Sharyn – Winter 2015

Sharyn

 

Sharyn’s Journal

 

11th January 2015-01-18

 

S: We had three afternoons at the Foundation this week.

 

The first day, Wednesday, was really an introduction to the teachers and I then sat in on a couple of the classes, making my way around the building.

 

On Thursday, Alex and I met with the teachers.  For my part, I was interested in knowing whether they had any thoughts on what they would like me to do for them and experienced for the first time their hesitation about expressing that type of thing.  They wanted to know what my project would be, but I hadn’t yet fully worked that out.  I had noticed some grammar and pronunciation on Wednesday which could be improved and I asked whether they would like me to point out those things.  I impressed upon them, I hope, that I was very impressed with what I saw in the classrooms and have not come to be critical, only helpful.  It seemed they would find it most helpful to improve their pronunciation and vocabulary.

 

R: This is a positive approach.

 

S: When speaking with Veena on Wednesday, she was mentioning that space limitations made it impossible to set aside a library room where students could go, take a book and read quietly on their own.  In the meantime, I suggested that I could spend one-on-one time with students that the teachers identified could benefit from some extra reading and Veena agreed.  I mentioned this to the teachers and, particularly, for the younger ones, they did find this a good idea.

 

R:  Yes, it is.

 

S: Before I left Canada, I got in touch with the principal of a grade school to ask whether or not there might  be a class that would be interested in exchanging letters with a class here.  As it happens, there is one class that will be doing a segment on India this term and she was very enthusiastic about the idea.  I mentioned this to the teachers at Foundation and the reception was positive.  Apparently a class exchange has been done before on a one-time basis, I was rather thinking more about setting interested in students up with a pen pal, something that would continue as long as they wanted it to.

 

R: The pen pal project is really exciting!

 

S: I was also interested to know how they plan their classes, i.e. what resources they use, whether its done daily or weekly, that sort of thing and we agreed they would show Alex and I their resource materials on Friday.

 

They still have Rowan very much on their minds of course, especially her creativity – both the teachers and the students really enjoyed that.  I had the chance to look at some of the “Books of Me”, which I thought were very impressive.

 

R: How about starting the book of me with Ruksar’s class?

 

S: On Thursday, I sat in on classes and also visited the playground after first session.

 

At Friday’s teacher meeting, they showed us their resource books and discussion included carrying what is learned at one level to the next level so there is continuity.  A lot of the discussion is me learning about things for example, I been in Rahela’s class on Thursday where the children were reciting their 3 and 4 timetables.  They recited them so quickly that I was unable to actually hear the words and it left me wondering whether, in addition, to excellent memorization, they knew what 5 x 3 actually meant.

 

R: Good question!

 

S: For classes, I spent time with Geeta on reading.  There is a set of primer books, Jenny from England brought – each child got a book to read on their own and then read to either Geeta or me and we worked on reading and pronunciation.  I noticed very quickly that although they can sound out words pretty well, they don’t necessarily understand what is really going on in the story.  When I closed the book and asked one student to tell me in his own words what the story had been about, he was not able to.  I will continue to engage in discussion after the end of the story, so that students will take the time to know what the story was about and use their own words to tell it.

 

R: In Geeta’s class this is still a challenging task.

 

S: I will confess to a level of fatigue towards 4:30 pm as I have yet to switch time zones so I was awake each day from 3 am on.  I hope to get that under control in the next couple of days so that I don’t feel as tired when I’m at the Foundation.

 

R: Hopefully, you feel well, now.

 

S: On a personal note, I want to thank you for the hospitality, both yours and Veena’s who has been wonderful.

 

R: You are most welcome, Sharyn

 

18th January 2015

 

S: There were three days of classes this week, all of which I spent with Geeta’s class.  She was doing present tense verbs.

 

I hope I contributed to the classes in this way:

 

-the students were to conjugate the verbs and I suggested that they go on to make actual sentences – on their own.  For example, “I go” = “I go for a walk / to the park”;

 

-the natural inclination (which I suspect is the more literal translation from HIndi to English) does not include prepositions.  For example – “I go to park” rather than “I go to a park”.

 

S: Exactly, articles don’t seem to be necessary to our children. They will hopefully learn with time.

 

S: -I interacted with the students individually to help them form sentences and more, to understand what the sentence means

 

-after the grammar class, the children were given books at their level to read and then to read of either me or Geeta.  While they were reading to me, I attempted to elicit from the children what the story was telling them.

