As I prepared for my first class, my second wish was coming true! The teacher training course was about to be taken to another level. Up to Monday we’d had our 2 weeks of theory, study and preparation for the real thing. Last Monday we were “let loose”, or maybe “forced” to undergo the change. We were no longer the students in the benches, instead we were the teachers with a class full of eager students wanting to learn English.
The past week of the course, we’ve had to give one lesson everyday in a different primary school. The first time for me to ever stand in front of a classroom of children and be looked up to, as being the teacher, was on Monday morning. It was an overwhelming experience to say the very least. I was wearing my new traditional “chudar” dress (I think I spelt that wrong..oops!), that I had to get made by the tailor down the road. I walked into the school, with all of the others from the course. We all had our own appointed class for a certain amount of time, all in the same school, so we were able to “support” each other, which was a big bonus. Walking into that school, felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe what was happening. From the outside it looked very much like a detention-centre, or a jail even. We walked through these massive gates and the kids were all in front of the windows, shouting down at us, waving, and totally shocked at the sight of a few Westerners. I was so overwhelmed. The first time to be in an Indian school, the first time to be teaching.. All at once. Was I able for this? Could I take to being treated like a celebrity, when really all I wanted was to be there to teach them and all I wanted was for the kids to be happy to see me, because it’s me, and not because I have a different skin colour? For a few minutes I really did ask myself if this wasn’t too much. But then, once I sat in the teacher’s room, with everyone, having tea, I took it all in. I knew my moment would be coming soon and that the lesson would be starting. Someone asked me: “Niamh, are you nervous?” and I honestly answered, “no”. I expected to be, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was so excited. I wanted to be the teacher, so suddenly. I wanted to be in this environment. I wanted to meet the kids I’d be teaching. I was so eager!
So my first lesson, was definitely a challenge. The kids were around 4 and 5 years old. They were beautiful, amazing, sweet, hyper, active, eager and so much more. It was such a great experience. Everything I did and said, had an effect - the right one, that is. I somehow knew how to handle them, I knew what to do and it all came naturally. But when I walked out of the class, I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I was shaking, I had a headache, I felt so emotional and I suddenly could relate to how every teacher I’ve ever had since the age of . I could relate to how they must have felt when they’d had a difficult class to teach. I felt an instant sense of respect for them all, because it’s definitely NOT easy and the job they do, when it‘s a GOOD one, is something to never take for granted. What a challenge it was, but I loved every minute!
Tuesday was a totally different experience. The kids were around 11 to 13 years old. The school was of a different kind. I couldn’t quite believe how primitive it was. The classrooms weren’t proper classrooms. It was one big hall, with wooden dividers serving as “walls”, making “room” for 7 “classrooms”. The set-up was like something from 30 or 40 years ago (I’m guessing, as I wasn’t alive then.. but I can only try to imagine). The noise of 7 teachers, and 40 students x 7 classes = nearly 300 people all at once, was unreal. I had an amazing class though. The kids were beautiful, excited, happy.. All 50 of them!! I didn’t even realize until afterwards that the class was so big. And it went so well.. Again, I didn’t want it to end. But it did, far too soon. I then walked out of there and felt like I would so easily fall in love with these kids. I didn’t want to leave that school. I wanted to stay. I felt like I could do so much more for them, than just give them 1 hour of my attention.
Wednesday, was totally different again. This school was far more “resourceful” as the locals would call it. But I call it: far more “wealthy”. There were individual classrooms (with walls) and the kids were wearing brightly coloured uniforms and I only had 30 students this time. It was a walk in the park! I loved it again, but I could feel that they were more spoilt maybe than the kids I had on Tuesday. I’m not too sure why the vibe was so different. It could have been that they were far more disciplined too, which showed by the salute they gave me when I left the classroom..
Thursday turned out to be amazing. The highlight of the week, by far! It was amazing. Me and 2 others from the course, were brought back to the same school as Tuesday, where I had the class with 50 students. And as I walked into the class I was taking, they started shouting my name. It was the same class as I had on Tuesday!!! It was so cool! They remembered me and were delighted! What a lesson it was. It was manic. The lesson I was giving them, was one where they were playing a game, so they got so noisy, disruptive and excited. I would never have imagined I’d have been able to control a class like that, but I did! I pulled it off, and it was amazing. I loved them to bits!
After class, they all came running up to me, wanting to hug me and asking for me autograph. It was again, overwhelming. What do you do in a situation like that? 50 kids bombarding you with their copies and their pens, treating you like a celebrity. All they wanted was my name on their copies and their day would have been made. Should I have walked away? Probably. So I did, when a guy who worked in the school came in, with a wooden stick in his hand and shouted something in Malayalam (the local language) at them and they all ran to their seats. I left feeling 101different things: hot and bothered, sweaty, tired, happy, inspired, sorry for not giving them the needed attention, eager to come again, fulfilled and energized and so blessed for that hour I managed to spend with them. One thing that a little boy said, which stuck in my mind, was: “teacher, are you coming back?”. He said it with so much hope in his eyes and voice that I couldn’t possibly say no, so I said I wasn’t sure…
Friday everything was winding down. The school was the same school we went to on Monday. The students were older, around the age of 15. It took a lot for all of us from the course to still bring the energy level up to where it was supposed to be. It was our last day and the week had been so busy and overwhelming, that it had taken its toll on all of us. But I managed, again, effortlessly and it was a brilliant class. Afterwards I felt amazing and it was like something fell off of me. The pressure was gone, a weight had been lifted and I was already going to miss not coming to these schools. But it was over. I sat in the van with the others from the course, we made our way back to our office, and I was about to close the first and most amazing chapter of my Indian adventure so far..