May 8 - "India Immersion: A Teacher's Multicultural Education"

posted May 5, 2016, 11:24 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated May 12, 2016, 10:11 PM ]
Courtney Fallon shared highlights of her trip to India made through the Teach India Course at Cambridge College. An art teacher in Burlington, MA, Courtney has a number of students whose families come from India, and she wanted to know more about the culture and art of their native country. In August 2015, she traveled to India with another teacher and a professor for two weeks visiting schools and historic sites in southern India. In India, they stayed with host families and visited non-governmental, non-traditional schools.  
 
Everywhere they went people were friendly and anxious to know all about them. In the area where they traveled more than twenty languages were spoken as well as Hindi, an academic language, and English. There was great diversity in the cities from paved roads and impressive buildings to dirt roads and shanties. Cars, mopeds, cows and oxen shared the roads.
 
Grace Discussion Group India Immersion
The first place they visited was Chennai (also called Madras.)  Courtney showed us a photo of an impressive building that is now a museum, but in the 1800s it was used to store ice brought from Walden Pond in Concord to chill the drinks of British soldiers. They visited a temple dedicated to Vishnu covered with statues of Indian deities painted in bright colors: the deities tell the stories of Hindu texts and welcome people into the temple.
 
They also visited the temples of Mahabalipuram, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As a heritage site, the deities are not painted, and you can keep your shoes on in the temple. There are over 40 sanctuaries at Mahabalipuram. World Heritage sites are places of cultural or natural heritage significance as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.
 
Courtney also visited several schools. The teaching style is very different from that in America: teachers teach and there is a right answer and a wrong answer; problem-solving and student questions are not encouraged. Children all do yoga every morning, and most classes have more than 35 students.
 
The first school they visited was in a rural area and run by a man whose father saw the need for a school there and built a one-room schoolhouse. The son enlarged the school, which now serves more than 300 children who are in kindergarten through 8th grade - still in one room. There the students performed for them and they spoke with the teachers. The next school they visited was a boarding school on 11 acres, which had many more resources than the rural school. Courtney taught a class there, reading The Day the Crayons Quit and leading a discussion.
 
They visited the Isha Foundation (www.ishafoundation.org), which is a yoga retreat and a sacred space. The Foundation funds nine schools in rural locations and provides safe homes and jobs for women, many of whom have had to leave an abusive home. They visited an Isha Vidya School which was less rigid and more like an American school. Some of the rules there were: respect the teacher; speak English; keep the class clean; wear your id; and be positive.
 
Other highlights of the trip included Rangoli, an art form where patterns are created on the ground using rice or sand or flower petals, and the sari shops where you could see hundreds of beautiful fabrics and have a sari made. The store made a sari for Courtney in four hours. 
 
Courtney and her companions left on Indian Independence Day, August 15: India achieved independence from the British Empire on this day in 1947.   
 
More information and a slideshow of Courtney’s trip is online at http://www.teachindiaproject.org/India_Immersion.htm.
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