Day 68: Punctuation

Our next series of teaching practicum is with a bunch of girls “learning” to be sisters and nuns. We’re specifically teaching them computer literary, because it’s a critical skill for them to be successful as sisters of God in the future. Forgive my sarcasm in describing the assignment; after spending two months with the Special school at Bethany, I’m a little let down by the assignment to serve such a small, narrowly focused and limited group. My professional ethics will ensure that I give this project my utmost and some more. But, I’m convinced that the ulterior motive attached to the assignment will make it an unsatisfactory experience. Only time will tell if some major life transformations are due in the next four weeks with them.

It’s a group of 13 young girls, mostly in their early 20s, and from as far off states as Jharkhand, Bharti, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh. As a part of their nunning efforts, they are all at a convent near the Uni, specifically to learn English. We spent an hour with the group, learning their current skills in computers, what they would like to learn and why, and we received some very varied responses.

  • They all like the color pink
  • Some could barely state a two-sentence introduction about themselves before their control of the language became a barrier
  • They all started life like regular kids, learning computer science in school to become engineers, before God beckoned to them
  • A number of them described each other as being ‘Happy person’
  • “I want to learn whatsapp and Facebook”, a few said
  • A girl described the one to her left as ‘She is very punctuation’. I am torn between gaging the effectiveness of their English lessons while also contemplating if they really need this foreign language to survive in their line of work.

Here’s to four weeks of a different kind of teaching practicum.

OK, OK. Four weeks of a new kind of rant, eh? Nom, Nom, nom!” Scotch 

Day 16: Of minorities and handicap

It is really disheartening to see people use their religion and religious choices as a handicap, a crutch to rest on and derive benefits from. When getting admitted into a Christian university, I anticipated some amount of bias towards those of a similar religious affiliation. Until I walked in, I’d known only sisters and nuns like Mother Teresa and expected them all to be saintly.

The college has change my perceptions on that entirely. I’m all up for waiting for a slow learner in class and ensuring their up to speed. But using their inabilities as an excuse to take away learning experiences from others is just pretty unfair. In a democracy, irrespective of your religious affiliates or minority status everybody deserves an equal vote. And the majority determines the way forward.

Rant, rant, rant. You do realize that it’s the age of the weak? And if you didn’t support the weak, then how would you differentiate yourself from the right wing ideologies? 

Can we go for a walk and get some fresh air,  instead?”  Scotch

Sniff! Can we go now, please? 

Day 4: Of special children 

Teaching practicum today was a revelation. We visited a special school in the city and spent two hours learning about the various roles the teachers play, the challenges that they face and what makes them do it day over day.

A stark contrast between these schools and a normal school was the vibrance of the smile that each teacher carried. Veena, the computer teacher told us about how she’d walk into the school, in the morning, with her mundane worries and problems. But within the first five minutes, the children would bring a smile on her face and she invariably goes back home rejuvenated. Compare that to the general energy curve of teachers in “normal” institutions. It wanes through the day and by evening they are ready to snap at the first minor slight like a sharp twig.

Ajay, was a child of about 6 or 7, who had spinal issues that prevented him from standing up straight or walking on his own. He was sitting quietly, by himself, in the grass when he spotted me. He asked me to sit next to him. When I did, he asked me to call A over, and then sister as well. The child was collecting friends.

We met the “nerds” of the school, extremely regular-looking children, complete with their nerd glasses. They were the furthest in academics in the school. They had all attended regular schools at one point and were forced to switch over because they were either slow learners or showed minor signs of mental retardation. In most cases, it was the parents of other children that wanted these kids gone from regular schools. Huh!

Tarun was one of the senior boys in the school and walked us through their games room. Half his brain seemed to be eaten out from the inside, while the outside looked normal, with hair and all. His smile made it all disappear.

Stuti had a severe speech impairment and she could only call me ‘Se-Ah’. But that didn’t stop her from coming over and introducing herself to me or offering me her lunch.

All the teachers spoke passionately about how each child was an individual and there was no canned, one-size-fits-all approach with these kids. They talked about how most of these kids forget a lot of what was taught when they return from the summer vacations and they had to redo these lessons over. All are common with the mainstream education around us. Except, here that reality pinches much deeper.

I was surprised by the strange indifference that the principal showed to the kids. As she walked into the class for the autistic kids, Tuvon walked over to her to say hello. She almost looked past him towards the walls and moved on.

It made me wonder if that is what is bred when you do this long enough. When you teach special children for enough years, do they just become like normal children to you? And is that a bad thing? After all, we do want them to feel included, don’t we?

Oh! All this talk is making me ultra solemn. Am I not your very own, crazy, special child? Pet me and your worries will be forgotten! ” Scotch