 

–          In the case of one student who is a very good reader, I got her a storybook which, for the most part, she was able to read very well.  On certain pages where there were new words I talked about what was going on in the story.  At the end of the story, I closed the book and asked her to tell me what the story was about.   To my surprise, she had no ability whatever to do that.

 

 

That brings me back to my first week impressions – that the children are very proficient memorizers of letters and they can easily sound out words, but they have little to no understanding of what the words actually mean.

 

R: Please try to make the children understand the stories. It is useless to read without understanding. Maybe they can use the English-Hindi dictionary for the words they don’t understand.

 

S: I have been talking with Veena about possible projects – one of course is the Pen Pal project which was introduced this week in Geeta and Ruchi’s class and that will begin this week.  Second, I have been thinking about what we had discussed in our Skype call – furthering the Book of Me with thoughts on what jobs I might do when I finish school.

 

Only a few students will have any idea of what they might want to – or could do – and in that respect, a format might be to choose an achievable industry sector and the most logical one seems to me to be tourism.  I thought we might choose, say hotel work, research what jobs are available in hotels, then have the children choose one of the positions and write about why they would like that job.  Also, I thought it might be possible that we might arrange a visit to a hotel during which time an employee from each position could talk to the students briefly about what they do in their job and why they like it.

 

R: Excellent idea!

 

S: There are two students that I know of that already have an idea of what they want to do (one a lawyer, the other a pilot), and for them, it makes more sense to do research on those professions.

 

In addition, it was my experience with my son when he was learning Spanish, that he got a good deal out of watching TV in Spanish and to this end I wondered to Veena if it might be possible to perhaps show a movie, which she feels can be arranged.

 

R: We already discussed this. We can have a projector and show a film a month on activity day.

 

S: It seems the Harry Potter series is known here as well and my thoughts were this would be a good movie to start with – both because it is so popular and because I brought the full set of Harry Potter books with me, so that any student who wished to know more of the story, could read the book.

 

R: Yes, sure.

 

S: It was delightful experiencing Makar Sankrati at the Foundation and, I am most assuredly enjoying my time there.  I have been keeping a journal of my trip generally which I will share with you and Veena.  I have made 4 entries to date – I’ve been trying to set up a blog so that I can add my pictures but I am having difficulty with that, however, I can send you the entries to date via email, if you wish.  The reasoning for setting up another format is so that I can attach more pictures than I am able to in an email.

 

I have been speaking with Alex and Frederico about their experience here and asking for any suggestions on how I can contribute, and in that respect, I appreciated receiving the set of questions you prepared for the Book of Me.  Its no wonder the Books are so good – you gave them a great format.

 

R: Please ask Veenaji to give you new Moleskin albums for the children in Ruksar’s class and start the new “Book of me “ project. Let me know how it goes.

 

 

19th January

 

S: Again, there were only 3 days at the Foundation, however, we had two very interesting discussions at teacher sessions.

 

At the first session, we reviewed “15 highly successful people who failed first”.  I read first, followed by each teacher reading and then discussion of any unknown words. It was a wide range of people, some unknown, so there was plenty of interest.

 

R: The school System in India is quite rigid and students are put under a lot of pressure to succeed. It was a good idea to read about those who were able to turn their failure in success.

 

S: We next set up presentation topics and dates, and Ruksar presented on Wednesday with the topic “Bollywood”.  The ensuing discussion was very interesting as we touched on the topic of suitability in films of bad language, violence and sex.  It was a surprising discussion about sex as the discussion ventured into the appropriateness of sex in films vis-a-vis exposure to young people and then into sex/health education.  I was quite well aware that discussions of this nature are only beginning in India, a fact which was reiterated numerous times at the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF)

 

R: I am amazed by the evolution of the teachers’ sessions. There seems to be a freedom of expression that we wouldn’t dare to dream of only a couple of years before.

 

S: Rahela was absent as her grandfather had passed away and I took her class, with Geeta’s assistance.  We read books and did drawings.  The children were very eager about reading their book to me or Geeta.

