Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First day of classes!

June 15, 2009

First day of classes officially, although in some sense of the word it wasn’t exactly established…

When we arrived Gangadhar (the administrator) pointed out to us which building is our landmark in order for us to take control and realize how to make it on our own to the school.

We went to the other branch of the school. It is in an area of the community in which the teacher is still conducting surveys. Therefore, many of the students there today have already been in Parivartan before, and many according to Gangadhar have been forced to be there today.

Picture: The teacher, Gayatri, in the first branch of the school with Ria and Juhi

There were 20 kids there today by the end of the first 2.5 hours.

We had arrived at 1:15 to the school, where we had met the second teacher (who apparently has been working with Parivartan for some time now).

Although originally I thought we were to be more observers, rather than teachers on the first day, the teacher turned to us to teach. According to Gangadhar he wanted us to start the class in order to get the kids excited.

They were all sitting in rows, sitting there with their little book in a plastic bag and pencil. I only recognized one of them. At first I thought it was a mistake and that we were with the younger kids instead, but when asked, the kids were aged 7 and 8 mostly (and the later session should be kids 7-12.

I thought that they looked younger because maybe they are in reality less than 7 years old and their parents don’t really know their age (without a birth certificate), so they have guessed. Also, it was earlier mentioned to me that it is harder to convince the parents that the older kids should go to school because they are more capable and efficient at doing the work at home for money.

There were only a few older kids aged 11 or 12. The age gap looked huge, and I kept thinking how the younger ones probably can learn at a faster speed than the older ones (I’ve always been taught and experienced that at a very young age you can learn language much easier than at an older age). I also was thinking how the older kids must either be embarrassed/or frustrated if this is the case (that the younger ones are learning faster)

So we stood in front of the room. I proposed that we all introduce ourselves and then do an action that we like and everyone copies it. I chose this task because I thought that it was basic enough- not too crazy theatrically.

But for me it was hard to repeat anyone’s name because the kids whispered it…and the Hindi was hard to recall.

There were many kids (we were going around in a circle) that were way too shy to participate. They stood there not saying anything. So another facilitator said “let’s move to the boys”. The boys raised their hand to participate- it was cute seeing them taking initiative!

Afterwards I led them in the passing around a sound and motion in a circle. I started with a basic motion like sticking my mouth out and using hands and saying ahhh.

Many were pretty shy when it came to this… and when they did it they laughed.

Then we sat down and the other facilitators were asking them about which songs they like. Everyone was pretty silent, so I said, “why don’t we make up a song?” So I went into crazy sound mode…where I said things like: saleeee cheee neeekeee hey?” and sang it… I wanted them to copy and repeat. They did so nicely. We did many lines of this inventive song.

During all this, there was a crowd at the doorframe of the school. People were curious. One boy was peeping through the window up above. It made me so happy

Juhi decided to teach them English and incorporate sound. Goat- eeh hah! Cute English session! And Juhi kept on asking them to sort of shout, like I believe she picked up from watching Manjul’s videos, and it always picked the kids up to another level.

Then I played with them, making all sorts of noises until the teacher walked in. She had left (once we had started) in order to continue surveying the community. I didn’t know what to do at that point: continue or let the teacher take the floor?

So we handed it to her for the next 20 minutes. I was curious, how do you play with the kids?

The kids actually looked excited to learn. One by one the kids went up to the chalkboard and wrote their name in Hindi.Some were much more confident in their writing abilities, others it was their first time.One girl went up and only wrote the first letter of her name, which she had picked up from the way the previous student had written her name (with the same letter). It was the first time this girl had ever written, and I was so impressed. Kids can learn so fast!

The teacher played a little game with them, seemed like American’s equivalent of “Simon Says”, with the kids standing up, then sitting down, according to the orders of the teacher. The kids loved it.

We then took off to the other center, led by the assistant to Gangadhar. I hope to be able to navigate this slum independently SOON, but now there isn’t time to get lost.

The second we arrived at the center it was comforting. We had already spent much time with this teacher, as well as this space.

The kids were all playing with Lego. Apparently today was just games day.

Soon enough, we were in a circle. And kids were going up, on their own, to sing songs.


They were singing confidently. The others were listening, for the most part.

I kept thinking of my training with ETF, and how we were all so hesitant to sing, and here were these kids singing without any problem. Especially this one girl who was SO hesitant at the beginning.

Then she went in front and for maybe 5 minutes performed a song with such commitment and energy and focus.

Then the teacher taught some funny songs. I taught them all “I love you” in English with hand gestures, while the others translated it in Hindi. I was grateful, because in English and with its reputation, it IS a cheesy song, but it is simple enough to teach others of a foreign language and brought smiles.

I brought up charades. I know that playing charades with this population involves catering to the activities, and things that they know. I started by miming washing clothes and hanging them up. Almost everyone shouted their guess to what I was doing.

Meeting with Manjul-

We started by writing out our thoughts of the day, followed by sharing it.

Others keep saying things like “I don’t have experience working with children. I don’t have experience working with theatre”.

Picture above: Kids from the community watching school in session

WHO CARES?! I told them in the car ride home that

there are plenty of people in this world that have worked with kids for years, and still are terrible with them! That usually people who are trying something new have a sense of curiosity and will to try that is remarkable.

Manjul presented the option of performing right then, presenting what it was we did that day, create a photo for him.

He said without talking. YES! I hate talking. So we moved space, and I took the lead starting when the kids first saw us enter the room. Then manjul told ria to play me. She said I was “the hardest character to play”. She tried imitating me making strange sounds….

I am enjoying watching the group dynamic and how others are taking in Manjul’s advice and attitude. I feel more comfortable, given the fact that I am more familiar to this manner of learning, but now I get to watch others go through what I went through…which is a whole other journey.

We discussed the training. We most likely will do Friday through Sunday which I think is a terrific idea to give the others a sense of the workshop.

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