A Letter to Future Participants

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There are a few things I would do differently if I was lucky enough to go to Bangalore again.  In an effort to help prepare the the next streak of tigers, I’ve put together this list of recommendations as you plan for the amazing journey ahead of you.  They’ll tell you, “nothing can prepare you for India”.  This shouldn’t be mistaken for, “don’t prepare for India”.  There are definitely things you can do here that will make your time there far more enjoyable.  Here’s what I came up with:

1.Read past participant’s blog posts

For obvious reasons, I have to start the list with this one.  There have been quite a few participants at this point so it might be a good idea to ask Gabrielle which ones would be of most help to someone preparing for their first trip.  Better yet, get coffee with a past participant in Columbia…

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Anansi and the Snake

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Thank you Gabrielle, Girish, Suman, DPS East, donors, and everyone that made this exchange possible. The work you do is truly life changing. If you’re goal was to facilitate a meaningful experience for both sides, you most definitely succeeded. And Gabrielle, as for your mission to re-humanize teacher education, I can’t imagine a better way of doing this than sending pre-service teachers to learn from Indian educators and students. I feel as though part of the human in me has been restored through this program and through connecting with teachers, students, and locals.

The last day of school was the most unforgettable. I taught three or four English lessons on an African folk tale about a spider named Anansi, and a snake named Snake. The spider wanted to prove to the animal kingdom that he was more than just a small weak insect; he was clever. So he made a…

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SEVAI

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Ready for a new challenge, I left Casa Thursday morning for Trichy, Tamil Nadu.  I was invited by Dr. K . Govidaraju to spend a day interacting with the students at one of three Tamil schools he founded under the NGO, SEVAI.  Arriving at the wrong station, finding almost no English speakers, and traveling over 9 hours between 2 non-ac buses with little leg room, I found my challenge.

Dr. Govindaraju was 22 when he started his post grad in Mathematics education.  He knew he wanted to start his own school in a rural neighborhood of Tamil so in 1975, with a few friends, he founded his first school with 30 students.  SEVAI has grown exponentially since and, among others, now includes one K-12 and two K-5 schools, several housing projects, a women’s counseling center, self help, and business education programs, 3 organic farming plantations, and an HIV/AIDS intervention program.

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People’s Trust

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On Friday, a few of us took the day off from school to go with 6th graders from Vidyashilp to a government/trust school as part of Vidyashilp’s community outreach program called Shilp Sparsh, and headed by Kalpna ma’am.  About 60 students, in groups of 5, had prepared projects and materials to share with the students at the school, Sai Shankar Vidyashala, or simply People’s Trust.  On the bus ride there the students, in high spirits, sang bits of familiar songs by Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry.   When we arrived, each group paired up with 5 students from Sai and began their demonstrations and activities. In each group, at least one Vidyashilp student spoke both English and Kannada, the native tongue of Karnataka, and would translate for the Sai students, few of whom spoke any English at all.

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While the students completed their projects and socialized, the head…

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On Teaching

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20160719_090139“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” 
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The pages in my teaching and observation notebook are split into “Problems” on the left and “Potential Solutions” on the right.  Under “Problem”, I write one aspect of the current system I see as a problem and list its advantages and disadvantages.  On the left, I propose a potential solution and do the same.  I realize I’m new to this and to an experienced educator, most of this is going to sound incredibly naïve, but I’ve experienced at least a few too many negative aspects of the traditional education system to turn a blind eye.  Instead of avoiding the problem, I’d like…

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The Scotland of India

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This past weekend IKC treated us to a weekend excursion to Coorg and Mysore.  We left Casa Friday morning around 11:00 am and arrived at Abbydhama guest house in Coorg by 6 pm.  The room was far nicer than anything I deserve.  We unpacked and spent the rest of the night playing ping-pong and Capitalism, a card game I shared which has proven to be a hit.  Suman even got in on the action!

The following morning we ate a breakfast of Idli and Vada, a popular South Indian dish of steamed lentil/rice cakes and deep-fried legume dough served with a variety of chutnies and sambar.  I’ve had the best cup of coffee in my life several times since arriving in India but I think the coffee at Abbydhama, which comes from the plantations in Coorg, takes the cake.

When the British populated Southern India, many Scots came to Coorg…

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Kabaddi and Achaar

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India continues to surprise me at almost two weeks in.  This past weekend, Taylor and I visited our friend Krishna, a tall, slender, and incredibly kind twenty-something whom I met through couchsurfing.  He invited us over to watch a movie Sunday night at his apartment in Koramangala, a nice neighborhood in south-east Bangalore.  Skip the headache of booking a cab outside Truffles and becoming lost trying to find the place, and we walk into a tidy, marble floored, minimalist three-bedroom apartment.

On the TV was something that vaguely resembled a sport.  Seven men in green were holding hands on the left, turning together in a half-circle, while one man in yellow jumped around on the right, trying to touch the others.  The court was purple and wavy like a potato chip¹.  When the man in yellow did touch an opposing player, he immediately sprinted back across the line where his…

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