Laura Bierman, Blog #8 Final Blog

WOW! Somehow the weeks since I’ve been back in America have truly flown by. I feel like it was just yesterday I was teaching my 3rd graders the different types of adjectives, walking alongside the indescribable traffic, or packing my bags to head home. I know I’ve said this before, but I am truly so grateful to have had this experience in India. Most people are not fortunate enough to say that they not only spent 7 weeks in India, but they TAUGHT for 7 weeks in India. Tomorrow, I begin my first day of Student Teaching and I feel so at ease knowing the valuable experience I gained teaching this summer. If I could manage a classroom of 40 students, a class of 17 should be a breeze!! (right?!?!!!)

The second I got home, everybody asked, “How was India?” which was such a challenging question. How do I sum up a life changing, 7-week experience into a short conversation? I would do my best to tell them the most exciting parts of the trip and show them pictures but to be honest, the most influential parts of the trip were the small pieces that didn’t make it to the conversation. They were the moments my students gave me the BIGGEST hug because they didn’t want me to leave. Or the moments laughing with my teachers about something funny a student said. Or the laughs I shared with everyone on my trip around the dinner table. They were the small moments that made this trip what it was. I wish I wore a “Go Pro” on my forehead everyday so everybody could really get a glimpse into “how India was”!

I think about my students and teachers at AECS Magnolia very often. The way they welcomed me into their school with wide arms and the way they went out of their way to help me with quite literally anything left a lasting impact on me. I will never forget the smiles that formed on students faces as I walked the hallways or the endless waves I received every day. As I start Student Teaching tomorrow, I can assure you I will not receive nearly the number of waves as I did at Magnolia. What I can assure you of though is that I will carry the skills of classroom management and forming meaningful, lasting relationships with my students and teachers back home. I am so ready to apply these this year!

Traveling to India will be an experience I share with my future students for endless years to come. I’m looking forward to sharing pictures with them from when I visited the Taj Mahal, had an elephant trunk on my head, played basketball outside with my students, taught them English, successfully took on the crazy traffic of India, shopped (of course!), and every single other amazing thing I was able to experience. Who knows, maybe one day I will have a student from India enter my classroom…and that day will be SUCH a special day for not only me, but for them.

One last HUGE thank you to my amazing teachers, students, Sheral, Chad, my fellow classmates, The Smiths, and my mom. Without you all, this trip would not have been what it was.


Laura Bierman, Blog 7 Week 6

Holy cow! I seriously cannot believe I’m saying this right now… but… we are heading to the airport in 4 hours!! How can that be? I feel like it was just yesterday I was moving into my room at Casa Cottage and adjusting to the fast paced lifestyle here in Bangalore.

This week was full of emotions. It was the last of everything. The last Monday, the last drive to our schools, the last night sleeping in Casa, the last shopping trip to Commercial Street, the last of pretty much everything. After realizing this week would consist of “lasts”, I really did my best to take in every single moment. I strived to live in the moment this week.

The beginning of the week began the same way as most weeks do in the classroom which is teaching about 3 lessons a day and spending quality time with my students while joking around and sharing stories. Throughout the past 6 weeks, I have received handfuls of letters each week, but this week was different. On Monday alone, I received nearly 40 letters from my students which only continued throughout the week. Students continuously would ask, “When are you coming back?”, “Why do you have to go?”, “Please stay you can’t leave.”, and by far my favorite, “Happy journey. I will miss you so much.”. These letters not only brought smiles and tears, but I know I will always have them to look back on in the future.

If you read my Blog last week, then you know that I went to my teachers apartment for dinner this week! What an amazing experience!! My teacher met Gaby and I at a coffee shop near her apartment after school and ordered us an Uber to her home. Once we got there, we had so much fun eating snacks, sharing funny stories from school, and just spending quality time together. At about 6 pm, my teacher brought out a dish that I thought was the dinner which was so delicious but I was starting to get full so I didn’t eat a lot. Little did I know, that was only the appetizer!! We relaxed for a couple more hours and watched a cooking show on TV which happened to be spotlighting St. Louis, Missouri (which is where I’m from). It was so crazy that I was sitting in India watching a show about my hometown across the world! After that was when the dinner came which was around 10pm. We ate chicken, nan, salad, and chick peas (all of which tasted so amazing!!) We ended the night at an ice cream shop for some Red Velvet flavored ice cream and made it home safely around 11pm. This was one of my favorite experiences because I feel like I was able to get a real, genuine glimpse of the daily life here in India. I am so appreciative that my teacher welcomed me into her home with open arms.

