the beginning: week one

I’m at the end of my first week of teaching, but the more predominant feeling occupying my mind is that it is the beginning of my second week!


I have so much to do, so much to prepare: lesson plans and class themes and trackers and grading papers and unit assessments. I can’t help but wonder how others keep up with all this all the time? At Brown, I thought it was hard to keep up with five classes, but this is more overwhelming because there is so much less structure and so much more room for making decisions…and making mistakes with more dire consequences than a few points.


Logistics: In any case, I started teaching at a small private school in Pratiksha Nagar, Sion, Mumbai last Monday. I’m teaching a group of 96 fifth grade students with three other fellows, who are all 2013 fellows. It’s been great to constantly have people who have done this to badger with all my questions.


The students have had TFI teachers in their class for four years now, so they are rather settled in that sense. In fact, behavior is not a huge issue for these kids, although of course they do get a little restless sometimes. They are divided into three different classrooms based on their current levels. For now, I will be teaching history to all three of the classrooms, and then spending more time with the struggling readers and writers to try to get them to grade level.


I’m not sure how I feel about the school timings yet. School officially runs from 12.30 PM – 6.10 PM for me, although I am there from 12.00 PM – 6.30 PM at least. The late start does enable to me do some preparation in the morning and take my nights off/do something else if I really want to, but it’s not ideal in the sense that it ends so late that the day is practically over. But I’m not complaining about the possibility of sleeping in at least J


Experience: To be honest, it feels so much longer than a week that I have been with these students, as so much as happened this week. Not only did I start teaching my first few classes, but I have also made significant headway in learning all 96 games (although probably not fast enough for the students, who all giggle as I butcher the pronunciation of their names. Never have I felt so white before).


I’m really excited about teaching history because the topics covered are super- interesting! We did the American and French Revolutions this week, and acted out many of the scenarios. It’s a pretty effective way of teaching, I think, but my only concern is how long can this last? Will they not become bored with acting out the scenarios all the time?

I guess that’s part of teaching though – always being creative enough to come up with new ways to teach them the concepts. In any case I have so many ideas buzzing around my head I can’t wait to implement them all!


In the middle of the week sometime, one of the second grade teachers didn’t show up so I went and substituted in their classroom with no lesson plan! School and our schedules are a lot more flexible than I had imagined, as this wasn’t an especially rare occurrence according to my co-fellows.


I also held my first extra class on Thursday! I’m not really sure how it went; I had one of my brighter students help a boy with some sort of learning disability (although undiagnosed what specifically) while I worked with another girl. I think it was okay because I had such few students, but I need to figure out a better system for when more students are present. I also think I need to read up on strategies to work with kids with dyslexia and other LDs and then maybe hold extra classes specifically for some students.


Lastly, Saturday was a school staff trip to Kashid. Many of the male staff members showed up intoxicated, which I wasn’t thrilled about. We were also told to arrive at 6.45 AM and actually left at 8 AM, so between these two things, I was a little miffed by the time the bus departed. But it was an alright day, despite the fact that we spent about 11 hours on the bus, because it gave me some time to get to know my co-fellows and other staff members and learn more about my school, etc. I can’t deny it was tiring though, and probably part of the reason I fell sick the next day.


Life Outside:

What life outside? 😛

Actually, at least this week, I have done several things outside the classroom, both by necessity and by choice. I am staying at a family friend’s place and was searching/finalizing our own house in Sion. I also had my first school team meeting, my first learning circle, an NGO visit, went out for dinner and movie with my family friends, and for a celebratory dinner after signing our lease! I also spent time with friends from Brown and family friends from Delhi J So it’s been a pretty busy week, but that’s how I like to spend my time – always doing something!


The downside was dealing with the broker and negotiating the house stuff on my own. Being a grown up in that sense gets a little intimidating, not to mention exhausting and stressful. I didn’t expect to face the sexism that I have been facing since coming to India, although I guess that was naiveté on my part.


I won’t say this week wasn’t challenging, stressful, and exhausting – because it was. And I’m sure, in different ways, the next few weeks will all be like that too. And a little bit of homesickness is starting to creep in too, especially because it has been seven weeks away from home now…and away from the friends who feel like home. But there were definitely moments where I felt at ease in the past week, when a singular comment from a student or a joke from a friend made me forget everything else. As those moments become more common, I think (i.e. hope) the balance will automatically tilt until this becomes home.


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