2nd report from my volunteer year in India, Tamil Nadu, Auroville, Kuiliyapalayam from Naomi K. March’13
Now more than five months have passed and I’am writing my second report about this special year here in India in my school. Yes, I’am still working in the Aikiyam school with the same class as last year, the amazing fourth standard.
My point of view has changed about a lot of things due to these 20 children. I realized for example that a lot of western children are spoiled because they distinguish very well between what belongs to them and what doesn’t and they can hardly share. the tamil children on the other hand share everything (food, stickers, etc.). I also remarked that children have so much potential inside of them to change the world and that they are so intelligent. I have to admit, that in the beginning I always underestimated the ability of the children to learn, to understand and to follow the instructions. I thought that I had to explain everything in a very easy way, because otherwise they wouldn’t understand it because of their mental capacity. But this is not true. We have to explain them the basics, because they don’t have as much knowledge as adults, and basics are elementary but we confuse it with easy.
I guess that a lot of people teach the kids in a very wrong way, they make it to easy, to difficult or just not appropriated. I mean not appropriated in the way that they forget that children have more difficulties to learn unknown things with a book instead of using their body while playing educational games. Very often The books are not suited for children, the topics are far away from their daily life and their needs. The exercises suggested in the books are not made in a playful way. Murugan, my co-teacher, and I try to follow less the books and more our own ideas. Today for example we made a treasure hunting game to improve the children’s concentration in reading and to explain them measurement and distances in an active way.
I also realized that some of „my“ kids can’t write and read properly, so I talked to the english teachers and we decided that we will focus on this after the holidays and not continue with the difficult texts from the book.
I had another plan to change something in the school. Once the children had the topic “food and digestion”. We made a vegetable salad which you can see on the photo. I explained to them that they have to eat a variety of different foods and that they should have a balanced diet, but after our lessons they went happily to lunch where they eat rice every day. I couldn’t accept that I was teaching very important things but that the school just did the opposite. That is why, during a teachers meeting, I proposed to change the weekly food schedule. This wish seemed to be a catastrophe for all the tamil teachers. They suddenly started to speak very fast and in tamil (the rest of the meeting was hold in calm and clear english) and my ideas of potatoes and noodles were damned with the word “fast-food”, the only word that I understood between the tamil words. The principal concluded at the end that he will talk to the “ammas” (the women working in the kitchen) and see if a change would be possible. One month after the meeting we had noodles for one day and then never again… But around two weeks ago the principal talked to me about food again. The weltwärts-coordinators had talked to him about this issue because I had asked them before if they could help me to change the daily lunch. That is why Shankar came to me and proposed that I could start a project to change the food. I accepted his offer and now Rebecca and I will try to change the nutrition of the children. If this could be truly accepted by the school, it would be an important change, because the children eat there each day for 8 years. For us it is great to know that we can make their life and health a bit better than it was before.
I really enjoy working with my teacher Murugan. He is a relaxed Indian man, but with a lot of visions and interesting thoughts. We spend most of our preparation time talking about bread and the universe. Sometimes, that is what makes me a bit unhappy. He rarely comes at time to our lessons and then I start writing letters or looking for the next exercise in the school books for example . But when he does come than we’re not preparing the lessons. We are just talking and sometimes he even falls asleep for a very short time…this is not the perfect preparation. I realized that I feel better when we have prepared the lessons in advance, because I know what I want to teach and I don’t have to look it up hectically in my schoolbooks. So now I try to inform myself earlier about what I could teach so that I’am more relaxed and I can start the lesson even if my teacher is too late. This all sounds a bit negative and unsatisfied, but I think I could not have a better co-teacher than him. He explains me a lot about the Indian culture and he cares about what happens to our children. He even tries to talk to me in Tamil, which sometimes is very embarrassing but that shows me that he wants to encourage me.
He is really open-minded when it comes to inviting new people to teach the children, for example there is a body-percussion man coming each week for one month, or a north indian woman who explains how to use the “stove of the future” which also produces charcoal.Then there is the forest project where we go every week and where the children can learn why planting trees is important and how to plant them, etc.
My mother visited me in january for one week and we spent a really nice time together. It was a bit strange to let someone in in this special part of my life. For the first time since 4 month there was someone from my „ancient life“ who had a look on how I was living know. She was interested in my health and in what I ate. Of course she worried about my driving style. But meeting her was different than I expected it to be. Sure she is my mother, but this time I showed her a lot of things and explained her how this world works. She gave me a lot of freedom and never tried to play a typical mother role. Sure, when I was sick during her stay I was very happy that she made tea and food for me and said „oh my poor girl“. So I can conclude that I really enjoyed her being here with me.
My family is coming again soon and then I just have one and a half months left with my kids. After that they will have very long school holidays and two month after school reopening we will all have to leave India. It feels as if a time-bomb was ticking. I still have so many things to see, to learn, to try out, to experience and to feel.
Wearing my sari or punjabi and saying that I would like to have a bottle of water in tamil almost makes me feel Indian. It is clear that there are still so many things that I wouldn’t even imagine about the Tamil culture, but I try to understand as much as I can.