Then came Friday which was full of smiles and tears as I had to say goodbye to my teachers, coordinators, and students. I knew this day would be hard the first day I walked into Magnolia. As I expected, no teaching took place this day. Our time was spent playing games one last time and of course, lots and lots and LOTS, of pictures. I will cherish these pictures forever as they are all associated with such happy memories. Saying goodbye to the students brought so many tears as I reflected on what an amazing, life changing experience this trip has been. My school threw Gaby and I a going away party after school which was so thoughtful of them and allowed us to share our experiences and thank all of the teachers for being so welcoming. After the party, we went straight to our Final Presentation which teachers and administrators were invited to attend to hear our final thoughts and experiences. It was so powerful hearing everybody’s stories and how this trip has impacted us all forever.

I can’t believe I am boarding a plane back to America in less than 10 hours. Thank you to all of my teachers for being so comfortable handing over their classrooms to me and allowing me to grow as an educator, thank you to my coordinator for being so easy to communicate with and always providing great advice, thank you to Sheral and Chad for planning such an amazing trip and keeping us safe AT ALL TIMES, thank you to my students for always putting a smile on my face, and thank you to my mom and The Smiths for allowing me the opportunity to be here. This week specifically brought me to the realization that I am on my way to joining the most perfect profession for me as I realized not only how much I affected my students lives, but how much they affected mine.

Laura Bierman, Week 5 Blog 6

One more week under our belts making this the end of Week 5 and the beginning of Week 6. This week, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade had assessments in many different subjects. It was so interesting to see how different the assessment process is here compared to America. The assessments all took place in the morning so that the students were well rested, focused, and ready to rock their exam! Every section took their exam at the same time which was surprising to see. In addition, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade had “Project Day” this past Saturday. The students had been preparing for this day for multiple weeks. Each class had a different country and each student had a different topic related to their given country. Every day for the last two periods, students finalized their projects and perfected their speeches which was so fun to watch and to provide assistance. The entire school was decorated with bright colored decorations showcasing their different country assigned to them. Last Thursday and Friday, I was invited to attend a literary competition for third grade spelling and storytelling. Parents were also invited so it was so nice to meet some of my own student’s parents and share my personal experiences with them.

Saturday morning, we all packed into our van and headed to Mysore. Mysore is a city in India which is about 4 hours away and is famous for their beautiful palaces. In Mysore, we experienced an art museum, Chamundi Hill, and ELEPHANTS! The art museum provided headsets as we walked around looking at the different pieces of art. It was interesting to listen to the descriptions and history of the different paintings. After that was Chamundi Hill which is a HUGE hill that we drove up to see a beautiful view of the city and to see the outside of a temple. The temple was located in what seemed like a tiny, isolated little village. To get to it, once we reached the top of the hill, we had to get out of the van and walk up a little pathway which revealed this village of shops and the temple.

Sunday was my favorite part of the entire weekend- the ELEPHANTS! We packed up our bags and drove another two hours to an Elephant Sanctuary. Of course, the second we arrived, it started raining but that didn’t stop us from having such a great time. We all loaded into a boat which took us across a river to the elephants. There, you are able to feed, wash, touch, and of course, take tons of pictures with them! I even got a picture with the trunk of an elephant on my head which the principal at my school told me is good luck! After spending a couple hours at the Elephant Sanctuary, we visited a Buddhist Temple which was beautiful, enjoyed a delicious Indian meal consisting of Buttered Chicken and fried rice, and then began our journey back to Bangalore.

I was recently invited by one of my teachers to enjoy a nice dinner at her apartment tomorrow which I am so excited for! Keep an eye out for my next blog to read about that experience and to hear my final thoughts on our last week here in India! Bring on Week 6!

