Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
First let me talk about a couple of people encounters we've had. They have confirmed my thoughts, people are the same everywhere... wait a minute, does this make any sense?! Let me explain, maybe it will then. I start from the end... On our return from Aurangabad, we were on the 12 Midnight bus, which came an hour and a half late!! That's India for you. Be flexible :-) When after 9 hours of a difficult bus ride we are in Indore, I am asking the men on the bus -driver and assistant- where is our stop, they just kept on laughing at me, and the fact that I did not speak Hindi. The more I asked in English, explaining that I did not speak Hindi, the more they laughed and continued speaking Hindi! I practically had tears coming to my eyes and had all the horrible thoughts for Indians at that moment. In the midst of all that, our cell phone rings, Kahlil answers, and it was the driver who took us around yesterday in Ellora, who was checking up on us to know if we had arrived safely back home!! Now this man had no obligation to do that, but out of the goodness of his heart he did this kind gesture! Now do you get it? People are the same everywhere. You find great kindness as well as jerks everywhere. If we could remember that always, we would be so much happier! So I had to come half way across the globe to learn this simple lesson! A recurring question "which system do you think is best?" Over and over I respond, "I don't think one is better that the other, they are just very different!" Driving... people say, if you drive in India, you can drive anywhere. I say, if you can drive in India, you can adapt easier to the driving system anywhere, but as Kahlil said this afternoon, after getting a few driving violations!! We're under a red light, 2 PM this afternoon, a zillion bikes, two-wheelers, rickshaws, cars... 13 seconds left of the red light. I swear to you folks, one biker decided he had waited long enough, drove off, and the whole crowd under that light just started moving, as if it was a full stop instead of a traffic light!! Someone, who shall remain nameless, very dear to my heart was banned from ever getting a license in the State of New York, for doing just that while taking her driving test!!
Open House last Saturday. An interesting experience. More or less what one would expect. All teachers were there to greet the parents, all the parents of the best students in your class were there. Those you wish you would get to say a few words to :-( were not there! All the parents were there with their child, so there was no awkward moments! One child has a straight "A" report card, in Bio and Physics she has "A+" and in Chemistry just an "A" :-(, Mom wanted to know what the child can do to improve her grade!! My response? "Hu! Hu!"
As planned, we left almost right after Open House on our trip to visit the Caves of Ajanta and Ellora. Whoa! What an experience!
Pictures of the Caves of Ajanta:
Some of the caves were actually built from top down! Can you believe this?! India really has some architecture that is breathtaking. I am certainly enjoying this side of the experience. The caves of Ajanta, I was familiar with them from having received one of those emails from a friend with a PowerPoint presentation about the Caves. That was breathtaking, I thought, but not real. Well, to my surprise this past week-end I realized, the caves are exactly like in the pictures! A majesty about them that is indescribable! Yes you can see the pictures and see the beauty, but walking in the caves, the darkness, and imagining those men so long ago, building these magnificent statues, the paintings in he Ajanta caves, how did they do it? Why did they do it? I know, a place of worship... but why this grandiosity? How did they do it? who did it? I tell you, really impressive! This coming week we are in for another treat! Boris is convinced I have come to India under false pretense! Supposedly to teach but really to travel!! What can I say, if they have all these festivities around this time of the year!! anyway, we are off to visit three cities, Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. This is a school organized tour and we will be going with another teacher and some students. Looking forward to this!
Teaching wise -see, Boris, I do that too!!!- I am more and more understanding the system. Through my own experience and through talking with other teachers. I don't find it challenging at all. It is too much rot memory. The students, who are paying attention, are doing so by taking down what you are saying words for words. I stop from time to time to ask: Any questions? No they don't have any, just finish dictating the notes so they can copy it down and be done with it. Rarely do you get a word from the students about what you are telling them. Maybe, "can you repeat what you just said?" I can't do it that way. I need a dialogue. I need feedback, questions, comments. Don't get me wrong, they are wonderful children, and I enjoy my interactions with them outside of class. It's just professionally, I am not challenged at all. My only concerns here are, Am I saying it the way they need to have it? Am I teaching the right stuff? Am I going deep enough? Too deep, I don't have to worry. If it's in the book, they have to know it! How do the teachers do it? Year in Year out? One teacher said, "That's all we know. I was raised in it, and so I teach what I was taught." He agrees something is wrong, like all the others, but they say like I do, It works for them, so why not? I really want to poke a little deeper and get some more info about who does it work for? All the students, or just some? What happens after high school? after college?
