Gabriella Miller Blog #8: Final Thoughts

After a few weeks of being back in the United States, it feels like India was some type of strange dream. Arriving in the Saint Louis airport seemed truly unreal to me. I knew when I stepped outside everything I would see would be completely different from what I had finally gotten used to in India. I did not see the beautiful tropical plants, I did not see many people out and about even late at night, and I did not have the same incredible feeling of being somewhere new.

When I arrived home, I was extremely happy to see my family and friends, but I could not shake this sad feeling of missing India. What I quickly realized was how weird I felt about everything around me at home. In India, I had finally gotten used to the noises, the landscape, and how to navigate the city. After being home in Columbia, Missouri for a few days, I noticed how much I had to re-acclimate myself to my life that seemed so normal before. For instance, I had to get used to driving and walking on the right side of everything instead of the left. I had to get used to actually driving myself places, and not having to plan extra time to get there due to the traffic. I also had to get used to no longer having naan, chutney, and dosas (which was something I have been pretty sad about). Getting used to my “normal” life here in the States is definitely an experience in itself, but it made me continually miss everything about India.

In addition to all of the sensory aspects I had to get used to again, I also realized how incredibly hard it is not to see my teacher mentors and students every day that are back in India. Over the six weeks, I was lucky to build many strong relationships that will last me a lifetime. It is difficult for me to think that I will not be able to see these incredible individuals probably for a long time from now, if at all. I am constantly thinking about the students and teachers and how they are doing. Luckily, I communicate with my mentor and host teacher Roopa, and she always tells me what the children are doing and how they are succeeding. It makes me long to go back to India and wish my time there had not gone by so fast.

This year, I finally get to apply everything that I have learned from this experience. I am also excited to continue to share with my host teacher in India what we are doing here in our classrooms as she shares with me what they are doing all the way across the world. It is amazing to see how much I have grown and learned from my time in India. I have honestly grown in ways I never thought I would. No matter how many stories I tell, or pictures I show, I can never express to anyone exactly how much the people that I met and the experiences that I had have changed me for the better. I am truly thankful and blessed for the trip and the lifelong impact it has made on me as a person. I know one day I will return to India and experience the beautiful country again.

“Goodbyes are not forever, are not the end; it simply means I’ll miss you until we meet again.”


Gabriella Miller Blog #7: My Final Goodbyes

Here we are… we made it to our final day in Bangalore, India. This past week has been filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. During the week, I spent every day in my classrooms at Magnolia taking in every moment I could. I spent time interacting with the students, teaching, and being around my teachers as much as I could. On Thursday, I also got the opportunity to spend a fun day with my second grade classes on their field trip to the movie theater. When we went to see the Lion King, the children were all excited to have me there with them and were even more excited to see the movie in 3-D. Because all of the days this week were full of fun events and memories, the week flew by. In a blink of an eye, it was already Friday. 

On Friday morning, Laura and I decided to wear our saris to school as our final hoorah. When we got there, some of our teachers were kind enough to wrap us in the fabric and make us feel special for wearing the traditional Indian wear. When we walked in the halls, the students and other teachers were sweet and supportive of us wearing our saris. The only problem was when students approached us and asked what the occasion was for wearing it, I had to tell them that it was my final day at Magnolia.

Going around to each of my classes for the last time on Friday was one of the saddest days that I have had in awhile. My students kept asking me when I was coming back to India, or why I had to leave. They wrote me cute notes, gave me their parents phone numbers, and would tell me not to be sad (since most of the day I was crying). All that went through my mind was how much I was going to miss all of them and how hard it was to leave them. On top of this, I had to say goodbye to each of my teachers that I worked with over these six weeks. As I gave them all hugs along with reassurance to keep in contact, I cried many tears. My teachers have unexpectedly become some of the biggest mentors in my life. Looking back, I never thought that I would be emotional by the end. These relationships that I had made sneakily became some of the strongest ones that I’ve ever had. As Friday ended with a farewell party put on by our teachers for us, I realized how lucky I am to have met these incredible people and to have them in my life.

