Emma Graul Blog #7: 30 Hours Left

Well, we made it. We survived 24 hours of plane rides, 200 hours of teaching, and 45 days in India. The final day felt so far away at the start of the journey but now is upon us within a blink of an eye. Leaving is bittersweet. I cannot wait to go back home and see my family, but sad to leave my school, teachers, and Sheral. This past week was filled with many emotions and happy memories

School this week was normal but full of many “lasts”. It was out last monday, my last masala dosa, my last time driving to school, and my last time with my students. The last week had many students asking, “Ma’am, can you please stay another week? How about you come back in 2 months? A year?”. Just when I started to get really comfortable and created amazing connections with the students, it was time to pack our bags and head home. It was also hard to leave the amazing teachers ans staff at DPS North. My teacher and I become close friends and got into an amazing groove co-teaching. All the staff at my school were so friendly and always made sure I was fed well and taken care of. The vice principal, Geetha, was outstanding and even made me and Kelley food during the week. It is sad to leave her and all the other incredible people I met here. 

Keyboard class

Our goodbye presentation was filled with tears as we finally closed the India chapter of our lives (at least for now). Everyone shared how this experience shaped their lives and their gratitude for every person who was involved in this trip. Over the past 6 weeks, I have grown as a teacher and a person. I have learned patience, kindness, and gratitude. 40 shouting kids in a classroom is overwhelming but eventually I learned to be patient and answer their questions or grade their books. Everyone here has treated us with nothing but kindness and has changed my entire perspective on how I want to treat others. Finally, I have learned to be thankful. Thankful for what I have, where I live, and thankful for all the amazing people I have met in India. I cannot thank Sheral enough for being our India mom and making sure we are safe and having the best time of our lives. I am thankful for Chad for leaving his family and coming with us to India. I am thankful for my group; I have made some lifelong friends and some unforgettable memories with them. From late night dance parties in room 5 to petting elephants, we have grown together and I will cherish every memory. 

The DPS North crew

Describing our time here is hard to put into words. I am still growing and learning from this experience. This quote from the song ‘For Good’ from the musical Wicked sums up my experience in India:

“It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime.

So, let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you.

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have rewritten mine

By being my friend”

Me and Sheral

Emma Graul Blog #6: The Elephant in the Room

Five weeks down and one to go. I can’t believe how fast our time has gone here in India. It feels like just last week we landed and toured our schools. It is starting to hit me that we leave so soon. Since I see the primary block kids every other week, I started to say my goodbyes. I am sad that I won’t have them in class again. Saying goodbye has made me realize how short our time is here. This upcoming week is filled with trying to cram in as many experiences and one last meal at local restaurants.

Teaching in the kindergarten block

School is going well. My teacher and I are finalizing the songs for the month and the children are really coming along. They all know the words and even the dance moves we made up for the song. Every time the song “Dream It Possible” plays they all cheer and loudly sing along. The kindergarten block students love the song “Happiness”. Their smiles and laughter fill the air when they all get to point to their friends on the word ‘you’. Seeing their joy and smiles makes my day and is the reason I want to continue to teach. This week I taught another class. I wrote the words a Hindu devotional song on the chalkboard, which I have gotten a lot better at, and then helped grade each notebook. Since I struggle to sing the song, my teacher just plays the music on the speaker and the kids sing along. The class went smoothly and we even got the sing the “Happiness” song a few times.

Second grade class

This weekend we had another small trip. We drove to Mysore, the City of Palaces. Our first stop was the Jaganmohan Palace which was an old palace that has been converted into an art gallery. It actually holds the largest artifact collection in South India. Most of the paintings were completed during the British occupation of India and the paintings reflected that with a blend of Indian and European techniques and styles. The palace also stored a large collection of musical instruments used by the royal court. I was fascinated by all the unique instruments and the sheer number of instruments stored. Later in the weekend was the much anticipated activity: elephants! I have been wanting to see elephants since my first trip to India 4 years ago. My dreams were finally coming true! We were able to touch, feed, and gaze at the amazing creatures that were feet away. The elephant’s skin felt like wrinkly leather but prickly from short little hairs. We even got to feed them straw packets of rice and other grains. The elephants are only at the location for a few hours before they are turned out to the surrounding forest. The elephants were even bathing in the river that we crossed in a little speed boat. This is surely an experience I will never forget. This weekend we also saw a Hindu temple and a Buddhist Monastery. The temple was literally crawling with monkeys who were enjoying the sweet marigold garlands adorned on the temple.

