mind before social interactions. Panic attacks have left me paralyzed emotionally and physically. Sleepless nights became the norm. However, like most of my life circumstances, I refuse to let this overcome me.

Since being in India, I have been immersed in a culture that embraces spirituality and mindfulness. Yoga and meditation are a common practice. Last week, we visited the Art of Living Ashram. I got to observe locals meditate and even partake in it myself. It was a truly spiritual experience that filled my heart with peace. Last fall was an especially difficult time for me with my mental health plummeting to an all-time low. In my recovery, I found that meditation and yoga helped me find a balance in my life that I didn’t think was ever truly there.

For anyone who has experienced mental health issues or who has gone through a particularly rough patch in their life, I am sure you can understand just how trapped you can feel. Trapped inside the four walls of your own mind. I experienced ruminating thoughts for weeks and even months at a time. My mind was saturated with negative self-talk, fear, and regret. I began looking at life through the rear-view mirror unwilling to look straight ahead at the huge possibilities that lie right in front of me. You keep telling yourself that things will not and cannot get better until you actually start believing it to be true.

“I began looking at life through the rear-view mirror unwilling to look straight ahead at the huge possibilities that lie right in front of me.”

But that is not reality. I was told time and time again that things will get better. My twin sister and I got tattoos with hers saying “I’m the hero of this story” and with mine saying “Don’t need to be saved.” This tattoo is a reminder that although support from family and friends is important, it is up to you to choose to save yourself.12466178_1113639795313953_7034605104335143825_o

Now reflecting on this time of my life, I have realized the enormous impact that your mindset has on your happiness and health. When my mental health was suffering, I felt my body and happiness withering away with it. Being an introspective person, there is a whole lot more going on in my head then my lips may reveal. Last fall, I overworked my brain by over-involving myself in extracurriculars and academics and by leaving little to no time for self-care. I was mentally burned out and I gave my mind no outlet to recuperate. I learned that the saying, “You cannot pour from an empty cup” is so painfully true. I gave my time and energy to academics and my involvements until there was nothing left.

“I learned that the saying, ‘You cannot pour from an empty cup’ is so painfully true.”

So I decided to make some life-style changes. I dropped some of my involvements and even received my first “C” in college (to which I felt a huge sense of relief). My mental health is my first priority above all else. I am a human first before a student or teacher. I used to stress about the little things, but I now have the ability to let things go. I spend much more time doing things that make my soul happy and at peace. I spend time with loved ones and friends much more than before. I learned that I can spend time doing absolutely nothing instead of filling up all of my time to stay busy.

Meditation and mindfulness have been a huge part of my road to a balanced life. Last fall, I found myself oblivious to the red flags and warning signs of my inevitable mental health downfall. However, now I have become much more self-aware of my feelings and emotions. I notice certain situations or experiences that may trigger my anxiety. Then, I reflect on how to prevent these feelings. I also have learned how to cope when these feelings start to overcome my mind. I can find myself feeling overwhelmed at times with the chaos of life. Meditation helps me to block out all of the outside noise, give my brain a rest, and puts my body at peace. I normally put on serene music (or none at all), sit cross-legged, and close my eyes putting all of my focus on my breathing. I notice the cool air coming though my nose and the warmth of my exhale. When my mind naturally starts to wonder, I put my focus back on my breathing.

“Meditation helps me to block out all of the outside noise, give my brain a rest, and puts my body at peace.”

Since making these changes in my life, I feel a more constant state of calm and my heart is filled with happiness. It is crazy to see just how wonderful life can be and all of the possibilities that are there, when just a few months ago, I honestly did not think things could get better. I am so relieved that I was wrong. Although that experience was the worst time of my life, I am much better because of it. I cherish the little things and I am filled with optimism for the future. I have a more positive mindset and outlook on life than I ever had before.

