CJ Bellucci

In collaboration with Outside the Lens, an educational project in San Diego California, focused on litteracy through photography, she has continued Ryan’s work using the camera to discover a new way to look at the world.

With CJ, our students have visisted each other’s homes and have made portraits, have written poems and even built the maquette of an entire village with the Tushita University in it!




On Monday the plan was to learn about materials through some videos, however, after having trouble with seeing the projector in the Daisy class due to the bright light coming in, we managed to get all 14 students to gather close together and watch it on my computer. Since they had not gone outside yet we also decided to do a fun  “treasure hunt” outside to find all the materials we had just listed.

Classes are going so much smoother. However, it still takes the whole class time to do two activities. We have had to set the lesson plans back a bit because we haven’t been able to get through all the activities in one sitting. It is also difficult to keep all the classes at the same point since the first batch has 13 and the second has 6 while the last batch has 14. The second batch, therefore, gets more one on one time and had an easier time getting through the activities. This dynamic will change soon tough because on Wednesday we had new students arrive. We have decided to try to redistribute the classes so that the second class can be devoted to the newcomers. Another change is that now we will take out the benches and have a big rug in the room because the classroom is very difficult to navigate the classroom with 20 students in each batch.

As for the students that have been with us so far, I am so happy to say that I have gotten to know them quite well and I can see progress already. In one instance where I had a problem with students drawing the different building materials and copying their neighbor, we were able to get the “copier” to not only recognize it but make a completely different and super creative change to the work to make it original again.

I have also noticed that the level of reservation and shyness that some students had last week has changed. Students like Insha, who in the first week I had thought was having trouble with understanding or keeping up, has completely surprised me and opened up. I now know that she understands almost everything I say to her and is eager to respond back in complete sentences without being prompted to. I have also noticed that Muscan is like this too where she has very little trouble using full sentences without me reminding her.

I had some problems on Tuesday with the girls who sat at the back of the table. They were not understanding what was happening as well as I thought they were. It was hard to recognize because in this class there are 16 students. The Charades/ Pictionary game we played on Wednesday really helped. Everyone wanted to participate and it gave me a chance to consult with each student one on one to make sure they understood. I also noticed the next day that the girls who were having a difficult time on Tuesday were a lot more active. Shizra even made a wonderful depiction of a “cold day” and was happy to point out to me that the elf was wearing gloves which was a perfect transition I had her use to help the other students understand how we dress to protect ourselves from the weather just like houses do.


23rd – 27th July 2018

This week we had fun jumping between different classrooms and seating arrangements to see how we could best accommodate all the students and the projector. Monday was a nice mix up because we were able to use the carpet in the third-floor classroom to let the kids sit around in a circle and proudly show us their home drawing. The third batch remembered the difference between a house and a home right away, the first batch still needed some time first.  As for the projector, after trying to figure out how to get 26 students in the first batch into the downstairs classroom, we decided we would just have it set up permanently on the third floor. It does work and students are able to see it and still have desk space/ a seat. The only tradeoff is that when it is very sunny out it can be hard to see the screen because of all the windows.

This week’s lessons on size (the Zulu Beehive Huts and Taohuayuan Mansion) and the lesson on how to draw like an architect went really well. We had fun with talking about how the smaller huts were full of people with huge smiles on their faces who were working all together with different families. However, given the constraints of the first batch’s class being in the downstairs room, we were not able to have students come up and act out how someone living in these places would be like. We compared the photos of the 32 bedroom mansion (which sparked confusion among them as to why there weren’t multiple families and why anyone with a small family would need that) with the smaller one room huts. There was some excitement from the boys for the pool at the mansion, but at the end we discovered together that there was no way to interact with or be close to your family if you can’t see them because your house is too massive and that the huts, although small, allowed families to play, work, and enjoy each other’s company and as a result, the people there all looked happy. The third batch was again really fast to pick this up. We had introduced the terms “far away” and “nearby” the day before when describing our homes and they immediately used those terms to tell me why the families in the huts looked happier. The third batch students made drawings to show what their favorite part of what we had seen was. Some drew the beautiful outfits worn by the Zulu tribes, others were loving the sweeping roofline on the Chinese house.

With the architect drawings, we only got to make a section in the time we had together but, we got to learn some fruits in the process! The section drawings made of the fruits were beyond impressive with how realistic they were. Then when we moved to drawing houses. We had the children close their eyes and imagine they cut their house in half just like the cut birthday cake we had compared to one of the drawings of one of Palladio’s villa. There was some confusion when they started drawing because two of the students started to draw the actual villa, but they were able to switch and draw their own house. They even added staircases in their sections which were never shown to them and I was so impressed.

On Thursday we went to see the kids houses. I was so touched and grateful to receive the gift of bangles from Kushboo Bano’s dad and sister and a candy bar from Zoya’s. While walking we shouted out vocabulary like mud, brick, gate and dome and I even learned about the “cooler” that passes the air through water to cool the house. I also learned the meaning behind the tires hanging on the houses.

With the new students in the second batch, we were able to play games throughout the week with simple words, like Charades and word add-on games. Victoria and I had a print out for “Find someone who” but, in our class, the number of students made it difficult to play. Even though we went over the vocabulary again together before playing, some of the students seemed to have difficulty writing their peers’ names on the paper. The next day I was surprised that some students shouted out the names for parts of a house with more advanced words like balcony and chimney. They even went on to shout out Santa and asked me to draw him on the board. After listing the parts of the house on the board I erased the drawing and asked them to draw their own home. Some were confused and tried to draw a house like the one I had just drawn, but Geetaji was able to explain to them that we needed to draw our own house.