My time here in India has been so outstanding that I cannot even put it into words. I feel as if I finally have begun to feel comfortable with the people, customs, and everyday living here and now our trip is over. I do not think I can ever fully express how thankful I am to be able to have this journey in India. It has been such a transformative, life changing experience for me, and I believe this trip has made a positive impact on who I am as a person. I will truly miss all of the smiling faces of students, the constant noise of the city, and our fun roomie nights in our cozy little home at Casa Cottage. I will never forget the people I have met here and their impact that they have made in my life. Thank you to everyone who made my time in India amazing (my group, Sheral from Gen Next, my students, and my teachers), and to the people who supported me in getting to India in the first place. While I have been here, I have made so many memories and strong relationships that will last me a lifetime. With this in mind, all I have to say is that even though it is hard to say goodbye, I know that I will always have a piece of India in my heart forever.

Gabriella Miller Blog #6: Down to the Final Week in Bangalore

We are down to our final week here in Bangalore, and I couldn’t be more disappointed. Last week we had a full week of attending our schools again. At school, I had a different sort of week. Laura and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the school’s literary competitions that they had on Thursday and Friday. During this, the 3rd graders competed by presenting stories that they made, the 4th grade competed with a spelling bee, and the 5th grade (which we were not able to see) competed with a debates. For the storytelling competition, it was fun to see how creative the students were. They had props to tell a story that they have created and their stories had morals associated with them as well. What surprised me when watching the kids present was how confident they seemed as they told their stories to a room full of parents and peers, especially because they are only in the 3rd grade. As for the 4th grade spelling bee, it was fun to see as the teachers encouraged all of the students, even if they misspelled a word. It was once again amazing to see this as the kids were spelling words that I would have never known how to spell at such a young age. Altogether, these events that the teachers put on for their students gave me many ideas for when I am back in the States. For instance, I think that using their storytelling competition would be incredible as it has so many benefits to all children. It could increase confidence, provide a space for creativity, and let the children engage with literary concepts in a different way. Overall, these events were great opportunities to yet again see how these teachers try to make learning fun for their students which is important to me as an educator as well. 

While we did have fun watching these competitions, I also had a great time teaching students in many different classes. In one class this week, one student was not understanding how to borrow numbers from the tens place when subtracting. My teacher and I explained it in different ways and this one specific student was still confused. I took the student and pulled him in the back of the class. I tried to explain it to him once again and he still wasn’t getting it. My teacher encouraged me to keep working with him and keep explaining it. After a long time of explaining how and why borrowing worked the way it did, I eventually tried to explain it visually by drawing counting blocks on his paper. Although it was hard to explain in the beginning, he began to see how it worked. After awhile, my teacher asked him to solve a problem on the board and he did it successfully. It was rewarding for me to feel like I got something to click with a student who was not quite understanding what was happening. I also felt rewarded as my teacher allowed me to work with him and collaborate with her to get this one child to understand the concept. It was a great experience and it showed me how two educators, from two entirely different places, can put their skills and knowledge together to make a student successful. 

While I did have fun with this specific instance, I also had fun teaching this past week as a whole. Some of the students have begun to ask me when I am leaving for the States. Instead of saying in a few weeks, I am now beginning to say next Friday is my last day. Many of them tell me not to leave, or they ask me when I am coming back. It makes me sad to know that I have made such a strong connection with both the students and the teachers and now I have to leave them all. Luckily, one of my teachers and I are planning to keep in touch. We also are all making these last 3 days in our schools count.

Outside of school, our group took a weekend trip to Mysore. It was beautiful in this city as there is lots of greenery and huge temples everywhere. While we saw a few temples and palaces (you can see some of what we saw in the pictures presented), we also were able to drive two hours outside of Mysore to go to an elephant sanctuary. It was unbelievable to stand near and touch real these giant creatures. Never in my life did I think I would be in India, let alone be able to feed, touch, and stand up close to real elephants in India. In all, it was a fun weekend trip to have on our second to last weekend in Bangalore. 

I can already tell you that this next week in India is going to be gone in a blink. I feel so fortunate to have had experienced this great country and I am excited to make the most out of my last week abroad.