So here’s to a wonderful rest of my time in India and to a wonderful new year filled with infinite possibilities!IMG_20160728_010017884

Stay awesome and thanks for reading,

Tay

Yes, I’m still alive.

It is definitely been awhile, so I thought I would give an update from last week to let you all know I am alive and well! Last week, I came down with a stomach virus and the strikes this week has kept me from posting. But here is a post to keep everyone updated about this past week. Sorry in advance since this is probably going to be a lengthy one, but bear with me.

As we are getting closer and closer to the end of this trip, I can already tell I am going to be heart-broken to leave this beautiful and vibrant country and the wonderful people I have gotten to know along the way.

But for now, I am going to reflect on the crazy, amazing week that was had and I am going to stay excited and optimistic for the weeks to come.

As you can tell from the other blog posts that were written and the bombardment of pictures on Facebook, our group had the chance to visit Coorg and Mysore (so I will try and keep this portion of my post short, sweet, and to the point). Of all the places we have experienced so far, Coorg is, without a doubt, my favorite. It is hard to believe that such places actually exist in the world. With its lush green scenery, hills for miles, and a waterfall, this is a place where one can escape the chaos of the world and take a deep breath of the exhaust-free air.

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Then, there was Mysore. Mysore is quite different from Coorg, since it seems to be more populated and commercialized. However, what grabbed my attention was of course the Palace. I have a soft spot in my heart for architecture, so I was absolutely blown away when the Palace light up promptly at 7:00 pm.

At the end of the day, it is not the places or scenery that I will miss the most. What has stationed a place in my heart forever is the people. The new teachers, students, and friends I have met. It is hard to believe that “your people” can live on the complete opposite side of this planet. But I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met them. I hope that we are able to keep in touch and that maybe even one day, we can meet again.13735818_1092556104144721_5646213514272573242_o

These past few weeks, I have been given the opportunity to teach. As most of you already know, my specialty area is mathematics—specifically high school math. At Magnolia, I have been given the new experience of working with 6th, 7th, and 8th standard students. At first, I felt apprehensive, since I am not conditioned to work with middle school students, but I was up for the challenge. However, from the first day I walked into the classroom and was immediately greeted with a big “GOOD DAY, MA’AM!” I was suddenly put at ease and knew that everything was going to work out for the best.

And I could not have been more right. I feel so lucky to have been partnered with three wonderful math teachers. They, along with the rest of the middle school teachers, made me feel right at home.13692413_1241507622528672_770015625_o

My most favorite lesson plans were the lessons I got to plan and execute on my own. These include my lesson on symmetry in the 6th standard classes and my lesson on decimals in the 7th standard classrooms. I am so thankful for the freedom and support that I have been given in the classrooms from my teachers. When I discussed my ideas for these two lessons to one of my host teachers, she seemed excited and open-minded to my way of teaching. This is my favorite part of this Teach Abroad program. That not only are we learning from the teachers’ approach to education at Magnolia, but I am also to share what I have learned as an education student at the University of Missouri.

For my symmetry lesson, I cut out 20 different shapes and pictures (some of which included the Indian flag, the Taj Mahal, and the White House) 17 times, so that each pair in the classroom could have a paper-clipped stack of shapes. Then, I gave my students the task of categorizing the shapes with respect to how many lines of symmetry each shape had. So the students would have to order the shapes in order from zero to infinity lines of symmetry. My objective for this lesson was to have my students apply the knowledge that they have been learning in a fun and interactive way. Lastly, I ended by having the students come up with a generalization about regular polygons. I grouped together the equilateral triangle, square, regular pentagon and hexagon. Then, I asked the students what was similar about these shapes. They came up with that the number of sides on a regular polygon indicates their number of lines of symmetry.