In the Teacher’s Session, we were able to go over articles that discussed vandalism.  I thought I’d talk about preserving monuments as I saw it was a problem that our guide, Yesh pointed out at the Amer Fort when tourists were scratching their names in the original plaster friezes.  This, however, came to form a bigger discussion on vandalism in general, which was a word that Rahela and Payal hadn’t heard.

Since vocabulary building was one of the main goals they expressed to me, we decided to veer off course a bit. While talking to Victoria she brought up a good point about looking into the types of street art that are favored, like Banksy who is considered a graffiti artist. I realized that we could go further into vandalism and look at it both ways, as she brought up. We have decided to make it into a debate for next Monday.  Wednesday we had smaller debates on some common moral situations and on Thursday, after looking at some of Banksy’s work Payal and Rahela were excited to think that maybe we could do some fun stencils in some of the classrooms (with the alphabet and animals, for instance).


July 30th – 3rd August

Monday started out on a good foot with lots of audible “oohs” and “ahhs” from the all the little ones in the first batch. We had fallen a bit behind the original plan so that we could see most of the students’ houses on Friday. Therefore, on Monday we had a little catching up to the third batch to do by learning about portable houses. They absolutely loved the houses and were eagerly googling more photos on my computer. We also went over superlatives to help them connect it with how portable houses are smaller than normal. I was extra lucky to have the same reaction happen on the following day in the third batch when we saw the houses on stilts in Cambodia and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Thanks to Koshik’s suggestion, we were also able to add the tree houses of Costa Rica to the line-up. Tuesday’s presentation was therefore renamed “Homes and Nature” where we talked about homes working with the natural elements such as water, rock formations, and trees.

Just as I was extra impressed with the kid’s artwork last week, I was again taken aback by how well the students drew and designed this week. The third batch was especially good at making the most original works that included lots of creativity, such as adding the Indian flag, huge hills and adding the most intricate balconies. We did face some trouble with the new Daisies as the second batch has not yet been accustomed to the emphasis on originality. It is also clear that their drive to copy might be escalated because some are not all at the same level and even writing a word is extremely difficult for some of them if they don’t copy from a peer. Things would be copied on the same desk by almost every student. After this realization, we tried to curb it by giving each student a unique task. This has helped us to really see who exactly is having trouble without needing to constantly patrol for wandering eyes.

Thursday and Friday in the first and second batch are dedicated to making cardboard models of their Dream Home. So far they have been doing really well with this exercise and I’m so happy to see how engaged and eager they are. Ruksar gave them the chance to vote on whether or not they’d like to continue decorating their houses on Saturday and they all said “yes!” in the first batch. Since there are 20+ students, this activity has been broken up so that 10 students can get the chance to write about their Dream Home and what they want it to include. We had them meditate on this before the class and asked them to think about the location, physical aspects and of course with whom they want to share their home.

With Firdous and Ruchi we have been going through different buildings and engineering feats and examining them. We started with Frank Lloyd Wright, and thanks to Firdous’ requests we have also gone on to examine Dubai’s artificial islands and the impact they have on the environment. We have also gone over the One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial in New York. They had expressed to me that they would like to practice speaking and writing so after we had studied the topic, they wrote a few paragraphs on what the key takeaways were and then they read what each other wrote and relayed it back by memory to us.


August 13th – 17th

Saturday we all made a peacock out of colored construction paper.  The bird’s feathers were meant to represent the colors found on the Indian flag and also to celebrate its national bird. On Tuesday, the Jasmines presented the piece and spoke about what each aspect of the flag represents.

On Thursday we started off by playing a game of “pass the ball” and the person who was holding the ball, once the music had stopped, had the chance to say what they did yesterday during Independence Day. This activity ended up taking most of the class, especially in the last batch (and what I had thought to be the more advanced batch) because Payal and I would have to stop to correct some issues as they had trouble with the past tenses. With the first two batches we had just enough time to move on and do a small review of the parts of the house we had learned about last week and we even played Pictionary while the visitors came through.


24th – 31st August

Last Friday we came back to the Foundation after having been on vacation for a week. Payal had taken over the class for the two days that the Foundation was open this week. She had asked the students to draw their house and the different rooms in their house. They all marked what their favorite room in their house was. We had planned to have them present their drawing to the class and then have them go on to learn about the objects in the different rooms of the house so it happened to work out perfectly that they had all already drawn these objects in the rooms. We had them point out what these object were in each of their presentations. Muscan, Rajat and Harsh in the first batch had had some mistakes, but seemed very comfortable explaining their house drawings. I had noticed that the students were having trouble differentiating when and how to describe plural nouns. They all would say sentences such as  “these room” or “This are a book” so we stopped for a pause to clarify on the board and asked their peers to help correct them if they made a mistake. Given that students are still celebrating Eid Ul-Adha, only two students originally showed up for the second batch. Two more students showed up later on but Payal suggested that we have them do a different activity so that the others wouldn’t miss out. We had them do a coloring activity where they had to do simple arithmetic to figure out what color they were to draw with. We then had them draw their house and do the same practice of coloring by first adding to find out which number/color they should use. The last batch was empty so Payal and I went downstairs to learn how to use “Read to Me.”

Monday started out a little tricky because Harsh is the only student who isn’t eager to meditate so we’ve been having him do drawing assignments. This week the first batch had trouble explaining the weather but were surprisingly really good at categorizing the materials into descriptors such as, easy/ hard to build” with and “made by nature or humans”. Afzl was really good at listing which materials went where when on of his fellow classmates was stumped.

