I continue to be startled by the distinct personality of each school and how quickly they evolve – like new friends, who for every interaction open your eyes to surprises. As the girls get more comfortable in class, we have witnessed the breakout of closet poets, the soft voice of silent activists beginning to sound, and a humbling confrontation with the limits of our communication which force us to get creative with our bridges across the cultural and linguistic divide.
I have not updated since my start of class at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) Government Girls High School. I was most self-conscious to begin teaching at this school – the courtyard, shared with a number of other girls’ schools, initially felt heavy to me in a conservative discipline that left me unsure how I would be received. These was a stark contrast between the disruptive excitement that meets me upon my entrance into Sultaan Bazar, and the cautious curiosity mixed with skepticism I felt while sitting amidst the students waiting for a teacher to arrive and open the school that first day. I watch the students stand in straight-lined assembly and repeat the words of various national and cultural anthems, rising and falling to attention with the sound of a drum. When the lights of the classroom give out upon my first opening words of 9 o’clock class, I come to know that there are daily power cuts scheduled to the precise timing of my computer based class. Hyderabad gets the majority of its power from hydroelectric dams, and the low rainfall thus far this monsoon season which may necessitate lengthier power cuts jeopardizing the students’ learning environment.
I must admit, I was nervous – but this aside, and with two weeks of retrospect on this school, I can comfortably say I am most impressed with the dedication of these students to take full appreciation in their opportunity for education. It is this school that is now pushing me to be as creative in the classroom as I can, and to ensure that each lesson plan is rich in educational content deeper than the technical logistics needed to carry out our curriculum. The girls are demanding me of substance, so it was this school that motivated me to initiate a unit on human rights earlier than I had intended, and to incorporate lessons on the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. into our second week of class. I told the girls the story of Rosa Parks and segregation of the busses, and was impressed with how easily the girls could relate to this based upon the segregation of their own busses between male and female – a connection which makes an easy leap into the questions of gender equality that are made to feel taboo when you see the shyness in the girls when it is brought up. In pushing these touchy subjects and discussing civil disobedience, it is not to encourage a class of discontents but to stimulate critical thinking.
The barriers are quickly breaking down, and there was an amazing contrast between the photographs taken by the students in the second class, when cameras were introduced – as opposed to the fourth class, when they touched the camera for the second time. I was pleased to see the confidence to show action in front of the camera, and to express their own unique personalities to be captured by the eye of the lens.
Pictures from the first day of camera use, MGM:
On the first day of class, most of the photos were like this one below. As soon as in front of the camera, there was a rigidity – to the point that I had to introduce a ball to the frame to try to encourage them into activity.
Pictures from second day at MGM:
By the second time we use the camera, the girls are showing much more creativity – they are staging their own photographs, and coming up with fun ways to take pictures with each other.
In this class, the girls were asked to participate in an activity concerning the concepts of Justice, Fairness, and ‘Doing the Right Thing.’ I gave them prompts of various scenarios that serve as tests of character, and allowed the students to decide what they would do in these situations. Together in three groups, they discussed and came up with the right way to handle the situation presented to them. They then performed the scenario as a skit while other students took pictures. I have pieced together the product in the short clip below…
Finally, I will end with saying that there is as much diversity within the classroom as between them – and for every look of bewilderment is a response of striking insight. The following is a journal response written by one of the students named Neetu when prompted to write the ‘Letter to the World’ assignment. Neetu was in the Modern Story Class last year, and has joined into our class as a sort of ‘teaching assistant’ to help the new students in understanding. I do not know much about her own personal journey through the curriculum last year, but I am continually impressed by her composure and depth of attention and thought.
Hi. I am Neetu. Now I am in 9th Standard and I am from MGM School. My school is a little far away from my home so I have to come by bus. It is a little difficult for me to come to the school by bus, but in my life the most important thing is my education, for my education I am ready to fight with all the difficulties in life because I think education can change the world – even changing myself.
I am proud to be an Indian because the true wealth of India is the hearts of the people of India – which is very kind hearted. There is a lot of Brotherhood among the People of India, they give more importance to their culture. There are many different languages, cultures, religions, etc in India, but I think what is equal in all is the feeling of Indians that we are all Indians – there is unity in diversity in India as we all know.
India is a developing country, but it is not developed. After getting freedom so many years have passed, but still it is developing because there are some crises and social problems like child labor, child marriages, poverty, corruption, illiteracy. Still India is a developing country, but I hope that today’s children will work hard and be successful to make an India as a developed country in the whole world.
I am excited to keep you updated on our photo story projects that will be coming up soon!
Until next time,