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.


Elena Bernstein, Week 6

I seriously cannot comprehend the idea that in 8 hours, I’ll be on my flight home from India. This past week has been a crazy and emotional roller coaster of events. I have always been horrible at saying goodbye, however, I’m officially done with all of my goodbyes and am anxious to start my hello’s back in the United States.

This last week, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of love I received. My students made me a book filled with sweet letters wishing me a safe journey, to always be happy, and know that they will see me soon. I received gifts, hugs, and praise, and I reciprocated the only way I know how, which is crying. I mean, how often in your life can you say that you have said goodbye to someone you know you will probably never see again? The people that I have interacted with over the last 6 weeks have truly become family. Coming to India was already a challenge for me. Being away from home, unsure of how I would like the food, the heat, etc. Little did I know, that it would be an even bigger challenge when it came time to leave.

I have found my place here. In my classroom, in Casa, with my teachers, with this unique group of people, with my students, everywhere. I’ve gotten so used to brushing my teeth with a water bottle and covering my shoulders and knees. I’ve learned the difference between Bindi, Hindi, and Mehndi. The only thing I still need help with is converting rupees to U.S. dollars 😉

There are no words to describe how much I am going to miss this place. I am anxious to get home and show the rest of the world that India is a place that should be on everyone’s bucket lists. There is something so special that you can only understand by being here. The friendliness of the faces, the sound of the traffic, the beat of the music, the drive of the people.

I will never forget my experience here. The relationships I’ve created and the memories I’ve made will stay with me for the rest of my life. I feel so fortunate to have come here but I also feel just as fortunate to be able to leave. I feel lucky to go home and share my pictures, moments, and stories with everyone. I want to spread the love back the same way that I received it here. I can only hope that one day I am fortunate enough again to come back and reunite with the special people that I am leaving behind.

One of my favorite quotes reads, “You will never be completely at home again because part of yourself will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I can’t think of a more perfect quote to describe how I feel as I prepare to leave India in the morning. I am positive that I will never be completely at home again. A piece of my heart will forever remain in this place that has brought me so much love, happiness, and fulfillment. I am honored to love and know the people of India. I only wish I could take some of my favorites with me and still fit the 50 lbs checked luggage requirement.

Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible for me. I’ve had the absolute time of my life.

My Final week in India

One of my students gave me this note on my last day.
Some of my sweet students!
The amazing Special Education Department whom I had the privilege to collaborate with these past six weeks!

In ten hours, we will be on a plane leaving India. I am so sad to be leaving Bangalore and all the people who have become family in the short 6 weeks that I have been in India. This past week has been the hardest because I have had to say goodbye to all my teachers, principals and students at DPS-North. I didn’t realize how attached that I would become so attached to the people at DPS. For example, during my presentation on Friday I didn’t realize how emotional it would be for me to share my experience in India and thank all the people who made it so special. There have been so many people who have inspired me whether it be my amazing principals at DPS who have been so welcoming to Emma and me. I have learned from them the importance of leading others with kindness and humility. They both have such huge hearts and care immensely for each member of their school community. Additionally, all the Special Education teachers from Kindergarten to the Senior Block have taught me the importance of collaboration. Especially, the teachers in the kindergarten block because I have spent the most time during my six weeks with them. From the first day, each teacher has welcomed me into their classes by incorporating me into their lessons and making me feel like a part of the team. Also, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have taught the sweetest, kindest and most intelligent group of students. They have reminded me of the joy that comes from learning and have shown me so much kindness. I will miss hearing them say “Hi, Kelley ma’am” every morning and giving them high fives when they solved a tough math problem. Therefore, I am sad to leave India in a few short hours because the people have left such an impact on my heart. It is crazy to think that six weeks ago I had just landed in Bangalore and had no idea the experience that would lie ahead. I remember Gabriella saying during our departure meeting that “India is calling you for a reason”.  Then, I didn’t know exactly why I felt called to come India except that I knew this would be a transformative and amazing experience. This opportunity has exceeded those expectations and given me an experience that is hard to put into words. My time in India has been a blur of growth, excitement, love and humility. I have had experiences that have challenged my misconceptions and have seen firsthand the beauty of this country. I am grateful to Mizzou for providing me with this opportunity to teach in India for six weeks. I wish that every future educator had this opportunity to teach in an international setting because it helps teachers learn the power of cultural exchange and seeking to understand rather than be understood. I am grateful to the entire team at Gen X for organizing this experience and especially Sheral who has been like a second mom in India! Finally, I want to thank DPS-North for welcoming me into their school community especially Geeta Ma’am, Manju Ma’am, Preethi Ma’am, Agnes Ma’am and Ayesha Ma’am for being the best host teachers. I will be eternally grateful to these people whom made my experience in India so incredible and unforgettable!

