searching for atticus

Because they’re crazy, insane, clever, and frustrating.

The crazy and insane are essentially synonyms, but they are distinct because sometimes I laugh and sometimes I want to cry. And this hasn’t changed over the past several months, contrary to many expectations.

I’m sure many of you have been following this Humans of New York chronicle of Mont Blair Academy, and the portrait of the principal Ms. Lopez has definitely struck a chord with educators around the world. She didn’t believe she made a difference. Not until her school, students, and photos were internationally acclaimed. Because kids aren’t always the greatest communicators, because they’re not always equipped and often just not emotionally mature enough to realize that their teachers are not superhuman. That, to some degree, we all want external validation from someone that we’re not failing them. It’s especially beautiful when it comes from them.

Sitting back and writing this, I realize I focus on the negative too much. In a class of 40, if four kids are acting up, it does detract from the learning of the others and as a teacher I have to do what I can to change their behavior. But when I’m at home, I should also be able to see the other 36 who were focused, interested in what I had to say, who wanted to learn and are really at that point where they understand why they’re in school. It’s something I have realized theoretically, but to put it into practice is not the easiest thing.

Because my way of problem-solving involves reading as much as I can, I have also been reading Teach Like Your Hair is On Fire by teacher-God Rafe Esquith. Now, I agree with nearly everything he says, but I’m struggling to implement a lot of the ideas gleaned from this. The reasons vary; excuses I make about infrastructure and time, my lack of confidence in our kids’ ability to execute some of these activities without hurting each other, and last but not least, the fear of failure. I know none of these reasons should stop me; none of them are even solid enough to be called reasons. So I’ve pushed myself.

The thing I loved the most from his book so far was Kohlberg’s six levels of moral development. In short, the idea is this:

Level 1- I do things for fear of consequences

Level 2 – I want a reward

Level 3 – I want to please somebody (most often the teacher)

Level 4 – I follow the rules

Level 5 – I think about others and their feelings (empathy)

Level 6 – I have my own moral code of conduct and I follow it (think Atticus Finch)

While I have not formally introduced Kohlberg’s brilliance to them, I’ve started talking to them about how learning should come from their inner desire to learn, not because there are trackers that give them rewards and consequences. To try this, I sometimes don’t use trackers as well, which gives me mixed results. Just like us, kids are moody – sometimes they’re amazing and I come home bouncing, and sometimes they’re just not.

In any case, I’m aware that these expectations are rather lofty. Adults who feel the need to post their every accomplishment and bitty detail from their mundane life are not even at Level 6, no matter how accomplished they may be! But I’ve said this before: I’m not okay with my kids being average in morality. I’m not satisfied with the lack of empathy I see in India, and probably around the world. They will be better than that. Even if their RC growth were stunted, if each kid has their own moral code of conduct, I would honestly be over the moon. Because with that, I’ve equipped them to deal with the rest of their life as well. The learning they’ll figure out, because students who do what they believe is right regardless of acknowledgment and consequences are ready for life 🙂

the more i learn the less i know

It seems like a distant dream when I could finish all my planning the night before (even if that meant sleeping at 2 AM) and wake up for a relaxed morning of compiling papers and some light grading with my morning coffee. Since coming back from the holidays, it seems as if things don’t really want to even think about slowing down.

 

Teach for All

Literally as soon as I got back, I immediately got swept into the frenzy of the Teach for All Conference taking place in Mumbai. When I say literally, I mean it. I came back, dropped my bags at home, and immediately went to finish up last minute preparations at our committee leader’s house until 4 AM. And then, of course, woke up at 8 AM to prep for the first day back at school! Needless to say, they were a crazy few days, but amongst the most fulfilling ones I’ve had since moving here.

Teachers, staff, students, and other guests from 22 different Teach for All countries gathered in Mumbai to discuss Contextual Student Vision and Leadership. All the Learning Circles during the conference were facilitated by TFI students – which was incredible. With three weeks of training, they had morphed into amazing orators and thoughtful probers, pushing people to think deeper and question more. Every day I interacted with them, their eloquence and clarity of thought amazed me. In a way, it really contextualized the work we are doing on a larger scale for me.

