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Friday, November 25, 2011

Teaching update

I’ve been here 4 weeks now, and things have changed quite a bit. Last week I mentioned that I started teaching the drama classes… and it’s going great; quite a challenge but so satisfying, especially when I see how the work is paying off and how the ‘play’ is starting to come together. But along with the drama and Spoken English classes, I’ve also been appointed to give morning presentations to the whole school. For the past week and half, I’ve been talking on the microphone, for around 20 to 30 minutes – in lecture form – to the whole school. I’m teaching nearly 300 students pronunciation, accent reduction, general morals, inspirational thoughts for the day and general knowledge on Ireland and Europe (something they’re extremely eager to learn about).

This new form of teaching I was asked to do last week by Lekha (the senior staff member who I’m also living with). She wanted my being here to have more of an impact on the other teachers as well as all the kids. At first these presentations weren’t meant to be so structured, so important, so extensive or so regular. But they’ve suddenly become something that everyone depends on.

To be honest I was quite nervous when I was first asked to speak. I didn’t really know if I’d have anything to say. But after 2 mornings the nerves had gone and I realized that I DO have stuff to say, and a lot at that! Even though I’m not a professional teacher or speaker and I haven’t trained to do any of this, still, what I do seems to work. The kids are happy, they’re engaged, they’re learning and I’m on a role. And now I’m at a point where I don’t really want those 20 to 30 minutes to end. Putting down the mic is like: Oh no, I have to put it down, switch it off and stop talking? Yes Niamh, you do! Okay… so of course I do, but my silence doesn’t last for long. I’m becoming more and more apart of this school and it’s like, everyday, I come up with something different I can contribute.

Like yesterday; I came up with the idea to give a yoga demonstration on Annual day (this is the festival on the 19th of December, the one I’m preparing and teaching the drama classes for). The school supports my idea. And to do so this demonstration, I now have started giving a yoga class in the morning. I’ve selected a small group of kids who I can work with, and I’m putting the performance together, with their help. Even though the kids do yoga every morning, for 20 minutes, they don’t give it enough attention or importance. So, I found that doing the demonstration would motivate all the students to practise their daily poses, with more concentration, so they can benefit more. As well, I found it could be an opportunity for me to see if I’m able to teach yoga myself. I’m not a professional, far from it. But I’ve realized since arriving that I can teach them more than they already know and it’s something the school is lacking; somebody who has the ‘time’ and most importantly, the WILL and passion to improve their daily practise.

This week, it already happened. I’ve been giving some short classes, with basic instructions to small groups. It’s so different to be working with kids like this. But I love it so much. I’ve only done a few classes, but it’s so rewarding to give these kids this kind of attention. There’s little lesson planning involved, only my own yoga practise, which I do in the mornings before going to school. And even though my time here is short and my own yoga ‘knowledge’ is only minimal, this ‘tiny’ step feels like something huge. I feel relieved and grateful that school is giving me the time to do this. I can learn a lot from this… And I’ve only got 4 more weeks left, before it’s time to move on to the next school… How the time is flying… but everyday is so full and action packed, that it feels like I’ve been here forever and that my time here won’t end… sounding very corny, I’ll leave this post for now!

A funny moment in class...

There have been a few moments here at school. This is one have to share…

Last Friday, during class, I was answering some general questions about Ireland. And suddenly the bell rang. The kids got excited, because their lunch was waiting, but still they had so many questions for me. So, as they were running around, they all started firing 20 questions at me: are there lions in Ireland? Do you have elephants? Where are the tigers? How many coconut trees are there? Do you all eat your own bananas? It was the funniest thing, when I managed to quieten everybody down with as loud a voice as possible, I shouted: “there are no lions, tigers, bears, coconuts or banana trees in Ireland!” They didn’t stay quiet for very long. So shocked they were, especially when I stressed the fact that THERE ARE NO ELEPHANTS OR COCONUTS IN IRELAND… Then the chubbiest little 10 year old of the class stood up in disbelief, raising his hands and shouted above the noise and excitement: “Do you even have any FORESTS?????????????? It was hilarious. Nobody could fathom how there could be forests in Ireland, if the contents was missing!!!! But, it was the contents of Indian forests that was missing in Ireland. These little kids of course presumed forests too would be missing. They found it all very confusing. But I thought it was the funniest thing.

What I was thinking of afterwards, was that if I were to tell the kids in Ireland about the contents of Indian forests, they’d probably react in the exact same way. This just made me realize how alien it can sound to either the kids Ireland or the kids here; the fact that there’s a place on earth that differs so much for what children consider to be the normal world. And, once upon a time, I too was one of them.