 

On Thursday, we joined Dheeraj, Karthik and Sumedha to attend JLF.   Unexpectedly, we woke up to rain which had things off to a somewhat chaotic start at the JLF with all seminars being rearranged from 6 venues into the 3 covered ones and shortened from one hour to 30 minutes.  The net result however, was that I got to see and hear twice as much.  It was an amazing experience, Rosenda, to attend such a festival in a difficult cultural base.  I found topics such as Indian women authors and what they were writing about, India-Pakistan relations utterly fascinating.  I’m truly grateful that we were so generously permitted to take two days away from the Foundation to attend JLF.

 

R: It is my pleasure to learn that your experience in India is a fulfilling one.

 

S: We attended again on Friday morning and in the afternoon we went to the Foundation, where the Tushita team met the teachers, viewed the classes and then spent the next hour or more in the playground with the children, playing with them, talking to them, taking their pictures and playing badminton.  The children were so happy to have the attention and playtime with these new visitors.

 

R: At the Tushita Foundation we believe that it is an educational experience for children to interact with visitors. Our students learn how to interact and feel comfortable with people who are outside their immediate circle.

 

S:On Saturday morning, we were unable to enter JLF because the ex-President was being shown in, so in the alternative, I went with Dheeraj, Sumedha and Karthik to City Palace.  We arrived back at JLF in time to meet up with Veena, Gadjju, Pierre, Alex and Federico and go for coffee with them as their Ashok Club.  That visit was very interesting for me because I am always interested in historical buildings and this surely was.

 

On both Friday and Saturday evenings, we attended the Music Festival portion of JFL – Friday was very good – Saturday was truly fantastic.

 

And my amazing weekend was not over yet!  I was invited, and readily accepted, to go with the Tushita group to Mandava.  We left on Sunday, stopping at various points along the way, including the spectacular Podar Museum.  We spent some time with a guide on arrival in Mandava which was very interesting.  The buildings, grounds and rooms at the Mandava Castle were gorgeous.

 

R:I am so happy that India is able to live up to your expectations!

 

S: On Monday, I took a bus back to Jaipur and on Monday evening, Alex, Federico and I were at Veenaji’s for a meeting about the Foundation and dinner.  We had a very interesting discussion about the Foundation, where it’s been, where it is and where the vision is for the future.  I found it very helpful to be made more aware of the many layers of nuances involved.

 

Yesterday, we started on the Pen Pal project.  Ruchi and Geeta’s classes are combined again this week, and those are the classes involved.  I hope to get the letters finalized this week and scanned together with their picture so they can be sent off to the class in Canada.

 

R: This is quite interesting! How did the children approach writing the letters? Did they find it difficult? Did they write their own content or did you tell them what to write? How many children participate in this project?

 

S: After the end of classes yesterday, Joy, Alex, Federico and I began practising for a dance number we are to do at Priyanka’s wedding.  We all feel a little daunted I can tell you, but we are assured we will be fine by the time of the wedding.  We shall see!

 

R: Wow! I wish I could see this performance.

 

S: It was a truly extraordinary 5 days and I am grateful to have experienced everything.

 

R: It is great to feel your enthusiasm, I am sure that everyone at the Foundation is benefitting from it.

 

21st January

 

http://sharyninindia.blogspot.in/

 

31st January

 

S: We worked on the Pen Pal project the entire week – on both Wednesday and Thursday, there were students just starting their letters.  After the first draft was completed, we corrected and had the students rewrite the letter incorporating the corrections.   By the end of day Friday, all but 2 or 3 had completed their second draft so on Monday, we will have them start their final copy.

 

When students finished their second drafts, I brought out books for them to read and there were new copies of the comic book as well.

 

With respect to Jayant, I spoke with Veenaji and Geeta and they agree he is ready to move to the next level and that will happen once the letters are completed.  On Friday, I gave him a “Hardy Boys” novel to start.  He didn’t want to start the book but I insisted and he read most of the first chapter.  He’s a bit of a monkey in that he is capable, but after 4 pages or so he didn’t want to go on claiming it was too much.   To be fair, he can read very well but I don’t think he was really understanding the story so it didn’t captivate him.

 

It is somewhat challenging choosing books because there are at this point, of course, gaps in the level progressions of the books.

 

Another student I noticed reading well is Rafat and I gave her a novel as well – “Judy Moody”.  We read the chapter together and after I engaged her in a conversation about what had happened in the story.  She was reticent but I encouraged and helped her to talk about it.  She didn’t want to continue reading but said she would read more of the book this coming week.