Back to School

But returning to school wasn’t what I expected. For some reason, us first year fellows had this impression that life gets easier post-Diwali in the classroom. We had heard these mystical legends of kids magically morphing into semi-automated robots who listen to everything you say. (In retrospect, I feel a little uncomfortable that I was looking forward to that).
In any case, as you can probably imagine, that didn’t happen. In fact, we were in for a rude awakening. Somehow, I felt things got worse. I had higher expectations from myself and the classroom. I was like, “Okay, so the first three months of me making allowable mistakes are over, let’s get this shit in order!” And…well, you can imagine how badly that turned out. You never stop making mistakes – you just learn not to make the same ones more than a couple of times.

That being said, I guess we have made progress in the past six weeks. They’ve certainly made me go through a rollercoaster of emotions on a weekly basis. I’ve tried implementing a wide range of trackers, to help both them and me keep track of progress. I’ve been amazed by how much they respond to repetition, which to me seems boring. I’ve been depressed by their lack of empathy for each other. I’ve been happy to see them behaving like playful kids during lunch hours. I’ve been proud of the improvement in their learning. I’ve been embarrassed by their lack of understanding. I’ve been over the moon at their enthusiasm for learning. I’ve been in tears when lessons fell apart due to behavioral issues. I’ve been frustrated with the lack of infrastructure in school. I’ve been angry with people who can’t prioritize the children’s well-being over personal needs. I’ve been confused – basically all the time, about everything.

I think this is why this Fellowship is as much a learning process for me as for the kids. The emotional maturity needed to respond appropriately to the myriad of situations we are faced with cannot be underestimated.

Pictures

 

It’s been so long that I can hardly explain what’s been happening, so here are a few snapshots of the past few weeks to make it more real.

Because puppy!

Because puppy!

Taking ownership: kids helping kids

Taking ownership: kids helping kids

Phonics -> Sight words --> RC tracker

Phonics -> Sight words –> RC tracker

Building mud pots to occupy themselves

Building mud pots to occupy themselves

Mahek and her "brother" (turtle)

Mahek and her “brother” (turtle)

Sports day!

Sports day!

toffee and megha

Toffee and Megha

rippled reflections

At the mid-year point, I figure I should be extremely reflective and analyse the past five months to finally start coming up with some answers. Mid-year of my very first year should be a time for deep and thoughtful introspection, so brace yourself.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Rowling’s World

Now, I know this is a slight tangent, but Potter was a huge part of my childhood. And returning home over this Diwali break made me remember my obsession when I found my hand-written stories from sixth grade with Fred and George Weasley wreaking havoc in ways even Rowling hadn’t imagined.

In any case, I began thinking, and as my mind is wont do to these days, my thoughts drifted back to school. Most of my children are 11 or turning the magical age of 11. Which means that now they would be off to Hogwarts in Rowling’s World. The prospect makes me cringe. I cannot imagine letting them leave home, arming them with a wand and rudimentary knowledge of magic, and allowing them to roam around Hogwarts freely. I can’t imagine them not being required to ever add numbers or learn English again, or receive any training in values/mindsets beyond what their respective houses give them.

Now, I understand that it’s hard to compare our kids with those in the UK with a good education, but I don’t think even they at eleven can afford to simply stop learning English. What about grammar, and better vocabulary? What about poetry and satirical writing and opinion pieces and lyrical essays? I understand that some of this can be gleaned by reading and exposure to good writing, but as much as I love the magical world, why were they trading Potions for Literature? No wonder they ended up with Lockhart as a best-selling author. Their systems are not engineered to produce writers at all!

Even putting aside their deplorable cultivation of decent authors, Hogwarts just seems like an unsafe place for eleven year-olds from this end of graduation. I mean, sure, there are consequences for unauthorised use of magic, but there is a lot of harm, danger, and way too much freedom.

That’s my immediate reaction. And it confuses me. Because all of that being said, I would still trade my arm for the opportunity to have gone to Hogwarts. 

All right, I’m sorry I didn’t quite deliver the life-altering analysis on the state of Indian education. To be quite honest, I’m not in a position to even begin to understand its intricacies, so I won’t bore you with some inadequate commentary just yet (although I make no promises about the future :-P).