Then I thought, it must be quite strange for the kids to now have a teacher, who is from such a place… without any elephants or coconuts!!! It would probably not only let them think of Ireland as being an alien place, but also it’s people – of which they class me as being one. Man, how I love the innocence in children.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A step forward

What a crazy turn-out this is. I can’t believe my luck at times… When I look back on the life I wished for when I was in China and when I now recall what I was missing both in that particular job as well as outside the job; everything is now coming to me. And it’s because of this job I’ve been given. I can see so clearly, as I take to my ‘new temporary settlement’ here in Sashtavattom that if this position hadn’t been offered to me (or if I hadn’t offered my services) when I was still in Jinzhou, I’d probably not have come back to India, so easily and so ‘quickly’. The fact I knew I was able to start teaching here in Kerala, meant I had a secure position to move towards. So I came and gave myself 7 weeks between both jobs, to focus on other things, besides teaching.

In between leaving China on the 1st of September and starting here at the school on the 24th of October, I’ve learnt so much. Only today I realized that this situation is giving me so many opportunities and I can work on everything I set in motion since leaving China. I thought that maybe things would stop, once the teaching started. But nothing has, and ‘freedom’ hasn’t been taken. Life hasn’t become dull just because I’m working and teaching. On the contrary; life has become more colourful.

During the first 7 weeks in India, I had times when I felt to still be missing something. I’ve felt alone but was convinced that was fine… I didn’t want to fully open up to others and I believed that I didn’t need too many people around me. I thought that it’s what a writer was meant to experience, ALL THE TIME. Such isolation I believed would serve all parts of me and my life. I know that by thinking along these lines, I’ve become the prisoner of my own mind, in the past, and it all was of my own making.

But because I know this now, I’ll be more cautious not to let myself become trapped again, in these thoughts. And stepping back into school has been apart of me opening up again. This environment is showing me that such isolation is not what I, as a person, need. I need to be with the kids, because it gives me expression of the life inside. I realize there’s only so much energy and power I can pour into my writing – when my book or other writings aren’t yet being shared in the way I’d want them to be.

Having a ‘book in waiting’ has felt like my source of imprisonment and frustration at the best of times. This could be hard for others to understand… But this is how it is, for me; all the work, power and energy that’s injected into just one simple book – can lead a person to feel like… nothing, when words aren't being shared yet, or when one fails to practise patience; patience when waiting for the right time, the right person and the right way to come along so the story reach others. Only when the story reaches others, only then is the energy and power being experienced by the reader and one minor but special part of the writer is being recognized. But what about the other parts? What happens to those parts, while they’re waiting to share their passion, excitement and energy?

A person has so many ways in which they can place themselves in the world. A person who knows this shouldn’t sit in isolation and wait for recognition to come from that one particular piece of work (in my case, a book). A person shouldn’t put their journey on hold, and keep their energy contained, letting it go to waste when it could be put to good use, through a different outlet. A person can make themselves be recognized as being whatever they so wish to be, in whatever moment, in whatever situation. So I know that I need this time. I also know that the time will come where others can read me. And, strangely enough, this place lets me feel closer to my book. I feel like I’ve got more options than I did a few weeks ago. I don’t know why… But I know for sure that something is going to happen and the book will be out there and I’ll still be happily teaching.

Before I started this job, I was afraid I’d be turning away from something. But actually, I’m turning towards so much more. I’m not losing my drive or inspiration to write – which was a fear. But this will never happen. I just am now aware that I do need the teaching, because I need that expression of something more, something other than writing. I’ve too much to give, at this point, to keep it all to myself. And these schools will bring out certain parts of me I forgot I had.

In China I wished to connect with people, I wished to be with kids who I could get to know, who I could communicate with. I wished to do yoga and to learn meditation (even though I was doing both, it wasn’t from the heart, it was forced and felt like a chore). I wished to be in a warm climate (like most who live in colder areas...haha), I wanted greenery around me and a life I could live in the open air. I wished to be open to experiences so I could grow and be free to be me and unharmed by others who would judge me. And here it’s happening. I'm seeing things coming together, all in one setting. And I know it's the beginning of something. Don't know what though...