In the second batch, we got a new student named Daniyan. We told the students to welcome our newest friend and after a mini “introductions” class they all gave him the sweetest welcomes.  Daniyan is really advanced, he is using full sentences and shouting out terms like “starfish” and “lightning” wherever he gets the chance. In general,  I’ve noticed that the second batch is so much quicker to grasp things, for instance, the materials and types of weather and houses that we’ve gone over. It has been a surprise for me because I was expecting that they would be more timid and less advanced being the newest students as that was what I saw when I was with the second batch Daisy class. Instead, they seem to be the most vocal group and the majority of them are eager to participate. Bhawana, Manisha and Saniya have been the least active, and normally sit the furthest away so we told them that they will sit up front by the board from now on. Manisha is having difficulty with rehearsing sentences aloud with the group, and Payal noticed that she is even having difficulties understanding hindi.

In the third batch, Naz is very vocal and happily shouts out all the terms, but Deepika had trouble keeping up, so we’d keep slowing down and remind Naz to let the others contribute.

Deepika had miss a few days in a row and so for her, I think the jump right into the weather topic was too much. Also,  I could tell that Yousriya was having fun but, I had to keep reminding her to speak with the class or she would forget and remain silent when we were going through terms together. The third batch was so cute on Wednesday when after class Lilima had brought them cake. All the the students shouted out that cake is unhealthy to me.

The third batch had the chance to use the “Read to Me” software on Thursday. We had a few tiny bumps in the road as it was difficult to hear the pronunciation from the projector’s speaker as it was muddled, but the girls were all softly reading along with the software and were doing just fine with their pronunciation so I think they are still able to understand well enough.


4th-7th September

This Tuesday, we went over superlatives after having introduced the topic while discussing the small Zulu Huts and the mansion in China last week. We first used stick figures of Victoria drawn on the board because they kept mixing up “big” and “tall” for height. Afzl was superb at using the superlatives while most others were confused and thought the “smallest” meant “biggest”  or the most large one on the video. We then had the students use superlatives for describing height and age amongst themselves, standing up and organizing themselves. They also grouped off in pairs and discussed amongst themselves who was the oldest and who was the youngest.

Payal then taught the second batch following this plan. We didn’t get to go over the Houses and Nature presentation, but we were able to really go further into using the superlatives and cemented it in. Zoya from Daisy class and Naaz came up to me as they were leaving and introduced me to their little sister. Then Naaz happily informed me that her little sister was the “smallest and shortest” and that she was the “oldest and tallest.” In the third batch, payal and I split the teaching into a mix. Yusriya was very vocal today and we all heard her say the sentences describing who was the smallest, oldest and youngest in the class.

Teacher’s day on Wednesday  was actually a much needed day for review. The first batch taught us about the parts of the house and had us all chant back the list we made. Then, thanks to Lilima’s suggestion, we also asked the second batch “who wants to be a teacher when they are older?” and if yes, to act out now how they would be and what subject would they teach. Aaliya and Sara both excitedly shot up their hands. They were radiating happiness to teach us English and the other students even made a nod back to yesterday’s class on superlatives and noted that Sara was the “smallest” teacher. Naaz acted as me for the Third batch. After playing hangman, we then went over where we could find different house types around the world and why they looked the way they do.


10th-14th September

Jumping into the first batch Monday, I was so energized by the students enthusiasm to find out about the class we will have together. They were excited about going out with the cameras and designing cardboard models like they saw the other classes making. I also have been uplifted by my previous students who run in to see me after class. Tokir and Zabir came in to tell me that they missed my class and then ran out to go get their notebooks and proudly show me all the types of houses the drew. Then one day I walked out of the Rose class to Alliya, Sana, and Sara from the Jasmine class. They came all the way upstairs to say “hi.” They gave me a big hug and said they missed Payal and me. We all then went downstairs to find Payal to tell her, too. Sana started crying after hugging Payal. It was such a beautiful and bittersweet moment. The next day they came back to give us each a beautiful bracelet.

The second day of class we found out that a couple of the Rose class students had gone on walks with Ryan taking photos. We took advantage of this and had them help out the ones who hadn’t had exposure to the cameras yet. To learn about the different vantage points, we played a guessing game with cards for each perspective. Some images were tricky and we had fun deciding which cards could apply. Some photos, we decided, depended on the eye of the beholder and we all discussed how photography is an art and art can be read differently by different people. During this activity, Lalit let his imagination run wild and kept coming up with creative ways to reimagine the perspectives’ definitions. He happily pointed out that a bird could be on the ground looking up and therefore, what was a “worm’s eye view” could be a bird’s perspective too, or a worm could be staring down a staircase. We all had a good laugh with this.

I was worried that given the time frame of only three weeks and with all the September holidays, we wouldn’t have enough time to really talk about houses around the world as in the other classes but right off the start they were very quick to pick up on differences for example the roofs in different climatic zones. We introduced the term “brainstorm” in a visual way, drawing a storm scene on the board, relating it to actual storms that rapidly produce rain, lightning, etc., and described a brianstorm as what happens when we come together to rapidly produce ideas and thoughts, instead. The next day Priyanshu adorably asked if we could all brainstorm again.

On wednesday we went out for the Scavenger Hunt. Firdous and Samiya had the idea to go to a garden down the road. The place was perfect. Behind the courtyard of the first building you walked through a tunnel which led to an expansive field covered in lush grass. There was a structure on the side with multiple balconies and doors which gave them plenty to work with.  The field was enchanting when we went back at 5 pm with the third batch. It was as if we were meant to be there at that specific moment in time. The lighting was perfect for taking photos and the field had become filled with hundreds of dragonflies.

