Sunday Art Club/ Our Secondary Project :)

We have decided to set up a secondary project thanks to the funds raised for our project at the Class of 2017 mums and friends get together. The Beetle Drive and raffle that Gillian set up and her amazing generosity, (Who was a big help to Catherine when she was fundraising to come here), it is so kind that you thought of us when deciding where the money should go. The secondary project / Sunday art club wouldn’t have been able to happen without the kind donations, so thank you.

The reason for doing an art club is because Catherine and I thought that the hostel kids here needed some enjoyment and down time. When we first arrived we were shocked at how much the children here work.  They work from 5 am to 9 pm from Monday to Saturday and even have study from 9-12 on a Sunday. We believe there should be a balance that isn’t met between school/study and time for them to have fun.

Two weeks ago was the first day of the art club and I believe it was a big success, usually after study they all go into a classroom to watch some tv, so we came and offered them the choice to come and make some masks instead we showed them the ones we had made and everyone leapt at the chance to try and make their own!

And then this weekend to try and start to get in the Christmassy spirit we did a Christmas themed art club where we all made and decorated snowflakes. We were joined by Katie and Luana, two other volunteers who live only 10 minutes away. They helped us to run it and it so really good fun to be singing Christmas songs with other people who know the lyrics instead just getting slightly odd looks! The kids were able to decorate the snowflakes any way they wanted with glitter, pens, pencils wool and any other scrap paper we had which was great to see as last time they aren’t as creative so stuck to copying the example masks we had made.

With the money raised we have been able to buy all the equipment for this club such as coloured paper, pens, glue, scissors and more bits and bobs which are on the way!

 

Hope you are all enjoying the snow (if you are lucky enough to have it), today it was 31 degrees so not quite at cold enough here for it! And have an amazing Christmas 🙂

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2 Months of Teaching!

Sorry it has taken me so long to write a blog, life here in India is busy but I will be better next time!

I thought I was time to update everyone on my teaching and what it is I am actually doing here 🙂 I have now fully got into my routine and am getting into the swing of teaching. Although when I think about my life here I still think its crazy how only 5 months ago I was sat behind a desk being taught and now I stand in front of at least 30 kids (usually more like 40 – 50) in each class being solely responsible for their learning.

I teach an age range from about 2 1/2 to 11 years old. I am teaching Spoken English or Grammar to two nursery classes (aged 2 1/3 – 4), two Lower Kindergarten class (aged 4-5), two Upper Kindergarten classes (aged 5-6), one first classes (aged 6-7), two second classes (age 7-8) and one third class (aged 8-9), two four classes (aged 9-10) and one fifth classes (aged 10- 11)! I have all of these classes multiple times throughout the week so I’m shattered!

Teaching, for both me and my partner at least, has been and is an emotional roller coaster. Some lessons are great and you come out feeling amazing. One that comes to mind is a recent 5th class lesson; it annoyed me that everyone I asked “How are you?”, the only response from I got was “I am fine”. So I spent a lesson teaching new and more interesting ways of answering, I now have kids coming up to me and saying “I am amazing” or “I am fantastic!”. But others aren’t as good and I often end up struggling with behavioural management.

Classroom management for the younger pupils is something I am struggling with. This is partly due to their limited English and my lack of Telugu, and also because they know that neither Catherine or I will beat them which is the only punishment they have here. And giving out my two stickers of the lesson to the pupils that behaved the best in the lesson (or as they now refer to them as “silent stickers”) isn’t doing the trick. However my older students (aged between 7-11) love these rewards. As soon as I get the stickers out all bums are in their chairs, fingers on lips and the room is finally quiet. They all want a sticker and will do anything for one! If you have any advice on how to stop 4 and 6 year olds going crazy in class, let me know!

On the other hand, it has definitely made me more creative. I have to figure out how to keep the young ones on track so they don’t get to distracted and cause havoc. One thing that is so simple but they love is writing the answer in the board, once they see me hand a student who answered correctly the chalk all hands go up for the next answer.

