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Doors, Space, Lights, and Resources by Jasmin Valladares

August 30, 2015

Three of Molotov’s lyrics from one of their songs continually came to mind during my rides on the rickshaw to school during my two weeks in India.

Now why don’t you look down

To where your feet is planted

That U.S soil that makes you take s*** for granted

Going into a school that was considered one of the better schools among the schools my cohort were attending opened my eyes and reminded me that in America it is simple to lose touch of the many resources we have available and take for granted.

I remember the first day taking the rickshaw to the school site.  It was the longest ride to school because our rickshaw driver had to stop many times to get directions to our school site.  Once we got there, we were greeted with students posted on the stairway with a good morning and big smiles.  We were directed to a teacher’s classroom.  To my surprise, as we were directed to the classroom, I began to notice classrooms with no doors.  We walked down a narrow hall with a classroom on the left, a wall that separated three other classrooms, and then at the end of the hall there was our classroom.  The school day began with the students saying prayers and the school pledge.  Once they finished one of the Didis we would be working with greeted us.  We introduced ourselves and told her that today we would observe and take notes.

At first it was hard for me to focus on the teacher and her teaching methods because I was distracted with the voices coming from the other rooms.  I realized then how much I appreciated having doors in my classroom.  Once I got myself to focus on the teacher I saw how the kids were eager to learn, but were missing some order in the classroom.  It was not that they wanted to be disruptive, but more they were excited and eager to learn.  During one of the language sessions, we were able to talk to the teacher.  Our Didi was welcoming and open to all our feedback.  However, we then also discussed that maybe we could stretch ourselves out so that we could help out some other Didis; making it less awkward having 3 people observe and jump in for 1 Didi.  Immediately, I was introduced to the Didi I would be working with the next two weeks.

Day 2 of our school visit I came to not only appreciate doors, but also appreciated electricity, desks, chairs, and classroom space.  I was in awe of how the Didi I was observing had her class under control and more in awe how the students were focused on her every word, despite the loud noise coming from the other room.  Not to mention that they were not letting the limited sunlight, space, and heat of the day interrupt their learning.  The classrooms were small and packed with at least 28 kids.  These kids sat 2-3 on a bench and bumped into each other as they adjusted themselves to copy the work the teacher was writing on the board.  My mind immediately flashbacked to my teachers lounge back in Chicago that countless of times had double copied stacks of paper left and how many trees went to waste because there were teachers who had taken their copying privilege for granted.  I began to ask what happens on days that it is not as sunny, where are the lights? Within those two weeks I realized that the school rations their electricity and turn it off for a few hours.  Now their electricity serves more as what powers the fan to help combat the heat of the day.  There were not lights in the classrooms.

Despite the lack of resources it amazed me how determined the Didis were to continue with their lessons.  It was not strange to have their lesson interrupted by another student from another class who asked to borrow a marker re-filler or a marker to write on the board with.  They provided the needed item and continued with their lesson.  The Didi I worked with stated that she had looped with her kids and knew them all pretty well.  When I asked her how she could focus with the lack of resource and all the other commotion going on in the hall across, she simply stated you tend to ignore it after a bit. She did state that she tries to keep her students engaged and focused to keep them busy on the lesson and not get distracted with the commotion outside their room. (This I found was difficult when the language teacher did not show up in the classroom across the hall-and by hall I mean about 5 steps away-and the students decided it was chatting time.)  She however did her best to keep her class on task, she did have to step out twice to tell the other class to bring their voices down because her kids were trying to get through a lesson, but amid it all, she powered through her lesson.  I also found out that they have one prep period during one of the language sessions, but during the other language session, they had to report to a higher grade and teach those students a specific subject.  I was even more impressed with her!  I mean as a teacher it is hard enough providing lessons that meet the high, mid, and low students’ levels, but then to have to change gears to teach a much higher grade of students that same day would be hectic.  What was even more amazing was that when she spoke of her duty, she was proud and happy about it.  She stated that if she could help out students even if through one lesson, they it was a small sacrifice on her end.  She figures it is another meaningful lesson that she can provide to another set of students, who may not received it if she was not teaching. She then also added how Saturday classes were also mandatory.  I found myself asking dumbfounded Saturday?  Saturday is like the one day of sanity and relaxation for teachers in America.  They day after the 5 day week, and before the prep-day Sunday!  I found myself wondering would I be able to cut it as a teacher in India. I was able to see how some of the teachers in that school truly exemplified an example of an amazing teacher.  They did not look at the lack of things, but sought to give their best to better their students.

I realized that as an American teacher I had taken small things for granted.  I came to appreciate the “silly things” that a teacher doesn’t normally think of such as having light in the classroom, doors in the classroom, access to make copies and the many resources we have at the tip of our fingers.  I do know that I will take the India experience, well more so, the eagerness I saw in the Didis that did not complain, but rather learned to work with the resources they had to give the best education they could to these students.  I would like to say that the trip to India helped me remember why I decided to go into teaching and how I have these Didi’s to remind me of the reason providing great education is necessary.  It served to remind myself to embrace the struggles, look for the positive, and appreciate the blessings that I at times tend to overlook.

Jasmin 1

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