During the teachers session we had watched a motivational Ted Talk from an educator named Rita Pearson. We all discussed what the messages she conveyed were about and how the importance in teaching should be on making connections and building a relationship with your students. I kept trying to identify words that would be difficult for foreign speakers and would ask the teachers if they understood and pause the video to make sure they got it.

We then went over what intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are and what brings us each to the Foundation everyday. Payal was so motivated that when you heard her talk about the intrinsic reasons she comes to the foundation it was extremely touching.


17th-20th September

This week, in Rose class, we jumped right back into finishing our PowerPoint presentations on photography perspectives.  We made sure to add an introductory slide and a conclusion slide to complete our presentations. By Tuesday, we finished our presentations. It took some time to learn all the intricacies of Powerpoint, but by the last day they were able to get most things done by themselves. I had not expected the PowerPoints to take up so much class time, but I’m really happy that they all got the hang of it and can be confident with applying what they know for making other presentations. On Wednesday, we all learned about the Elements of Design through examining the materials of houses. We gave them a Scavenger hunt checklist to help them keep track and make sure they practiced all the new things they learned about and even review the perspectives we learned about last week. At first they started off worried that it would be difficult to complete all the tasks and find all the elements and perspectives and materials. However, once we got out, they were able to do a magnificent job and I think the slight difficulty of the tasks really sparked their creativity.

In the Teacher Session, we found out that we will be giving assessments next week. We therefore collaborated to come up with questions to pose to the children for their assessments and figure out how to fit the time to do the assessments into our already tight class schedule. For the other day with the teachers we had a lively conversation on the ethics of abortion and had the teachers write down their arguments for and against. It was easier than having a debate since we were missing some teachers. The next day,  we corrected their writings and it also naturally evolved into a conversation on marital rape in India.  On Wednesday, Payal, Rahela, and I went over a review of the architecture of Frank Gehry and started talking about Frank Lloyed Wright and the topic of modern art.


24th-28th September

This week, in Rose class, we started off with assessments. Every student made at least a few mistakes, even the more advance students, but some were naturally more comfortable with the process, especially  Priyanshu, Samiya, Rinku and Lalit. Four of the girls from the second batch, Shireen, Pooja, Ashwerya, and Sanjana were struggling to answer the spoken questions, for instance “how are you today?”. It seems that adding “today” seemed to be the root of this confusion.

On Tuesday we explored the difference between a house and a home. I thought this would be simpler for them and take less time than it did with the other two classes but, they were quite stumped when we had them have a group discussion on the difference between what makes a house and a home. Even though we described the translations in Hindi, the only difference they could come up with in the first batch was proposed by Aqib; he joked that they were spelled different. We explained the difference between a house and a home through stories and found something each could relate to and explained how “home” can even be used to describe the same feeling you get while there. We came up with lists of words to describe “house” and “home”. They came up with words like happiness, love, and comfort. It was such a fun class. Ashwerya in the second batch was quick to say that “that a house is empty until we fill it with ourselves, then it is a home”.

We went on walks Wednesday and Thursday to take the students’ portraits in their homes. Firdous was a miracle worker in strategizing when to visit each child’s home so that we could get to them all. The computers are in short supply this week because the Lilies need them for their lesson plan, so we will have to see today if we are able to upload their portraits and type up the “Thank You” letters on one computer.

In the Teacher Session, we started off the week with a game of Taboo, I think it was really successful in being both fun and educational. On Tuesday, Rahela and continued to discuss the small clip from the movie we had watched the previous week and went over the unfamiliar words from it. Payal continued to review the previous assessments and Rahela and I joined in for the first half to finish correcting them on Wednesday and Thursday.


1st- 5th October

This is my first week with the Lilies, I’m so happy to finally meet them all. When I asked the new students from the second batch if they knew what I was going to teach them one shouted out: “you’re the Electricity ma’am” and we deduced that he meant from this that the cameras were electronics. I thought this was an adorable misunderstanding and so after making sure they understood the difference, I ran around the room “zapping” the kids with my “electricity”. In first batch, Chanchal called out that she’s very excited to make cardboard -and possibly construction paper- homes and draw like an architect. Uskrash in the second batch is notably bright and immediately asked from seeing the class’ title what the difference between “house” and “home” is.

Ruchi and I implemented a “Only English” classroom, and it’s been really successful so far. We would also like to move three boys to Jasmine class because their school time changed and they are not able to keep up with the older girls that are in the third batch. Apart from their low English proficiency, the boys are around 11 yrs old and the older students are about 16 so some concepts are way easier for the older more advanced students regardless of language abilities. They were originally in the new students’ second batch (Victoria and Sandra said they were the three least advanced in that group).

On Wednesday we got into learning about photography as a profession. This was news to the first and second batch, but the older girls in third batch were well aware.  Apart from learning the 6 photography perspectives, we learned the difference between “upstairs/ downstairs” and “above/below” to be able to correctly describe where they are taking the photos from. I had noticed this misuse of the words with the Roses and decided to address it immediately in Lily. In the second batch, Aakash asked us if  the “profile” they had seen written in the descriptions we used for our Jigsaw activity had meant the same thing as a  “facebook profile.” We were amused with the connection he found but informed him that it was just a coincidence and that he had done a very good job being observant and noticing.

Victoria had kindly told me to keep an eye out for some possible drama between the boys in the first batch. I hadn’t noticed anything the first day but later on I noticed that Shalien and Mayank’s company design drawings on the wall were crossed out in marker. Farah said a student in Marigold did it and then we found out that Shalien and Mayank did it to each other’s work.

