Sunday, 19 October 2008

First day at SISP

Breakfast was two bananas, with some sweet chai kindly provided by the neighbours. I haven't got myself sorted out yet, clearly! Work started at 9am so there was time for another cuppa en route. Almost the first thing I did when I got to the school was fall down the bloody stairs! My feet were sweaty and the stairs had just been washed - result was that it was like teetering on ice! I knew it was a bit slippy so was taking good care but there was nothing I could do about it. Result was a gashed arm and a bruised foot. The cut was treated by the school secretary - embarrassing or what?! The stairs are very smooth concrete with no tread or grooves, and sharp edges to the steps - lethal!

After an hour or so of keeping an eye on the kids as they arrived it was time for lessons - one teacher is off sick so I ended up helping an art class for two hours - mostly doing colouring-in by numbers. Keeping the kids interested for that length of time was a challenge! Break was followed by an hour of maths, being taught in Malayalam. It wasn't as bad as it sounds because we were doing sums based on Indian coins (25 paise, 50 paise, 1 Rupee, 2 Rupee, 5 Rupee) and I could just about make out the handwritten worksheet.

Lunch at 1pm couldn't come soon enough and it felt frustrating (but reasonable) to wait for the kids to be served before getting my own (rice with fish and a chai). There was a bit of computing before classes began and I was encouraged to help with that. The users were kids in the 16-20 age range. Difficult to imagine that up until a few weeks ago these young people had never used a PC! Many were working with Adobe Pagemaker 7.0 which must be several years old and seemed very clunky to use. Still, they were achieving something - even if only keyboard and mouse skills. The first lesson of the afternoon was a continuation of this but with younger children - around 10years old and using Microsoft Paint - a bit easier and more fun. Then an hour in a maths class being taught in Malayalam again. These were mixed ability kids (two different standards had had to be put together) and some of the lesson was intended only for the more able. This meant the others became disruptive and I became a bit of a peace keeper. Tricky when some of the kids were yelling answers and others were yelling abuse and I couldn't tell which was which!

Finally a break for a cuppa and then 2 hours of English tuition. I had four children who had come for coaching from a nearby school - two delightful girls and two cheeky boys, each around 7yo.

I survived all this but when I finally got home I felt shattered! It's all a bit of a learning process, especially keeping control of a group. There's no chance of having a quick break - you have to be on your toes constantly and at least one step ahead of the kids at all times.

Anyway, I found that the gas cylinder had been filled when I got home and so I connected it up to the hob and boiled a couple of litres water for tomorrow. Talking of which, rumour has it that there will be no school because of strikes in (communist governed) Kerala tomorrow. Great! It'll give me a chance to get a proper mattress to replace the thin thing I had to borrow from next door.

My mate MarkOh, and the best thing today was a phone call from my friend Mark at JET in the UK. I've been sending SMS texts to my children and friends daily, but it was great to hear for the sound of a friendly English voice.

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