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Life, Lessons and Yoga

INDIA | Wednesday, 3 August 2016 | Views [655]

This is what we're going to make

This is what we're going to make

It's business as usual today following the festivities of yesterday's holiday. School is back in session, and so are the full complement of builders, site workers and the labourers in the adjoining fields berhind us. 

Breakfast consists of a tasty quinoa porridge with nuts and served alongside mango, papaya, small monkey bananas and a hearty cup of coffee. I had forgotten how good fresh fruit tastes when it comes off the tree just as it is ripe. The weather this morning is more agreeable and the cool breeze welcome. From the patio we watch the eighty five or so young children starting to arrive for school. The uniform is a purple and white check shirt with shorts for the boys and trousers for the girls. The school currently caters for children from lower grade (reception) to standard two. The female teachers are elegant in turquoise saris with a white trim, while male staff wear a light cotton shirt and trousers. 

The school day starts at 9am with prayers followed by yoga and meditation. The yoga studio is still awash from last nights rain and so yoga takes place in the classrooms. The children are focused on their teacher holding poses Veronica and I fear there would be no return from for us. The youngest children are simply learning to connect with their bodies and are enjoying following their teachers instructions. The staff here say that this daily ritual has increased the children's concentration and improved their health. The school sets out to educate children not just in the national curriculum, but also more broadly in community wellbeing through projects like village clean-up, recycling workshops, plant a tree days and getting to know the benefits and uses of local plants. The onsite clinic deals with illness and promotes healthy and hygienic living to both students and their parents.

I am immediately struck by the attention these children give their teachers, whether whilst doing yoga with them, or teaching the curriculum. The yoga, which everyone does to the best of their own ability, means that by the time classes start, everyone is calm and focused. Our presence this morning however has meant that not all eyes were closed quite all of the time as they steal sidelong glances at us observing.

Due to insufficient classroom space, some classes are sharing a room - far from ideal as the enthusiasm in the classes means they can be extremely noisy! As the days go by and we get to know the children better, it is obvious that these children are outgoing, happy and engaged. In the playground they burn off their energy with gusto, delighted to learn new games and rhymes, and all vying for our attention. It is clear that there are very few shrinking violets here!

Children sit on the concrete floor and school bags are used as a desk. The school bags weight almost as much as some of the smaller children! I sit in on Standard II's English lesson which centres on giving instructions. The final section is on how to make a puppet. It just happens that I have brought a few  puppet-making kits and so we set about making up the elephant and the lion. The children add the various sticky-back facial features and soon we have two very presentable puppets. Many books are in English and so lessons are taught in a mix of Tamil and English. One of the teachers laments that even after fifteen years of learning English she still struggles, and yet she managed to learn Hindi, writing and all, in about two months. She also tells me that she achieved high accolades in sport at school and I can see that her determined spirit is something the children benefit from. It is a long, noisy teaching day, with the added difficulty two different lessons in one classroom, but there is always time for a smile and they have my full admiration.

Soon it is lunchtime and the children relish a nutritious meal that ladies have been busy preparing over a wooden fire. I think of some of my students who complain about school food! We have a fabulous dhal and green leaf soup, rice and a potato and cauliflower dish, followed by masala chai, to which I have become addicted.

After lunch we join in playtime in the playground; singing songs they are familiar with, although differing versions result in some repetition, it is a lot of fun and we're quite disappointed when the bell goes. In compensation, I am grateful for a cold shower.

It has only been 36 hours since we arrived and as yet we do not have Internet, so I have been busy scribbling copious notes in my notebook. I don't want to miss out on the initial impressions which are the strongest as you try to make sense of everything. And there are so many impressions that thoughts are tumbling around in my head and I'm grateful to be writing which helps me to organise my thoughts. The effort of this, and the heat after a wonderful lunch means that the hammocks are definitely going to get used this afternoon!  There are eight French guests arriving tonight for the weekend and if I'm going to need to speak French, then a good siesta is much needed.


Tags: ashok tree, india, school, sita devi school, teaching abroad, tiruvannamalai, yoga


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