Language in Group schools (Dublin, London and Totnes), sponsor a teacher to go to India and live and work with the Society for Poor People Development (SPPD). This is the latest blog from Saara, a teaching graduate from Language in Dublin’s CELT course.
Hello from the sunny south of India!
Four weeks since my arrival here and feeling great. My final week in Dublin was one filled with fear and anxiety about the task ahead, which I can now honestly say, have all turned into inner & outer smiles. The last four weeks have really been fantastic.
Firstly, the staff has been very welcoming and accommodating with me. So far, anything practical I have needed help with has been looked after with almost unexpected speed and precision. Also, I do sense a level of appreciation from them for the fact that the English teachers are on their own a long way from home, and most make an effort to communicate in whatever little English they have (unfortunately, although I love the sound of the Tamil language, four weeks later I still only have a few phrases and about a dozen words under my belt which is not much help for making conversation!). In general, I feel accepted in the group of office and other workers here and am able to share even some of the many jokes they make (not the ones where they laugh at me obviously but don’t mind that!). It’s not something I would have had any preconceptions about but have noticed that people here, similar to Ireland, really enjoy their jokes or “comedy” as they call it.
Then there are the kids, who by day one already I was a big fan of. After having worked in a school in my native Finland earlier this year and having seen the some of the difficulties teachers&staff there can experience from students, I was genuinely shocked to the core by just how polite, friendly and helpful kids can be, even in groups! In general, although having experienced a lot of hardship in their young lives, in the day to day, most seem amazingly happy and take enjoyment in the people, games and the few things they have to their name. Monday to Friday they have a pretty gruelling routine with a 5am wake up, house&homework first, then school, after school 30minutes of play time and then more house& homework until 9-10pm. Some of the smaller kids literally fall asleep with their books in their laps on the corridors where they do their “second” set of homework (after dinner). On the weekends, among doing more homework, they do also have some free play time, karate and computer classes and a few hours of TV time on Sundays, all of which they absolutely relish. Thankfully, they do also seem to like their English classes which makes my job a lot easier! Split into three groups according to age and level, the kids have three English classes per week by me (the Language In trained teacher!). The focus is very much on the children learning to express themselves more freely in English, something which they are not taught in the local schools here. This is achieved through different games and activities centred around communication, which are also great fun to teach.
Being here I have gotten to know a little bit more about the organisation I am volunteering for (SPPD) and was lucky enough to get to visit one of the evening study centres set up to help local children with their schooling. Due to literacy, health, etc. issues many of the parents are not able to help their children with homework and this is where SPPD comes in to support the families. For two hours after school an SPPD tutor helps the children in the villages with their homework, preparing for exams, etc. Coming into these evening study sessions the children also get some healthy snacks, for example dates which are rich in iron, as well as materials for school. There are 24 of these centres at present and with as many as 35 children attending each centre, they are reaching and helping a lot of children and their families. SPPD also has many other community centred projects and carry a very good name in the area.
The surroundings here are beautiful. The SPPD centre is in the middle of the Tamil Nadu countryside, surrounded by green rice fields and busy little villages. One of the best perks for me has been that I have been given a bicycle to use while here. I have made plenty of use of it, exploring nearby villages and towns where I have been warmly welcomed with plenty of long looks and smiles, and even invites for tea or food! Children are normally the first to come up to me, wanting to practice their English and to get a closer look as well I sometimes think!
So far, really enjoying the experience and looking forward to the rest of my time here.
SPPD English Teacher Autumn 2011