Caroline Carr came to us from Berkeley California with the objective of teaching Art History to our children. She has dedicated 8 months of her life to our youngest children to whom she has taught English and much more using the Montessori methodology. She will be remembered as the teacher who did yoga in a sari.
Eight Months with the Tushita Foundation
I arrived at the Tushita Foundation in September of 2015. I was nervous about the 8 months ahead and my ability to make a meaningful impact on the students and the foundation. However, after having spent 8 months with the children and teachers of the Tushita Foundation, I can safely say that not only did I feel I made an impact on them, but that they made a huge impact on me. The Tushita Foundation has changed me and has helped me find a path in life. It was both rewarding and challenging in ways that I could never have imagined.
I hope the following information will help you develop your project plan and get a better grasp of the foundation as a whole.
For my project, I proposed teaching art history to the students. At the time, the Tushita Foundation only had had one other volunteer for a full year, so their past volunteers were much more project based. However, as a year long volunteer, my “project” was not teaching art history but became teaching English and coordinating the volunteers and teachers to create a better organization and process for future volunteers, students, and teachers of the Tushita Foundation.
Below is my project proposal, but in actuality, as an English teacher I use many areas of focus to get the students excited about English including art history, geography, history, and religion.
- Project Plan
Growing up, my parents would often take my sisters and me to various museums and exhibits in San Francisco. We would complain at first because we always assumed they’d be boring, but once we stood in front of a painting or sculpture, we’d become silent and interpret the stories told by the works of art. Looking at a painting or sculpture taught me about politics, social movements and religion, and provided a glimpse of the culture and traditions of the time period.
My passion for art grew as I attended art camps in the summer. Learning about painting, photography, jewelry making, and pottery made me want to learn more about the techniques and the history behind the mediums. Art camp led me to become an employee and camp counselor at Brushstrokes, a paint your own pottery studio in Berkeley. For 5 years, I taught art to children through courses such as “Art Around the World” and “Movements in Modern Art.” We’d discuss artists, countries, and history with the kids, giving them background on the origin of the movement as they created their own masterpieces.
I love how art reflects society and is a lens to learn about a culture. I hope to bring my passion for art and history to life at the Tushita Foundation.
- Course Objective
My course objective for my time at the Tushita Foundation is to broaden children’s horizons and help them grow through art history. By teaching art history, I hope to touch on a variety of subjects such as geography, history, literature, and religion while helping the children create their own art. This course plan will help the children to develop their own creative skills, personal opinions, passions, and confidence expanding their understanding of the world and themselves. The children will grow personally by developing their own art projects, discovering new subjects and learning about different countries and cultures — introducing them to new art forms and trades. They will be stimulated intellectually by the literature, history, and geography that we study; and their English vocabulary will grow as they learn new art forms from many different countries and cultures.
- Project Overview
I will teach one major work of art or an art movement a week. This will vary depending on the time period, the medium, and artist. But by taking a week to focus on a work of art or a movement, I can do a deep dive into the background of the piece and/or movement, teaching various lessons on the society, history, geography, literature of the time period and the art itself. Throughout the week, the children will work on their own art projects that draw on the week’s lesson and art focus. These lessons will be more in depth and focused for the older children and more broad and general for the younger children, catering to their levels and needs.
Example Lesson Plan:
Title: Cave Paintings at Lascaux
History: 17,300 year old cave paintings in the southwest of France. Three young men discovered the paintings in the 1940s while they were exploring around the region.
Imagery: We’ll discuss the images and shapes in the paintings, learning new English words as we go a long. With the older children, I hope to discuss early forms of religion and basic society.
Geography: Southwestern France- We will discuss the region and food that cavemen ate in the Paleolithic time period, bringing in a nutrition component to the week and discussing the importance of protein and vegetables.
Literature: I will read to the kids and encourage them to read books that relate to the cave paintings, helping them to understand English through pictures and their own projects.
- Ages 5-8: Where the Wild Things Are
- Ages 9-14: The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future
Movie: Ice Age
- Ages 5- 8: We will create our own Lascaux Cave Paintings by building a cardboard fort and finger-painting the walls.
- Ages 9-14: They will develop their own ideas of what life was like; then they will create their own separate paintings that we’ll put together as one big mural.
I worked in the Sunflower Classroom with Rahela. The students ages ranged between 3-13; however, the majority of the students were between 6-8 years old. We had 3 batches of kids with around 20 students in each batch. The students are silly, kind, energetic and eager to learn. It was an absolute honor to work with them. Please see the Sunflower Students spreadsheet document in the Tushita Foundation Teacher Handbook under Classrooms: Lessons and Students for more information.
I worked with the students used a combination of TEFL and Montessori methods. Each week, I created lessons based on a particular subject or themes such as: People and Jobs, Places, Transportation and etc. I would print pictures and the words corresponding to the theme and go through different “games” to teach the children the subject. Every day, I’d add something to the lesson. By the end of the week the students would know new vocab and be able to ask and answer questions about the subject. At the end of the week, we’d do an art project on that week’s subject.