Gabriella Miller Blog #5: Seeing More of India

To start, I have to say we’ve had such a busy, eventful week. We started off on Monday at the schools, went to Delhi, went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and then finished our weekend on the plane back to Bangalore. Like always, I have learned an immense amount from these experiences that I have had throughout this past week. 

Taj Mahal

At the schools this past week, we were only there for two days due to our four day weekend trip to Delhi. Although it was cut short, I still had a blast with my students. On Monday they had world Doctor day, so the 1st and 2nd graders all dressed up as doctors and did a cute collage of doctors as a craft. These kinds of fun days happen for the kids every week and you can tell they always thoroughly enjoy it. It is a way for the teachers to see the student’s creativity, but also a way that they are able to make school fun while also teaching them different things about the world. For instance, one day was world environment day, another was world population day, and they’ve also even had UFO day. I truly think that these days for the kids are ways that the school is providing to keep their students excited about coming to school to learn. I think that this would be something that I will take back with me in my own classroom since I want to get my students to have the same level of excitement to be at school as these students do at Magnolia. Along with this, I love the days that they have these types of unique activities because it is extremely fun to help the students do the craft, see what they come up with, and get to know them more on an individual level rather than as a whole class. I know I have said this before, but I feel as if every single day I am becoming closer to the students and the teachers at Magnolia. I feel comfortable to ask my teachers questions, get constructive feedback and get to know their lives in Bangalore. I also feel comfortable to talk to the students about all the things they like to do in and outside if school. These strong relationships that I am making are actually making me slightly worried since I will be sad to leave in less than two weeks! I am trying to make the most out of every day that I have left at AECS Magnolia by learning as much as I can from both the students and teachers. 

Sitting on the Taj Mahal

Aside from the schools, we left for Delhi early on Thursday morning. Wednesday we reserved for rest and preparation for our trip (this preparation included Mehndi (henna) on our hands to get ready for the Taj Mahal). It was cool to build up the excitement and get a traditional art done on our hands for our special occasion. We all went to bed ready to leave to see a new part of India. 

Fulbright Building

In Delhi, we tried to see as much of the city as we could while we were there. On the first day, we visited Amity University and spoke in front of other pre-service teachers about our experiences teaching in India so far. While we were at Amity, we had a warm welcoming and a great meal to start off our stay in Delhi. The next day, we got to see the American Center/US  Embassy and the Fulbright Scholar Office in India. After we visited these two places, we made our way to Agra because on Saturday we were able to see the Taj Mahal. Seeing one of the 7 wonders of the world was surreal. When we were there, I was in complete awe of the story behind the Taj and being in the midst of something not everybody will see in their lifetime. Of course, we took many pictures, but none of the pictures that we took could not capture how great of a monument this is. Overall, seeing the Taj made me remember how lucky I am to be able to see something this amazing and to be in India in general.

India Gate

Finally on Sunday we went shopping at Dilli Haat which was fun but exhausting since it is 100+ degrees in Delhi all of the time. I did score cool trinkets and gifts to bring back to remember our trip. As a side note, I can feel myself becoming more comfortable when shopping since I am better at bargaining and able to communicate verbally and non-verbally with the shop owners better than I could before. Overall, it was a great experience Delhi and its similarities and differences with Bangalore. I am glad that I was able to see more of this beautiful, colorful, busy country! 

Gabriella Miller Blog 4: Schools, Saris, and Memories, Oh My!

Our trip is officially halfway over, and I cannot believe it! This past week I spent the majority of my days in the first and second grade classrooms at AECS Magnolia. What I have noticed after being in the schools for this past week are the incredible connections and relationships that I am making while I have been in the school. Each day when I walk through the door, I am greeted with smiles and good morning by both the teachers and students at the school. Now that I have gone to each of my classes for about two weeks now, each time I walk in the classroom, all of the students treat me just as they would their normal teachers. My teacher Roopa, who is absolutely amazing, told me that one of the days that they had school on Saturday that the kids in her classes were asking “Where is Gabriella ma’am?” She was sweet and said that she almost “can’t teach math without you.” 