I spoke to Brooke from Outside the Lens on Wednesday and she had good ideas that we can use in Lily depending on how much time we will have with them (a month or two months). She was proposing at the end they can take a four way pic collage of home, so one picture could be themselves in their home, another of something they love about their home and some shots showing the materials and textures in their homes. She also suggested to take photos from the last Rose class and use them as examples for the Lilies when we do PowerPoints.

It has been difficult to ask the students to send their photos to Brooke directly as the internet connection on the third floor is too weak.


22nd– 26th October

This Monday we went back over the more difficult words from the reading day we had last Monday. They quite understandably had trouble differentiating between “quite, quit, and quiet.” We spent extra time on these three words and they now understand but, just to make sure it is retained, I kept finding ways to bring these words into our lesson throughout the week.

We also went on and learned about the different elements of design through photography. The pattern on my shirt was very helpful for pointing this out to the kids. After that we learned about diptychs. We had planned to have the students look up examples online of diptychs but we ran into trouble with the internet signal strength on the students’ laptops, so instead we all traded off using my laptop.

The students confessed some fears for their upcoming exams in November so we talked to them about this for a little bit. Ruchi was very good at giving them advice on how to pace themselves and how to be confident going into their exams.

The second batch really impressed us with how much they know about house materials. Muscan thought of bamboo, and they answered “water” as a building material so we guided them to how water is used to make building materials like mud and then Utkarsh shouted out cement. We were also really impressed with how fast the third batch was with downloading and making a Powerpoints with their Diptychs. After what Victoria said about the trouble they had a month ago with learning how to use Powerpoint, we were really impressed with their abilities and they were able to employ more creativity.

We decided to not use the  “PicCollage” app that wouldn’t be free after a month and instead thanks to Jake and Lilima’s suggestions use Powerpoint which will be more useful for the students, look better, and be easier for us when we go to print everything.


12th -16th November

We finished up taking photos on Monday. Some of the students lived too far for us all to walk to their homes, like Indergeet, Muscan, Harshita and Aakash, so we gave them my camera to take home and return later. In the end, we were able to get every student’s home portrait. Sandra and I were thinking that the students could have this camera on a rental system so that if any students want to take out a camera for a day they could

We weren’t able to immediately download the portraits because the computers were in use so instead, we skipped ahead and learned about how architects sketch and draw plans. Mayank happily pointed out that plans are like a map. It was also nice to see the connection between bird’s eye perspectives in photography and the architect’s perspective for plans.

Chanchal made her sketch extra untidy, just like in the examples we saw. A few of them were having difficulty with making “imperfect” sketches without rulers, but in the end, after some encouragement, the students made fast sketches. They even included some measurements in the sections and plans after they made their sketches. Farah, who had come in the second batch the day before and therefore was a class ahead, wonderfully helped me as my co-teacher and taught how to make a sketch, plan and section to the rest of the first batch.

Muskan in the third batch similarly helped by explaining to Bilal and Faizan what they had missed the previous day.  I was so happy that it worked out like this as it was beneficial for the students and myself!

Everyone was excited about making models. I was really impressed with the students’ models, some very impressive ones came from the quietest kids. Aakash and Bilal’s were great. Akkash’s model had parallel double staircases and Bilal realized that to make curved wall he should first trace it out so that he knew where the wall would fall and where the glue should be.

It’s been a bit of a battle while making their models to remind them to speak in full English sentences even while shouting out the materials they need. I think they get so in the zone of creating and enjoying that they don’t switch back to using English as easily

I’ve been playing some of my favourite songs in English to help them keep their brains on the language even if they aren’t actively talking as they would in other activities.

We listened to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Boogie Wonderland” today and they love Sia’s songs.


19th – 23rd November

What did you learn this week?

I learned that it’s best just to go with the flow at certain times and give the children the opportunity to choose what they want to do. On Thursday we pushed our original plan back in order to let the kids learn all about Thanksgiving. They loved the freedom they were given to choose to either learn more about the holiday or move onto reviewing materials.

What was the most challenging moment of the week?

We realized that the second batch was having difficulty figuring out which words were supposed to go in the personal dictionary and which in their normal notebook so Geeta Ji came up with the idea of using another whiteboard just for the personal dictionary words. We got through two of the perspectives with this batch because a lot of the words were unfamiliar to them.

What was the most rewarding moment of the week?

I was so happy to be back with the Daisies. We had lots of fun going over the parts of the house and the photography tools. The pictures discussion was really great, the children loved it and they did such great jobs discussing in groups. They discussed what they thought the subject and perspectives found in each photo were. There was the added bonus that it created ample opportunities to write in our personal dictionaries the new words for things we saw like water drops, railings and reflections.


26th – 30th November

What was the most challenging moment of the week?  On Tuesday, I realized that we had gone through the week’s plan faster than normal which was a tiny bit shocking because it usually happens to be that the lesson plans for one week spill over into the next. Since the projector was in use and we couldn’t do Read to Me, I came up with more activities for the gap I thought we would have on Thursday, but then our final activity on Wednesday (drawing) ended up taking the end of Wednesday’s class almost all of Thursday so I didn’t end up having them do the other activities in the end. I was happy they got to have as much time as they did on their drawings, and for the students who finished in a half hour, I had them write sentences about their rooms. Then a few proudly came up to show me that they had completed an entire page of sentences describing their spaces!

What was the most rewarding moment of the week?