Having these thoughts does help me remember is that as an eleven year old myself, I felt fully prepared to head off to Hogwarts and confront all the challenges of the magical world, Voldemort and Dementors included. While part of this feeling was clearly the naïve overconfidence of a child, it does make me doubt my knee-jerk reaction. Even though my gut reaction would be to tear up my kids’ (mythical) Hogwarts letters, maybe that would be wrong. Kids might be kids, but when they’re faced with responsibility, they do have a tendency to surprise us. Didn’t even Neville stand up to his friends to do what he thought was right? Sometimes, we just have to let go and will ourselves to believe, even if it seems too soon. Ask any parent: it will always feel too early.

Design for Change

In deference to this notion that kids can do more than you expect, we decided to do the Design for Change project with our students. The basic premise behind this project is this – it is completely student-led. All I did was start them off. I asked them to identify problems in their school and community, and potential solutions. After a couple of days of brain-storming, we narrowed down the possibilities by democratically voting and advocating our own ideas. Our students decided to address the issue of bullying in the school. They wanted to raise awareness about what bullying is and how to combat it in the school, and target their efforts towards younger students.

While the entire project was rather fulfilling – seeing the students voice their ideas, gain confidence, and engage in serious discussions about important issues around their community – there were definitely a few stand-out moments that I wanted to share.

  • The group was a mix of students from all three classrooms. It was great to see them working together. It was amazing to see the realization with regards to our struggling learners: that just because their reading may not be as fluent didn’t mean their ideas were not as promising. In fact, they spoke with more confidence than most of the others! For example, when the others were perplexed as to how they would communicate their message clearly to younger students who didn’t speak English, one of them suggested the elegant solution of a short skit.
  • One of the boys who normally can’t sit still or stop talking adopted a whole new attitude when handed a poster and colors. He worked diligently on making a creative and beautiful poster, with a quiet confidence and careful attention I wish would seep into other aspects of his learning. He even confidently instructed me as to how to precisely help him color the border.
  • Several students were chosen to participate because they lacked confidence. After several days’ practicing their respective roles in the skit, every single child in the DFC project talked in front of a classroom of 40 younger students. They ad-libbed where needed and performed with ease and confidence, which I sincerely hope will be a part of their everyday classroom behavior henceforth.

It was remarkable to see them not only take ownership of the entire project, but also execute every aspect of the solution with sincerity.

When my brother went off to college, my parents doubted how he would cope living by himself for the first time. After all, he had never operated a washing machine and could hardly identify an iron. But as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. And when kids have to do something, they will do it – and do a damn fine job at that.

5th graders giving an anti-bullying presentation to 2nd grade students

5th graders giving an anti-bullying presentation to 2nd grade students

First graders holding up our anti-bullying badges!

First graders holding up our anti-bullying badges!

a furry frenzy

The more time I spend with the children, both inside and outside the classroom, the more daunting a task writing this blog becomes. How can I ever expect to do justice to the hundreds of things that happen in a day, all of which, in their own way, are remarkable enough to communicate to the world?

If you remember, just a few weeks ago, I had said that the day-to-day of this life wouldn’t seem too exciting to an outside observer. Now it’s almost as if I’ve flipped 180 degrees. How come? Simple. I’ve fallen in love with my kids.

For those of you who know me well, you know it’s rather unexpected. And yet, I know, it will help me be more effective as a teacher in the long run. It will push me to do more and be better. Because that’s the thing – I’m scared I’m not doing enough. I know that this is a sentiment I’ve expressed time and time again, but even if my whole life becomes the children (and it almost has), it won’t feel like enough.

And although people say “you’re halfway through your first year” (I mean, it’s really not true mathematically even though I know we’re at Mid-Year), I still definitely have more questions than answers. But today, I do want to start with some of the answers I’ve found.

Reading

 

Luckily, the kids love to read! Perhaps the scarcity of books in their homes drives this love. Whatever the reason is, this fact has made me incredibly happy. I’ve started using the library as an incentive for them during history classes. (Oh yeah, I’ve set up a pseudo-library thanks to my grandmother’s generosity. I went to the Books by the Kilo book fair and bought about 30-40 books for them, which are kept on a shelf in the classroom). The two “best” students (rather arbitrarily defined by me, to be honest) get to take home a book from the library. As I implement this in better ways, I hope to develop more structures around it and create an increased investment in books and reading.