 

On Friday, I read with Ashish and Krishna and they read very well, Krishna, the best.  I had Mohit reading a book as well and while he struggles, he kept at it.  I see constantly how a little praise when they accomplish a word they didn’t previously know boosts their confidence.  Such a pleasure to see.

 

The one thing consistent thing with the students who I give books to is that they are very keen when I can sit and read with them but there isn’t always the same interest if I have to leave them on their own.  I believe part of the reason is that there is someone to help them with words they are not so familiar and part because I stop regularly to go over what is happening in the story.  In that way it becomes less an exercise is reading words and more about the story itself.

 

Veenaji and I did speak about one-on-one reading in Week 1 and it is something I would like to do more of, whenever possible.

 

Today was the first Saturday I was at the Foundation.  It was quite a different atmosphere, being Activity Day, and I really enjoyed the exuberance of the children.  In the Pen Pal letters, part of the introduction talks about Activity Day and that the learn dance and indoor games.  I hadn’t realized that a dance instructor is actually there and I knew the students in Canada would also not realize that so I took a short video which I will send to the teachers for purposes of illustration when they receive our letters.

 

7th February

 

Geeta and Ruchi’s classes continued to be combined and at the start of the week, the children began writing the final copy of their pen pal letter.  Those letters left by courier on Friday.

 

We (Geeta, Ruchi and I) had discussed beginning with the new Oxford Teaching Series books that Veenaji recently brought in, once the letters were finished and we agreed that Level 1 was the correct choice for both their classes.  I left Geeta and Ruchi with that class well in hand and took the opportunity to visit upstairs classes.

 

Joy was already working with level 4, 5 and 6 in the senior class and with Priya away at present, I sat in on Ruksar’s class.  At the end of the day we spoke and agreed her class should start with Level 2 and, on Wednesday, I started the first lesson.

 

Even though they are 2 classes above Geeta and Ruchi’s classes, I quickly found the same thing here – hey are well able, for the most part, to read, their penmanship is very good and they are excellent at copying down words and sentences from the board, but, at the end of the story, they have great difficulty in articulating what happened in the story in English.

 

As well, because they are not speaking English often where they have to make sentences on their own, they were reluctant to start, but with encouragement, they were able to come up with single words in answer to questions I asked about the story.

 

To start each class on Friday, I told the children that we would practise speaking.  I said you can all read quite well, you can write well so, we would practise talking.  I asked each child “what did you do this morning?”

 

Once they understood what I was asking, they began to answer with words and phrases which I turned into sentences and had them repeat until they could say the whole sentence themselves.  I asked the children not to help, so that I could see for myself what each child could do and also, as I explained to them, if they don’t get the chance to try for themselves, they don’t learn as well.

This is a very good way to engage the child individually and let him gain confidence by forming sentences.

 

There were 3 children in Batch 1, 1 child in Batch 2 and The exercise was a little halting in Batch 1 (3 children) and Batch 2 (1 child), nevertheless, once they started, they searched for words to explain.  With Aman in Batch 2, we re-read the storybook “Trunk Trouble” and he was able to talk much more about what had happened in the story and his eyes were bright with the effort and success.  Rather than start a new lesson with only the one child, I read a new story with him – The Lion King and he liked that story as well.

 

Batch 3 was interesting – once they figured out when I was walking, they began to recite from the exercise they did (probably a long time ago) where they wrote out their daily habits.  Once I figured that out and told them I knew that’s what they were doing and they laughed.  So that batch got homework – when they come back on Monday, we will start the class with them telling me what they did on Sunday.  They seemed to be enthusiastic about this.  As an aside, they more or less unanimously think Sunday is boring because there is no school or Tushita and they really like coming to Tushita.

 

Typically, from what I’ve seen, the children spend approximately half of the hour, copying from the board – words, phrases or questions and answers and they’ve been doing this in 3 classes by the time they get to Ruksar’s class.

 

I’m wondering how you would feel if I use that time for conversation?  The format would then go something like this:  At the start of a new story, unknown words are explained; I read the story, then each child reads a section and then we discuss the story.  I ask questions and they answer in full sentences.  Then use of the new words in full sentences.

 

I feel that this is the appropriate way to go.