On Saturday it was really sweet to see all the students interested in making the village, even the curious little Sunflowers who stared in amazement and helped us rehabilitate when  meteorites (a.k.a. soccer balls) came crashing in. The Lilies had fun planning it out, and then as houses got taken away by the previous batches who took theirs home, they would have to figure out how to reconfigure the village. The Daisies also absolutely loved the rubbings on different materials around the foundation, they didn’t want to stop.

What did you learn this week?  On Monday we had a little review of what happens on Thanksgiving. We went around saying what we were thankful for on that day. Lots of answers included family members, friends and teachers as they had the other week. Then Palak caught my eye as we were concluding. I could tell she had another thought to add. She paused for a moment then bounced a little with excitement and raised her hand. She proudly stated that she was thankful for the Tushita Foundation. I was so happy to have shared this tradition that happens on Thanksgiving, and I realized I should make it a Monday activity after meditation as a way to continue being grateful through the rest of the year and as a way to get them talking about what happened the previous week.

For teachers session this week we spent two days going through the sex workshop.

In the individual teachers session this Thursday with Geeta we learned about different fuel options for the future and discussed their viability given the constraints on the earth that we are facing/ will face even more in the future. We also discussed how these challenges require innovation and creativity.


3rd -6th December

While doing “Read to Me” we learned about the planning of the city of Jaipur and went over the difference between an architect and a construction worker. I told them that I have a dad who is a construction worker and a few of the students raised their hands proudly after to let us know that they too had fathers or grandfathers who were also construction workers. Then Geeta ji asked who wanted to be an architect. Shadab, Aiush, and Shejan all raised their hands immediately. Then we looked over at the girls. At first they were shy but I could tell Akshi wanted to say yes, too. Jubiya then helped to encourage her to raise her to finally hand, it was such a cute moment!

Planning around the interviewers visit was a little challenging for me this week because two days with the third batch would be spent going over what was going to happen and then Thursday would be devoted to the visit so we had to figure out how to get them back to about the same point in the lesson plan as the first batch in order to complete our plan. I was also confused a bit for the two days leading up to the visit about what the plan was for the interviews and what the children were supposed to do for their visit.

For teachers session this week we went over the Magic Shop of the Brain. We didn’t get too far as the words were complicated for the teachers so we would stop and explain often.


10th – 14th December

This week my challenge was also one of my most rewarding moments of the week. We started off doing a recap of the different types of drawings made by architects. First, we made very fast, two-minute sketches like architects. Sohail had one with a leaning powerline by the door, it was really beautiful to see how much detail he could add in such a fast sketch. Then, moving on to floor plans, the kids were having trouble at first drawing from a perspective they had never necessarily seen before but, then we were able to connect to their knowledge of the Bird’s Eye perspective. I had Chetanya come stand on the bench and look down on me and asked her what she saw so she’d see how to draw a person from above. Then finally understanding it, I could see it click all of the sudden and the rest of her drawing flowed more easily for her. By the next day, Chetanya understood and proudly called me over to show one person lying down on a bed and the other two who she said were walking. You could only see their heads and she drew in hair, too. She happily assisted others who were looking for help after that.

I really wanted to get their knowledge of plans and sections down so that we will be prepared to make our own of the playground next week. I was so impressed by their abilities to measure their classroom and figure out where the measurements applied to the page of graph paper and how to find the relationships between different measurements. It was really rewarding to see.

I learned this week that the kids love jumping jacks. We were all cold in the second batch so I asked the kids if they had ever heard of “jumping jacks” they said no. So we went off to the open space in the classroom and did a set of ten to warm us up. When we finished, they all wanted to do another set, and then another. They were so in love with it and had lots of fun. After, I realized that this also coincided with what Victoria was sharing with me earlier about how exercise right before studying helps to our brains retain information.


7th – 11th January 2019

I was very excited to meet the Marigold class this week. I always see them around but I haven’t been able to get to know them personally. They were very excited by the idea that we were going to go out and take pictures. We had them draw “title” pages and Mariam included a drawing of her taking pictures with a camera. When it came time to draw houses, the three groups were all very good at coming up with original ideas for rooflines, and window styles etc. I was thoroughly impressed. A challenge this week was that during the “Parts of the House” excursions the first batch was having a difficult time remembering to use full sentences i.e. “This is a balcony,” “I see stairs”  and so on. For the second and third batches we prepared them before going out by practicing using full sentences on the board, it worked wonders. The kids were using full sentences for the majority of the time (sometimes getting excited and slipping up but correcting themselves soon after).

I learned that it was better to just have the kids play name games and some games in general because they were shy for the first few classes (especially the third batch) and now I realise that this was their first time with a foreign teacher.  They were really happy to have me call them by their names by the end of the week. I appreciate that I got the chance to learn all their names from the start through the games.


