About a month ago I was contacted by The Achievers Programme based in Chandigarh, India to come and give a series of 2 day workshops across the country. Of course I was interested and we began a dialogue about how this might occur. After much planning, many shots and a few hassles later I was on my way. The flight over is about 15 hours, which is simply too long to be in a confined space. However, with my few travel comforts (ipod, computer, travel pillow, and travel blanket) I was able to make it without too much issue. We landed late in the evening and spent at least an hour going through customs. I ended up the last one through the line and found my luggage waiting for me beside the carousel. After a bit of struggling I managed my two bags (full of clothes and workshop supplies) through the airport and outside where a driver was waiting for me.
The first sight outside was of a crowd of people all waving cards and jumping up and down to get attention from the travelers leaving the airport. It was very chaotic and I almost went with the wrong person except that my driver heard me say my name and repeated it over and over until I found him. We wove our way through the throng of people, cars, and animals and walked over rocks and dirt to get to the car. The first thing I discovered in India is that no one uses the lanes, everyone honks, and if you don't like waiting in traffic, you just weave your car around until you make your own way – no matter whether there are people walking along or not. If there had been sidewalks, I have no doubt the drivers would be maneuvering up onto the sidewalks to get around the other cars. No one seemed angry or upset, they all just moved in and out as they were able.
The next thing I discovered in India is that you never know what is going to happen or when. The key to everything here is "Go with the Flow." I was booked on a train to Surat to visit my first school. The train was five hours late and took 17 hours to finally arrive. Luckily I was in a 1A Sleeper car and had very nice travelling companions. There is no such thing as absolute privacy or a private car unless you purchase four tickets. I ended up in a compartment with two older gentlemen. Both were very helpful in communicating to the porter my need for a somewhat spice-free dinner and breakfast. It didn't happen, but they did try. J
Two teachers met me in Surat and took me to my hotel. I was supposed to have arrived that morning and have the entire day to rest and sightsee. However, that didn't happen. J "Go with the Flow." I began my first workshop the following morning after a nice visit with the principal. She and her staff were both warm and welcoming to me and were very enthusiastic about the workshop. My first school was DPS Tapi – Delhi Public School, the Tapi branch. There are many Delhi Public schools across the country and although the name reads as "Public School" it is actually a group of private schools. There I found the teachers to be energetic and full of knowledge about effective teaching practices. I was not sure what I would encounter, but found that children are children and teachers are teachers no matter where you are. The teachers of DPS Tapi have so many wonderful ideas and strategies they are using with their students. They also were very interested in learning new strategies and not at all adverse to getting "reminders" of good strategies they were already familiar with. The attitudes of these teachers were so incredibly positive that I felt completely energized and excited about my teaching when I left them. Many of the ideas I presented for Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum were familiar to them, but they all very much enjoyed the idea of using poetry and pattern books to write about topics learned in the classroom. The Classrooms that Spark workshop went over very well with the teachers. They were unfamiliar with much of the brain research I presented and thoroughly enjoyed the games and other movement activities we did during the day. At the end they all crowded around me asking questions and telling stories about their children and classrooms. I felt so at home and so at one with the teachers of DPS Tapi that I could have stayed there quite happily. J Unfortunately I had to rush to board my train to Ambala on my way to Chandigarh.
This time the train left on time, but was slowed down by the immense amount of fog happening here right now. We were on the train for 29 hours. I don't think I ever imagined that I would be on a train for that amount of time. I was in the compartment with a family of three and we had a very nice time getting to know one another. They brought their laptop as well and we spent many hours watching Indian movies. I didn't understand any of the words, but the action and music more than made up for it! J
Chandigarh is a lovely city and is a planned city, which seems to be a huge deal here. It is also the cleanest city in India followed closely by Surat. From Chandigarh I took a taxi into the mountains to Dherdun and presented my workshops to an all-girls boarding school. The girls were on vacation and the teachers preparing for a new term. Again, I had a wonderful experience with the teachers. Everyone was so informed of current research and eager to learn more. Several of the teachers came to me afterwards and exclaimed that they truly enjoyed my workshop. That made me feel so good knowing that the information I was offering was helpful to them. As a presenter I know that I cannot make everyone happy all of the time, but these teachers have such great attitudes and are so open to new ideas. One teacher had to leave to work with a few girls who stayed over the break and when she returned she happily reported that she already implemented a few of the ideas learned that morning.
So far I have seen that the teachers of India work just as hard as we do in America to give their students engaging activities for learning. They are just as concerned about student behavior and see similar issues in terms of "over-entertained" children in the classroom. Many of their questions and concerns mirror exactly the questions and concerns we face in America as well. They worry they are doing the best for the children, they fret over parent interactions, and they struggle with behavior issues.
The travels have been quite eye-opening and very much an adventure, but working with the teachers has made me feel as if I were home. I can honestly say that I have been blessed by my interactions with each and every teacher I've met here. And if I have been of at least a little help to them in reassurance and in sharing ideas, then this adventure has been more than worth it and I very gladly will return again when asked.