Monday, September 8, 2008
Today marks the beginning of my 3rd week teaching at the Neerja Modi School (NMS) in Jaipur. So far, things are going remarkably well. The students seem excited to have a foreign teacher (although they have a difficult time understanding my American accent) and they are motivated to learn—which hasn’t always been my experience teaching in the U.S.
This being my first Blog entry, some introductory remarks are in order. So, hello lovely readers and greetings from Jaipur--The Pink City. My name is John Van Rooy and I hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I am a recent graduate of St. John’s University in Minnesota where I studied Spanish and Peace/Conflict Studies. I have had 3 teaching experiences prior to arriving in Jaipur: 1st/2nd grade in Valdivia, Chile; ages 10-25 in Chocó, Colombia; and 2nd grade in Green Bay, Wisconsin. At NMS I am teaching English to grades 4 and 6. I also work with a special group of honor students in grade 6 who are following a Cambridge English program. This week I will begin teaching 3x a week at Nischay—a school for girls below the poverty line that is funded by NMS. Additionally, I have been asked to teach Ballroom/Latin dance to the boarding students, which will begin next week.
Neerja Modi School was started in 2001 and after only 7 years has risen in academic excellence to become one of the highest performing schools in Rajasthan. It is also ranked among the top 5% of schools in India. NMS serves grades K-12 and has a student body of 2700. There are currently about 80 boarding students who live in “The Hostel”, which is still being constructed and when finished will house between 300-400 students--this is where I also stay. The day is divided into 8 periods and on an average day I am responsible for 4 class periods (some days I have 3 and some days 6). Classes begin at 8:15am and end at 2:00pm (sometimes there is a morning assembly or what they call “zero period”). The school week runs Monday—Saturday (yes, kids in India have classes on Saturday!).
I hope to update this Blog frequently with pictures, stories, and reflections from my “experiments with education” (to borrow a line from Gandhi).
In honor of this Great Soul, I will close my first entry with some of his words on Education:
“As I came into closer contact with them [the students] I saw that it was not through books that one could impart training of the spirit. Just as physical training was to be imparted through physical exercise, and intellectual through intellectual exercise, even so the training for the spirit was possible only through the exercise of the spirit. And the exercise of the spirit entirely depended on the life and character of the teacher. I saw, therefore, that I must be an eternal object-lesson to the boys and girls living with me.” ~from Gandhi’s Autobiography “My Experiments with Truth”