A monkey enjoying the flower garland
The Namdroling Monastery

As our time in India comes to a close, I will try to experience as much as I can and take in the last few class periods I have with my students. I am excited to go home and see my family and friends but sad to leave my students, teacher, the cat at Casa, and India. Leaving next week will definitely be a bittersweet moment that will probably leave me in tears. Here’s to living life to the fullest and to one final week!

The Dubare Elephant Camp

Emma Graul Blog #5: Teaching and Travel

What an amazing and busy week this has been! I taught, flew 1,300 miles, and saw one of the Wonders of the World (again). I am so grateful for all of these experiences.

The week started off normally at DPS Bangalore North. On Monday, I had my first experience teaching my first class alone. My teacher was stuck in a meeting and I was left to take over the class. It was so great to be able to be in my own classroom. This was my first experience without a host teacher. At first it was terrifying with 40 children staring at you waiting for what you were going to do next. With no lesson plan and no teacher to tell me what to do, I panicked for a second but suddenly and almost instinctively I started to teach. I taught the songs I already knew by heart from all the practice I have had from the previous weeks. I even let the kids come up with their own dance moves to the songs. We sang all sorts of songs. I need to work on my pacing as I quickly went through the songs my teacher and I teach third grade. To fill time, we reviewed songs and learned songs that the other grades were learning. We were having so much fun that I forgot when the class ended. The class was fun but I struggled to keep the attention of the students. They were always turning around talking to their friends or drawing in their notebooks instead of writing down the lyrics. But in the end, everyone learned the songs and wrote them down and that qualifies for a successful class.

A classroom in the kindergarten block

The rest of the week was vacation. On Wednesday, we got mehndi. It was so fun to see everyone’s unique designs. The woman painting the paste on had so many designs that each hand was different. The smell of the mehndi paste brought back memories of my friend drawing mine from previous times I was in India. The next morning, our orange stained hands turned a rich brown and still faintly smelled earthy.

Mehndi design on my hands

One bumpy flight later and a short nap later, we landed in Delhi early Thursday morning. Our first stop of the trip was Amity University. We ate a delicious North Indian lunch and gave a speech to their pre-service teachers about our experiences in the schools in India versus the USA. Some of their students traveled to Mizzou and New York a few years ago to learn about our school systems and to strengthen the connection between universities. The next day we visited the Fulbright campus. Fulbright is an organization that promotes international, educational exchange programs. We went shopping at a market and picked up more gifts. Soon I will need to buy a second suitcase for the trip back home! After, we went to the American Center which is the U.S Embassy branch in Delhi. We talked to the staff about our experiences so far in India. Right after the American Center we hopped on the bus for a 3 hour bus ride to Agra. 

The American Center

Today I got to experience one of the Wonders of the World for the second time. The Taj Mahal was as beautiful and breathtaking as the first time. The grandeur of the building made before machines honestly takes your breath away. I could come to the Taj thousands of times and it would never get old. We toured around Agra and saw the Agra Fort and traditional artwork. Sadly our short day trip to Agra had come to an end and we drove back to Delhi.

Taj Mahal part 2

In Delhi we did some more shopping at a huge market names Dilli Haat. I had been there my first trip to Delhi and forgot how extensive the market was. After a full day of braving the 100+ degree heat and stuffing my suitcase to the brim, it was time to head back to Bangalore. Although the trip was short and sweet, I loved every second of being back in the city that I fell in love with in India. It is time to head back to the real world of Bangalore and finish off the trip doing what I love most: teaching.

Me and Gaby at Amity University

Emma Graul Blog #4: Making music and memories

3 weeks down and 3 to go. Time has flown by. It really started to hit me how short our time left here is. With this mindset I’ll continue the rest of the trip trying to experience everything I can.

The past week at school has been better than the previous week (how is that possible because last week was already great!) The week started out normal by following my teacher to all of her classes and co-teaching. We started teaching new songs to the students. I nice refresher after the three environment songs we taught for two weeks. DPS North’s theme for July is math to celebrate math week later this month. All of the hallway bulletin boards are colorfully decorated with math used in everyday life. Math is hard to incorporate in music since the grade levels are all learning different material so instead we are teaching about values. The songs have themes of being nice to everyone, not wasting food, and the importance of friends. This month we also added a few Kannada and Gujarati songs (local languages of India). It is hard for me to teach these songs since I do not know the language and the Indian style of singing but I am learning. Hopefully by the end of the trip I will be able to successfully sing one of the songs.

