Because of how many times I have moved in my life, I have always said that I knew exactly how to be the ‘new girl’ in school. Since I stayed in the same school from sixth grade until twelfth and everyone was new in my freshmen class at Notre Dame, I thought I had left the ‘new girl’ feeling back in 6th grade. Little did I know that I would find it here. Memories resurface of all the introductions and all the little rituals that we go through when we find ourselves in a new environment. However, here, instead of my introduction happening once in front of maybe fifteen fellow students with the supportive teacher at my back, it is just me in front of fifty children who can understand me about as much as I can understand them. As soon as I can get the ‘new girl’ feeling to go away, the better. Even so, I know I am going to have a great time here.
I ‘taught’ three classes today: two younger classes and one 9th year class. The little children were by far my favorite. My first class was very possessive of me after the first few minutes and did not want me to leave their classroom! They even started to fight the other class that wanted me to join them until I stopped it. Needless to say, I was flattered. At St. Anselm’s, the children stay in the same room while the teachers shift classrooms. All the teachers here are women which surprised me. When my students asked who my favorite teachers were and I answered my science teachers and listed their names, they were shocked to hear male names. I guess men do not comprise any of the teaching force in India.
The children were very cute and, just like American children, they enjoy the attention of the teacher. Especially the American girl who talks strangely. I made futile attempts to have them remain in their seats and raise their hands to ask me questions but I will admit that I loved having the little ones run up to the front of the class and whisper their question in my ear. While I have a lot of preparing to do to actually teach them, not just be a hot commodity and answer questions, I do not feel too worried. It was God who got me here and God who will keep me going. At least I hope so!
I can honestly say that I now understand what celebrities feel like. My last class of the day consisted of the usual questions. Then one little girl asked me for my autograph. I, of course, complied. Little did I know that that single autograph would turn into fifty as the entire class scrambled for their notebooks and pens and proceeded to shove them into my face saying, “Ma’am, Ma’am, ma’am!” until I signed their notebook. I have a feeling they are going to brag to their friends and I will end up signing many more pages before my stay is done. I will admit that I was extremely flattered; although I could have done without the paper cuts I received. I mentioned as I was signing papers that I felt like a pop star. The cutest little girl looked up at me and said, “But ma’am, you ARE a popstar!”
The end of the school day consisted of a prayer service to mark the official start of the academic year. There were several dance performances and I enjoyed them so very much. Perhaps the cutest moment of my entire day (even more than being called a pop star) occurred during one of the dances. It was with three of the youngest kindergarden students. They danced intermittently as the music played and as they remembered what they were doing on a stage in front of 1,000 students. The best part was when one of the boys on stage waved at me in the middle of it! I could have died from the cuteness. The entire student body applauded!
Later in the program, I was honored with a garland of flowers and a bouquet. I was also given a tilaka which is one name for the red dot worn by some women in India. Yet through all of this, my ‘new girl’ in school feeling persisted as I climbed on stage to, at the request of Fr. Simon, the principal, play guitar and sing Amazing Grace. Even though I did mess up at parts, no one knew because they didn’t know what the song was supposed to sound like. In that anonymity, I feel better. My students in all three classes, upon hearing that I enjoyed singing, asked me to sing to them. Who was I to refuse those adorable little faces? I sang the Star Spangled Banner for all three of my classes and America the Beautiful for one. My first class also sang the national song and national anthem of India to me. Even though it was in Hindi and I had absolutely no idea what they were saying, I thought it sounded beautiful!
I am headed back to the church where I am staying soon. I hope you are enjoying reading about my experiences here as much as I am enjoying having them! Once again, if you have comments or questions, please ask! Also, if you have any ideas as to how I can teach conversational English, I am all ears. I need as much help as I can get!