 

Also, with respect to stories, I think this class is also ready for a chapter book.  I brought to entire Harry Potter series with me and Joy has started reading that in one of her classes.  The individual stories in lesson and small books are good, but I think finding a book where they are eager for the next chapter could really help get them to another level of comprehension.

 

I spoke with Geeta and Ruchi at the end of day Thursday and they reported that they found the Oxford Book very good.

 

R:I appreciate very much your feed back on the every day life of the classes you teach in. Maybe, with time, you can mention the name of the children you notice. It is very valuable for us to know how they do individually.

 

Your idea of reading Harry Potter with one class s very good and they do really need to be encouraged to speak.

 

Hopefully, you don’t mind me asking you to write a blog post about the Foundation whenever you wish. Maybe on the pen pal project or anything else that strikes you as worth sharing.

http://www.tushitafoundationindia.org/category/blog/

 

It will surely make a beautiful addition to our collection.

 

I was also very touched by your message to the teachers of our children’s pen pals, your appreciation of the Tushita Foundation’s work gives us wings to continue in spite of the difficulties we are encountering.

 

Enjoy Priyaka’s wedding.

 

15th February

 

With Payal and Pria away and only a couple of students in some of the batches, we combined Pria’s and Ruksar’s class for some of the batches and did combined geography and grammar sessions.

Separately on other days, I continued beginning each class with conversation and can see a definite improvement with some of the students in their willingness to start speaking and in the length of their sentences.

On one day in particular, there was a funny moment which I will share with you.  I brought my computer to the Foundation on Monday and Tuesday so that I could show the teachers the video that Sonar had taken on our dance at Priyanka’s ladies sangeet.  As will happen, word got out and students also wanted to see the video and I let them see it at the end of classes.

As the end of class for Ruksar’s 3rd batch, I asked the students to come the next day prepared to talk about something funny they did or saw for our conversation at the start of class.  The next day, I called upon Aiysha to start and she was ready!  The funny thing that she saw was Alex and Federico in the video.  Both Federico and Alex were in proximity so there was protest and conversation but the really great thing was that she had come having prepared the assignment and was ready to speak it in English.

Aiysha, Nurain, Sejal, Vishal, and Rahul (Pria’s class) all seem to be on a par with their ability to make and say sentences while, other students, such as Adnan and Yasin struggle more.

As is often the case with boys, when they finish their work quickly, they become bored and disruptive and I found that happened with Vishal a couple of times this week.  My first instinct was to wonder whether he should move up to Payal’s class, but on reflection over the balance of the week, I’m wondering whether it might not be a better plan to reorganize Pria and Ruksar’s classes and have them move on at the start of the new school.  I brought this up with Alex and Federico, who agree there is a gap in ability with students in these classes and also that it might not be the best time of year to move them into the senior class.  Hopefully this week, we might have a chance to discuss with Veenaji.

We continued to work with the Oxford series books, however, unfortunately I feel there is a limit in their usefulness for this reason.  Each chapter starts with a story and then has exercises that follow.  Without their own copy to follow along with, they are waiting while the teacher speaks or another child is reading without being able to read along.  Some of the exercises that follow just lend themselves to being done in the book, with some of the value of the lost when they wait while you write on the board.   At the end of the day, I find myself talking more than the students do and I would like to see it work the other way.

I do not wish to suggest that these books are not useful, merely to say I don’t feel we are getting maximum use of the materials.  I also spoke with Joy on this subject and she is finding the same thing.

I have spent numerous hours this week on the internet trying to come up with exercises that I can download, but I’m finding it difficult to match what I can find with the format of these books and the upshot is that I still spend more time talking and writing on the board than I think is productive. (I should point out, that each class is not progressing at the same speed which is why the whiteboard lessons cannot be written just once for the day).

We are going to buy books for all the children, it is necessary.

 

27th February

 

As mentioned in my last entry and discussed with you last weekend, I initiated a reorganization of Ruksar and Pria’s classes to accommodate different levels and capabilities of the students.

The students in Ruksar’s class that were clearly struggling to keep up were Yasin, Adiba, Nansi, Tohid, Adnan, Anil and Aman and they have now been in Pria’s class since the beginning of last week.  I am happy to tell you that they are doing quite well there and not only do they appear to be happy, but they say they like the class.  I keep an eye on the class, and pop in and out from time to time, and I definitely no longer see so much struggle or stress in their faces.