Also this week I was able to work with instrumental students. Another music teacher and I pulled a list of 30 students all from the 3rd grade learning keyboard. There were so many students also learning piano and vocal but sadly my time is short and I cannot teach everyone. We gathered all the students into the room and started to narrow down the selection. After removing students who just started, we had a solid group of 12 students. All of the students knew the common song of “Jana Gana Mana”, the national anthem of India. The teacher had all the students tell their parents to bring their keyboards to school tomorrow. The next day we had a good turnout for keyboards! They were all varying sizes but they kids were so eager to show off their talents. I plugged in two and let them play the national anthem. With varying skill levels, I have my work cut out for me but I am excited to see the kids grow and perform together.

When we aren’t at school, we are shopping the markets or having a sari photoshoot. All of our saris were done being tailored and the blouses were complete. We were ready to learn how to tie them and parade around Casa Cottage wearing them. Sheral, our contact from GenNext, came over to tie all of our saris. I was hoping to be able to learn so I can tie it at home, but I was lost after the second step. Sheral was so patient and tied all of our saris. 21 feet of fabric and 1 hour later, we were all colorfully dressed. We had a mini photoshoot with Cathy, a member from the College of Education’s Strategic Communication Department.

On Sunday we hit the town for (more) shopping. We went to a local craft fair, a government craft store, and Commercial Street. I picked up some gifts for family, friends, and me. This past week has been busy and the ever approaching date of returning home creeps closer. I am excited to travel to Delhi and Agra next week. Hopefully we all don’t melt in the heat! Here’s to living in the moment and traveling to new places!

Emma Graul Blog #3: Time to Teach

Over the past week, we completed our first full week of teaching! It was great to be in the classroom and teaching. I got the music program figured out and I am working under one of the kindergarten and primary block music teachers, Easther. We teach grades 1-6 but primarily teach 2nd and 5th grades. The music classes here are structured by learning the melody by ear but writing down the lyrics. Easther writes the words on the chalkboard while all the students hurry to write them in their notebooks. At first, I observed then as I got more comfortable would interact with the students and grade their work or walk around to keep them on task. By the end of the week, I even taught a lesson.

Easther teaching 6th grade

Students here are exposed to music classes based on their age in school. In the kindergarten block (grades K-3), music classes are held weekly. All the students in the same block learn the same music even if they are in different grades. That is different than back home, each grade level learns different songs and music theory. In the primary block (grades 4-7), music classes are every two weeks and alternate with dance class. The division of the grades at DPS North are different than at home and that took some getting used to. I showed up to the wrong block for 6th grade thinking it was in the secondary block since that is where the division is back home. Luckily I had enough time to run over to the primary block.

At DPS North, the theme for June is the environment. The school celebrated World Environment Day on June 5th and have been focusing on the topic ever since. In music classes, our songs revolve around the environment. For the kindergarten block, the songs are “Mother Earth” and “The Earth is My Home” while the primary block song was “Don’t Throw Trash in the Water”. Since each section only has music class every week or bimonthly, we teach the same songs everyday for 6 periods a day. By the end of the week, I could sing and teach the songs in my sleep. I even caught myself humming the songs in the car home and around the hotel. I am excited for next week to teach new songs as July starts tomorrow.

The primary block

On Thursday, I taught my very first lesson! Previously, I would just teach some simple American nursery rhymes after the main lesson was taught. Easther was confident enough in me and let me teach the song “Mother Earth”. I wrote the song on the board and then helped the kids write it down. They were having trouble reading my cursive handwriting on the chalkboard because I barely remember all of the cursive letters and struggle to write on the chalkboard. I learned there’s a fine line between too little pressure and too much when using a chalkboard. The kids would laugh every time I broke a fresh stick of chalk. After I wrote the song, I sang the tune and they would repeat it back until they were comfortable enough to sing it without my help. It felt so good to be teaching and doing what I came here to do. Being in the kindergarten and primary blocks is almost convincing me to be an elementary music teacher.

Teaching 3rd grade

I cannot wait for another week of teaching and our upcoming day trips to another government school, DPS Electronic City and Mysore. Soon, I will be teaching another lesson by myself and be in classes with the same students. I am eager to continue this teaching journey here in India.

