My placement in India was at Drishti Dr. R.C. Jain Innovative Public School, a highly regarded Preschool - Grade 12 public school in a rural area of Punjab. I was fortunate enough to be housed in the school guest house. I lived there with the school’s director and my days began by waking up at 5:00 AM so she and I could walk around the school grounds and watch the sunrise together. I would walk to the school at 7:00 AM to begin the day by teaching my conversational English class to 11th and 12th graders. The remainder of my school day consisted of co-teaching English classes to 1st through 7th graders for seven more class periods. I felt incredibly lucky as a student teacher to have not just one but eight wonderful classes to work in and learn from. In the afternoon I would have a lunch with the schools’ director and the school principal, which was an enlightening experience as I learned much of the background of what it takes to run a school that emerged on its own from the ground up. In the evenings, I would typically walk around the village with local children, provide tutoring sessions for a select group of students in need, eat dinner and lesson plan.
The host culture:
My favorite part about my host culture was the cultural value of treating guests highly. It is a quality that people in India take pride in and it made me feel incredibly welcome. From the very beginning of my experience I had so many comforts provided and tons of people willing to invite me to their homes to meet their families. I also enjoyed the rich, colorful and diverse festivals and traditions that I was able to partake in while at the school. Witnessing and being a part of beautiful experiences like weddings, birthdays, harvest festivals and more was unforgettable.
The most challenging part of teaching in my host location was first adapting to the new environment. I encountered changes like extreme heat and a vegetarian diet. The immediate sensory overload and culture shock was my first big challenge to overcome but was fine once I settled in. The main challenge in the latter part of my student teaching was adapting to the different school expectations. The different types of discipline and textbook based teaching styles were a few of the aspects of the new school that I had to navigate while also being expected to bring new ideas to teachers at the same time.
I enjoyed the rich, colorful and diverse festivals and traditions that I was able to partake in while at the school. Witnessing and being a part of beautiful experiences like weddings, birthdays, harvest festivals and more was unforgettable.
There is so much that I feel furthered my growth professionally while in India. First, I had to adapt to a teaching style that involved more collaboration than usual because I suddenly was working with not one but eight different teachers closely on lesson plans. I practiced lesson planning and making up activities on the spot with little to no resources aside from a chalkboard and textbook. I also had the opportunity to teach my own conversational English class to 11th and 12th graders which was an eye opening challenge because until then I had only worked with elementary students. Lastly, I was given the chance to provide a professional development workshop to the teachers of the school on a topic of my choice which prompted lots of research and preparation on my part.
Advice for future students:
My main piece of advice would be to remain as flexible as possible at your placement and happily say okay to anything that comes your way, within reason, if it will take you out of your comfort zone. It might be something as simple as trying a new food or something as big as attending a wedding or providing a professional development workshop, but it is always the moments that I was initially reluctant to and took me farthest from my comfort zone that emerged as the greatest learning experiences and memories. I would also advise participants to not be afraid to ask if there is anything that confuses you or if there is something you need. At the beginning of my experience, I was afraid to ask some of the teachers what their expectations were for me when I was in their classroom, but once I did it made the school day much smoother.
A special place:
Drishti School in Ludhiana, India is such a special place that has a unique drive for innovation coupled with rich history and tradition. The families, teachers and administration at Drishti are some of the most driven, compassionate and welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. What sets Drishti apart from its counterparts is its unique commitment to self-improvement and pursuit of the best educational techniques from around the world. I felt honored to be able to contribute to that and am excited about the lasting relationships I have built with so many people there.