Emergent Readers

 

There are a few kids in fifth grade who can hardly read and understands words like “white”, “there”, and “what.” They are called emergent readers. The other TFI teachers in our school team put together a workbook particularly for these readers. I modified it and distributed it to my entire classroom. Many of my students can read, but they are not fluent. There is also a big gap between fluency and comprehension. I’m hoping this workbook will help in addressing both the issues to some extent. I honestly believe if we use it consistently and enough (and of course supplement it with other necessary materials), these kids will be able to read sentences and even paragraphs fluently in a few months.

Structures, Procedures, & Culture

 

The point of school is academics.

Throughout the course of my education, I’ve lost complete faith in this statement. What’s the point of being able to read Shakespeare if you can’t appreciate the beauty of the words beyond their academic value? What’s the point of becoming an excellent orator if you have nothing of value to say? What’s the point of being the world’s most eloquent writer if you have nothing of interest to pen? What’s the point of becoming a learned person if you haven’t discovered your passion?

I really don’t think there is one.

Rather, school is meant to equip a generation of critical thinkers and enthusiastic learners with the tools they need to succeed in life. Schooling isn’t training for jobs, although that has in its way become the natural consequence. And while a part of teaching does include basic skills and knowledge, the critical importance of values and mindsets as well as exposure and access cannot be overlooked. TFI as an organization completely acknowledges this and even trains us on how to integrate these things into our daily curriculum. Unfortunately, I have been lacking on the implementation. Translating intention into action is harder than anticipated with all the constraints placed by the school schedule, as well as the demands of other facets of this Fellowship. However, making excuses is not what I’m here to do, so I’ll just leave it at this: I will do it, and I will do it soon.

The Other Side

 

Remember the grueling anxiety before exam period? Remember spending nights cramming, drinking coffee to stay awake through lectures, skipping meals, and seeking respite in stolen conversations with friends? To my fellow Brown students, remember how packed the SciLi would be at 3 AM during finals period? Remember how much we cursed our teachers for setting ridiculous exams?

Now I’m on the other side, and let me tell you this: it’s no cakewalk.

When you’re invested in your students, their performance on tests is basically a measure of your teaching ability. And spending six hours a day with them, we have identified who needs help with what. So we spend extra time preparing and drilling them. Right now, my entire school team is holding extra classes on a daily basis, staying after school between 1-2 hours to help struggling students catch up.

What surprises me most is how much the kids want to attend extra class. For some reason, they love getting more time in school. I’m not sure exactly why, but again, I’m not going to question my good fortune on this. It’s a boon and for that I’m extremely grateful.

The thing that has been frustrating is that we are more invested in some students than they are in their own academics. Beyond just not doing their homework and goofing off in class, there are kids who cannot articulate why their disrespectful behavior is wrong. I’m afraid they don’t even understand how rude they are being when they say some things to others.

While there are hundreds of other questions haunting me, I think I’ll save that for later. After all, exams are approaching!

 

muddy fixes

This post is long overdue, so without making any flimsy excuses, here it is. It was actually written a couple of weeks ago, so it should be dated August 21, 2014.

 

Each day could be its own chronicle. The past two weeks have involved unit tests, my parents visiting, and lots and lots of good food.

 

Invigilating (i.e. proctoring) unit exams was not what I had expected. I thought I would just chill for an hour while they silently took the exams, peppering the silence with an occasional “eyes on your own paper” and that would be that. I did not realize that they would zip through most of the papers and finish with half the time to spare. And despite teaching them for almost a month now (Wow! It sometimes really surprises me how quickly time flies by!)…I still didn’t anticipate the degree of their restlessness. If they were not asking “Didi, bathroom” or “Didi, water” then they were busy arguing over which book to read after they were done. Which brings me to my next point…

 

The Library Question 

 

My school is lucky in that the previous fellows have started a library here, so there are books available within the school. The problem is that the librarian quit, so the books kind of just sit in a pile on the table in the library. The school doesn’t want us to lend them out because there is no way of tracking them. Which makes this entire effort that the previous fellows put in into collecting the books useless to some extent.

