Thursday, October 30, 2014

A bit of reflection.....

I was looking at some of my old pictures today and thought I'd post some of my favorites. These struck me one way or another and below is a brief descriptor of what I'm seeing in my pic and why I like it.

I'm at the Indian Ocean. Its just cool to say and see.

This was a geography class I visited. The teacher in the class has 100% involvement!!!!

These kids were gutsy and showing off. I really wanted to join them.

This is a side view of the Taj Mahal. I wanted to focus on the sheer size of the structure as well as the attention to detail that was put into the building.

This is the Taj Mahal from the front. I like the black and white of this because you can see the lines in the stone a bit easier and it makes it a bit more dramatic.

I have no clue who this person was. I was messing with filters on my phone and pointed it where there was light and saw this. I really like this one.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 25, 2014

The day of reckoning has arrived. My last day on campus. I got to teach about rugby as part of a rugby lesson and I had one of the students teach me rugby in English. Needless to say, we laughed really stinking hard. These kids did not say much to me at the start of the week. They were a bit scared of the large American that crushes your hand if you shake his. Now.... well.... I guess this is a moment where I should let the pictures do the talking because I don't really have the words to do it justice.

THANK YOU ST. MARY'S H.S.S.!!!!!!!!!!!

July 24, 2014

Today we had a school assembly to start the day. It was the inauguration of the Literacy Club. The students worked to form this club and are extremely proud of what they have been able to accomplish. I was the end speaker for the assembly and briefly spoke about the importance of reading and literacy in general.

We followed this up with a Q&A session with the campus's Junior Red Cross group. We talked about the importance of service learning and service in communities in general. it was a solid session. It was fun trying to keep them on target with the topics versus asking us about America/Texas.

Enthusiasm on campus for education and learning appear to be pretty high. There exists high levels of interaction and engagement regardless of the class. It is a true privilege to see.

The librarian, Teresa, has brought us lunch the last two days. She is a solid cook. It is humbling to be offered food here from a lady I've only known since Monday. She does it because she cares for us and believes we can do some good for her campus. Librarians are a rare breed bu the good ones are even more rare. This one is priceless!!! She has a small library to work with. It is small in comparison to what is available in the states, but it is used more than what I've seen back home. English is the medium to move up in status and they have books here that help teach just that. The librarian encourages students to read and speak in English in an immersion style of learning like it is an extra section of English class. She is very good at what she does and is a credit to her profession.

There is something to be said for working with less. There is less than what is available on my campus in almost every regard. The utilization of resources is near maximum capacity. The faculty here know how how to stack lessons to maximize time, effort, and physical resources.

Tradition vs New update: I have now witnessed what Babu is up against. The teachers we have met are incredibly nice but are resistant to new teaching techniques or ideas. The newer ideas brought today did not go over as smoothly as hoped. The teachers seem eager to understand and learn but cling to outdated ideas and approaches that inhibit their growth as professionals. Babu in this case represents the new thought balanced with tradition and is a great vehicle to help move, implement, and assuage any complaints that the teachers here bring up. He can really be a force for good here in helping the teachers embrace more tools to help their students succeed and compete in a rapidly shrinking and interconnected world.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 23, 2014

Today I started in a geography class today with 45 students. I believe their teacher's name is Delsa. She had 100% attentiveness from her students today. HOW!?!?! I wonder if it is the belief that the teacher here (if I was correct in my understanding) represents three of the Hindu gods. In either case, class participation was 90-95%. It is very impressive to hit those numbers and even more so with a class of that size. On top of that, this teacher negated the idea that group work and large class sizes don't work. In India, all problems require some form of creativity to solve. She had her class get into 4 big groups. The way the desks/tables are organized and the shape of the class allows for easy observation of the students well enough to keep them on task. The group work is brief to help keep the students focused on the task at hand. They then turn to the class to report their various answers and they are to respond and read the material in English. It is proper, formal British English, but that is not a bad thing.

I also noted that Delsa does much of what I do back home, teaching wise. I find it gratifying to find that what I have attemped in my own class is reflected in a counterpart in another country and in another language. There is a common thread to teaching and good teachers know what specifically is needed for their individual students to succeed and adapt their techniques as results begin to not meet expectations.

The students were studying geography in the English medium. Regardless of what is said in class, this class is more difficult that your average geography class because English is a second or third language that these students learn and speak. So, in reality, every teacher that teaches in an English medium is an English Language Learner Teacher.

Today was my presentation.

 I focused on 3 areas: The Danger of a Single Story, Document Driven Lessons, and Student Centered/Driven Lessons. I went over the rationale behind these approaches as well as brief and various activities that require little to no preparation. I started to lose them with the Single Story. There was a difficulty understanding the concept of changing historiographies. What I heard most was: How can history change? It happened the way it happened. You can't change it!!!
So, I pretty much tanked the core of keystone piece of my presentation. I later discovered that it was not really what I said/did but that there is a strong cling to tradition and a refusal to adapt. The rest of my presentation went over pretty well. Some of them even liked the idea of letting the students discover the material and ask how close they were to what is being looked for. So, my presentation wasn't a complete loss.