Laura Bierman, Week 4 Blog 5

I can’t believe it! 4 weeks down, only 2 to go! This week I experienced something I never thought I would have had the opportunity to see EVER in my entire life (keep reading to find out what I’m referring to). To begin the amazing week, a lady came to our hotel to give us hennas. Hennas are a symbol of celebration here in India so our reasoning for getting them was to celebrate our trip to Delhi. I was so amazed by the entire process. She gave each and every one of us our own unique design which took less than 20 minutes per person! It would have taken me days to paint something so beautiful. It looked like a black paint that she put on our hands and then we had to sit for about 2 hours (not touching anything) to let it dry. Once it was dry, we scraped off the black paint and an orange design appeared. It was so beautiful- I wish it would last long enough to show everybody back home!

Early Thursday morning, we headed to the Bangalore airport and flew 3 hours to New Delhi. In Delhi, we visited Amity University, saw the Taj Mahal, and of course, more shopping! Our stop at Amity University was so cool. We interacted with pre-service teachers and administrators at their university. First, our professor gave a brief presentation on social and communicative behaviors which was so beneficial as future educators. Then, all 8 of us were able to stand in front of about 100 pre-service teachers and individually share our wonderful experience here and briefly explain why we chose to go into this field. Lastly, we watched some amazing dancers which was the perfect ending to our visit.

The next day, we visited the American Center/U.S. Embassy which was a really cool experience. I was so proud to be an American standing in front of that building and walking through the front doors. We met with Conrad Turner, the Senior Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi, India. It was awesome being able to share our experiences in the school here in India with somebody so powerful and truly interested in hearing our journey.

Friday, we all packed into our small van and began our journey to Agra. In case you didn’t know, Agra houses one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. I still can’t believe I can say I stood in front, inside, and behind this incredible place. First off, it is the most breathtaking monument I have ever seen…it did not look real! The white marble shined so perfectly and even after the many, many, MANY years it’s been standing, it still looks good as new. I am also so amazed by the history this monument holds. It was built to be a tombstone by a man in honor of his late wife. Wow! What a way to be remembered! I am so so so thankful to have this experience which I will remember forever.

I can’t believe next week is our last week in the schools! I am so sad to be leaving in two weeks but so grateful to have been able to come here in the first place. Week 5, here I come!

Laura Bierman, Week 3 Blog 4

3 weeks down! We are officially halfway through this trip and I seriously cannot believe it. This trip has truly been amazing and I can’t stop thinking about how lucky and thankful I am to have had this opportunity so far.

This week consisted of some of my absolute favorite memories. Dean Chval (Mizzou’s Dean of the College of Education) came to visit us here in India and experience a glimpse of what we have been living the past three weeks. She visited all four schools, met our principals, went shopping on Commercial Street, and went to one of our favorite restaurants, Brew Works, on her last night here. It was humbling to see the Dean, who has so many other obligations and commitments, take time out of her busy schedule to experience Bangalore along side 8 of her students.

My absolute favorite memory of the entire trip so far was our saree photo shoot on Saturday! Last week, everyone picked out their saree fabrics (all of which were SO beautiful, colorful, and unique) and we picked up our tailored blouses and saree fabric later in the week. Saturday was the big day we were all waiting for where we were able to try them on, attempt to learn how to tie the fabric, and pose for the camera. We all thought the sarees would be a breeze to tie…let me tell you…we were SO wrong! Sheral (the lady who plans and coordinates our entire trip) came to the hotel and planned on modeling how to tie them while we all watched and followed along. Let’s just say that didn’t last long because we immediately fell behind and had so many questions. Sheral ended up tying all of our sarees for us which took more than an hour!! I even did my hair, makeup, and put on jewelry for the first time in three weeks! The pictures we took during this photo shoot and the memories made will definitely stay with me forever. I can’t wait to share the pictures with everyone back home!