For me, reading is critically important. I credit my vocabulary and my grasp over English in large part to how much my teachers always motivated me to read. To me, the measly six hours of English instruction they get in school needs to be complemented with more exposure to the language at home, otherwise we are not doing nearly as much as we can.

Now here are the potential solutions, some combination of which I want to implement:

 

  1. Create my own library: ask for books and donations and keep the books separate from the library books, at least for the next couple of years. Lend them out to students and create incentives around reading them!
  2. Make time for reading in school. As I have previously mentioned, sometimes the Hindi or Marathi teacher does not show up, or we just gain some extra time. That can become a reading period for them – because in school they are allowed to read library books.
  3. Encourage their parents to buy books for them. Many of these parents are not as badly off as others and can certainly buy a few books for them, especially the cheap used ones. The students can then exchange books amongst each other.

 

I will certainly enact these, and will probably ask for your help soon, so please keep an eye out for that if you’re interested in lending a hand!

 

Moments

 

Like we all know, it’s sometimes the little things that you remember. After one of the exams, I asked them to sit quietly and not disturb the others who were still working. Durgesh, a bright boy in the class, started entertaining himself. His hands would follow each other across the table, and then he would make “woosh” sounds of things blowing up – all accompanied by illustrative hand motions. I couldn’t control my laughter as I watched him amuse himself; sometimes it helps to be reminded that these kids from whom I have such high expectations are really just that at the end of the day: kids!

 

The next moment is not so positive. A couple of days ago, a rat ran across my foot, and I freaked in the middle of a history lesson. But literally, it ran over my foot! I felt a furry thing on skin as I was talking about how Vasco De Gama discovered the first sea route to India, and I couldn’t control a tiny yelp. The kids reacted by either laughing or freaking out themselves as the rat quickly scuttled under their benches.

 

Travel

 

Hopefully, I’ll get to write a lot more under this section in the months to come. Since my parents were here over a (kind of) long weekend, we took the opportunity to escape from Mumbai for a bit.

 

Unfortunately, half of the city had the same idea.

 

We couldn’t even get a proper hotel in Lonavla, so ended up staying at one in Pune. On Sunday morning, we went to Lonavla. After all I’ve heard about the place, I expected it to be more than it was. Honestly, other than beautiful sights (see the photos) and the most number of chikki shops in the world, I’m not sure what the attraction is. Perhaps people in Mumbai are just so starved of greenery that any respite becomes a haven.

 

We did have an adventure of getting soaked in the monsoon rain as we stood at Table Land, overlooking a beautiful sight. And while I would have loved it no matter who I was with, there was definitely a special kind of joy being with my fifty plus parents to enjoy the feeling of cold rain on a muggy day.

 

 

 

responsibility

Making kids responsible for each others’ learning —

This ties back to my post yesterday, about if the HO kids can become responsible for the LO ones and really help them, won’t we see a lot of benefit and growth? It’s food for thought; I’ll definitely spend some time thinking about this 🙂

shallow diving

It’s been two weeks. Now, much of this delay can be blamed on the busy schedule of a TFI fellow, but to be honest its more the daunting task of writing something I believe to be worthy of your time. As unique and interesting as this fellowship sounds, and as incredible and insurmountable the challenges seem, my day-to-day life is not the most exciting. To be rather honest, it’s difficult to imagine people wanting to read about it.

But yet you’re here, so I’ll begin.

Class

Class is…going. It’s overwhelming to try and fit in speaking and listening, reading fluency, reading comprehension, grammar, and writing all in the 2 hours I see them for everyday. And yet, without a holistic approach to my teaching, impact will be minimal – so I have to keep trying.

You won’t believe the number of teacher resources available. From Pinterest, to just Google searches, to TFI’s drive and website, to books and friends and everything in between. I am so excited to have so much, and also so overwhelmed. I have to figure out how best to use all this to facilitate growth and learning for my students. I finally understand why this fellowship needs to be a two-year commitment. For a lot of us, much of the first few months is spent simply figuring out how to teach. And despite a five-week-long training, nothing can substitute for running things yourself (or even with your co-fellows) in your school.

