CR Intern Colin Powers is working in India for the next two months.
It’s the second Sunday of my second stay here at SAMSSS and the first one I’ve successfully not succumbed to my jet lag and slept the better part of it away (that’s a lot of ‘s’, I know). I’ve now completed a full week of teaching at St. Mary’s and I can say that sleeping is definitely not far out of question. My notions of what it would be like to teach to a classroom of forty children were virtually all off, besides that I’d be a nervous wreck on the first day and that there would be lots of sweating and gesturing taboot. There is much of that. It has been no easy task to filter my ideas and abstractions for teaching written English through the scope of a kid who is just beginning to piece the language together for themselves, doesn’t read storybooks, poems or even comics on a regular basis, and whose only real interactions with the language (for the most part) happen on the blackboard, through recitation and memorization. Or James Bond.
‘Intimidated’ is probably the best word I could summon to describe my gut on Tuesday morning, when I was plopped down in front of my first class of squirming, giggling eighth standard kids. Maybe ‘shaken, not stirred’, if you will. But things change quickly once you figure out that all their nervous curiosity and unknowing rubs off easily onto yourself, and becomes an inclination to learn and create.
On Wednesday I showed my VIII-B class how to write acrostic poems. Remember when you got a new notebook in elementary school and on the cover you had to come up with words that describe yourself using each letter of your name? That’s an acrostic. The class came alive. I let the kids fly as they shouted suggestions at me from their seats, and I would copy down their silly creations onto the blackboard. After one or two more periods of this for each class I began to show them that you could form real sentences out of these poems, and eventually I’d like to see them crafting little stories from simple brainstorming exercises like this. Obviously it will take time, but I’ve already witnessed a few kids writing acrostics independently, apart from my examples and prompts on the board.
Saturday I read from Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a book Betsy had sitting in her room from a book fair in Pondy. Though it may still be slightly above their comprehension levels, it was fun to map parts of the plot out on the board as a visual appetizer to the more difficult vocabulary and concepts. Weekend class is a torturous notion in itself so I deem drawing a few chalk dragons a welcome stress reliever. Still, even when I read to them there is eagerness shooting off in all directions, which helps me worry less about my job and focus more on the excitement they show for the language.
Apart from my school days at St. Mary’s, I’ve been settling in on my return to Vikravandi. Things are generally as they were when I left. SAMSSS has a new exterior paint job, and there are two new puppies that frequent the dining room, but besides that it is mostly unchanged. Such is rural life. Such is paradise.
Every afternoon during the school week, Betsy, Agni and I make our rounds to the CR after school care centers at neighboring villages to test the youngsters on their letters and alphabets. Each time I get to relive the experience of the ongoing roadside carnival that is daily life here. It’s difficult not to want to project yourself onto every little wrong you see. Not all can be fixed. Many of the subtleties of the culture here can be jagged or unsettling but better left out in the sun to grow as they may. Faith almost seems a more relevant part of my day here than at home. I think the important thing is to remain open and keep barreling forward, sounding your goofy saxophone-esque car horn all the way to let everyone know you’re ready to surrender to the overwhelming color of it all.