Today consisted of shopping, shopping, and more shopping. We first visited a fair that had so many different items to buy…everything from food, to jewelry, to blankets, to scarves, to shoes, and any sort of knick knack you could possibly imagine! The fair only happens for a week once a year and is set up on a rock formation with shops lined up on each side snaking around! Truly amazing! We then visited a government run craft store which was three stories high filled with perfect gift items. After that, half of the group decided to conquer Commercial Street once again! Since it was a Sunday, it was a lot less crowded and easier to maneuver. My favorite find was a rainbow tote bag covered in yarn and gems which will be a perfect teacher bag and a great conversation starter!!

This week was full of so many new experiences and memories! I know I didn’t mention my school or students in this blog, but don’t worry, I’m still just as obsessed with them, if not more, as I mentioned in my previous blog!! Stay tuned in Blog 4 to read about my experience in Delhi! Bring on Week 4!!

Laura Bierman, Blog 3- Week 2

Wow! What a week! I can honestly say that because of this week, and this entire experience, I am going to be so much more confident in the classroom this upcoming year, and for every year to follow! I have always felt like a leader but I never knew how well I would be at leading a classroom full of 10 year olds (especially in a foreign country). Will they listen to what I say? Will they understand what I’m trying to teach them? Will they view me as a friend instead of a role model? Will they take me seriously? These are all questions that popped in my head at the beginning of the week. On Monday, I was told that I would have the opportunity to teach a lesson on my own, which I was SO excited about, but also so scared.

Put simply, it was amazing! Now, this doesn’t mean that every lesson I taught went exactly how I imagined. Of course I had to remind students to raise their hands for what seemed like every 30 seconds…and of course I was interrupted while explaining directions…and of course I was pushed to explain things differently than I’m used to. But I made so many strong relationships with my students. I remember a handful of students’ names in each class (names are hard for me so this is HUGE!). And the students were not only getting the correct answers, but they were able to explain their thinking and reasoning. To me, that is what teaching is all about. I have realized that a successful teacher doesn’t mean a teacher that follows his or her lesson plan perfectly. A successful teacher is someone who makes a positive influence in his or her students lives and I can honestly say I feel I was successful in doing that this week.

I have so many stories to share from this week that I don’t even know where to begin (ask my mom, she’s heard them ALL!). I have been placed in multiple third, fourth, and fifth grade classes teaching English. One student told me I had “really good English”. Oh thanks! That’s so good to know! Another student told me he had the “exact same house, car, and dog as me”. No way!! All three!?! Other students want any excuse they can get to talk with me! They will hear one student ask where I’m from and then immediately follow and ask the same question. While walking the hallways, every single student, I mean EVERY. SINGLE. STUDENT waves and says hello. It is so welcoming, friendly, and immediately puts a huge smile on my face! To be honest, I’m a bit nervous to teach back in America because I don’t think the students will be nearly as excited as they are here in India.

On Wednesday, I felt like I had the worst lesson ever. I couldn’t get the students to listen, sit in their seat, or stop talking. I felt so defeated. I talked with my host teacher after the lesson and asked her for feedback. She told me she thought it went amazing! She said the attention getters I was using, my voice level, and staying calm went so well and that it is only normal for the students to be excited since I am still new to them. She said it will take practice and time. I had another lesson to teach immediately after and I didn’t let my past lesson get in the way of giving it my all! I stayed strong and could feel myself leading the class confidently. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to feel this way in a safe environment and experiment with different strategies and techniques.

This week reassured me that I could not have chosen a more perfect or fitting profession. I am so excited to continue experimenting as a teacher and learning from my mistakes and successes. I’m so excited for Week 3, let’s do this!

Laura Bierman Blog 2

Well, we did it! We made it through our first week here in India! This week has been full of so many new experiences, emotions, realizations, and learnings. From the moment I landed in India, everything was different. The food, the people, the culture, the cars, the traffic!!!, everything! I immediately took note of the traffic here in Bangalore. First off, they drive on the opposite side of the road which has taken some getting used to. Looking over and seeing a child in the passenger seat is sometimes a little scary until I remember that the driver sits on the right hand side. It seems as though there is no strict structure to driving here. Some roads have lanes but cars, busses, and Rick Shaws (the small vehicles that look like video game cars) seem to just weave in and out of everybody. It has taken some getting used to but the first couple days I couldn’t watch because I thought we were going to crash! Somehow I haven’t seen any accidents yet so it must work for them! I can barely cross the street here so I wouldn’t last long as a driver!