15th – 18th January 2019

This week started off wonderfully. After all our time on Saturday spent practicing how to fly a kite with the students, Victoria and I finally got a chance to show off our skills at Sana’s (from Lily class) house as she graciously invited us over for Makar Sankranti. Firdous and I experienced even more hospitality on Tuesday. The schools were still closed so there were only a couple of students for each class. We decided to switch up the lesson plan and take some excursions to a few of the students’ houses. We saw Marium’s goat who we had visited on our “House Parts” tour the last week. Since our last encounter her goat had birthed two adorable babies and we held them this time. In the last batch we walked to Harsh’s house. It was in a part of Amer that not even Firdous had previously visited. We saw some beautiful murals on the road up to it and we were able to meet his family. His sister Jyoti had decorated her room fabulously and when Firdous asked her what was under a cover in the corner she revealed beautifully designed house model with intricate staircases that she had made from scratch with styrofoam. I told Jyoti that we would love it if she could come and help us teach when we start making cardboard models with the students again. We learned that artistic pursuits run in the family as the mother handed me an album to look over while enjoying chai. It was filled with photos of their mom and dad who are painters of intricate wall designs. I recognized lots of the gates around the old city and some rooms from the Amer Fort. As we were walking away from the house we even ran into Harsh’s dad and told him how we loved seeing his work and he invited us to see the work he’s doing now. I think the only challenge I faced this week was that I realized that the video I had planned for this week had thoroughly entertained the first batch but it was not as much fun for the last batch. I tried to plan ahead for this and choose a video that I thought would appeal to a wide age range, but in the future I would choose two different ones. It really fully hit me just then how diverse the Marigold class is. There are small students just out of the Sunflower class and then students that are around 16 years old.


28th January – 1st February 2019

Ever so often I’ve encountered students who were not excited to do the meditation and at first I’d let them just sit it out and do another activity. I faced this challenge this week too, but this time I instead tried something new. I asked who wanted to lead the meditation and shockingly the same students who were in doubt about it wanted to lead it. Alfaiz who is normally a bit rambunctious in class led the meditation for two days and it was one of the most relaxing and peaceful meditations we’ve had. Firdous and I both looked at each other with shock at the end.

The rewarding moment of the week was having the students describe the photographs we examined using full sentences (and correctly) without asking them or reminding them. It finally paid off after the past few weeks of being extra vigilant to not let any “one word” explanations slide.

4th – 8th February

Challenge: The biggest challenge this week was finding enough energy to keep up as I’ve been sick and this happened to be the week that we took more photography expeditions outside than ever before! We had a nice time and Arsalan even opened my mind to see patterns in a tree’s leaves, something I’d never noticed before in that way

Learned: I was feeling really sick on Thursday and I asked Firdous if she would be alright teaching alone. She said yes and that she’d teach the students how to upload their images on the computer. I was so happy because the thought didn’t even cross my mind. In instances like this, I’ve thought before that it would be beneficial to make our lesson plans side-by-side with the co-teacher we have. It would be helpful for us since they know each child and their level best and also could be great for them to get practice in making lesson plans.

Rewarding: Last Friday, Mariyam from the first batch was having a difficult time deciding on a book and asked me for help. I asked how she felt about reading one of the more advanced books- a chapter book instead of the ones like Dr Seuss, etc. I promised that I’d help her while she read it and we had fun together. Afterwards she took the book home. On Tuesday, she proudly ran up to me to tell me that she was now reading her book at home and at school and that she made it 21 pages in and again on Wednesday she happily announced her progress. When I asked if she was understanding it she said yes – I’m curious to see on Friday if that’s in fact the case and what she’s learned from the book.


During our teacher motivation and self-reflection week last month I recalled how I was timid  when I first stepped in the classroom. I found it difficult to adjust my lesson plans at first, not having understood the English comprehension level of the children before arriving.  Also, for a while it was a challenge for me to change plans on a whim if they were not going well. I now feel confident in the classroom and feel at ease making adjustments when I see that something needs to be changed in the exact moment. Seeing the students be receptive to the lessons made helped me trust myself more and helped me realize what some key factors to a  successful lesson plan are. Looking at other teachers for inspiration helped as well. One of my fears was how to deal with children who pick fights or start trouble and I was able to see a case play out with Victoria’s class and she was just as confused as I would have been. I’ve realized its okay to not have all the answers and that it doesn’t hinder my ability to teach a good lesson if I am unsure of a few things that may or may not occur.

One thing I’d love to implement at the Foundation -if I had a magic wand- would be to make it an English only facility, at least for the older classes, so that they really have to push themselves to speak to everyone in English and not just the volunteers. This leads me to what I would also like to change in myself because I always have to manage how often the students speak in Hindi.

One thing I really am trying to work on is to keep rules and my enforcement of them consistent. Sometimes I set rules but then I get carried away and forget or feel bad enforcing them and thus, rely on my co-teachers far too much in that matter.


11th – 15th February

Challenge:  A challenge this week was that there were 35 students in the third batch of Sunflower and therefore sometimes less than ten in the other two batches. This created a little bit of difficulty when the games we had planned ended up taking a fraction of the time allotted.  Jyoti saved the day and kept coming up with great activities on the spot.

Reward:  In the middle of the week there was a fight between Sonu and Subhaan before walking into the class. I realized this because when I went over to say “hi” to Sonu he was not his normal cheerful self. The other students told me that they had fought outside and that his sister had slapped him. With the help of the other students we got them to apologize to each other and even hug. All the students clapped when they hugged at the end. It was really sweet to see and immediately after Sonu’s classic smile reappeared.

Learned: My first impressions of the Sunflowers exceed my expectations. I feel so relaxed around them and I was going into it thinking the opposite might happen because there are so many students. I thought it might be a little hectic but, that was not the case and time flies by so fast with them.


18th- 22nd February

Challenge: A challenge this week was thinking about ways to get all the students to be able to have cut-out shapes to use for the class on Tuesday when we presented the different shapes in buildings. We eventually decided to have the first and second batches create their own shapes to cut-out and then pooled those to have enough for the third batch. Even though the third batch wasn’t able to draw their own shapes, this ended up working out best because given that there are so many, there wouldn’t have been enough time to complete the rest of the lesson and they had previously drawn all the shapes the last week.
Reward: While watching the video on Milan we crossed the phrase for the mindset of “time is money.” After explaining, Neha, Geeta Ji and I had a beautiful discussion on the different values found in the different parts of the world and what we value ourselves. They told me all about how they are invited to other peoples celebrations regardless of religion and how they take the time to speak to people they know and invite everyone they can over to their homes

Learned: I had a feeling that the Sunflowers would surprise me with their abilities to quickly pick up words, but I was still extremely shocked to see how they immediately pronounced “Architect” and “Architecture” perfectly, something that took the Daisies and Marigolds many days to achieve. I also happily learned this week that the students have math books. Rahela said that we could have fun and practice math with them on Thursday.