13662642_1241507725861995_1725749127_o13709705_1241507689195332_642119149_oThen for my decimal lesson, I wanted to proceed again with an activity-based lesson, especially since we were introducing a new topic. For the main part of the lesson, I basically utilized the students as human props. I, first, needed 9 volunteers. One for each number and one to represent the decimal point that I had written on a post-it note. Then, I arranged them in front of the classroom and had the students raise up their post-its. Then, I asked again for 9 volunteers, but this time I was looking for students to represent the “place” of each digit (i.e. unit place, tens place, hundredths and thousandths place). I had each of these students figure out which digit they matched to. Then, there were to stand behind the students whose digit they matched with and hold the post-it notes above their heads. For the rest of the class, my host teacher and I co-taught the class while still utilizing the students to represent concepts such as like and unlike decimals. Overall, I really enjoyed creating and teaching this lesson. It was fun for me and the students seemed to respond really well to it. My objective was to help students visualize decimal in a new way to help them understand this idea more in-depth.

Another huge part of this week was the Parent’s Day Program. This program is intended for the parents of the 1st through 5th grade students to attend. And each day about three classes were to perform for their parents, so I, along with Kayla and Laura, got to sit in on the program several times throughout the week. We also had the chance to represent our University and to speak a bit about what we have experienced thus far at Magnolia. Overall, I had a lot of fun watching all the hard work the teachers and students put into the program pay off. I enjoyed all of the skits, singing, and dances of the amazing elementary school students that I had not had the privilege to observe prior to this week.

I think that just about covers this past week in its entirety. Now, I am ready to rest and get over being sick, so I can go back to exploring Bangalore and working with my favorite students that make me smile each and every day!

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See you soon,

Tay

Critical classroom characteristics.

This is a blog post about what I am looking for in a future school that I will one day be teaching in. Also, I will be discussing a few bits about what I have learned about myself and my teaching philosophy.

From my time in India thus far, I have established a few “must-haves” when searching for a school district to work in post-graduation.

My own classroom.

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Showing off some beautiful work.

This one is pretty essential on my list of must-haves when I begin the hunt for teaching jobs. Since working at Magnolia Public School, I have noticed that the students basically stay in the same classroom throughout the day, while the teachers move from class to class. I can see the benefits of such a system due to the reduction of chaos and traffic jams in the hallways; however, I have noticed that this has left little room for individualization in each classroom. For instance, I imagine an English classroom having posters and decor relevant to reading and writing. Maybe a few Shakespeare quotes, etc. And for my future classroom, I would like to be able to customize my classroom to reflect the atmosphere I would like to create for my students. Also, another perk is that this will allow me to keep all of my math-related resources in the classroom.

“Block” schedules.

Another item on my educational wishlist is to have block scheduling or hour and a half classes that would be held every day, rather than 50 minute classes every day. At Magnolia, I have experienced what a typical day and week is like with 40-50 minute classes every day. In my field experiences in Columbia Public Schools, I have experienced block scheduling. Comparing and contrasting both types of schedules, I think my preference would be for block scheduling. I have found that with block scheduling, I had more time to go in-depth with topics and to have more creativity with the lesson planning. Whereas with 50 minute classes, I sometimes feel rushed and feel as though my creativity is limited for what the class period allows for. My teaching style entails students having time to think critically and to come up with ideas on their own. However, with time constraints, I feel as though teachers are more inclined to teach more “by the book” and in a more procedural manner. This, in essence, can be detrimental to students learning. Math classrooms are intended to teach students how to think, rather than how to memorize formulas and procedures.

More flexibility & freedom.

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Poster projects about quadrilaterals.

In order to keep things interesting for myself and my students, I like to be able to have a good amount of freedom when it comes to lesson planning. I have learned from working alongside some of the Magnolia teachers, that each math class should be giving the same homework and covering the same content as the other classes in their grade. So essentially, all 6th grade math classes should have the same homework. The amazing and hard-working math teachers make this system work and clearly it is working for them due to their high student achievement. I just think that in my own classroom, I would like to move at my students’ pace. One of my classes may be able to cover material faster and another might need more time to grasp a concept. Also, I like the idea of using a textbook little to not at all. I think that basing majority of lessons off of a textbook can create efficiency and flow in the content. Although, not using a textbook will most likely create my work for me, I think it will be worth it. It will push me to be creative in my lesson planning. Not relying on a textbook will push me to find other resources that I find will best promote learning and understanding among my students.

