By Jessie Sheahan, a member of the SkillCorps India July 2016 team
Our days at SOREM are filled with joyous challenges. While there, we are learning how to endure temperatures that hover in the mid 90s but feel closer to 100+, with patience and whatever grace we can muster. We are attempting to participate in the learning process’ of students we met two days ago, who at times, feel like students we have known in our previous lives, some of our favorite kiddos and some of the ones that drove us most crazy. We are in the pursuit of providing useful and sustainable assistance to the teachers we observe and interact with, through the differences of language and culture.
It is easy to sit back and feel overwhelmed by any one of these things. It is easier still to let the language and culture provide a barrier. Being in a teacher’s classroom and observing always feels a bit intrusive to me, even when it is fully understood between the teacher and myself that I am there to help/watch the students and not judge her at all; dropping in on a teacher in another country halfway around the world, surprisingly doesn’t feel any less invasive.
It is much less easy to lean in and take a chance at any of it. But taking the chance, dancing through confusions in speech and misfitting translations, embracing the fact that each part of you will always be sweaty, this is where the joy is found. I’ve laughed at jokes told entirely in Hindi, because the back and forth of a teacher joking with a favorite student looks the same in any language. I’ve shared the half-amused, half-exasperated face made when a student is nearing really being on your nerves with someone who said “My language is Hindi, yours is American”, because kids are kids in any language. The feelings don’t need translated. My heart was so full at multiple points during the day; the students are funny, frustrating, sneaky, smart, clever, surprising, and at times their teacher and I have shared the same look, and there are moments of she and I recognizing ourselves in each other.
We are here is to help the teachers learn ways to better help their students and that can’t be done without asking questions. In order to learn from them, what they use, and how they approach each student and situation, we must jump into the uncomfortable feeling.
It’s only the third day, but I can feel the time flying by us already.