Our trip is officially halfway over, and I cannot believe it! This past week I spent the majority of my days in the first and second grade classrooms at AECS Magnolia. What I have noticed after being in the schools for this past week are the incredible connections and relationships that I am making while I have been in the school. Each day when I walk through the door, I am greeted with smiles and good mornings by both the teachers and students at the school. I feel extremely welcomed in the school and I feel as if I am making long lasting connections with the teachers and students because of it. Now that I have gone to each of my classes for about two weeks now, each time I walk in the classroom, all of the students treat me just as they would their normal teachers. Roopa, the amazing teacher that I am shadowing, told me that one of the days that they had school on Saturday, the kids in her classes kept asking her, “Where is Gabriella ma’am?” She was sweet and told me, “I almost can’t teach math without you!”

Throughout this entire trip, Roopa has been a great mentor to me while I have been at Magnolia. She is always encouraging me and giving me feedback after I teach a lesson. I believe that she is trying to make me the best educator that I can be and has ultimately been someone I can count on and look up to.

Since I have gotten used to how things work in the schools, I have now been able to look deeper into my school to figure out what exactly makes them great. What I noticed was that every single teacher always seems to have an immense amount of passion for each student and they all truly want each of their students to succeed. For instance, each of the teachers make sure that every student is doing their work and understands what they are doing. For a class that can be thirty-five to forty kids, this is a challenging task. But what is incredible is that every teacher that I have observed is able to somehow identify a struggling student and correct their misunderstandings on a topic while also dealing with the other students in the class. This just shows that the teachers truly want to ensure that every student’s understanding of a topic is correct before moving on to the next topic. In addition to this, I can tell how much they care about their students since every teacher uses each of their break periods as a time to look through all of their student’s notebooks and workbooks to make sure that they are on the path to success as well. When my teachers talk about their students or when they explain to me what they are teaching, I can just tell that they have such a strong love and passion for what they are doing. They truly go out of their way to make sure that every one of their students is successful which is something that I will definitely carry with me when I have my own classroom. I know I have said this before, but I have been blessed and lucky to learn from my teachers at Magnolia. I am truly thankful for the amount of support and experience that the teachers and staff at Magnolia have been providing for me.

Even with all of the fun at the schools, our group has been able to have fun outside of school too. On Saturday, we finally were able to try on our saris that we had bought a few weeks back. Sheral, our wonderful personnel from GenNext who has been taking care of us, came over to where we are staying and helped us get dressed in them. What is funny is that all of us wanted her to teach us, so she brought her own fabric and was taking us step-by-step through the process. We were all confident that we would be able to follow along and tie them ourselves. When we were all lined up trying to do the first couple of steps, we were already lost. The problem for us was that we were not used to having a huge piece of fabric that we have to tuck and wrap all on our own. Luckily, Sheral was kind enough to help each of us to tie our saris. After she finished wrapping everyone, which took about an hour, we had a fun photoshoot of us all dressed up. This was such a fun time as we finally were able to dress in the beautiful fabrics and style that is traditionally worn in this amazingly colorful culture. 

Overall, I am having such a great time here in Bangalore. I am sad that we are already halfway done with our trip. Even though our time seems like it is almost up, I am going to try to get the most out of the time that I have left. I will continue to look for something new each and every day and soak in as much of the culture as I can before I leave for home. 

Gabriella Miller Blog 3: Learning More and More Each Day

It has officially been seventeen days that our group has been in India. Within these seventeen days, we have all survived our first full week at our respective schools. So far, the time that I have personally spent at ACES Magnolia have included a great deal of learning experiences that I will carry with me as I go into my senior year of student teaching. 