Meryl Barnes ~ Goodbye India

My time in India is officially over. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my entire life. I have seen, done and experienced so many amazing things, that I would not have been able to accomplish without this trip. The Mizzou Teach Abroad trip, provided me with the ability to go into an education system in a whole different country. I spoke in previous blogs about the joy and excitement the students exhibit every day at school. It is the most magical thing to see, in addition to the passion and dedication of the teachers. Being in DPS-East, was such a beautiful and amazing experience. From the Principal to the students, everyone was so welcoming. There was always a smiling face, someone saying “hi” or someone trying to make us feel welcome in our schools. Saying goodby to my students, teachers and principals on Friday was one of the hardest things. Knowing that I may never see my students again, was such a sad realization. I will miss being Meryl Ma’am and seeing the students become so excited to see me when I walk into the classroom.
The biggest part of our India trip was Sheral. I will never be able to show my gratitude to her and GenNext for this part in our experience. They facilitated our cultural excursions, our times in the school and helping us with anything we needed. One of the most beautiful things about India, is the people and GenNext, Sheral and the people in our schools were amazing examples of this. I have never felt so welcomed and wanted in an environment.
This experience has included learning, immersion, creativity, culture and an abundance of shopping. This was a new experience for me, as I have never been out of the country without my family. I have learned to adapt into a new situation in a different country. This has been a great learning experience, seeing a different education system, curriculum and teaching styles have assisted in my thoughts on education. I have taken in so much and will be bringing that to my classes at Mizzou and future classrooms. Being able to figure out and create my own experience in India, is a great part of this trip.
There is such a rich history in India, which has stayed even through the British rule. Seeing the palace in Mysore, then later going to the Bangalore Palace and connecting the history was an amazing experience. There is such a deep history in the two palaces that continued through the British rule. The colors and beautiful artwork was another great part of seeing the palaces. There is beauty and history everywhere in India.
I will miss waking up in such a beautiful country. Everything in India combines together to make a magical country. From the welcoming people to the colors that are around the city. I will miss being at Casa Cottage and being able to walk and rickshaw around India. Every place we have been has been such a different but wonderful adventure. India was such a magical experience, something I will be grateful to have for the rest of my life.

never to yield – dallin r.

I’m trying hard to keep my cool about leaving India, and focusing on all the positive. I can’t wait to be able to go home, see my friends and family, and start the next chapter of my life. But the fact that I have only about a few days left in India is heartbreaking, and I don’t want to leave.

So much growth has happened here, but I know it’ll be so amazing to take what I’ve learned here back home and apply it to my career. I’ll take this bittersweet feeling, and all these emotions, and channel it into my academic work to get myself to the point where I can be in India again. Whether that’s another six-week program, a scholarship for study, employment, or just recreation: I know I’m meant to be here again, and I cannot wait. That being said, these last couple weeks have been rife with discovery and work.

I was privileged to be able to be a judge for a 6th and 7th grade Slam Poetry contest here at Vidyashilp. The other judge was a student from 10th grade, and we watched as each student came on the stage and recited a poem aimed at the theme of “Inequality.” The articulation, social awareness, and cultural relevance these students are able to not only grasp, but master, is breathtaking and inspiring. How students of just 11-12 years old are the next generation and already have this much skill in terms of pointing out injustices and unfairness is truly encouraging.

This last week here has put an addition into my carpentry workshop: I showed a group of 8th grade students the lab in order to help them understand measuring length and width. A few of them showed interest in carpentry, and so I’ve been working with them in showing them the basics of carpentry. It’s nice to be able to get a different perspective of learning styles, enthusiasm, and skill level. They’re eager to learn, and eager to work.

I was fortunate enough to witness some of Vidyashilp Academy’s Model Parliament, that lasted two days last week. It was amazing to be able to see these 11th and 12th grade students handle this event with humility and care. They had outlined out an entire agenda of topics to discuss and debate, and though I wasn’t able to sit through all of it, it’s always amazing to me the level of intellect and connectivity these students, and the people of India as a whole, have and apply to their lives. To make a better India. To make a better world. They work towards that goal, as Lord Tennyson said, “to strive, to seek, to find, and never to yield.”

