You know, it is an amazing thing to be treated as a dignitary just because you get to do the work you love in life. I mean today at The Bishop School we arrived at 7:30 am so that we could attend Assembly. Assembly happens every morning and consists of prayers, pledges, the national and school anthems, news and today an introduction of guests. Bill Worley and I have had an inspiring two days visiting the school and the respect and generosity showered on us has been truly humbling. I stood in front of a hall of over a thousand students, not the entire student body as the monsoon rains moved us indoors, and was asked to share a few words. Speaking in front of groups is not my favorite thing and to be honest, I think this might have been the largest group I have ever addressed. When words flow from your heart it makes them easy to find. Looking out at the sea of faces dispelled my normal nerves. I had seen these children in the halls, said hello and observed a lesson or two. It was easy to find the words to share my observations and hopes for their futures. Today was one for the books.
My lesson! Well, the Assistant Headmistress to the upper grades, Mrs. Gura, was going to have me come to her room sometime after 11. I thought I would have time to prepare a bit more, but the plan changed and I was moved to 9:15. Back pack and supplies in tow I marched with my lovely guide, Mayuri, up to the room where the students were already waiting for me. 48 tenth graders stood in unison to say, “Good morning, Ma’am” and well, they stayed standing. Phew, no time to unload, no time to regroup or find my ‘stuff’ all of which has been sorted and repacked in the bags I have been toting around the world. This is it. I started with distributing cards to them, little tickets that were to have their names in English and Hindi printed on them. Rifling through my bags I got out the bare essentials and began.
The lesson was taped and it also flew by. Their eyes were eager, their hands readily shooting towards the ceiling. The windows were open as they are in the entire building with no air conditioning only breezes. So my instruction harmonized with birdsong and the continuous honking of cars, trucks, and taxis. I told them I was going to talk about poetry as a jumping off point. We spoke of the difficulty in writing and I elicited the term writer’s block before moving forward. There were vocabulary words that I had to put on the board to make sure they would understand the imagery in the poem. Hmm, one half of the board was covered in foil, the other half a traditional green chalkboard of about 4’ by 4’. No well for the chalk. Another scramble uncovered a small piece of chalk not two inches in length, sitting on the desk. There was no eraser.
You don’t need a play-by-play here. The time flew by. The students were eager and thirsty for each step. They wrote and spilled words from their pens and pencils in rapid succession then shared their words with the group. They were delighted when I asked them to turn the cards over and write a favorite word of their own for the group. These were passed to the front, collected, and a student chose one from the pile to use for the next bit of writing. It was uncanny that the word chosen was ‘friends’. We set out to write again after I revealed the term and were still writing when the bell rang. No one stopped. We continued, the passing minutes elapses, the next teacher arrived and still they wanted to keep going. To share. To continue. I asked them to pick one word that was a favorite to say out loud. I wanted to create a verbal wave and to let them hear the similarities in their responses. It was priceless. They stood while I again repacked the backpack and spoke a chorus of “Thank you mams” I floated out of there.
I have other observations from this day. There are many differences in what these children perceive the expectation to be. They had a bit of difficulty with the idea of no rules. Their cards also contained a bubble chart with India in the middle. I have to look at these more closely before I write about them.
Great things. Thanks for reading.
(more photos coming, again, the bandwith issue)