AECS Magnolia Public School

The first day that I had my class schedule for first and second grade math, I was thrown into teaching a lesson that I was not prepared for. I was incredibly nervous, uncomfortable, and thrilled which was a strange mix of emotions. Looking back at this and comparing it to the final lesson I taught on Friday, I realized how much I have grown as an educator over the short eight days that I have taught for. Roopa (my incredible teacher that I am shadowing while I am here in India), allowed me to take over her class to practice teaching first and second graders how to add, how to compare numbers, what ordinal numbers were, and much more. What I have noticed over the week is that each and every day that I was given the opportunity to teach in front of the class, I began to gain more and more confidence in myself as an educator. During the first lesson, I was uneasy on how to direct the class, how to hold their attention, and unsure if I was effectively teaching the students. At that time, it was weird for me to be in control of a classroom and it honestly felt uncomfortable. Reflecting on how I felt when teaching by the end of the week, I noticed that I had more connections with my students, I lead the class with a more confident demeanor, and I felt more comfortable with adapting the way I taught to based on how the students were responding. With this, I do have to say that not every lesson did not go as planned, but I noticed that these struggles that came along with my small successes helped me develop my confidence as an educator. 

UB City Mall

While learning from the educators here in India, I have also realized how much different classroom management styles are here than in the United States. In India, the teachers gather their student’s attention by yelling over their voices and being extremely stern with the children. While this effective for these teachers here, it seems like a constant battle for me to maintain the attention of the class while I am teaching. In the United States, we teach our students on their first day at school an attention getter that signals the students to quiet down and settle themselves to learn. Since I have been used to seeing and using this type of classroom management in the States, the classroom management tactics used here have stood out to me. When I have taught, I have struggled with gaining the attention of forty students after they excitedly blurt out answers to my questions. To say the least, it has been interesting but fun to teach the students the attention getters I am used to using while also learning to adapt to their styles of classroom management as well. Although this has been challenging for me, I think this has provided me with plenty of practice which will develop into valuable skills that I would not have had gained without this experience in India. 

Iskcon Temple

While we have spent the majority of our time in the schools, we have also immersed ourselves in the culture each and every day. While in schools, I have learned about the mannerisms, traditions, and everyday lives through my students. Along with this, we have visited many temples and navigated our way around the city. For instance, this weekend we went to Iskcon temple. Here we were able to see how Hindus gather at a temple to worship their Gods and witness the rituals they partake in when doing so. This has been eye-opening as I have never been immersed into another religion other than my own. This weekend we also went to Malleshwaram Market which is a street full of shops and stands filled with basically anything you could think of. While being there, it was interesting to figure out how to bargain for the items we buy and to figure out how to deal with being the minority in the culture. 

Altogether, I have had many experiences that have developed my skills as an educator and that have taught me more about the Indian culture. I have had a great time being in India so far, and I am excited to live another week here in Bangalore. 

Gabriella Miller Blog 2: After 10 Days in India

Over the past week and a half, we have had many different experiences where I have had the opportunity to soak in the culture in India. We have done many things like touring Bangalore and also beginning our time at our respective schools. To be truthful, it has been extremely exhausting, but incredibly eye-opening.

(Small stand at Bull Temple)

When we arrived in Bangalore, one of the first things that I noticed was the traffic. Apparently, previous students who came on this trip always write about the traffic on their first blog post in India. Before coming here, I told myself I would avoid writing about it, but it is almost necessary to mention. I wish I could put into words how different and chaotic the constant flow of traffic is throughout the entire city. There are sometimes clear lanes on the road, but it seems as if nobody follows them. There are motorcycles, mopeds, cars, busses, cows, stray dogs, people, and rickshaws all weaving in and out of one another, honking, and staying about 3 inches away from each other. Although it all seems like chaos to us, I have realized that everybody here seems to have an understanding of how to safely maneuver through the traffic which is almost beautiful in a sense since it seems like a mess to outsiders.

(First Mango in India)

Besides getting used to the traffic, our group has had many different experiences to learn and immerse into the Indian culture. We have been fortunate enough to see a few temples, a botanical garden, and eat at many different restaurants that serve traditional Indian food. All of these experiences so far have been incredible since it has given me an insight into the customs, manners, and traditions of this culture. Before coming to India, I truthfully did not know much about the culture, and I did not quite know what to expect. Being here for the past ten days has made me realize how different life is here in India compared to life in the United States. Although this has made me miss my home in the States, each day that I spend here, I truly see and appreciate the beauty of this country.