Pria is also doing quite well with the students.  We had begun with Level 2 of the Oxford books in Ruksar’s class but when we reorganized, Level 2 book went with Pria – she likes working with the book.

In addition, she has taken the initiative to work on English on her own time.  She came to me last week for help with a grammar book that she is doing exercises.  This week I collected three student grammar books with exercises that I brought from Canada that will not likely get used and gave them to her for her to use.  She was quite delighted to have the extra workbooks.

From Pria’s class, we transferred Vandana and Rahul to Ruksar’s class.  Both of these children are extremely intense about their studies and tend to be quiet during class, but are very capable with writing.  They are the epitome of what I have come to understand as the classic Indian student – as soon as you ask them something, you watch their eyes as they struggle frantically to get to come up with the information in their head so that they can give the correct answer.  Both were very reticent with the speaking portion but with encouragement, they are gaining some confidence.

The other students that continue to be in Ruksar’s class include Sejal, Alya, Vishal, Sudha, Sonar, Nurain and Aaisha.

The beginning speaking portion is going very well, I think.  There are still students who attempt to recite “daily habits” that they memorized in Ruchi’s class, but others are venturing farther outside that range.  For example, earlier this week, when I asked Sudha how her morning had been, she told the story of missing her bus for school and how that had happened!

Notwithstanding the low attendance, we went ahead on Tuesday and started Ruksar’s class on the Book of Me.  By way of introduction, I told them we were going to start a new story today, that the story was going to be about them and I showed them some of the Books already done to give them an idea.  They all seem quite keen.

During the conversation on Wednesday, I asked them all if they told their parents they were writing a story about themselves and without exception, they had.  That was wonderful to hear on several fronts – they like the project enough to talk about it at home, the parents are hearing about what they are doing at the Foundation and, by the children’s accounts, the parents liked the project as well.  They went home Wednesday with questions to ask about when they were babies.

On Thursday, they were quite animated as they told what they learned of themselves as a baby – Sudha for example learned that in all the pictures of her as a baby, she is crying – she was apparently frightened by the flash!  Some students were back yesterday and we let them start so they could catch up with the others and did a story.  Today (Friday), I will be bringing the new black books for them to start writing their story in.

The book of me is indeed a very enriching project.

On Wednesday I noticed that they were teaching “Here we go round the mulberry bush” in Gheeta and Ruchi’s class.  Yesterday I took advantage of having the dongle and brought my computer to the Foundation and played a person of that poem in song, which the children loved.  I understand they will be practising the song and may sing it for you while you are here!

On other fronts, Ruksar has taken quite an initiative with respect to those students who were attending regularly and haven’t been coming.  She called Sudha’s father about her brother, Raghu (who said he would speak with his son) and yesterday two students she spoke to when she saw them on the street came to class (Sultana and Arshi).

21st March

 

This was the week exams started for a number of the children so it was a quieter week even than has been in the past.

 

I worked with the children in Ruksar’s class to get another chapter done in the Book of Me.  We had only 5 children in all three batches.

 

I was able to get the pen pal letters printed and received them back Friday when we returned to the office.  I’ll start with those on Monday.

 

Here are some images from the week.  I particularly like the picture of Mumbar sitting in on Ruhela’s class – more empowerment at Tushita Foundation.

 

As you know from Federico, I stopped in to see Begum Fauzia at Lohru.  We had a lovely, long visit.  I asked her about the possibility of bringing Payal another time after Sunday so that she could see an actual class and Begum Fauzia immediately was receptive, preferably on a Saturday in April.

 

Dear Sharyn,

 

You will soon depart from the Foundation leaving behind all that you have shared with the children and with us.We are all deeply thankful to youand hope that we will keep in touch.

Thank you for filling the questionnaire below once you’ll settle back home.

Questionnaire:

 

At the end of the volunteering program at the Tushita Foundation, how do you feel about yourself and your work?Please be completely honest in your answers and do not give them too much thought, often the most impulsive answer is the most honest one.

Thank you for your very precious collaboration

The Tushita Foundation

 

When I went to Tushita, I knew I would be leading the pen pal project and originally, a career choice project and, if I could, get other students started on their Book of Me.  I did not presume to arrive and take over the teacher’s classes completely.  My thinking was that its their class, they are the professionals and my job was to help in any way I could.  It was somewhat of a surprise to learn that they expected, and indeed wanted, you to take over their class, because they want to learn.