I have been basing my teaching around positive encouragement as there are limited ways I can punish children for being naughty, so I choose to focus on all of the good things the children are doing. Kids now run up to me with their boards to show me how much they have done so I can write “well done” or their favourite draw a star at the bottom!

There are some other challenges I face when teaching, for example in two of my classes there are autistic children, which do not get the right help or attention that they need. Which I also struggle to help with as I also have the rest of the class to teach and manage, so I have found small activities for them to do by themselves which I can come and help and check on whilst the other students are working. Which is not a perfect solution, but it is better than before when they just caused distractions to everyone as they couldn’t do the work. But it is also great as when they have completed it the look on their faces says it all as they are so proud to have got it right.

All in all, teaching is tough and when I think about all of the education I have had I am so grateful but at the same time I have a new respect for all of my old teachers. But the feeling of satisfaction you get when a kid finally is able to do what you have been working on is just amazing. My favourite memory of this is from my younger nursery class who are still learning how to write the alphabet (they are only 2 1/2!). One boy was really struggling with the letter ‘A’ and the first time he wrote it by himself I was so happy for him and because he could see how proud I was of him went and showed all the other teachers. So whilst it is a challenge it is the most worthwhile one.

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Happy (belated) Diwali

Diwali was this week and it was amazing! Diwali is the celebration of when Krishna defeated Narakasura (a demon). Or the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.

In the lead up to Diwali you could occasionally here a loud bang (which I now know is a lakshmi bomb) but nothing could prepare me for the overload of noise and light that followed. Catherine and I celebrated with the hostel kids – in particular the boys! As they were desperate to light the ‘bombs’ and fireworks, with each of them fighting over it each time. The girls we shyer when the loud bombs came out so stayed back with the sparklers or lighting candles around the street.

The only way I describe Diwali to someone who hasn’t experienced it is Fireworks night without any of the health and safety. Little boys were lighting crackers in their hands and then throwing them, bombs were being light, and if there were any impatient boys around, they would either poke them or the ‘safe’ option throw stones at them to make them go off faster. I was in my element, lighting fireworks with the boys trying not to get hit to many times by crackers, whereas Catherine was a bit more uneasy with the noises so enjoyed the sparklers with the young children.

The night ended with my ears ringing and smelling of gun powered. And once all of the fireworks had been used, the girls came out and we swept the road to get rid of all of the rubbish even though it was the boys (and me) who had made the mess.

It was a fantastic celebration and I can’t wait to throw myself into the next festival!

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First week teaching!

We started off our first week of teaching with a day off, something I was not going to complain about as it meant that we would have a whole day to make lesson plans, organise everything so that on Tuesday, we would be ready for anything that would happen. So whilst in theory this is a good plan, it didn’t end up happening as we were whisked away to the beach and we went swimming for the first time since we have been here. It was amazing! The sea was warm, the beach was beautiful, but it was still odd to be swimming fully dressed.

That meant that for the next day (official first day) we had nothing prepared. But luckily, the head teacher had calmed our nerves and told us that we would just be watching for the first few lessons so we knew how things ran here. Again, this did not happen. So, expecting to watch, we were thrown into classes and taught. It actually went surprisingly well considering we had absolutely no idea what was happening.

This feeling did last quite a lot of the week as we weren’t sure what classes we were teaching until the morning of the day we would be teaching, but it was really good to finally be doing what we came here to do. Once we had been given a temporary timetable for the week we were able to plan lessons, for me that was English to three different classes and but for Cathine she had the surprise of teaching social which is basically the history of India to a few classes instead of English. But even with our timetables, there we were always teaching different classes for teachers that weren’t here, or because there was a test on that we weren’t told about.

