Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At Isha Vidhya- "Educating Rural India"


Ikkarai Boluvampatti. A quaint little village, buried in a remote corner on the outskirts of Coimbatore. What makes it special to me is the presence of the Isha Vidhya school. Established by the Isha Foundation, there are 7 such schools in Tamil Nadu, the sole mission being "educating rural India". The school has nearly 475 students, from kindergarten to grade 6, offering them a rare opportunity to learn in those areas. Most of the kids come from rural backgrounds; some of them being first generation learners. I volunteered at the school library during my summer hols, helping students develop their vocabulary and improve their English language skills. Interacting closely with the kids was almost like revisiting my own childhood. I was touched by their affection, innocence and simplicity (Much as I hate to say this, it's rare to find such traits in their urban counterparts.) At the end of a fortnight at Isha Vidhya, I don't know whether I have taught the kids, or they me. I am sure of one thing though: They brought me a lot of happiness and hope; a definite meaning and mission to my life. Whether it was talking to them about "The Princess and the Pea" or singing the latest Kollywood songs with them on the bus ride back home, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. As I work on this blog post, I realize how geographically distant I am from them. Yet they continue to inspire me with my memories of their love, enthusiasm and laughter.

Little Santhosh from grade 2 is an absolute sweetheart. I remember going to the arts and crafts lesson in his class, since it provided more room for interaction with the students. At the end of the class, Santhosh came up to me with a little piece of paper on which he had drawn two pots of boiling rice along with sugarcane sticks: His idea of celebrating the Pongal festival! He said to me, "This is for you, miss". The very next day, he came to the library searching for me. I was shocked when he handed me a poster which he had painstakingly worked on the night before. A cute picture of a squirrel was drawn on the poster and he had clipped his photograph onto it! I asked him why he wanted me to take it. To this he replied that I'd be working in the school only for a few more days and I shouldn't forget him when I went back to my college in Singapore! Needless to say, I took the poster back with me and it hangs on my wall. From Santhosh, I realized that "Each little thought that's filled with love becomes a special blessing!"

One must learn from Manju, a smart little third grader who was given the "Student of the week" award when I volunteered at the school. She was given this award because of her persistent efforts of speaking in English at all times within school. I listened to her chatter away with her classmates. Yes, there were grammatical errors. Yes, the pronunciation was not correct. Yes, the sentence constructions were awkward. Yes, there were people laughing at her. But hey, she PERSISTED in her efforts! Hats off to Manju's courage! She reminded me of the bumble bee: "Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway." If only we all had her courage to pursue success, unmindful of our own limitations!

Whenever there were children in the library, I would go up to a student, give him/her a book suitable for their level of reading and sit beside them as they read. My objective was to help them read difficult words, learn new ones and talk to them about the story they just read. It was during one of these sessions that I met Srinithi. I had given Srinithi a book, but I was told by her teacher later that the kid couldn't recognize most of the letters. Realizing that reading the book would be a futile exercise, I decided to test her on the alphabets. While writing the letters, she would invert most of them; she also would get confused with 'b', 'd' and 'p'. So I spent more time with her, teaching the very basics of the English alphabet right from scratch. On my last day I asked her whether she would forget whatever I had taught her. She looked up at me and said, "I'll write it out 10 times miss, so that I'll never forget!" I was reminded by Srinithi that enthusiasm is the magical ingredient which makes every task successful.

I realized that stars needn't
always twinkle in the sky when I met little Anu, another adorable second grader. With her green and white striped scarf and two missing front teeth always posed in a smile, her eyes shone like the stars. Whenever I think of Anu, I remind myself to smile more often. It not only brings more joy to others, but you feel more joyous yourself!

Although I worked with the children for hardly a fortnight, I was able to connect on an emotional level with them. I try to keep in contact with them, thanks to today's mobile technology. I think of all of them quite often: Sadhana, Srimathi and Sowbarnika (The troika of 'S') from third grade, naughty Naveen, sweet little Sivanesan, Aravind who would always share his murukkus with me during break, joyous Jayashree Powrika who gave me a cute tiny purse the day I met her, Santhosh's elder sister Gowri and her classmates, a smart group of fifth graders, just to name a few.

