I hope you are well wherever this finds you.
Since my last blog entry, my status as an English teacher has become more cemented. I have been teaching since 12th June as opposed to starting on the 17th June when I had indicated I would feel most comfortable! These concerns were disregarded within a matter of days and I was immersed into a classroom and staffroom existence! In many ways being thrown in does have its advantages because there is little point in protesting but instead focusing energies on surviving the 40 minute lessons.
My daily routine begins with a short walk from the Principal's home to school at around at 0845 and upon my arrival so the shouting "Lucy Ma'am" starts. Initially I failed to respond, not computing that the children are in fact talking to me but now I have adjusted and feel overwhelmed by the big Colgate smiles that radiate from children as young as 5!
There are approximately 700 students who attend Apex Public School and are supported by approximately 35 other teachers. The bell is rung promptly at 0900 whereby a Prayer is read by a nominated student over the public announcement system and thereafter followed by a Pledge.
As I observe the Pledge being read, each and every student can be heard reciting their devotion to this beautiful Country and confirmation of the respect to be shown towards elders including teachers (although this is not always the case!). During this brief recital, the students are seen with their right arm outstretched in military fashion and for a split second you could be excused for thinking you were witnessing a scene from Sandhurst! The military approach continues most days with a retired Indian Army officer (now PE teacher) blowing his whistle to round up the troops (sorry I mean students) as though he is summonsing help in an emergency and this I must say does get a little tiresome especially if you happen to be blasted inadvertently from close range!!!! It certainly has the desired effect on me and I find myself hop, skip and jumping off to class!
There are on average two classes per year which are called standards and the division of classes are labelled A, B or C depending on the numbers. I have so far taught standards 3 to 9th which incorporates ages of 7 to 16 years old. I have expressed an interest to teach in the older classes so ages of 13 up to 17 as I find the 10 - 12 year old boys, in particular, hugely challenging. Since being here, I have often thought that somehow representing ill educated, badly behaved rogues is far easier than teaching children because at least with client's trust you can strongly advise them and importantly they will accept and respect that, whereas bringing under control a bunch of hormonal, mischievous, Indian teenagers who can demonstrate their displeasure with actions alone, is in my opinion a far greater challenge! If anything, this adventure to date has proved that I do not have the ability to carve a career out of teaching for the simple fact that I lack patience and tolerance which are two crucial ingredients required! To further exacerbate matters, I am living in a predominantly Muslim community and therefore no alcohol is available unless I travel 30 km to the nearest city. Whilst I am not yet at the stage of knocking on 'Alcoholics Anonymous' door I was after my first day, considering sipping from my antibacterial hand gel that contains traces of alcohol just to be able to enforce some sort of relaxation!
It is not all bad and I must emphasise the positives that I gain each day. I am greeted with enthusiasm and excitement every day. Without fail I am given flowers, both fresh and artificial, chocolates and random gifts. I have also been asked to sign several copies of students books which was incredibly strange but knowing how clever the Indians are I have probably now implicated myself in some multimillion pound scheme!!! So far I have received a pretty bracelet, rubber, a couple of pens, notes stating their love for me and a story book for 7 year olds. Perhaps the student in question was trying to tell me something about my mental age I don't know but it was very bizarre all the same. My desk is beginning to look like a funeral directors with an array of beautiful but artificial flowers!
There are 8 lessons held every day, each 40 minutes long interposed with two ten minute tea breaks and a lunch break of 50 minutes. There is always a flurry of activity and students are always coming up to me asking me "What is madam's parents' names?" "Is madam married?"and "Where is madam's home?"
Freedom is given to students at 3.40 after they have all stood to observe the National Anthem in silence and then given a cheer to mark the end! The school is an institution which instills discipline and patriotism which is both inspiring and commendable. We, the teachers are released finally released from Daddy Day Care at 4pm so all in all a very respectable working schedule. By the end of the day, it is difficult not to feel weary but on the whole I very much enjoy this daily challenge. The one aspect I cannot cope with is the lavatories. By the end of the day, the hole in the ground has been so overused without the sophisticated use of a flush that the smells as a result are quite simply the most pungent I have ever encountered. I am finding that in emergency situations the squat bog is used but otherwise the Western throne is relied upon more often than not! The men and boys reading this back in England have no idea as to how lucky you are only having to 'point and shoot' - lucky buggers!
As you are probably aware we are in monsoon season and have been since the beginning of June. Although it does not rain 24 hours a day, it is hoped that the ceaseless torrent of rain when it does start, will finally dry up around August time.Fortunately we have not yet faced flooding and are only too aware as the sheer devastation it has caused people not too far from here. I have been told that in years gone by boats have been used to get students to school but I do hope that I won't witness that sight this year! Somehow the lack of RNLI does fill me with some concern!
The presence of spiders has increased since the downpours and a gigantic spider presented itself in the kitchen during supper a couple of nights ago. My hysteria caused great amusement to the family here but as I shot across the kitchen to escape it, so the bastard thing ran furiously towards me. I was pretty distressed by the time it was splatted against the wall and sacked supper half way through as I was almost consumed by the eight legged beast.
I have been able to enjoy some cricket with the students during school hours and outside of the timetable. The schools grounds are similar to that of clay courts in the French Open and trying to bowl in conditions where the bouncy cricket ball shoots off in all different directions is at times impossible. Sadly I have not yet represented womens cricket particularly well but hopefully with time I will lose the reputation, I have myself created, which is similar to that of "playing like a girl"!
I have been teased mercilessly about England's defeat to India in the ICC Championships Trophy and having stupidly boasted that we would kick India's ass, my forfeit was to distribute half the sweet supply of Kerala to a number of classes at school. Not a very smart move on my part so now I shall keep my mouth shut between now and December just in case!!!!
Talking about humiliation, it reached an all time low last weekend when I was asked to make a speech at a parents meeting. There were approximately 300 - 400 parents in attendance plus my fellow colleagues. I thought I would be clever and attempt to speak in the local language (Malayalam) just to introduce myself to intrigued parents. The intended message was
"Hi my name is Lucy, I am here to teach English" and then to finish up I think I said "India is a beautiful country!"
However in true Linington fashion I got the pronunciation wrong and said "Hi my name is Lucy and I am an elephant!" Not my finest hour and I now understand why parents looked at me with some surprise and in some cases with some distain! During the disastrous speech, the power was cut which happens several times a daily and I should have taken that as a sign but no I carried on making a total fool of myself! What an elephant sized mistake!!!
So as you can see I am continuing to enjoy myself and feel very at home here. Of course there are some days when I am screaming out for a hot bath, cold beer, spaghetti bolognese and a washing machine but aside from the quirky ways of India, this is a Country which gets in the blood and I am extremely happy.
It goes without saying that I send you all my love and miss you all
Lots of love Luce (CiCi) xxx