But for now, back to school; and he kids are everything. Really they are. I can get to know them, I can chat with them, I can speak freely to everyone, and I feel people are truly seeing me… For the first time I feel recognition for what I'm doing, at work. This isn't something I"ve wnated for the sake of an inflated ego, but instead it's for me to feel that others are seeing my potential, which means I'm seeing the positive effects. I'm reminded of what I'm doing and I realize how much more I could contribute and progress. And to do this, I'll always need and want to do more than my best.. So it all continues...!!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

English & Drama

Sunday afternoon. It’s hot… I’m not going to start complaining. This is just an ‘FYI’ and something to share… I was looking for a place to sit outside so I could do some updating, but I wasn’t able… cause it’s 2pm and the heat is at its peak. And the fact that I can’t walk around with sleeveless tops or shorts EVER - as it’s inappropriate and makes others as well as myself feel uncomfortable - doesn’t help cool me down much… But anyhooosss… not to worry.

All is well here in this little spot. I’ve got 4 full free days this week due to a vehicle strike and a Muslim festival – yet again. It’s crazy the amount of days off people get here! I’ve only been working for 2 full weeks at the school and already there have been 3 free days for a festival, 1 for a strike and 1 because an important politician passed away. 5 days in total!!!! It’s any wonder they get things done here in this country… Last year when I was here it was the same thing; there was always a reason for the schools to close their doors for the day. All apart of the good life I guess… and the kids love it of course. So I won’t complain. It actually gives me some space and time to catch up on lesson plans and other bits and bobs. Because getting a grip on things here in the ‘teaching game’ has been pretty full-on… even with the days-off in between. For some reason I’ve been wrecked and everyday has brought something big along with it.

In one of my last updates I mentioned that I’m teaching ‘Spoken English’. This means I’ve to give English classes that are only focused on talking, communicating, accent reduction and pronunciation. All well and good and I’m pretty happy with it. In this school, just like the others where I was teaching (apart from China) I’ve no guidelines. Management has left it up to me, to approach the lessons in whatever way I feel best. It’s giving me ‘total freedom’. Good most times, and other times there’s a sense of being lost, overwhelmed and confused. But I get over it pretty quickly… and I just get the job done.

Now though, alongside these Spoken English classes, I’ve been assigned to do something extra. When I first arrived at the school I was told I had to write a play or a drama. Actually I was told to write 2; 1 for the small kids and one for the bigger. This assignment/drama was to be for the kids to perform on the annual day of the school (this is for their anniversary). On that day, there’ll be a festival with songs, dances and drama performances. The school puts so much effort into this day, months of preparation (at the moment – from what I can understand of the language around me - it seems to be the only thing everyone is talking about…) There are around 500 people (including the kids) expected to attend as well as some very ‘important’ people who are linked to the school and linked to the Art of Living Association. So there’s quite some pressure for every performance to be ‘top notch’. And the singing and dancing, will no doubt be next to perfect. The drama’s? Hummm…. If the only 2 dramas that will be performed are the ones that are written by the foreign teacher named Neev - who will have worked for 2 whole months teaching the 277 kids of the school proper Spoken English - then time will only tell! Yes, the only 2 dramas that will be performed are the ones I was assigned to write and teach. And the work I’m putting in right now, and will continue to put in over the following 6 weeks, will be shown on that day – the 19th of December.

Needless to say, the past week and a half the position of ‘Spoken English’ teacher has slightly turned: half of my time I’m ‘chatting’ with the children, in my normal classes and the other half I’m working on teaching the kids I selected (after very informal auditions) the dramas/plays that I’ve since written. Both dramas took quite some time to create and write – it was something I’d never done before, but I’m so excited by what it’s become. And I’m actually delighted that I’m now giving more importance to the 10 classes of drama that I’m teaching each week – when there aren’t any strikes, deaths or festivals – instead of the other 15 classes of English…

I’ve never been giving drama classes before… Well, in China I tried, I succeeded and I absolutely LOVED IT! I remember how much I wanted to be teaching kids to act, instead of speaking English… oops!!! A little confession slipped in there! How cool it is though, that I wanted to do it then, and now, in this school, it’s happening! Yay!

Also, judging by how the teachers and management are more concerned about the drama classes instead of the spoken English classes, it’s like I came here MAINLY to give the drama classes. And the fact that, after Annual day, I’ll be placed in a different school for another 6 or 8 weeks, only confirms that they wanted me here, in this particular place, to do these drama classes, at this particular time.

So on the 19th of December - after the little actors I’ve selected have performed the magic I’m trying to teach them (ahum) - I’m due to leave and will be placed in a different school of the same association (Art of Living). This gives me another 6 weeks to work with the ‘stars’ I’ve selected. I’m so eager to find out how they’ll do… and how I’ll do!