On my last day at school, Dilpreet, a talkative student from grade 4 came to me and gave me some advice- "Miss, when you finish your college in Singapore , join our school as a permanent teacher!" Sowbarnika didn't say "Bye miss!" as she got off the school bus on my last day. Instead she said, "See you in December miss!". As for me, I cannot wait to go back to her wonderful school! :)








Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At Isha Vidhya- "Educating Rural India"


Ikkarai Boluvampatti. A quaint little village, buried in a remote corner on the outskirts of Coimbatore. What makes it special to me is the presence of the Isha Vidhya school. Established by the Isha Foundation, there are 7 such schools in Tamil Nadu, the sole mission being "educating rural India". The school has nearly 475 students, from kindergarten to grade 6, offering them a rare opportunity to learn in those areas. Most of the kids come from rural backgrounds; some of them being first generation learners. I volunteered at the school library during my summer hols, helping students develop their vocabulary and improve their English language skills. Interacting closely with the kids was almost like revisiting my own childhood. I was touched by their affection, innocence and simplicity (Much as I hate to say this, it's rare to find such traits in their urban counterparts.) At the end of a fortnight at Isha Vidhya, I don't know whether I have taught the kids, or they me. I am sure of one thing though: They brought me a lot of happiness and hope; a definite meaning and mission to my life. Whether it was talking to them about "The Princess and the Pea" or singing the latest Kollywood songs with them on the bus ride back home, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. As I work on this blog post, I realize how geographically distant I am from them. Yet they continue to inspire me with my memories of their love, enthusiasm and laughter.

Little Santhosh from grade 2 is an absolute sweetheart. I remember going to the arts and crafts lesson in his class, since it provided more room for interaction with the students. At the end of the class, Santhosh came up to me with a little piece of paper on which he had drawn two pots of boiling rice along with sugarcane sticks: His idea of celebrating the Pongal festival! He said to me, "This is for you, miss". The very next day, he came to the library searching for me. I was shocked when he handed me a poster which he had painstakingly worked on the night before. A cute picture of a squirrel was drawn on the poster and he had clipped his photograph onto it! I asked him why he wanted me to take it. To this he replied that I'd be working in the school only for a few more days and I shouldn't forget him when I went back to my college in Singapore! Needless to say, I took the poster back with me and it hangs on my wall. From Santhosh, I realized that "Each little thought that's filled with love becomes a special blessing!"

One must learn from Manju, a smart little third grader who was given the "Student of the week" award when I volunteered at the school. She was given this award because of her persistent efforts of speaking in English at all times within school. I listened to her chatter away with her classmates. Yes, there were grammatical errors. Yes, the pronunciation was not correct. Yes, the sentence constructions were awkward. Yes, there were people laughing at her. But hey, she PERSISTED in her efforts! Hats off to Manju's courage! She reminded me of the bumble bee: "Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway." If only we all had her courage to pursue success, unmindful of our own limitations!

Whenever there were children in the library, I would go up to a student, give him/her a book suitable for their level of reading and sit beside them as they read. My objective was to help them read difficult words, learn new ones and talk to them about the story they just read. It was during one of these sessions that I met Srinithi. I had given Srinithi a book, but I was told by her teacher later that the kid couldn't recognize most of the letters. Realizing that reading the book would be a futile exercise, I decided to test her on the alphabets. While writing the letters, she would invert most of them; she also would get confused with 'b', 'd' and 'p'. So I spent more time with her, teaching the very basics of the English alphabet right from scratch. On my last day I asked her whether she would forget whatever I had taught her. She looked up at me and said, "I'll write it out 10 times miss, so that I'll never forget!" I was reminded by Srinithi that enthusiasm is the magical ingredient which makes every task successful.

I realized that stars needn't
always twinkle in the sky when I met little Anu, another adorable second grader. With her green and white striped scarf and two missing front teeth always posed in a smile, her eyes shone like the stars. Whenever I think of Anu, I remind myself to smile more often. It not only brings more joy to others, but you feel more joyous yourself!

Although I worked with the children for hardly a fortnight, I was able to connect on an emotional level with them. I try to keep in contact with them, thanks to today's mobile technology. I think of all of them quite often: Sadhana, Srimathi and Sowbarnika (The troika of 'S') from third grade, naughty Naveen, sweet little Sivanesan, Aravind who would always share his murukkus with me during break, joyous Jayashree Powrika who gave me a cute tiny purse the day I met her, Santhosh's elder sister Gowri and her classmates, a smart group of fifth graders, just to name a few.

On my last day at school, Dilpreet, a talkative student from grade 4 came to me and gave me some advice- "Miss, when you finish your college in Singapore , join our school as a permanent teacher!" Sowbarnika didn't say "Bye miss!" as she got off the school bus on my last day. Instead she said, "See you in December miss!". As for me, I cannot wait to go back to her wonderful school! :)