This past week was definitely a new experience for me, as I decided to take on teaching in the slum school. Rachel, a fellow volunteer, wanted to teach for a week so Sushma asked me if I would go with her so she wouldn’t be alone. I figured why not, lets try something new. It was equal parts rewarding and equal parts stressful. I definitely understand now why people fall in love with teaching, and I also understand how it is a labor of love that can make you want to rip your hair out.
The first day went fairly well once we got over “being thrown in the deep end.” We walked into school, were shown to the class we’d be teaching, then the girl teaching it left! We asked her what we should start teaching them and she just said “as you like.” We were dumbfounded. We had no idea what level the kids were at or what they knew and didnt know. Plus 4 grades were mixed together since it was the end of a holiday and many of the students stayed home. We decided to start simple and began teaching the different kinds of nouns (common, proper, collective, material, abstract) from a workbook we found in the room. Then we moved to math (addition and subtraction), then went back to English and taught them Baa Baa Black Sheep . All of this was on large chalkboard only; the students didnt have books to follow along with and most of them didnt even have paper and pencil to copy down what we were teaching.
The second day we were in the same mixed class, and it went a lot better. Our biggest accomplishment was teaching them fractions! We were able to use the little english they knew and draw on the board to help them understand how parts of a whole fit together. We only did adding and subracting fractions, and didnt teach them how to reduce since there was no way to explain it or have them visually understand equivalency. We moved on to pronouns in our English lesson, since that was the next logical step after teaching them nouns the day before. We also attempted to teach some division, but that didnt go as well for all of the students. A few of the girls in the front got it pretty quickly, but most of the class had a rough time.
The third day we came in feeling pretty great, but they stuck us in a different class that then crushed our hopes and dreams. All of the children were at school that day, meaning we had a full class of 25 students who wanted nothing to do with learning from weird white girls they couldnt understand. They knew less English than the last class, and were absolute hellions. We had to break apart multiple fights, yell quite a bit, and went to get one of the older girls to come in and make them be quiet because we just couldnt. I dont even remember what we tried teaching that day, but I do know we left early because we were just done and couldnt take it anymore.
Thursday was a public holiday due to the elections, so no school or placement for any of us. We decided to make a trip into Delhi to walk around and see stuff since we had the day to ourselves. We got off the metro at a stop near Pahar Ganj, which was supposed to be a busy area full of shops and restaurants. Instead, the entire street was dead. I suppose we should have figured all of the shopkeepers would be taking the day off as well. Luckily a few restaurants were still open so we were able to get a seat and eat some food. By the time our late lunch finished, some of the shops were opening. But we had more to see before going home for the day, so after buying some jalebi at a corner stand we walked back to the metro. The next stop was at Chandni Chowk, a famous market I had heard much about from other volunteers. I dont know if it was the fact it was election day so the usual affairs werent going on, but it was seriously one of the sketchiest places I have walked through. We were trying to find the spice market, which was supposed to be 2km down through Chandni Chowk. We ended up not being quite sure if we found it or not since everything was (surprise) dead. Getting to the spot, though, took us through dark and damp sidewalks and down the road past huge groups of staring men....not a woman in sight. We stopped a few times to get reoriented and decide which was the best direction to keep walking in, and of course as soon as we stopped the men started taking pictures of us. The sun was getting low in the sky too, so as soon as we found where we thought the spice market should be we decided to take a tuk-tuk back to the metro rather than walking past the creepers again. We got home with no issues, and all was normal the rest of the night.
Teaching on Friday went as well as it could, seeing as we refused to teach that second grade class again. We had the 3rd and 4th grade mixed class, who were still rowdy but a lot more respectful and willling to learn. We went over verbs, subtraction where you needed to borrow, read some English stories, then played hangman with words from the story. The last hour of the day, we switched classes and all taught alone. I ended up teaching a computer class to a group of incredibly well-behaved first graders. Now keep in mind, I am teaching a computer class to children in the slums who have probably never seen a computer before. I ended up drawing a computer on the board then labeling all of the major parts and having them repeat the names (CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc). Then I erased the labels and we went through all the names again until they could spell them all out and label pieces when randomly called on. Then I drew a huge keyboard with all of the keys in the proper order (I had a diagram to go off of), drew a smaller monitor, and had the kids each come up and “type” their name by touching the keys then writing their name on the monitor. I think they get the general idea, though it would be great to actually be able to show them in real life.