Emma Graul Blog #2: 1 Week ✅

10 days later and we completed our first week in India. It feels great to be back here but a little off since my friend and her family is not here with me. The 20 hour plane ride did not get easier though. So far I am loving Bangalore. The weather is nice and not as hot as Delhi, the food is amazing, and the people are so friendly. The city is so rich in colors, sounds and smells. While walking down the street, your senses are overloaded with the smells of fresh mangoes and street food, the bright colors of the clothing vendors, the sounds of honking horns and squawking birds, and the feel of the unstable sidewalk sections. Bangalore is an unfamiliar yet familiar place. The senses remind me of my past visits but there is an element of being in a new city that is exciting and fresh.

Mandala at Kote Temple

The first few days here we did some sight-seeing excursions. We visited Commercial Street, government buildings, temples, traditional restaurants, an old palace, and Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. Commercial street is the place to shop in Bangalore. You can find almost anything you want here: clothes, shoes, food, luggage, etc. It was a bustling and crowded outside shopping area. While taking rickshaws around the city, we stopped to admire The Department of Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Affairs building and the Karnataka High Court. We visited two temples so far on our trip, the Bull Temple and  Kote Sri Prasanna Venkataramana Swamy Temple. The temples provided an insight into the rich history and culture of India. Sometimes I forget how young our country is. The Kote Temple was older than the United States! After our visit to the temples, we ate a very traditional south Indian lunch at MTR. People were lined up outside to eat at the restaurant that was only open for a few hours a day for lunch. The servers kept bringing out different dishes and the pile on my plate kept growing because I couldn’t eat fast enough. We ambled out of MTR and walked down the street to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. The garden was huge! There were so many different species of trees, plants and a mango market too. I had a mango slice and it was so sweet and juicy and convinced me to buy more on during the trip here.

The Bull Temple

The rest of the week we spent at the schools. The eight of us are divided between DPS North, DPS East, Vidyashilp Academy and AECS Magnolia. We toured each school and met with the principals.These schools were nothing like schools back home. They were small colleges with thousands of students. Vidyashilp even looked like a palace. Everyone was amazed at the school system here. Although they are very similar, there are some small differences like the curriculum, standards, and size. The students here are very eager to learn and have a level of respect for the teachers and the staff that I have not seen back home. For the past three days at DPS North, I have been floating around and observing different music classes in kindergarten, primary and senior blocks as well as special education class. The music program here is very different than back home but I loved my observation periods in the kindergarten block. I can’t wait to learn all about the program here and to take it back home with me.

Middle school music room at DPS North

This first week has been amazing so far and I am excited to get a schedule and start working with the kids at DPS North. I might start teaching piano and violin lessons as well. I am eager to know what the rest of the trip has in store!

Sari fabric

Emma Graul Blog #1: India Part 3

The time has almost come. T-24 hours and I’ll be in the air for 20 hours bound for India. This will be my third trip to India in the past 6 years. In the past, I went with my friend to vacation and to visit her family. I am so excited to be heading back and now this time with a purpose.

As most of you know, I am traveling with the University of Missouri’s College of Education to teach abroad in India for 6 weeks. I will be at the Delhi Public School North in the city of Bangalore. While I am there, I will be teaching music. I am eager to discover what type of music I will be teaching. My background is only in Western music and I am hoping to be able to learn about Indian music. I cannot wait to be immersed the schools and learn about a different school system. From classroom management to student-teacher interactions and even to lunches, everything could be unfamiliar and I want to learn as much as I can to bring it back to my students in the U.S. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to teach abroad and live in a culture I have fallen in love with. I am thankful for the Delhi Public Schools North in Bangalore to allow me to learn and grow as a teacher in their school.

Although I am only home for a few weeks, I quickly became bored of the mundane routine of my life: work, Netflix, sleep, repeat. As the date June 12 crept closer and closer my excitement grew as well as anxiety. I cannot wait to change up my mundane life and be submerged in the hustle of the city of Bangalore but I am also nervous to leave behind my family, friends and the familiar. Previously when I went to India, I was there 4 weeks for each trip. Now I’m adding two more weeks there! That’s a long time to be away from everything I know. Even though attending an out-of-state college forces me to be away from my family for months on end, this time feels different. Summer is a time to be back home in the beautiful and dry Colorado. Now I am trading the cooler dry temperatures for 90% (or more) humidity levels of India. Despite the looming thoughts of my unpacked suitcase and the fear of forgetting something important, I am overall filled with excitement and joy to be going back to India. See you on the other side of the world!

India Trip 2015