Settling inArriving in India was quite chaotic, the passport control was the first of many crazy Indian systems we were to come across in the next three months. After battling with the crowds at four o’clock in the morning we finally escaped the airport and entered into the hot, humid Indian climate that we came to know and... Love! After spending a couple of days staying in a nearby tourist resort, catching up on lost hours sleep and acclimatising ourselves we moved to the villages we were staying in. I have to say I was slightly worried about meeting my host family for the first time, I had been warned that they spoke next to no English, and not knowing any of the local language I knew many interesting times were ahead! But after a couple of days I literally felt like I was a part of the family, they woke me up for chai (Indian tea) every morning at seven o’clock (took a little bit of getting used to) and then prepared me breakfast for eight thirty. They made all my meals, would literally not let me do a thing, it took me nearly a month to eventually let them allow me to wash up my dish after I had eaten! To help settle in I had local language lessons (Malayalam) from the in-country coordinator, which meant I was able to communicate with my family and we could vaguely understand what we were trying to say to each other, the most useful word was ‘venda’ which means ‘no more’ mostly used in the context of food... I was fed a lot!
The teachingHaving no English teaching experience I was slightly terrified at the prospect of 40 – 50 children all staring at me and expecting me to teach them something! But after the first couple of days when the excitement had reduced a (very) little bit I started to find my feet. I taught standard seven, which is roughly the equivalent of year six, I had five classes to teach and taught between 9.30 and 12.00 every day. I set up an English club for the higher level students and ran it twice a week in the evenings, it was very successful and something I hope future volunteers will run. One of my most memorable experiences in India was when the school forgot I was running English club and accidently locked us in there for forty minutes, it was an interesting time!
Whilst out there we were luck to receive funding from several sources, of which the majority came from a school (Maltby Academy) which enabled us to improve the aesthetics of the schools we were working in by painting nine classrooms and planting trees in the school grounds. It was very fulfilling knowing that not only had we made a difference to the lives of the children we had taught by improving their English, but that all children that will go to the school in the future will benefit from the aesthetic work that we did there.
The hardest part of teaching for me was the discipline, because the school use the cane as a discipline method and there was no alternative (and we obviously did not use this method) it was difficult to control the classes at times. Especially when you have 40 children running around the classroom causing chaos! It took some getting used to, but by introducing a reward system of stickers and student of the week, I managed to gain control, even in one of my most unruly classes!