Working with the little ones is hard because you must maintain their focus and channel their energy. I found that having lots of items and backup games and songs helped the students stay focused and excited about the material. Changing up the lesson constantly and touching on different senses like touch, movement, songs, visuals, was the best method for me to maintain focus and attention.
Please see Educational Games and Songs in the Tushita Foundation Teacher Handbook for examples.
What didn’t work?
Some games and classroom activities were a little too advanced for the students. They may work in one batch, but wouldn’t work in another batch. Understanding the group of kids and adjusting the lesson to fit their needs was one of the biggest challenges and rewards. Take time get to know the students and the batch as a whole and adjust the lessons accordingly. Don’t be afraid to change things, adjust and tweak. I would do it constantly as Rahela and I noticed one lesson or game wasn’t working.
Throughout the school year, I worked on several extracurricular projects. These are the four main projects that I worked on. I’ve outlined the projects in the Tushita Teacher Handbook in detail; however, I’ll summarize them here.
Tushita Foundation Mural: We created the Tushita Foundation Mural in the playground during my year at the foundation. The mural took about 2 months to complete, and it required a lot of help and work. I created a project plan for the mural for the teachers and volunteer. We divided the work among the classes, and left preparation and detailing to the teachers and volunteers.
Sketching and Classwork: Each batch got a letter. They decided on a theme for the letter and worked as a class to collaborate and develop a sketch of what they wanted to do. We had a couple extra letters and gave them to the older students to complete.
Preparation: The fellow volunteers and I cleaned the wall with water and bathroom brushes and outlined the letters in chalk. Then we painted the backgrounds of the letters so that the students had a clean slate to paint their masterpieces. We used the older students to help with the background. (Note: use gloss paint and buys lots of brushes)
Painting: Each class would take about 3-4 days to paint their letter. We’d allow about 2 classes in the playground at once. The students would take turns painting- starting with the background and finishing with the details of their drawings. (Note: make a 6-8 foot line between the wall and rest of the playground in the sand and have the students bring their stools to sit and watch behind the line.)
Completion: The teachers worked hard to complete and detail the letters, using small brushes to outline in black. At the very end, we outlined the letters in black, put a top clear sealer coat on the letters, and pulled off the tape.
Book of Me
The book of me is a veteran project at the Tushita Foundation; however, in 2016, we worked with the youngest students on the project. Rahela and I came up with a series of questions and themes for the students to work on in their books that were level appropriate. Then the students sketched them in their notebooks, answering the questions, and drawing a picture for every page. Once the items were sketched they colored the pictures in.
With their rough drafts complete, they received a personal Moleskin notebook that they will grow with at the Tushita Foundation. Some of the students were a little too young to complete the questions, so we gave them a “mini” book of me. These are smaller books that they used to create and color drawings reminiscent to the Moleskin notebook drawings.
Using their rough drafts, they outlined their final drafts in pencil in the Moleskins. Once they completed their final drafts in pencil, we had them color them in.
After the students finished their final drafts, we held a party for the students–inviting their parents, serving food, drinks, and presenting two Books of Me during each batch.
It was a wonderful project and just beautiful to see the children proud of their books and excited to show them off to their parents. Many of the students said their favorite part of the year was the book of me project.
Tushita Volunteer and Teacher Handbook
I created two guidebooks for the volunteers and teachers to use as a resource. They are living documents in Google Drive. Federico will give you access once you become a volunteer. The Tushita Volunteer Handbook contains information on the Tushita apartment, living in Jaipur, contacts, weekly schedule, holiday calendar and more.
Advice for future volunteers
The best advice I can give a future volunteer is to be patient and courageous. It can be scary to be in a new country and environment, but be patient with yourself and your surroundings. Everything will work out and come together in the end. Take time to get to know the teachers and fellow volunteers. Use them and each other as a resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to those who you think may know the answer. Enjoy your time at the foundation. It’s magical.
This Questionnaire was taken at the end of the volunteering program at the Tushita Foundation.
Q. How do you feel about yourself and your work?
Caroline: I feel good about myself and the work I completed at the Tushita Foundation. I feel like I made a difference in the lives that I interacted with, while I was at the foundation. I feel like I implemented a lot of good processes that really helped move the volunteer program forward and helped educate the teachers on what they should expect from the volunteers. I feel like I really helped move the beginner Sunflower class forward in a way that showed importance to the younger children.
Q. How do you feel about the Foundation as an institution?
Caroline: I feel that the Tushita Foundation, as an institution, has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. I applaud the founders and directors for the great strides they have achieved in the town of Amer. It has not been easy and, as I’ve learned in India, it takes time. The volunteer program is vital to the institution, and I feel that there are many ways that the program could be enhanced: Communication, Structure and Process.
- Communication: There were times where communication was very difficult and confusing. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen at TF and it takes a long time to figure who to go to for what. Many volunteers don’t have the kind of luxury I had in terms of time. They are there for a short period and may not be able to make the most of their time due to communication errors. I made many mistakes in communication just because I didn’t know who to go to. Communication needs to be a key area of focus in the development and success of the foundation. It would help to have a better understanding from of the start of the hierarchy (though I know TF is more of a family) of the TF.
