A fine balance

I am volunteering at the Gamru Village School in lower Dharamsala which is a school that is completely funded by donations and provides an education to over 170 students from the region. Please follow this link to learn about the opportunities provided by this school for these students that from my perspective makes the Gamru School a special place: http://gamruschool.com/. I feel extremely grateful for this experience with both the Gamru School and the course, however, I am feeling very conflicted. While I expected this, I did not expect the amount of discomfort and disorientation I feel within my placement.

Kendal and I will be teaching until 1230 ever day and periodically until 230, and I did not anticipate this. Our first day, Thursday, we were introduced to some of the teachers and observed some of their teaching. Rather early on the first morning, we were unexpectedly asked to teach until 1230. We were asked to teach singulars and plurals and the water cycle. While these may not be difficult concepts to teach, I do not feel equipped to teach them in a different country, let alone would I feel comfortable teaching them in my own. Who am I, without any training in primary education, to teach these children their education and tell them that this is what they should be learning? What if I am not communicating and teaching these concepts properly and effectively? I discussed this disorientation with some fellow India Field School friends and Veila, our volunteer coordinator, and they brought to my attention that while this is true, it may be truly beneficial for these students to have a native English speaking “teacher”. As I think about this I do realize this benefit for the children and the teachers, and I empathize with this as many of the teachers’ English is poor.

This aside, I am feeling positive and I realize that every day will become a bit more comfortable. Sitting at the back of the class on a bench, observing one of the teachers in one out of eight of their classrooms, I also realized how capable learning and teaching can be with few resources. The children were super attentive as the teacher wrote out math questions on the small chalkboard. The children were also hoping over their bench desks to share erasers, the walls are rather bare and each classroom has one light. While I am truly grateful for the resources provided to me in my own education, it really makes me question the necessity for the amount of resources and goods I have in my own life.

Each day so far has been a whirlwind of disorientation and excitement, and it has been difficult to reflect on all of these emotions and experiences. Today five of us hiked up Bhagsu waterfall just outside Mcleod Ganj. Waving prayer flags traveled all across the waterfall and we found ourselves sitting at the rock landings exploring and overlooking the valley below. We all felt like we really needed this unscheduled time to reflect on the last several days and on our way down from the falls we all felt really relaxed and content. I think it is truly important to find a balance where ever you are – take time to absorb your surroundings, especially when your surroundings continue to change.

– Nat

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