OK, so this is going to be my time of questioning, these 5 months in India! Hopefully I'll have a few answers before I leave!
...and I haven't mentioned the cast system, yet! I didn't even realize, it still existed, stupid me!! I can't reconcile the idea of one of the greatest democracy in the world, to have such a patented (!) system of labeling and classifying people. Boris made a comment earlier about an earlier Post, where I was talking about what I pay the lady who helps us with the upkeep of the apartment. He reminded me that the two twins who worked for mother all these years back, had in turn maids of their own! So he said they did manage to live with that salary. I corrected him and said they did not "live" with that salary, not if living is like Walt Whitman described it "To live free and..." This is surviving. These tarp covers that house so many, we can fool ourselves and say they are happy there, but that can't be! Anyway, I don't get it at all, so let me not say a word until I've learned more.
India is Incredible! This is the saying here!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
So back to my movie! The whole movie was filmed in the Mont St Michel, in Normandie, France. A long conversation between a physicist, Liv Ullman, an American presidential candidate who just lost the election (the lawyer in one of those law shows, L.A. Law, I think?! very good) and an American poet, friend of the American politicien. Their conversation was about the position of humankind in the universe, sort of. Well my walk this morning took me to my position in this world, in this place right now. How am I going to be affected by this experience? What is going to be my biggest lesson? Does a big lesson have to be learned?
Things that I know:
- I will be more appreciative of our students back home, realizing that they are just like every body else. They learn, they are lazy, they joke, they question, they are rude, they are polite, some show they care, some don't, they like shopping, they like going to the movies, they think "Twilight" was the best book ever written... JUST LIKE THE STUDENTS HERE!! I love teaching because I love the interaction with the kids. I think I had lost that perspective a bit. Some of you know this story, but let me say it for those who don't. We had just finished the unit on Reproduction, and as usual I end with the National Geographic film "The Human Body" (Carole, Joanne, was that the name?! ...told you my problem, right?!) The film follows the birth of a baby from conception to actual birth. Magnificent! At the end of the movie, they show the labor pains of the woman and the actual coming out of the baby. Well, a young man, with all the stereotypical characteristics of a "hoodlum" very quietly says to himself: "I am going to give my mom a hug when I get home"! And he actually thanked me for showing them this movie. One of those moments are worth a 1000 pats on the back!
- What can I bring the students here? An outside perspective. In studying electroplating last week with the 8th graders, last week, I told them about the American penny that used to be made of 100% copper but since 1982, we went into the war issues, copper becoming more precious now it is made of zinc inside and a thin layer of copper electroplated on the outside. Today I had to substitute for a bio teacher. The class was wild in the beginning. Double whammy for them, a substitute AND the foreign teacher! When finally I could get a word in, upon learning that they were studying migration, I told them about the turtles that lay their eggs in Key Biscayne and go off to West coast of Africa and come back to assist their baby hatching. There was suddenly silence in the room. You mean they cross the ocean? We talked about "Flying Home" and the ultralights. That was it, I had them! I worry about their sacrosanct exams! Not with the substitution class, but with my regular class. They have a very prescribed curriculum which must be known and regurgitated as is! So will it matter that they know about our copper penny? The way I see it, it's a "stretching exercise" for the mind, applying something they know to a new model. It is good practice for learning, no?!
In conclusion, I miss home, I miss coffee in the morning with Pantal, I miss hopping in my car for an errand, I miss Sunday soup at Elsie, then "les Danie's" visit. I miss fights with Sole, and then long talks :-) Friday movie nights with Boris and Danielle (see, they don't have a TV at their house!) or by myself. I miss relaxing moments with my colleagues in the hallway between classes at CRHS. Long phone conversations with Pascale. Being able to call on Nael for anything I need! Antoine's cameo visits, once in a blue moon. My iPhone! Bike riding to school. OK, let me stop before I need another Pizza Hut dinner!