As I’d mentioned last time, the majority of my time is spent working with the struggling learners in our class. One of the reasons I love teaching is that you can visibly see the students learn and grow before your eyes. In the past two weeks, one of our quietest and most shy students has started actively participating in class. Much of this progress can be attributed to the smaller classroom size and the confidence lent to her surrounded by peers on a similar learning level.

Which brings me to my next point…

Theory of Separation

 Our students are separated into three groups of higher order, middle order, and learning order based on knowledge and learning levels. Most of classic teacher theory would be insistently against this, as it is necessarily increasing rather than bridging the achievement gap – and that is fundamentally against TFI’s vision. When I entered my school, I knew this separation was wrong and had to go.

Now, I’m not sure. I can see the benefits of the class we have here, and I’m not sure what would be best solution for all the students.

 The small LO classroom enables the children not only to receive more individual attention and grow faster, but also to become more confident and volunteer answers during class. On the other hand, in a heterogeneous environment, they would constantly be surrounded by peers who could help push them and pull them up. They could certainly grow faster with someone next to them who could help them all the time.

But then again, wouldn’t this be pulling down the HO kids? My co-fellows, who know these kids much better than I do at this point, certainly believe that is what has happened in the past couple of years in heterogeneous classrooms. While it may “bridge” the achievement gap more than the current set-up of homogeneous classrooms, would that bridging occur at the expense of the HO kids? Even if we invested extra time with them outside of school, would that make up for the instructional time effectively “lost” with them during school because the content was too easy/slow for them?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’ll certainly continue talking to other fellows and reading. And of course, I’ll share my thoughts when I do solidify them a little more.

Warm and Strict

Besides school routines, with children there are always moments of frustration. Why can’t they just listen? There are moments of anxiety. Are they telling the truth? What is the best way of responding to this situation so that they learn their lesson but don’t feel too bad? Basically, I don’t want to be too strict, but I cannot afford to be too lenient either. What is the balanced response?

Honestly, the right answer depends on you as a person and on the student in question. You have to understand the student to know what to do. I’m learning slowly…I’ve understood that if Harshal wants to go to the bathroom, he’s probably just restless; whereas if it’s Sania, she should be allowed to go. Still, this is a continuous process and something I struggle to get right on a daily basis – along with a few hundred other things! 

Life Outside

Crawford Market

Outside school, life is never boring. When I’m not lesson planning, making charts (our house will soon resemble a craft store!), or still moving in and setting up the house, I do find some time to explore Mumbai and spend time with people. I plan to write separately about all the food I’ve had a chance to taste here. But for those who are thinking this life sounds depressing, it isn’t without its perks. I managed to go for a movie with my co-fellows, a play at the NCPA with my roommates, and dinner/drinks with a few other friends during the school week. I also discovered Naturals ice-cream this week, which is seriously the most delicious!

Finally, I had a chance to see Crawford Market and bargain through the streets there last weekend. Although it was super-cool and historic, I do have to say…it doesn’t hold a candle to the street markets in Delhi.

Crawford Market 1 I’ve been travelling by all modes of transportation, from walking, local busses and trains, autos, taxis, and friends’ cars. There’s a lot to learn still about using local transport, but hopping onto a moving local train on Saturday did make me feel more like I may eventually belong. It’s always the little things 🙂

 

 

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.

 

nerves

I’m in Mumbai.

Tomorrow, I go to Pune to begin the mandatory 5-week-long training called Institute. I’m excited…and nervous.

On the flight over, as the distance between grew between me and home, so did my nervousness. After four years of being constantly surrounded by friends – amongst the best friends I’ll have through life, I’m sure – it feels strange to leave behind everything I know and come back to India. Strange, and lonely. I hope the business of Institute leaves me little time to think about loneliness, and by the time I have a moment to ponder on it, I hope that rather depressing feeling has diminished. Because, to be honest, I’m not good at being alone.

In any case, I’m looking forward to training! While mentally I’ve been making this transition for a few months already, my journey as a TFI fellow officially begins tomorrow.