Teaching a classroom – thousands of miles away

Volunteering with 100 Books is great..it exposes me to a lot of new children’s books in the Indian marketplace. I grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha comics, Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. I can’t recall very many other options during those times. But now, I see a lot of books, in an Indian setting, with characters and themes that Indians can relate to better. I think that is wonderful..my exposure to books from the West as a child almost led me to believe that only kids in the West have all the fun! And that’s so not true.:)

100 Books gives me an opportunity to help kids from my country..but it’s still a small amount of volunteering time that is spent on any given day. I find that I enjoy working with English..I haven’t had the opportunity to do it very much given my engineering roles in the corporate world. Sadly, there is no such thing as creative writing for technical documentation!:) A dear friend mentioned that I check out eVidyaloka, an organization that sets up digital classrooms in Indian villages. 

I was initially hesitant that this may not work out with the time difference..10-12 hours between California and India..give or take. I went ahead and registered anyway. Within 2 days, I was brought on board and posted as an English teacher to a school in Nilogal, Karnataka (the state I am from). Having never visited that area, I looked it up on Google maps and found that it is approximately 7 hours from Bengaluru.

My 7th grade class of approximately 12 students (some days there are fewer as they may need to go work in the fields) starts at 10 AM Indian time and runs for an hour. The classroom has a big monitor, computer and a fairly steady internet connection..all powered by solar panels..which is a blessing since the village faces frequent power cuts.We use Skype and although there is a recommended textbook for class, students aren’t always at that particular learning level. I find that I have to create a lot of my own content, and also tailor it to each student’s needs as they are not all at the same level.I am especially indebted to the classroom assistant, a lady named Nagarathna, who ensures that everything is intact at their end and ensures that the students pay attention.   

Overall, the English class is more along the lines of an ESL class, as students in rural areas of India are not exposed to English as much. I will say however that I needed to use more Kannada(the local language) in the beginning..but the students have come a long way now as they greet me by asking “How are you, mam?” and respond with “You are welcome!” when I thank them.:)