- Volunteers are managed by the coordinator.
- The coordinator is managed by the director.
- The director is managed by the founder.
- The indian teachers are managed by… the director, coordinator, and volunteers (teacher sessions and classroom lessons)?
(Again: I realize this isn’t quite the way TF does things. It’s more of a web than a hierarchy. We’re all connected and work together, but for important information regarding volunteers, logistics, educational programs, and structural level initiatives, there could be a better process of communication.)
- Structure: As a westerner, I like structure. However, I knew coming to India, my idea of structure and organization would be turned upside down. Yet, that doesn’t mean structure doesn’t or can’t happen at the foundation. In regards to the volunteers, I think there needs to be a lot more structure around rules and teaching guidelines so that expectations are well managed for both the volunteers and the TF staff. Also, I firmly believe the first week of a volunteer should be spent getting them acclimated to India for a week long orientation.
Orientation: should consist of 3 different parts
- Living in India: spending, haggling, what to wear, where you can eat, house rules, office rules, how to use the office and Tushita travels as a resource.
- TEFL crash course: presentation, practice, production. The coordinator should provide the volunteers with an understanding of this methodology so that the teaching can remain consistent throughout the different volunteer groups. Coordinator should be TEFL certified.
- Semester Planning: Volunteers should map out and organize how they want to lead teacher session, how they want to communicate with each other (weekly/ daily dinners discussing teacher session and classes), how they plan to implement their projects, what they need, who can help and etc.
(I understand that a lot of this can happen naturally, but what if you get a group of volunteers who don’t get along, who it doesn’t happen naturally with? Then this structure will be very helpful for you and them)
- Process: Create a clear process for the volunteers where they can research, create, implement, and review their projects.
- Pre-departure: volunteers review TF Teacher Handbook and house handbook, which should include a list of rules and guidelines to follow.
- Orientation: Week long-volunteers get to know the other volunteers, students, teachers and create their projects (though they have already submitted them, once they arrive in India, they’ll have a better understanding of how they can make their project come to fruition)
- Semester: Implement their project with clear communication. What is expected of them? How are they communicating their needs, problems, and successes with the rest of the group so everyone can benefit?
- Post Semester: volunteers update the TF Teacher Handbook with their project, how they implemented it, and what they would do differently so that future volunteers can learn from them. This is what should be published on the website as oppose to the journal. This is what would be most helpful to potential volunteer candidates.
Q. How do you feel about the students and the teachers there?
Caroline: I love them. I miss them everyday. The children are eager, so eager to learn, especially the little ones. They love learning too. I was amazed and in awe of them everyday. I want to cry just writing this. They have forever left a footprint on my heart.
The teachers are amazing. I’m so proud of each one of them and how far they have come. Some need to be pushed (Ruchi and Geeta), some need to be coddled (Priya and Rahela), and some need ideas and direction (Ruksar and Payal). They are smart. They can also be difficult and complacent at times, but when you push them (just a little) they can do incredible things. The biggest thing is guiding them in the right direction and giving them the resources to succeed.
Q. What has been the most challenging aspect of your experience?
Caroline: Communication with the teachers, volunteers, and TF staff. I am very communicative. I tend to over communicate at times, but then there were times I didn’t know that I had to communicate, who to communicate with, or when to communicate things. I didn’t know that I was expected to be the leader of the volunteer group. It was implied but never communicated to me, and that left me confused, insecure, and unsure. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or overshadow anyone.
A big part of this is just being in a new country. It was the biggest challenge but also something that I learned the most from.
Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your experience?
Caroline: The relationships that I formed with the kids, teachers, volunteers, and TF staff. I love you all from the bottom of my heart.
Q. What do you wish you would have done, but you couldn’t?
Caroline: I wish I could have done a better job communicating my wants, wishes, and hopes for the women’s and girl’s health program. I’m sad it didn’t happen, though I understand why. I think it could have been something really great. I also think the teachers and students are ready for it. I think I was the right person for the job too. However, looking back I just didn’t structure or communicate well enough.
Q. Do you think that this experience has in any way changed you?
Caroline: Yes. I didn’t know I could be a healthy person outside the US, on my own, by myself, but I can. I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher, now I do. I didn’t know I could be changed by so many children and people is such a short amount of time, but I can. Thank you for this opportunity Rosenda, Jan, and Fede. I’m forever grateful and humbled by this experience.
Q. What do you hope to have left behind?
Caroline: My heart?
I hope that I left some structure, organization, and process. That the next volunteer will have a slightly easier and better time than the ones before them. That the program will move forward and build off of what we left behind. That the TEFL and Montessori methodology will linger and continue. That the mural will remain beautiful. That my students will be eager and excited to learn more english and have the best foundation possible to move onwards and upwards.
Q. If you knew this would have been your experience, would you have done it anyway?
Caroline: In a heartbeat.