Another week has passed. Something has happened that I really wasn’t expecting – it has taken me by surprise. All my thoughts are consumed by it…I am giddy…I walk around with a big smile on my face when I talk about it…I am elated. I have been swept off my feet! No, not by some wonderful, sexy man; but by my students at my volunteer placement.
Photo: My class of young kids on their last day!
This week I have become attached to my students. I enjoy teaching these kids more than I ever thought I would. I have the desire to work my ass off for them. My attachment to the older kids grows every night as I’m up until 1AM correctling papers and reviewing their homework and trying to come up with new exercises and topics to really challenge and excite them. Here’s the real surprise – I feel like I’m making a difference every day I work with these kids. Before I came to India, I talked to many volunteer ‘alumni’ about their experience here and if they felt like they made a difference. The overwhelming answer to that question was always met with hesitation – normally following by a “Yes, but…it’s a difference in a very small way. You may not feel like you’ve really had an impact – but you just have to know and believe that just be being there you have made an impact.” Based on this consistent feedback which I heard from everyone, I came here trying to set my expectations appropriately and told myself that I wouldn’t expect to change the world or be able to make a big impact, I would simply do my work, and know that being here was better than not being here.
Photo: Preeti, holding up her final assignment!
Yet only 2 weeks into my 4 week placement, I already feel like I’ve had an impact. With my younger group of beginning students – they can use a mouse, type in MS Word, tell me their name, age, and how they are doing – all in English – with various degrees of prompting. Sure – there is a cynical part of me that is a bit concerned that I’ve just armed these kids to go out and be more effective beggars with some English skills. Will they now go to cars and bang on the window speaking to the passengers in clever English asking for money? I try not to think about that. The young kids had their last day today and we spent the time working on a final computer project, making bracelets, eating candy bars, playing vocabulary games, and taking photos. I was sad to see them go – yet I had only been with them for a little over a week. I wonder what their lives will hold.
Then there’s my older kids that I teach in the afternoon. I’ve become fully engrossed in teaching the older kids. The reason why is simple – they really, really want to learn. They know that their time they spend at the Habitat Learning Center is their shot….it may be their only shot. In India, education is king. It can be the difference between barely living on 2 meals a day and be able to support your family and provide a home. As I work with these kids I have learned more and more about them. They come from poor backgrounds and for some reason or another, they started in school, but had to drop out due to family reasons and/or money. However, they were chosen, plucked from their spiraling situations and given a second chance. They had to prove themselves first within their local community NGO – but they eventually were asked to come study at Habitat Learning Center where they could learn computer skills, English, and be tutored in science and math. Therefore, as I stand before them trying my best to explain when to use the article ‘a’ and when to use the article ‘the’, their attention is focused on my every word. I give them homework, and lots of it – but they actually do it. Everyday I have a few more kids show up in class, which is a great feeling.
Photo: Final day of class!
Besides the Grammar and reading comprehension – I’m making them practice their speaking…which they hate me for. I make them get up and read in front of the class in English. I give them newspaper clippings in English to read and then present. As for the computers – I have taught them how to evaluate a website and it’s usability. Prior to me arriving they all learned a little HTML through Dreamweaver – so I thought the next logical step was to teach them design…plus – I don’t know HTML…so I really couldn’t help in that department! This week we also went over how to do effective searching on the internet and explained what a search engine was. It was a great way to introduce some new grammar too…such as the verb ‘google’ and the concept of AND, OR, AND NOT statements…who knew that Google could be so educational!
I am busy working on more topics and grammar studies – and I’m excited to spend the remaining two weeks with them. Just seeing them every day makes me happy!
As for the rest of my life in India…well, there hasn’t been much time for anything else this week except preparing for teaching and teaching. I am going to Agra this weekend to see the Taj Mahal – that should be a photographic adventure!
One last thing to share – I had a dream last night that I arrived back at home. The dream was pretty fuzzy, as dreams go. I was back at my apartment looking around at all of my stuff, and I was also back in a work setting looking around at my surroundings. I had an overwhelming feeling of disinterest in everything. One of my friends came to visit me in my apartment and welcome me back and I said, that I was only going to stay for a month of so and then leave again as there was nothing here for me any longer. The dream was certainly unsettling as I woke up and thought about it for quite some time. The people I have met during my travels often ask me if anything ever scares me while I’m traveling…my reply is normally – “no, nothing much.” Yet apparently my sleeping psyche knows exactly what scares me most.
Photo: The complete class of the young kids and me on their final day!