(Mandala at a temple)

One of the biggest parts about being on this trip is to experience and learn from the schools that we are stationed at for the duration of the trip. For me, the school that I am learning from is AECS Magnolia. The first two days at the school, I was able to observe each of the elementary grades and compare it to how these grades are taught in the United States. In the school, I noticed that the kids are genuinely kids and they were all extremely excited to see me in their classrooms. When I observed the fifth-grade class, the kids seemed like they were probably third graders in maturity and physically. Academically, I noticed that the kids were learning content that was more advanced than the content that we teach students of the same age in the States. It made me realize how much potential kids have and in our American culture, we tend to think that kids cannot handle a higher level of thinking. In addition to this, in our culture tends to push our children to grow up fast. Here in India, they seem to try to value the student’s childhood.

(Statue at a temple)

On my third day at the school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to teach a second-grade math class. It was unexpected as the teacher just told me to take the class even though I did not have a lesson prepared, but I took it as it was, and tried my best in teaching the kids. What was incredible was that even though I was scatterbrained and my lesson was improv, the children and the teacher in the room were excited and welcoming in hearing what I was teaching the students about place value. Although it was not the best lesson I have ever taught, it was a great experience to get up in front of the class and feel the excitement of learning from the students. On top of this experience, I have learned from observing the different subject teachers for the first and second grades. Although they are strict and they are more traditional in textbook teaching which differs with how we are taught in the United States, I have been able to take note of how they control a class of forty students, how they install the love of learning in their students, and how they are having success in the way that they are teaching their students. I am thankful to have the support of the teachers from Magnolia school and for the opportunity to learn from them during my time here in India.

(A cute gift from a student at Magnolia)

Overall, this experience has been something I would never trade for the world. So far it has taught me a significant amount about a culture that I barely knew anything about. I am looking forward to learning more about the culture and learning how I can become a better educator for my future students in the United States.

Gabriella Miller Blog 1: 8,785 Miles Away

Never in my life would I have ever thought that I would study abroad, let alone in a country 8,785 miles away from home. In a short five days, I will be leaving to set off to Bangalore, the 3rd largest city in India. Going out of the country for the first time will be an indescribable experience and I could not be happier that India is the first out of country experience that I will have under my belt. Ever since I found out that I was actually going on this trip, I have been reading about the culture, politics, and traveler blogs trying to anticipate what it might be like when I get there. I have been reading and learning about this country so much that my Google search bar always predicts that I am searching something about India. You can even ask my family, I have talked about India several times a day ever since I found out (they are definitely tired of hearing about it). In addition to this, I have been gathering up everything from clothes to power converters. Although I have been preparing for such a long time, it did not hit me until now that I will actually be in India exactly a week from now.

Before getting to India, I think it is important to lay out exactly why I chose this specific learning experience and why I am so ready for it. Ever since I was a kid, I knew that teaching was what I wanted to do. I grew up loving to teach kids new things, play with kids, and be someone they can count on. Because of this, I feel such a strong desire to be the kind of educator that can be there for all kinds of students. My goal as a future educator is that every student has the support they need to realize their potential and find their love for learning. I want to show students that no matter who they are and what barriers they might face, each and every one of them have potential and are capable of great things even if they might not think it. I want to be able to make a difference in the lives of all my students and bring out the best in each and every one of them. I realized that the first step in knowing how to support my future students is to understand where they come from and learn the practices that other educators have to support their students. What better way to gain an entirely different perspective from educators than by going yourself to learn from an educator in a different country? Learning the educational practices and skills from the teachers in India, that allows them to find and bring out the light in each of their students, is exactly something that I wanted to do before I have my own classroom.

Ultimately, I am excited to finally get to India, and get the chance to learn from the entirety of the experience, so that I may grow as an educator for my future students. I cannot wait to see the beautiful textiles, eat the delicious curry filled food, and experience the culture in action. I feel nervous, happy, and excited all at the same time, but I cannot wait to finally arrive in Bangalore. I truly feel blessed and thankful for this opportunity of a lifetime. Here’s to a new adventure full of eye-opening experiences that will broaden my horizons personally and professionally.