Another thing that immediately stood out to me here is the people. Everybody has been so welcoming and helpful. Sometimes a little more than I am used to! At stores, the people working constantly try to help by picking items they think we will like and hand it to us. I am used to only having help if I ask for it! The students and teachers at my school, AECS Magnolia, have been amazing! I will talk more in depth about that a little bit later. My taxi driver, to and from school every day, holds the door for me and is always on time. The hotel workers always are so helpful while we try to navigate a new place. Everybody has been so friendly! But I must mention, a lot of people stare as they see us. I truly think they are genuinely curious as for many of them we might be the only white or American person they have ever seen. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable because I am not used to that. America is such a diverse country that seeing people of different races or ethnicities is completely normal, but that is not the case here. This is especially true in the schools.

I have had the best experience so far at AECS Magnolia! The first thing I noticed was the students staring as I walked the hallways. Although they stare, they also wave and smile which shows they are excited to see somebody who looks a little bit different than them. Many students have “pet” my hair because they have never seen somebody with blonde hair before. It doesn’t seem that the populations at the schools are very diverse so seeing me walk through the schools is a big change for them. The curriculum at AECS Magnolia is very rigorous and focuses heavily on STEM. For the first couple days, I mainly observed the classes but I felt like I was learning right along the students! The 4th grade science classes were learning things I learned in college! It is so interesting seeing the students learn from such a strict curriculum at such a young age. One thing that surprised me is that there does not seem to be a lot of classroom management. The teachers often yell over the students to get them to stop talking. In America, we have different techniques and strategies to quite the students down. That is something I would like to share with the teachers so we can implement it into their schools!

This week has truly been an experience I will carry with me forever. Being immersed in such a new and different culture is such an important thing for me to experience as a future educator. India is such a beautiful and unique country but I am also so grateful to be from such diverse country like America! I’m so excited for Week 2, let’s do this!

Laura Bierman Blog 1: Goodbye America, Hello India!

As I sit in my bed and write this, I look around and think to myself how everything around me is so familiar and routine…maybe a little TOO familiar and routine. I have the same schedule every morning. Do my laundry the exact same way every time. Fill up my car with gas at the same gas station. Go to the same stores to shop…the list could go on and on. This is all about to change very very soon. Every morning I check my calendar to see how many more days until take off and it’s always one number less than before. Somehow, we are now at 1 day!  HOW CAN THIS BE?! I remember applying for this trip back in December and wishing we could just leave then!! I didn’t want to wait 6 more months. Here we are now, 1 day out, and I am filled with a range of emotions. More often than not, I am incredibly excited and eager to just get there! However, I am also sometimes filled with emotions of anxiousness and fearfulness. This is all rooted in the fact that I have never been to a country like India. I am about to be immersed in a new culture, and ultimately, a completely new way of life.

I am most excited to meet my future students and colleagues at AECS Magnolia Public School. I am going to grow and expand my current skills which I can bring back to America and use in my future classrooms. I am so ready to experience and observe everything- from the classroom setup, to the homework policies, the classroom management, relationship building, and even the food they serve for lunch! Being immersed in this new culture is going to give me a fresh outlook on education. As I think about this, it is important I reflect on why I specifically chose to take on this adventure. Since a very young age, I have had a true passion for children and helping people. While deciding on a career path, every possible option revolved around these two variables. To me, pursuing a career that educates the future perfectly combines these.  This is why I wanted to take on this Teach Abroad experience- I want to carry this passion with me to the other side of the country and share this excitement with the students of Magnolia Public School.

In about 30 hours, I will be saying goodbye to my familiar life- my family, friends, everyday routine- EVERYTHING!- and hello to a completely new culture and way of life. My shoulders and knees will be saying goodbye to sunlight for the next 7 weeks…and I’ll be saying hello to the best 7 weeks of my life. I am beyond grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of this experience. I am confident that all of my experiences, learnings, mistakes, successes, and adventures will better me as an educator, and because of that, I could not be more excited! LET’S DO THIS!!!