By Bianca Le
The thought of packing up your classroom on a Friday afternoon and knowing that you have two weeks off with no alarms, no staff meetings and no duties. Two weeks without early morning dashes to your classroom to get your activities set up for 28 students, before diving into yet another stage meeting. The feeling of pure joy. A teacher’s immense smile radiates from her face and you know exactly why. The school holidays are here.
Last month, 11 NSW public school teachers smiled for another reason. They filled their suitcases with stationary, picture books, coloured textas, teacher clothes, and an open heart. They prepared for an adventure like no other. These special women were ready for an inspirational journey through incredible India.
This pioneer group of teachers from different schools across the Western suburbs of Sydney, seized their opportunity to challenge their comfort zones and to be part of an experience like no other. Not knowing what to expect, they did it. They were the first group to sign up to be part of our International Learning Observations- Instructional Rounds Tour in India.
The trip commenced in the busy, bustling city of Delhi. The beautiful culture, exotic flavours and dazzling colours emanated from every street corner. Delhi was just the beginning of this incredible journey. Day 1 in the classrooms saw 11 teachers dive head first into an incredibly unique classroom experience. A day of observing without judgment. The theme at the core of the Instructional Rounds model.
In silence, on a small wooden bench at the rear of the room, a teacher observed. Children sat calmly as their teacher read them a picture book. The warm Delhi heat blew in from the open windows and was whisked around by a squeaky ceiling fan. The observing teacher began to write down her thoughts. She was overwhelmed by a barrage of feelings. The one closest to her heart, familiarity. Snapshots of adoring smiles, excitement for learning, a passionate teacher, and encouraging grins between friends were intense. Witnessing these moments was nothing less than magical and made her excited for the days ahead.
Facilitated by Annette Udall, the group came together to ‘celebrate’ the wonderful things that were observed during the International Learning Observations. Joined by the Teach For India fellows that welcomed them into their classrooms with open arms, the room was a buzz with conversation about the amazing education that is being delivered by these wonderful local teachers. Not only were the group welcomed into the classrooms, but also into the community. The families of the students were delighted to show the group through their homes that adjoined their small pottery businesses. These families take so much pride in ensuring their children have access to a good education.
“Collaboration creates something bigger than what a single person creates on their own”
In a quiet corner of the local school, teachers from two sides of the world, came together with a shared goal of creating meaningful lessons for the students to be implemented the following day. The energy and excitement of newly made connections filled the room. Ideas swirled. All of the teachers were in their element. This was the definition of global collaboration.
After the initial feeling of nervousness, the teachers once again found themselves in an all too familiar situation. Teaching children. They presented their own, familiar concepts in a new and different environment and did so with ease. Classrooms buzzed with positive energy. Children eagerly shared ideas with one another. One class was even confident enough to perform their responses through drama. The connections that were made here were just the beginning of an ongoing global collaboration. With the shared goal of continuous communication, both the ‘fellows’ and teachers who were strangers, had now become friends.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandi.
A travel experience that will allow you to truly develop a greater sense of the country you visit is something we seek when travelling. The experience of preparing and serving lunch for the children of the slums, gave our travellers a deeper sense of the harsh and sometimes confronting realities of life for so many children in India. Making Chapattis, peeling pointed gourd and dicing an array of vegetables, in a cramped kitchen on the outskirts of Jaipur, bonded the group. Serving the children these meals, filled the teachers with pride, knowing that they played a small part in helping a wonderful initiative.
“Why India?” was a question that each teacher was asked prior to the commencement of their trip. If you ask any one of the teachers now, how they feel about their journey, it is apparent that they carry the same sentiment; India has changed them forever.
NSW Public School Teachers/ Principals
Milly Cheah – Fairfield West Public School
Ramina David – Fairvale Public School
Lyn Davis – Principal of Umina Beach Public School
Sarah Bejain – St Johns Park Public School
Lisa Humphreys- St Johns Park Public School
Carly Martinez- St Johns Park Public School
Jenny Khin - St Johns Park Public School
Shereen Mehandru - St Johns Park Public School
Glynis Simons- St Johns Park Public School
Cindy Valdez-Adams – Fairfield Public School
Anne van der Graaf – Mount Pritchard East Public School
Thank you to the wonderful educators at Teach For India for allowing us to into your hearts.
A special thank you to our very talented photographer - Rohit Singh