Very early on, we started with the wedding dance rehearsals and that really let us get to know one another much better.  That coincided with starting the pen pal project and the days then began to take on a rhythm. Two things happened in March which made me feel really good about my work.  The first has to do with the pen pal project.  Our children wrote letters first and it was really hard for them, much harder than it would have been for the Canadian children whose first language is English and who had done a study session on India.  Also, our children were unfamiliar with the format of writing letters (even though they write letters for absences).  I was very proud of them and the letters they produced.  But the best part came when the letters arrived from Canada.  Seeing the children’s faces as their individual letters were read was wonderful.  We had addressed our letters “Dear Friend”, and the letters that came back were addressed individually and in many cases made mention of something in the letter they had received.  Our children’s faces beamed with happiness as their letters were read – it was heart-warming to see.

There was more wonderful to come.   They wrote their reply letters in half the time it took to write the first letter and most of the children added quite lovely and elaborate drawings.  To realize how much and how quickly they had learned from doing the letters was a wonderful feeling.The second thing happened in Ruksar’s class where I had been doing Book of Me.  I missed a couple of days due illness and it came as a surprise when Ruksar told me the children were asking “where was mam and when is she coming back”.   When I came up the stairs, I was greeted with the most amazingly huge smiles of welcome and happiness.  It literally brought tears to my eyes.

Aside from the classwork, I feel good about some ideas that I had to benefit the Foundation.  One was to have Alex teach his superior grammar classes to the teachers in teacher session.  They loved that idea and from what I observed when Federico and I sat in on the classes, it was a very beneficial exercise for the teachers in at least two ways.  In the first days, they were reluctant to answer questions and it was a confidence booster for them to realize they knew more than they thought they did.  They then participated more readily and so learned more.  Not only did they learn more grammar but they learned it together as colleagues in a very supportive and team building way.

I’m also delighted to see the Newsletter to past visitors and supporters taking shape so quickly.  On one of the days I wasn’t in class I was nevertheless at the Foundation and there was a visitor.  It happened that I was in the office as Geeta was showing her the Books of Me and Creatures of the Foundation.  The lady asked if she could make a donation and Geeta (or any of the other teachers) did not know of the recent decision to accept it.  When the woman left, I read the entire Guest Book realized many of them would have liked to make a donation when they visited and would be interested in hearing news about the Foundation as it matures.   I mentioned it to Federico and he immediately set to work on building a database of the visitors’ names and addresses.  Recently I saw the notice that there would be a newsletter soon. I’m delighted about that – I think people who come and are touched will be interested in getting the newsletter and will also feel good that they were remembered and know that they didn’t just sign a Guest Book that was filed when it filled up.

How do you feel about the Foundation as an institution?

I don’t think I can say it any better than I did in this entry to my blog:

http://sharyninindia.blogspot.ca/2015/02/8-about-tushita-foundation-reason-im.html

How do you feel about the students and the teachers there?

I love them.   It was my privilege to know each and every one of them.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your experience?

Going from being independent in every aspect to being able to exercise very little control over any aspect of life.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your experience?

Being part of the Foundation and contributing – no matter how small, every positive contribution has a lasting impact on some of the people.  I’m enriched by everyone I came to know, the Tushita people, teachers, students, my room-mates and some have become part of the fabric of my life.

What do you wish you would have done, but you couldn’t?

Spent more time in Amer outside of Foundation hours with teachers and students.

Do you think that this experience has in any way changed you?

Yes

 

If yes, how?

I experienced a culture entirely different from anything I’d previously experienced and I believe that anyone who is completely open to an experience like that is changed by what they learn, the people they talk to and what they receive back.  I interpret events and news from India from a completely different perspective now.

What do you hope to have left behind?

Small things.  When the girls didn’t want to eat their fruit I asked them if they knew why eating fruit was good for them.  When they had no answer, I would say things like – it keeps your beautiful hair and skin beautiful and has vitamins and minerals that help keep you healthy, like Vitamin C in oranges.  Soon when fruit was delivered they would look at me and chant – “I know, fruit has Vitamin C and keeps you healthy”.  I hope they will continue to remember and when they have their own kids place importance on eating fruits.

Some children really needed encouragement to talk in English and I think I helped some with that. I hope that confidence stays with them.

If you knew this would have been your experience, would you have done it anyway?

Yes