By Friday we were knackered, but in India the school week doesn’t end on Friday, but Saturday. This means even if you want to sleep in you can’t because you have two nursery classes and a 4th and 5th class left before the weekend starts. This Saturday was a bit special though because it was one of the English teachers, who we have become good friends with, house warming party. So straight after school we were picked up on a motorbike and taken to her house – I have never wished for a helmet more in my life. But it was a great way to end the week, and we finally got to wear saris for the first time (after only being here a one day less than a month).

 

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First Holiday!

After only a five hour wait for our delayed train and a four-hour train ride we had left the only part of India that was familiar to go on holiday and be a tourist for a week. It was the first time since arriving that we could do thing by ourselves and were alone.

The train ride to Chennai was filled with lovely people asking us where we were from, why we were in India and where we were going. A kind man in the bunk above me even shared some of his cake with us. And the women we were sitting next to asked me if I was married for the first time since getting here and why we weren’t. One of them told me she liked my hair and wanted to turn it into a wig which I am going to take as a compliment. And of course, the views were beautiful.

Once we had arrived in Chennai, we had a new challenge to concur, getting an auto and not getting ripped off to badly. We managed to get to the hotel but in doing so ignored one of the first pieces of advice we were given and got a taxi.

Chennai was beautiful, it was so busy and felt like a real Indian city with everyone always doing something and with such amazing colours. The beach there was beautiful though we chose not to swim in it. We visited my first Hindu temple which was absolutely amazing to see, but even in the temple, we were still asked to take photos with people which is now just a usual occurrence. Though I think the main reason for the increase in photos was due to Eilidh’s blond hair.

The nine of us all set of to Puducherry which we were all very excited about seeing as from what we had read and heard with sounded incredible. We ended up splitting into smaller groups of five and four as traveling as a nine can be hard to organise. Puducherry is influenced heavily by its French history so is a unique blend of India and France which let me tell you makes a great place for food.  After only eating spicy Indian food at our projects we were all excited to be able to choose what we ate, and on morning we went to a bakery, and I had bread for the first time in three weeks, I didn’t realised how much I miss bread but it was amazing; and a kind woman there even gave me my first bindi and stuck it on my head! We also visited a market which I could have happily spent all day in, the beach and wondered around the French quarter which has beautiful colour building wherever you look.

The train ride home was definitely an experience, as we only had one confirmed bed out of the 5 I booked for a nine-hour sleeper journey. Which lead to us accidentally stealing people’s seats until Indian kindness and hospitality shined though as we were invited to share beds with absolute strangers. One man even rearranged his family around to make a spare bed which two of us shared.

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First week in Ongole

My first week in Ongole has had a vast range of emotions and experiences, some of which have been great others have really not. I have decided to be brutally honest in this blog as I have read some that only ever talk about the good side of this year which I don’t believe is fully representative and I want to be true to myself, and so anyone who reads this can get a better look into my life here.

The first few days in Ongole I found really tough, I felt very homesick and at some points even had to remind myself why I was doing this year. Ongole is very different from what I’m used to say the least, I come from a small green village where most people know each other and have little conversations when you see them. Ongole is a loud colourful dusty town with many odd looks for the two tall white girls who are sweating more than they thought possible in the heat. I think that the completely different culture is probably one of the reasons I am missing home so much as there is nothing that is similar to what I’m used to, which over the year I’m sure I’ll grow to love.

As the school has had exams this week there has not been too much for us to do which makes it hard to keep busy and not think of home and how much I miss my mum, brother and sister, I really hadn’t appreciated how much I need my family, which when I think about is odd as I have been away for them for longer than this, think it’s just the knowledge that it is for a lot longer than anything I have done before. To be honest I really didn’t expect to feel this homesick but I guess that just means I have a wonderful home to go back to.

But everyone has been very kind to us which definitely makes it easier and all of the children as adorable and say “Morning Mam” whenever we walk past which makes me more excited to start teaching and the fact that even though it will be scary it will definitely keep us busy! I also find it funny how the first thing that is asked by everyone once that have worked out the pronunciation of Hannah is “What is your fathers job?” and all of my family’s names.