Diverse student population.

Having a diverse student population is a MUST. Spending time in India and learning about the culture has really solidified this for me. Being thrown into a school that is nothing like my own, with traditions, teaching philosophies, and norms that I am not used to, has been so eye-opening for me. I do not like the idea of going back to teach in a school that is very similar to what I have been accustomed to with a homogeneous teaching staff and student population. Teaching in India and serving in Detroit, has allowed me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and to put myself in a situation in which I am the minority. After finishing my undergrad at Mizzou, I would like to get a Master’s degree that focuses on minority and urban education. After serving in Detroit and teaching in the urban area of Bangalore, I know that this is an area in which I am most interested. Teaching in an urban and diverse school district is where I see myself in the future and where I feel that I can make the most positive impact.

**Technology

This one is not a requirement, but definitely a plus and I have truly experienced the benefits of technology in the classroom. And by technology, I do not necessarily mean SMART Boards and iPads for every student. I can do without this. But having experienced working in Magnolia, which has little to no technology in the classroom, I have become more grateful for basic technology such as a projector screen and computer in the classroom. I even miss having such resources as little dry-erase
boards for the students. I know that with a lot of creativity and perseverance, I can do without technology and with very little resources, but I feel that if used effectively, these resources can definitely promote student thinking and engagement. I used to think that a chalkboard was all I needed to teach, but not that I have been experiencing it for a few weeks now, I appreciate the freedom these other resources allow in the classroom.

In summary, I am not trying to say that one way of teaching is better than the other. From comparing and contrasting the different school systems and teaching styles I have encountered as an education student, I have discovered what my preferences are. I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue to experience the Indian school system. I feel that every teacher should get out of their comfort zone and experience first-hand what it is like to teach in another country’s school system.

I have gotten the opportunity to teach many times since I have arrived in Bangalore and I hope to share what I have learned and experienced by the end of this week! I hope to enjoy every minute of the next 3 school days before we head off for a 4-day weekend to Coorg and Mysore.

P.S.

Just to give you all an update, I have been in the process (and struggle) of learning my students’ names. Although I get an earful of laughter when I painfully try to pronounce their names, I have gotten a few students down and hope to keep improving:)

Impromptu teaching. 

This has been a weird week due to me being sick on Tuesday and yesterday being a holiday for Magnolia. Today, several students are also absent due to the holiday of Eid.
However, I am glad to be back in action today. I started today in a first period class, so for the first time I was able to see the students say their prayers and recite their national anthem. This was very different from the “Pledge of Allegiance” which I have grown accustom to. This Indian tradition lasts about 10-15 minutes with every child in unison saying their prayers and singing multiple songs before starting their day. 
By second period, my teacher asked me if I would like to go over some examples with the 6th standard math class and without a second thought I said, “Of course!”
We went over properties of whole numbers and did some examples using the distributive property.
Then, by third period, my teacher left me in the classroom to teach an 8th standard class about properties of quadrilaterals. I had nothing prepared and I certainly did want to waste time, so I did what I knew best.

Within 10-15 seconds, I came up with an impromptu lesson for the class. I broke the class up into 5 groups of about 4-5 students each. Then, I assigned each group to a quadrilateral (parallelogram, rhombus, rectangle, square, kite). I directed each group to draw the shape, label the diagram, and write down as many properties that they could think of. 
Then, I told each group to nominate a member to write down what they have written down on the board. I then wanted to have each group present about their quadrilateral, but sadly we ran out of time!
Overall, I thought the lesson went well and I have learned a lot about my teaching style!
On a side note, I am on a mission to learn ALL of my students’ names. This will not be an easy feat, but I am determined to do so! I think it is vital for teachers to know each student by name, so I have started passing around my notebook and having students write down their names. (We’ll see how well this goes!)
I am ready to have a great Friday and for some more explorin’ this weekend!