25th – 28th February

Challenge: A small challenge this week was the weather, we had to improvise for two days because the lesson plan included a walk outside. It was fun nonetheless to have a rain day and huddle inside. I had some nostalgia from it reminding me of being cozy inside during snowstorms.

Reward: Because of the rain day we were able to learn more in depth about house parts and objects in the house. This led to a discussion about chimneys, which in turn lead to a conversation about how the climate is different in other parts of the world and how houses can change accordingly. I was delighted to see the Sunflowers’ excitement and participation in a round carpet discussion on this topic.

Learned: I discovered that the Sunflowers (even the larger third batch group) are great on excursions. I was a bit apprehensive to take them all out, but I’m so glad we did and we were even able to venture further than I had expected because they behaved properly.


4th – 8th March

I was excited to meet Reshma in the Sunflower class this week. We had a great time overall and I was so impressed by her skills and adaptability- I learned later that she has had experience in teaching. Rahela and I took her suggestions too and we told her for instance that we try not to draw things on the board for the children like buildings and houses so that they do not copy what they see.

Given that this week they have drawn from their own imagination, next week we will look at pictures of the structures (bank, post office, hospital) and review what we have learned.

A rewarding moment this week as when switched up our normal warm up and did Beyonce’s “Let’s Move” dance. I learned that the Sunflowers and teachers loved to do this dance as a warm up. They expressed that they would like to do it and other dances as a warm up a few days each week to mix up the plan.


11th-15th March

This week started off on a sweet note as Reshma congratulated the little sunflowers for having clean socks this time. She had made an announcement last friday on hygiene and they showed an improvement this week. It was nice to see her recognise their improvement and we all clapped for them.

This lead me to also notice that some had taken more care of their teeth after the parents teachers meeting where they were given toothbrushes

I was shocked to immediately notice a difference in Sofia’s teeth as they were light this week.  A rewarding moment this week was seeing the children make goodbye cards for Sandra on Thursday. They included drawings of India and Mexico and even drew Sandra hugging her dad.


25th – 29th March

Learned: I learned that the Sunflowers are good at coming up with sentences for the words they have learned. I was a bit nervous that creating sentences would be too much for them but they did a great job beyond my expectations, and even though the sentences were simple, they added words they remembered from the past that were advance for them like “ice hockey” and “hunt”. I also learned that Reshma is great at leading the class.
Challenge: This week I had Payal and Geeta ji in teachers session. We were going over  prepositions using videos from Khan Academy as Payal wanted, but I could tell that Geetaji was not as enthralled as Payal was possibly because it was more of a review for her. I think it was still helpful to go over the videos as even I was learning from them but next time I need to think of ways to get Geetaji more into it.

Reward: It was great to see the Sunflowers blossom with creating sentences themselves. We didn’t get to write that many (only four or five in our time together) but they exceeded my expectations. I was really happy to also have the students who finished first go around and find a fellow peer to help. Some of the students took that as “write for the other students” so we had to go back around and monitor that they “helped” appropriately instead of doing the work for them. Nonetheless, it was great to see their excitement in helping out the others.


1st – 5th April

The children surprise us every day with their answers. The students understood the psychological lift as we did the meditation with reference to the activity. Sana felt lifted by her dreams, whereas Armaan felt lifted by education. The most common answers were parents, teachers and school. The next day was about taking pride in things we do, or we have. Afzal feels proud because he helps and motivates himself. Alfiya felt proud of herself when she topped her school. Harsh is proud of himself for having a good family and when he comes to the foundation. On Wednesday, each one of them made their coat of arms. All the four quadrants represented the things, people or places that are important to them. For Afzal school, playground, home and himself are most important. For Sana, Armaan and Harsh the foundation was a very important place as it is a place where they learn and play. The next day we did a sentence completion worksheet, the students were spot on with their responses. One of the sentences was ‘Sometimes I wish I could’, the students had the cutest replies to which I also asked why they would wish for that. Ritika wished to be a flower because it smells good and is blossoming always. Armaan wished to be able to fly, as that way he could travel the world. Chetna wished to be a bird because then she would be able to see the world from above. Deepika and Simi wished to be 5 years old forever, as it is an age where they enjoyed without caring.


Teacher session

We finally finished the pending debate, which bought out a lot of important topics for discussion. Reshmaji mentioned the importance of school as it is the beginning of the foundation of a child. And how affording an air conditioning becomes difficult for a lot of people. Rehnuma said how every school can’t afford to provide air conditioning.  The next day we took pride in the things we do, or we have. Fahreen feels proud because her family trusts her. Rehnuma takes pride when she talks in English.


12th April

What was successful about the year: I really think that the implementation of reading day on Fridays was great. The kids are still excited about it and I had so many moments where the kids came up to me proudly showing their improvements in reading. The other thing I really loved was the addition of exercise and meditation in the beginning of class. I think it’s great that they get the opportunity to stretch and relax their minds especially since some of them have busy schedules outside of the foundation and there is research to show that exercise before learning increases retention of information.