Tag Archives: school

new paths

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well, it’s been a long two months (sorry) since my last post. there was a major hubbub about the global conference where the core staff of CH came together in bangalore this year, visited the school, and spent time in the city brainstorming to constantly improve the organization itself.

on a personal note, i am now officially past exciting birthdays in my life. i am now 25 years old [which is so strange to write]. in many ways i don’t feel much different from when i turned, say, eighteen, but if i look back analytically, SO many things have changed. though i [think] i am the same person in general, i have a slightly more clear sense of direction of where i am going and as much as my 18-year-old self would have resisted and to some extent resented it, i’ve found that my passion truly does lie in education.

this experience has given me so much insight into what education means. i find it funny that the education i received in the US was so generic in terms of content. i know that no matter which of the 50 states i was brought up in, by the end of the 12th grade i would have received the same general knowledge as in any state. the contrast of india is insurmountable. for one, if you want a good education here, you are generally going to pay through the nose for a half-way decent school atmosphere with teachers that lecture while students take notes. for the average fee-paying school, students are expected to do most of the learning themselves and parents often become the tutors. of course the school i’m in has to go beyond that given that the majority of the parents cannot read and write [in any of the 3-4 languages they speak]. also, the variety of kinds of schools in this place is incredible, nearly every caste, creed or language group can find a school that suits their economic and cultural background (though the curriculum may not always be the best). the fact that CHI incorporates such a variety of people really makes this place something different. i do love where i am working, but most of all, i’m realizing just how close of a community this school really is.

today was the last day for the 12th grade students who will start their final exams at the end of the week. for India, a central board conducts exams, in a similar format to the SAT or ACT, except that answers are generally all handwritten. regardless, the last day for these students was very similar to what i remember of the end of my own high school career. i got the chance to speak with a few students about their experiences and i just realized how universal that feeling of being part of a group truly is. for students of CHI that is even more pronounced as the majority of the 12th graders have been in the same school with the same classmates since kindergarten! given that the graduating class is only about 70 students, these have truly become like family for each other and understand where their classmates are coming from. that next step of moving out into the “real world” will be quite a step for them. some have big plans for becoming lawyers or engineers, others will be getting jobs in some form or another, but for them, like any 18 year-old, separating from that comfortable group is a bit of a scary thing. it was refreshing today to see them preparing themselves not to see the same familiar faces every day. for them, CHI has become that one space in their worlds where they can dare to dream, if you will. now they have to go make those dreams realities…

i wish them all the best and thank them [though they’ll probably never know] for reminding me what it was like to be 18 and have the world at your feet like an ocean, but be afraid to jump for fear of scattering those precious, familiar ties. i know some of them will do great things, and all will certainly be able to make independent lives for themselves.

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well… happy new year!

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…a late one that is… (clearly i’m not disciplined enough for this whole professional-blogger thing, sigh.)

celebrating the holiday season in India was certainly not the same as being in the U.S. yes, people (in Bangalore at least) do celebrate Christmas in India. but no, it’s not the same without snow, real christmas trees throwing needles all over the place, cold weather, crowded malls, hot chocolate, or eggnog. my loving family members replaced some of this by sending nice cards, christmas decorations, hot chocolate mixes, and nice smelling christmas candles to brighten up my room. the person i’m staying with did decorate for christmas and it looked fairly festive inside the house (christmas tree, stockings, stars), but it wasn’t the same without cold weather. it genuinely didn’t feel like Christmas time here because, though a ‘bangalorean’ will argue, the seasons barely change here, at least through the eyes of a midwestern girl who is used to seeing all 4 distinct seasons; hot, sticky summer to bone-chilling winter. it is certainly cooler in the month of december here, even getting down around 50 (F) at night, but it still gets up to nearly 80 (F) in the daytime and the sun can be unbearable as we are elevated a bit here and therefore closer to the sun.

though the holidays were exciting, december was a bit of a month of falling into routines. the nice thing that has finally happened for me at school is that things have suddenly become organized and started running fairly smoothly (as smoothly as is possible for a special educator). one might think this all would have happened earlier as I’ve now been here 4+ months, but as is proven to me every day, establishing norms and routines in a special education classroom that has a huge variety of needs to address, not to mention the logistics of scheduling students’ classes, meetings with teachers, and time to organize and sort through paperwork, is a never-ending test in time-management and organization. the fact that we are in India certainly doesn’t aid in any of the routines we are trying to establish. though as we recently added 1.5 new teachers (1 part-time, 1 full-time) to our room, the workload has been more evenly distributed and now there are more brains there for our regular brainstorming sessions.