Let the testing begin.

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Explored the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. 

Today, the 7th standard math classes are taking an assessment. I had the chance to witness how the students behaved and performed while testing. For the first few minutes, their teacher stayed to make any clarifications. The students frantically repeated, “Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am!” until they had their question answered. You could see the intensity in their eyes and feel in the air just how badly they wanted to do well. When their teacher left the room, anxiety started to fill the room as their chance to ask questions has come to an end. Luckily since I was observing this class period, I was able to answer any questions or concerns that they may have had. The anxiety in the room began to fade and was replaced with a sense of relief.

I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the testing environment in Magnolia Public School. It is interesting to compare and contrast from what I experienced as a student and now what I have witnessed as a preservice teacher.

Although we have had plenty of new and exciting experiences from venturing through the city of Bangalore, my favorite part of any day is the part in which I am with the students. Being in the classroom is when I feel most at home. My first day at Magnolia was filled with anticipation and apprehension for what was to come. However, the moment I met my first teacher and entered the classroom, I felt at ease. I don’t think I will ever get sick of the students standing up and greeting me in unison with, “Good morning, ma’am!”

This is my first full week in which we will be in the classrooms and I could not feel more overjoyed. So far, I have taught a tad bit here and there but I am ready to dive in. The past few days that I have been at a Magnolia, I feel as though I have learned a great deal from the wonderful teachers and students that I have gotten the pleasure to work with. But now, I would like to display what I have learned from my time at Mizzou. Learning in not a one way street. I feel as though just as much as I have learned so far, I also have much to share with the teachers and students of Magnolia.

As soon as today’s testing is over, I am excited to start something new and hopefully get some more time in front of the classroom, where I feel most comfortable! Here’s to a wonderful second week of teaching!

How we see the world.

Since we have been in India for nearly five days, I can already see my perception of how I see the world and more specifically cultures that are much different from my own.

I have been amazed at just how hospitable everyone has been to us on this journey so far, whether that be the principals, tour guides, teachers, or students (just to name a few). I feel nothing less than welcomed to the city of Bangalore. But that begs the question, “How can a society of people who have different beliefs and values have so much love and respect for those who may not share the same ideologies?”

Today was my first day of observing classes at Magnolia Public School. I had the opportunity to see first-hand the teaching style of the teachers and the responses the students gave. I started comparing and contrasting the way I have learned about education to the ways of the faculty of this school. I, almost subconsciously, started to make judgments about what I initially observed. I noticed that this school (specifically the math department) was more minimalist with respect to the curriculum and technological resources, with a huge focus on academia. I noticed the students nearly jumping out of their seats to answer a question (which is something Americans may not be so lucky to see).

After reflecting on my first full school day, I have to remind myself why I am here.

Although I am here to teach mathematics to the students at Magnolia, I know that I have much more valuable knowledge to gain from them. Learning is a mutual transaction. As Bill Nye once said, “Everyone knows something that you don’t.” I am here to share what I have learned about education at Mizzou and I hope to take away important ideas that I can incorporate into my own teaching.

So at the end of the day, I am not here to judge the teachers or the education system in a negative way. Or to constantly compare what we do in America to what is done in the Indian education system. Sometimes it may be the “American” way to view ourselves as superior or that we know best, but I have come here with an open mind. I know that my beliefs and values may conflict with those of the people of Bangalore or India as a whole, but they are not here to judge me. Everyone has been so kind and respectful to each and everyone of us. So this is a time to reflect on our differences in a positive light and to cherish the commonalities that we share.

Here is to two more days of excitement at Magnolia this week and many more to come:)