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

Kelley Fowler: Week #6

It is hard to believe that it is our last week in India! I am dreading saying goodbye to my students on Friday. Last weekend, we visited Mysore and an elephant sanctuary. It was wonderful driving through the countryside. The scenery was so lush and green. Additionally, it was interesting learning about the history of Mysore. Then on Sunday, we visited the elephant sanctuary. It was amazing being so up, close and personal with these beautiful creatures.  On the way back from the elephant sanctuary, we stopped at a Buddhist monastery. It was amazing seeing the beautiful statues of the gods and goddesses adorned in the temple. Also, I learned about how parents can drop their children off at the monastery when there young and once they get older the children can choose to leave. I had never been to a Buddhist monastery before, so the experience was eye-opening seeing how another religion worships and shows respect. Then, on Sunday we returned to Bangalore and returned to school on Monday. My students were so excited to see pictures of the elephants and talk with me about it. I taught a lesson on place value to my second graders in the resource room. I had so much fun teaching them using base ten blocks and hundred blocks. The blocks were very effective in explaining how to add hundreds, tens and ones. Additionally, the students had fun using the blocks to add the numbers and forming a deeper understanding of place value. The students were so excited that I was teaching and couldn’t stop raising their hands. I loved feeding off their energy and excitement it made the lesson so much fun to teach.  I also enjoyed collaborating with the other teacher on creating the lesson. I have learned so much from the teachers in the resource room about the importance of thinking off your feet and making lessons interactive. For example, one of my teachers is constantly incorporating creative ways of teaching concepts such as using manipulatives. Additionally, she is so loving and makes each student feel important. I have learned from her the importance of forming relationships with each student and radiating positivity in your classroom. Over the course of these past six weeks, I have formed close relationships with each of my students. I am going to miss seeing there smiling faces every morning and hear them saying “ma’am, ma’am” to me. I am going to miss eating lunch with the teachers and learning about there lives. The teachers have welcomed me with open arms into their classroom and allowed me to learn from them. They have all inspired me with their passion and compassion for their students. This experience has been transformative, and it is entirely due to the staff and students at DPS-North. They have made me feel so welcomed into the school community. India is such a beautiful and special place.  I am going to soak up every last second of this trip and cherish each moment spent with my students!

Meryl Barnes ~ Week 5

This fifth week in India was amazing, we saw ELEPHANTS. It was so amazing to see a real life elephant up close and touch them. It was something I never expected to happen and was an experience of learning new things. Seeing such a majestic creature in person was astonishing. This is an experience I have always wanted, and loved so much. The monastery we saw afterwards was such a beautiful place. The statues and art work took great craftsmanship. There are so many beautiful things and creatures that we have experienced and seen in India.
My school experience has been an amazing one. I love going into my classrooms UKG B and 2H. The students are my favorite part. Seeing their excited faces when I come into the classroom, is an amazing way to start each day. Being Meryl Ma’am has become a part of my India trip and something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Every one of my students have made a meaningful impact on my experience. They are such intelligent children who enjoy their school experience. It is amazing to see and experience students who are constantly feeling joy at school.
In Kindergarten this week, in addition to more cheerleading practices there was cricket tryouts. I have never watched cricket and have no idea how to play, however watching the students was a learning experience. I learned certain parts of playing cricket, like what bowling is and how they are supposed to hold the bat. This is something I have always wanted to do, play or see cricket in India. Seeing 4 and 5 year olds play, is an experience. Some students were extremely engaged while others wanted to play in the dirt. This was an experience showing how young the students are, sometimes I forget this with their advanced curriculum.
One of my favorite experiences in the school, was playing Simon says with 2H. Some of the students had played before, so explaining it was easier than the game heads up seven up. It was a wonderful experience. The students were extremely engaged and although we only had twenty minutes it was a fun exciting twenty minutes. The students were smiling and excited to play, making me smile. It is something that I will remember for ever. My goal as an educator is to make students smile and love being at school and this experience showed me all the ways I can.
I am cherishing every moment of India. In this last week I’m excited for our presentation illustrating all we have done and learned during this experience. It’s hard to believe that this is the last week of the journey. It has been such a beautiful experience, one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It has not only impacted my educational beliefs and future career but my personal being. I am gaining an abundance of knowledge I can use in my future classroom, especially the concept of nonfire cooking. This is an amazing way to have the students involved in cooking and having fun in the classroom. I will remember this and have this in my future classroom.

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.

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!