That night we met with the local teachers' union, local education leaders, teacher trainers, and teachers from other schools in a very productive question and answer session. I was there with 3 other teachers that are apart of the TGC program. 3 of us were from Texas and one from Massachusetts. I believe we did our country and states proud with the answers we were able to provide and how it was conducted.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 22, 2014

I got to present about America and Texas today to some faculty and faff and 20 students. In my opinion, it went over like a lead balloon. I feel that I talked too fast and used too much jargon. I had to slow it up tons and cut out tons that I would consider vital information back home. On top of everything, the power went out just before I was to start and had to change gears to using a whiteboard and good old fashioned improvisation. All said, it wasn't my best. Oh, to make matters worse, I forgot the micro projector that my parents had lent me. It was BACK HOME IN TEXAS!!!! GAAA!!!!

Working with the teachers here has been an absolute treat. I have been spoiled with teaching resources in my district and campus. The teachers here find success with so much less resources than what I have access to. They arrive with an enthusiasm that makes the students want to be involved and take great pride in being students on this campus.

I got to observe a geography lesson today in the medium of Malayalam. I do not even remotely speak this language and was able to follow along with the Jesuit Father teaching the course. This is just a  testament of his skill and prowess as a teacher that regardless of the language barrier, I still was able to learn a small bit about the various trade centers established by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and French. The lesson was a bit on the memorization and recitation (foundation) level for future lessons. I hope they look at motivations for establishing those centers of trade in those locations. The students have a deep respect for their instructors, from my observations anyway. They are willing to follow directions and throw themselves into an assignment to achieve the best marks that can possibly receive.

I am supposed to have a research question while here. Mine is "To what extent does the clash of tradition vs new prevent development and how does the Indian reality reflect this duality?" Basically, is tradition sacrificed for new or can it be preserved while implementing the new.

Example: The campus

The campus is 50 years old. In the states this is not a major issue. If you think of the USA schools 50 years ago, yes there was asbestos and other issues going on at the time but from an infrastructure time they were more solidly wired. Here you can see that the infrastructure of the school is a bit newer that the school. So, if conditions are right power can be lost (like it did on me). This does not stop the teachers from trying to implement technology on campus. This is where the resilience and brilliance of the teachers comes to play. I am not proud to admit I was crushed and deflated by the loss of electricity. Many of my fellow teachers in the US/TX/SPHS would crumble at the slightest hiccup in their lesson. The teachers here understand the concept and regularly implement the idea of: Adapt and Overcome. They do it professionally and proficiently. They teach their students regardless.

The dominant form of education is direct teaching but the teachers have the rapport with the students to make this work. Group work here can be difficult with classes being as large at 55 students. Anything I contribute must be low prep and low use of resources. I hope that in tomorrow's Social Studies presentation, I can positively impact the teaching of social studies here.

July 21, 2014

Today we met up with our host, Babu Simon Louis. He was very excited to show us his home. He lives in the beautiful state Kerala. The capital city is Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). I can now say the long version of this with some accuracy.This is a very densely populated area. For me, it can be overwhelming just how many people live here. There is so much green!!!! GREEN EVERYWHERE!!!! It is really beautiful here!!!! Words just don't do this area justice. The nickname for Kerala is "God's Own Country". If it is not, it's pretty close.

July 19, 2014

Today we visited the Muslim Orphanage in Bangalore. It was interesting to see that most of the students were female.  I chose to take the safe route when dealing with students here and predominantly dealt with the male students.That might seem wrong to some but one has to remember the point of being here: observation and education for myself and those I can interact with. If cultural traditions here prevent me from doing something, I am not in a position to question the validity in the immediacy but maybe use it as a talking/learning point in my classes this coming fall.

The orphans at this school are awesome and love any attention that they receive. Many of the guys that I was sitting with had their mind blown by the Texas handshake. They seemed to enjoy getting their hand crushed by a foreigner. So, I taught them how to do it properly. When I left the class I was in, they were crushing each others' hands. I'm pretty proud of that.

On the note of education practices that I found universal, was the use of things that the students knew in order to establish a foundation in the subject learned. I also need to note that the quality of connection between students and instructor are important factors in the success of the students in buying into what the teacher is presenting.

One thing does stand out. It was the statement by one of the chemistry teachers that dealt with terminology for elements on the periodic table. There were terms that they use because of convenience and are not recognized in the international community. So, convenience vs international standards. This is like the Americans clinging to the standard measurements vs switching to metric. I also saw this as teachers teaching how they are comfortable vs trying to expand their skills and find what works for the students. Comfort in a teaching style might work for a year, or for a class but does not necessarily mean that it will translate to success for future classes or school years.ON the other side of this coin though, there is no golden bullet for education, anywhere. Just because a campus in inner city Houston or inner city New York or LA had huge success implementing a program and had results to back it up does not mean it will work on your campus. The variables involved with implementing those types of programs range from support of admin, buy in from teachers, buy in from the community at large, and buy in from students. If one of these variables is not there, your "golden bullet" just turned to lead.