Happy Earth Day!

The students came over at 10 this morning for a celebration of our planet! We opened with a discussion on why our Earth is important -- which led to follow-up questions on the importance of planting trees, and the negative effects of pollution upon people, animals, and the planet itself.

Next, we addressed the "is one person enough to make a difference?" question and talked about how if each person -- from a young student to the owner of a huge factory -- were to clean up after herself, there would be no issue. But since this is not the case, we often have to help clean up other people's messes as well. I challenged each student to promise, starting now, to leave behind the mentality of "it's not my trash; why should I pick it up?" (which was clearly prevalent at our Awards Ceremony yesterday).

I then explained the "Design Your Own World" project we would be doing, and showed the students examples of such globes from the Rio exhibition where I got the idea. We went through all the photographs, noticing different details, and the range of designs in the collection -- and yet when I told the students to get started, they seemed a bit confused. They weren't sure exactly what to make. I got many questions like, "Didi, can I make a mountain and a river and some trees?" and a lot of confusion when I responded, "you can make whatever you want!" The concept of following one's imagination wherever it goes is really foreign to these kids, and most started whipping out their rulers and drawing geometric houses at first.

But when they saw their Didi pasting dried leaves to her globe, and dripping nail polish over them, I think they started to understand what I meant when I said they could do anything. It was then that the doors of creativity burst open and we got some great results.

Manav and Amandeep weren't afraid to work the sparkly nail polish.

The girls used some of Ratna Didi's decorations after her balloon popped!

Rahul, Vinay, Jasdeep, and Hardeep filled the world with flowers.

Miss Ritu got into the spirit, and made an Earth Day rangoli in the classroom!

The fun went on and on into the afternoon, and included an Earth Day photo shoot heavily staged by Manav, the future photographer and my bodyguard.

Students headed home around 3, after receiving the Earth Day goody bags so kindly donated by Mrs. Nita Jain -- thank you, Auntie!

3rd Annual Variety Show and Awards Ceremony

We started the program with a prayer . . .

 . . . followed by my welcome speech. 

We heard about respecting one's classmates . . .

 . . . and taking care of one's health.

Students' voices rang out, "we will be successful!"


and, "never hurt anyone!"

Some kids dressed up as flowers and insects . . . 

. . . while others played the roles of Lord Krishna and his wife Radha.

We enjoyed a dance form from the state of Punjab . . . 

. . . as well as one from Uttar Pradesh.

Students even performed a play on the importance literacy!

Dadi and I are happy that the show was a success . . . 

. . . and the students are thrilled that all their hard work has paid off!

Audience members say the show couldn't have been better! 

A Reminder

"Our mission is much deeper than it sometimes seems -- in addition to empowering less privileged sections of the society, we must mobilize its more privileged members to respect and honor their fellow citizens. Stereotypes are like really stubborn blackheads!"

17 April 2012

We started class with the students' daily 10-minute meditation.

We had another rehearsal today, this time giving especial attention to entrances and exits. Click below to see our youngest students' contribution to the show. This video is worth watching just to see how they all jump in on the last line and pretend they knew what they were doing all along -- reminds me of high school Choir class! :)

I definitely broke a sweat during today's practice, and was acting a bit short afterward. Despite my nippy attitude, Dadi and I managed to have a successful meeting with Sodi Auntie to finalize the order of acts. I find any such work dizzying, but I think we finally have a perfect sequence!

The Butterfly and the Wasp

We practiced Anapana (concentrated breathing) for 15 minutes today before the students got to work polishing their various dances, songs, poems, and plays for this Saturday.

One interesting skit we are preparing depicts a butterfly and a wasp fighting over a flower -- the moral of the story, of course, is how to resolve a conflict effectively. What’s funny is that two of the three students participating in this item actually tend to quarrel very often!

One of them burst into tears today and the other refused to put his arm around the student at whom he is angry. I saw this as a perfect counseling opportunity and touched base with one of the students today to hear her side of the story, and plan to follow up with the other tomorrow -- third grade drama!

15 April 2012

I awoke this morning to the sound of my students -- what could be better? We started today’s class with 15 minutes of Anapana (the first step of Vipassana meditation), which is designed to concentrate the mind. I have never seen meditators more still or focused than these children! After teaching them the technique, I told them we would be starting every class like this from now on. Meditation is a wonderful tool they can take with them wherever they go, and they are lucky to be starting at such a young age!

As the class broke into groups and started practicing numbers for our upcoming Variety Show, I caught up with a few students. Vandna, a sophomore and our oldest student, was supposed to pick her academic stream (cf. major) a few weeks ago, but had been waiting for my return to consult me before making her final decision. She is most interested in commerce and dreams of holding a high position at a bank one day, but her family is advising her to take liberal arts, which has less requirements and comes more easily to her, so she can also help her mom clean houses on the side. She was willing to take commerce if she could have a tutor to help her with the time commitment, so I wholeheartedly encouraged her to do what she loves, and have found a college student in our neighborhood who will be willing to give her lessons in commerce for free.

Manisha, one of my most observant and forthcoming students, gave me the most insightful advice today. She noticed that I was much more measured and poised before leaving for Mumbai, whereas I seemed more animated and jovial today, to the point of almost being flippant (she said this all in Hindi and it sounded much better). Her feedback, though, was that although she finds it more fun when I am in a silly mood, she prefers my reflective and dignified advice to help her grow as a person. This was advice from a 9-year-old. I was so, so grateful to Manisha for sharing this, and told her that true friends are the ones who appreciate you when they like what you do, but also call you out when they think you could change something. I have very few friends like this -- in fact, most people do -- and am glad to have found another one! What a thoughtful girl. After class, she and I spent the next hour catching up. I tried to be more dignified during this time. :)

A New Perspective

Your birthday cake: $20

Your balloons: $15

Your dinner party: $100

My class's education for a day: $8

Job Opening

WANTED: Qualified, experienced, motivated female teacher interested in working with underprivileged students to teach academic subjects and extracurricular activities at Gyaan Ghar free charitable learning centre in New Lajpat Nagar, Ludhiana. New and innovative approach to education and TRUE learning with children's support and empowerment. Timings 2:30 to 4:30pm (flexible). Supplementary classes for students from standard 1 to 6 in addition to life skills, confidence-building, environmental consciousness, etc. Call 9803444766 to schedule interview.

60 New Lajpat Nagar
Pakhowal Road
Ludhiana, India

You can find Sisters' Circles around the world!

Left: a 2007 birthday party in Great Falls, Virginia
Right: a 2012 breakout discussion in Ludhiana, India