here’s the christmas season in short;

  • school: the month of december brings exam time. first something called the Asset which is supposed to assess where the kids stand in the curriculum and compare to other schools. unfortunately there seems to only be a loose connection between the actual curriculum and that which the test is based on. but that’s the story of any teacher at home as well (think ISTEP here). the last week in december brought regular term exams, which means those of us in the LSC, had to create our own individualized exams for our kiddos. luckily a chunk of them will be moving back to regular grade level work in January and therefore will be able to take the regular monthly exams their classmates take (if all goes as planned). also, we got the chance to have a little end of term celebration which was almost entirely organized by LSC students themselves. gave me that little taste of Christmas enjoyment that kids at home have… except that here Santa is referred to as “that Christmas thata” (thata= old man in Kannada).
  • home: on christmas eve, the family i stay with invited all of the people who work in the building (watchmen, maids, cooks, etc.) to bring their families for a nice Christmas lunch. it was really wonderful to meet the families of the people who i see every day, and great to see them being served food for once. everyone crowded into the apartment downstairs and ate on the floor the traditional indian way; on mats, eating with hands. it was a really great way to kick off Christmas! otherwise, i had a fairly quiet Christmas day and spent the evening Skyping with family members. we spent new years in and had a few friends over to celebrate and eat awesome food!
  • outings: of course i couldn’t sit around the house for a whole week, so NC and i did go on a few outings. the highlight, i would say, was spending a couple of days visiting the hostel. we went once on Christmas Eve and saw all the decorations, then got to accompany the group to Bannerghatta National Park (the zoo of Bangalore). otherwise, we met a few friends for dinner and tried to relax and put work out of our minds for the week.

the start of January has brought excitement for the quickly approaching CH Global Conference which is being held in Bangalore this year. the school is getting all prepared with performances and committee plans to make the visit a good one for all of our international colleagues and for Christel Ma’am herself (as children so lovingly call her). i’m excited to see the various staff from around the world and to get the chance to see some familiar Indianapolis residents.

hope everyone is well and that the new year has brought new beginnings and a fresh start for all of you, many happy wishes for health and happiness!

vanakkam!
namaskara!
assalamu alaikum!
Sarah

now for 1,000 words on October…

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oops 🙂

obviously i seem to have been neglecting my blog and as one might expect in India, quite a bit has happened since september!

here is a quick run-through of all i’ve been up to in the past month and a half:

  • the first week of October was spent on the South Indian holiday of Dhasara. since we had an entire week to ourselves, NC and i decided to spend a couple of days in Pondicherry. Pondy was originally a French port and the small area near the ocean is very reminiscent of a small european town. many people even still speak French here. though, as is most of india, Pondy was most definitely HOT. though we got some relief from the heat by visiting the home of an acquaintance which was right on the beach and very peaceful with a nice sea-breeze. sitting on the beach and putting my feet in the water was one of the most relaxing things i’ve done in a while. i definitely wish i could have stayed there a bit longer, but we came back on a friday to greet a friend of NC who was just starting a tour of india. it was nice for us to show someone else around for a while, made me realize how much i’ve learned about where i am and how to navigate the city.
  • after a week back to the grind of school, we spent a nice weekend socializing with some school colleagues and visiting homes of some of our students. its a truly unique and enjoyable experience to be welcomed into an indian home, and most of the time they cannot wait to stuff you full of biryani, or chicken curry, or kebabs, or just rassam and rice. and obviously something is wrong with you if you deny a second helping, literally they will pile your plate again and say you don’t like the food if it’s not sparkling clean by the end. we also got the amazing experience of going to our first official indian festival. though a little late for Dhasara itself, we went with a colleague to the place where he has lived his entire life in Bangalore for the most unique experience i think i’ve had yet. we didn’t even arrive at the thing until 11pm and apparently it was “just starting.” I can only liken it to a stationary parade with “floats” built and funded by family and neighbor groups. each with a special seat for a hindu deity statue. apparently at some point in the night the floats actually make a trip around the central blocks of the area… but we were there until 4am and saw no movement. YES i was out on an indian street, at a festival, until 4AM!! the strangest part was the families with small children were also out enjoying festivities, shops were open selling snacks and chai, and large drum groups were egging on festivities and copious amounts of dancing. it was beyond incredible, to say the least.
  • the second half of October was slightly less exciting except that we had two working SATURDAYS in a row which was painful to say the least and one thing i don’t appreciate about indian work culture (working a couple saturdays in a month is standard for most jobs).
  • Diwali, however was a bit of excitement in that final week of the month. being the Hindu “festival of lights,” Diwali involves copious amounts of oil lamps, candles, and especially fireworks (aka “crackers”). in the way people celebrate, the holiday is similar to an American Christmas celebration in that it involves getting together with close family and friends. Hindus perform special poojas (prayer ceremonies) on this day, burning oil lamps to invite the goddess Lakshmi inside the house, and bursting crackers to frighten evil spirits away from the home. i got to spend this lovely holiday with a small group of friends in the home of a Gujarati couple (Gujarat is a state in western india). the evening was definitely enjoyable and almost made up for my missing the 4th of July at home, though there weren’t any large gatherings for professional fireworks displays. we had a very nice “savory and sweet” meal and enjoyed watching everyone set off extremely loud and bright crackers on the street.
  • unfortunately diwali was followed by yet another working saturday and utter disorientation as to what day it actually was (we had 3 days off for diwali, then 2 working days, then 1 sunday) especially since the following week we had tuesday off for the celebration of Karnataka’s statehood.
  • throughout all of these weeks, NC and i have started spending sundays at a boy’s hostel where about 10 CHI students stay. the hostel is very near to CHI itself and about a 20 minute walk. we have also been commissioned by the Father there to help a few of the older boys (who do not attend CHI) with improving their English. the time we spend at this place is like nothing else i’ve experienced in india. for one, the place is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, with a small, rambling, mile-long dirt road, for which “pot-holed” is not nearly an accurate descriptor. the hostel itself is a fairly large 4-story building that has the beginnings of a school within its walls. thus far, the school only extends to the 3rd grade, hence older boys go to CHI or other nearby schools or PUCs for the older ones (in India, Pre-University College is the format for the 11th and 12th grades). i’ve found that the utter peacefulness that exists at the hostel is an extremely welcome break from the chaos of the city. also, there is a certain amount of simplicity of life there that makes it a breath of fresh air. the boys all have daily jobs/chores and there is a fairly regular schedule followed which daily includes recreation (usually football [soccer for my american friends], sometimes cricket). though it’s not perfect, as nothing is, the work that the Father does here is nothing less than highly admirable. the boys that stay there come for a wide variety of reasons; many are from small villages and were looking for better education, some want to become priests, others come from homes that simply cannot support them in some way. whatever the reason they are there, most of them refer to one another as ‘brothers’ and treat each other as such. the family camaraderie is what makes it so enjoyable to visit and to see some of the students outside of the school atmosphere.
  • most recently, this past week the school celebrated Children’s Day with a “special assembly” put on by the teachers. yes, i participated in a short indian dance with some of the other teachers. the program was enjoyable, though i did feel bad for the students as they pitifully wilted in the hot sun for nearly 2 hours, but i believe it was successful none-the-less, and i discovered just how musically and theatrically talented some of my colleagues actually are.

as you can see, the month of october was a banner month for indian culture and experiences. i have immensely enjoyed most everything. not to say i haven’t had my bouts with homesickness, but keeping myself busy has gone a long way in keeping my sanity. i have friends and especially NC to thank for keeping me centered and focused on why i’m here… CHI and the kids. that’s why i came back and why i can keep myself balanced. i love what i’m doing and am rewarded everyday with the relationships and academic successes i see in my students. more on all this later, hopefully you all can feel updated now.

thanks for reading 🙂

Sarah

import: quick update

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Dear friends, family, and strangers,

Here is an update of the things I did for the past few weeks, I’ll leave this as my update and try to keep up for the next couple weeks.

3rd week I was here I went to a region called Coorg. This is a rainforest region that is covered in coffee plantations. I stayed at a really cool place called the Rainforest Retreat, which is an all-organic and environmentally friendly plantation. Unfortunately my first day there was spent recovering from the long, extremely bumpy bus ride and a stomach issue from the previous night’s dinner. It did turn out to be a very nice place to recover though. The second day I was there I was really able to enjoy the scenery and go on a couple of hikes as well as explore the plantation itself (including having to quickly pull two leeches off my ankles, eeekkk!). It was all beautiful and I will post pictures soon 🙂

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import: this is where i work…

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