Another thing I have actually really struggled to deal with is the way that teachers here discipline the kids as it can be quite violent. And how they only seem to respect you if you have a cane in your hand. But hopefully when I’m teaching I will be able I show that this is not needed to make them learn.

Kalyani, one of the friendliest English teachers here who has been kindly looking after us took us to get clothes after being in Ongole 4 days, I think she must have realised that Catherine and I had been wearing the same trousers all week. We both got two Punjab suits and when we were at the market we were told that we would be going to a wedding on Saturday so had to get a “party outfit”. So no saree as of yet but hopefully we will get one next week.

On Friday we were both left to manage classes individually as they needed to revise for their exams. It amazes me the working hours of the kids here as class start at 9-12 then a lunch break before going back to between 1.30-4.25 and 5.30-7.30! I can’t imagine that any UK schools have primary school kids doing this let alone 6 times a week (Monday to Saturday)

On Saturday after invigilating a Social exam we went to our first India Muslim wedding. Just the drive there is an old bus that struggled to get over speed bumps was an experience. But the colours at the wedding were so bright and all of the woman looked beautiful in their sarees.

After another week of exams we have a holiday so at the moment we are trying to figure out where to go for a week. I’ll keep you updated!

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First few days…

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When I first landed in India it was a cool 24 degrees as we had been previously warned by the crew that it was a bit chilly 😂

I’m sure it’s cliquey but the first thing I felt was the heat combined with the morning fog as it clung to us, this might sound odd but the air smelt thicker – I honestly couldn’t try and explain that but it did.

We landed about 6.30 Indian time and then found Abhilash who took us to find a bus to take us to the Kodali quest house where we would be staying for two days. It’s odd, but even when waiting for a bus it still didn’t feel real that I was in India and would be for the next 11 months.

The hour bus ride was definitely a new experience, when we first left the airport I was surprised by how green it was but the closer we got to Hyderabad, the dustier and louder it got. We saw what I thought was incredibly strange, but I guess it’s just the norm here for example, a few cows were just laying on the equivalent of a B road and it was probably one of the weirdest traffic jams I’ve seen. A woman was just having a small fire at the side of the road and everyone was crossing fast roads anywhere they could.

Once we arrived at the Kodali quest house we were told to rest for the rest of the day which I did gladly with a 6 hour nap 😆

Another thing I have realised I am going to have to get used to is the concept of time, there is no rush to arrive when you have been asked to get there. We discovered this when we all arrived for dinner 5 minutes before we were meant to and Abhilash didn’t arrive until 45 minutes later.

••••

Abhilash drove me, Catherine (my partner for the next year) Molly and Eilidh to the train station which was a whole new level of different. On the drive we were asking about what it is actually like driving around India and he came out with my favourite description “it’s like the hardest level of Mario cart, but with only one life”

So I am currently sitting on the train to Ongole which is such a different experience to any train I have ever been on. We are on a second AC sleeper train meaning I’m not overheating too much! I am on the lower bunk which folds into two seats so me and Catherine are just relaxing looking out the window in to India. Only another 8 hours to go!

Seven hours in and the time had come, I had to use a toilet and that was a change from what I am used to to say the least. Just the fact that it was a squatting toilet was a something to adjust to but when the train is moving from side to side makes it a whole new challenge

••••

We woke up in the room that would be ours for the next year and this realisation mixed with everything being new was a hard thing to deal with but once we were out of the house and looking around the school we were both feeling better.

The head teacher took us round all of the classes and introduced us to all of the teachers individually. Everyone was very friendly and intrigued to know where abouts we were from. I now just have the job of learning everyone’s name which will be difficult.

We will be watching in on some classes for the rest of the day and hopefully tomorrow before we get our timetables and are thrown into the world of being a teacher!

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