The list might seem long, but I have to admit, I am committed to my time here. I love being here, I love teaching, I appreciate my colleagues here, I am baffled by India, I want to absorb it all. I want to understand, if only slightly! I am learning. I am happy. :-)
Friday, September 11, 2009
This is so unfair to the American student! I am sure if Mrs. Badhwar said she had experienced this horrible behavior in her classroom in Miami, we would all have said, yes, we understand. We actually expected it! But I find myself totally flabbergasted by this experience with the Indian students! Well, it's good to know, kids are kids everywhere! :-)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Today educational movie after morning assembly. It was about the kids or Slumdogs of India. The movie was there again. But this time Bollywood was not involved. It was the real thing. Heart wrenching! The strange thing is as they tell their stories, as you see them going over these piles of garbage, looking for what?! they seem matter of fact. Their smile is genuine. They hug each other, they push each other around to have their beautiful faces in the camera, they play around, you really feel not for the camera's sake but because that's what kids do. Did I see this in their eyes so I can feel better and go about my business as usual?! I don't know folk, but these kids were genuine. They were just telling their story not to make us feel pity for them, just to tell it. "I wake up at 3 AM to get to the garbage dump early." "This water is contaminated, so we don't drink it, we just wash in it." :-/ We're talking sewage water, folks! we're talking young kids, starting at it seems 5 years old. One had a wish to become a policeman. They said they had to bribe the garbage controller sometimes so they would be allowed to go through the garbage. What are they looking for? My question is still out there! The bag they collected looked to me to hold just garbage! The poverty issue is one that I will never come to grip with. I know it is not an India problem, it is a world problem. I am very familiar with it in Haiti. But somehow because the population is so great here, it seems to be multiplied a hundredfold!! To solve it would require an amount of good will on the part of humankind that we don't have yet. An hour after watching the movie was tea time, the kids went about their usual business of taking their pastry, some eating half of it and throwing it away. I tasted the cookie, didn't like it and left it. Would they be interested in bettering their situation? I am not asking the question right. What I mean is, do they feel the injustice? Is there a solution? Again that missing goodwill!
Everyone I have asked here what they had thought of "Slumdog Millionaire" said it was exagerated, not reallity at all. Well, from what I saw today, it was too soft if anything! The garbage dump. Looking for what?! The "benefactor" position, we saw at Khajuraho. All these young kids calling you to "their" store, with all the tricks - if it is not a missing eye, it was a broken leg, a missing hand, or another aproach, knowing a couple of sentences in any language to catch your attention. Then making sure the owner knew who had sent you there. The fierceness in their approach. It was all there. But just like in the movie, the impression that they are not calling for your sympathy, they are just telling their story. Remember the brother at his final moment?... "God is good."
I like India.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
The kids were incredible! One young man in my class was rather unruly at the beginning of class in my first period. (Yes, Hildegarde, they can be just like our kids State side!!) A few minutes later, he asked permission to stand, apologized to me for his behavior and wished me a Happy Teacher Day! There was one morning assembly this morning for classes 7th to 12th. The upper class students (4 of them) were sharing with the school their presentation for a competition that they have been working on, on the Carbon footprint of their community at Daly College. During tea time, they came to the tea room to apologize to the faculty for not having wished us Happy Teacher's Day before getting into their presentation. They really take this seriously, here!!
I thought I'd add a short clip of morning meditation at DC. You will only hear the students as I felt a bit shy videotaping such a special moment of their day.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
This is the start of the day at Daly College. Life here sometimes reminds me of the movie "Au Revoir, les Enfants". The old building, the feeling of "old money" everywhere, the strictness, the uniforms, the teachers so remote sometimes, the desks with the hinged covers!!! There is even a young man who could be the traitor! Beautiful face, angel like that his beauty might be considered his handicap. And he is a young servant who brings messages around. I can imagine a strange relationship going on between him and the students!! Hopefully no war will break out so he won't have to betray them by telling on them!!! :-)
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This is right outside the gates of our school! People live in there! I don't get it! I am not going to get it I think in all the times I will be here. But I sure will continue on trying to understand and make sense of it.