Teaching in India was my very first experience volunteering overseas. It was the first time I had travelled alone. It began as an incredibly daunting experience to say the least.
I was only there for three weeks and cannot say I had the biggest impact on the lives of these children, however they, along with my fellow volunteers had an enormous impact on mine.
I was 19 at the time, on a gap year and thrown into a class of 8-18 year old boys to whom I was expected to teach English. There was no proper hand over process, so I had no idea of their depth of knowledge or where to begin, having only had experience teaching children aged 0-6 years in preschool and day care settings.
Having gone to an all girls school, I was not used to boys of this age and had no idea how to handle them. They were incredibly cheeky, constantly playing pranks and being of such a variety of age groups, they all had incredibly different attention spans. It was hard planning lessons that were at all their skill level.
These boys, incredibly cheeky as they were, spoke very good English so I largely focused on teaching them things like mathematics.
I started out being quite hard on them, which with experience I came to find is definitely not a good strategy when teaching. Ever. I was nervous, had no idea what I was doing and was virtually ineffective in my efforts. The only thing I managed to contribute to was maintenance of the classroom as I bought a clock, teaching materials, posters for the classroom, craft items for the younger children and paid for a door to be built.
Over time, I got my bearings, discussed with the children what they enjoyed learning about and planned my classes according to that. I became a better teacher, learnt what strategies worked and how to keep the attention of all the children (which was not easy given the age range). I created worksheets for the older children to complete as I did more interactive learning with the younger ones (and used biscuits as bribes for good behaviour).
By the end of my trip I learnt how to be an effective and respectful teacher, and more importantly, how to be a valuable and effective volunteer.
The trip had a huge impact on my life. I loved every minute of it, despite the frustration I sometimes felt. My fellow volunteers were all such wonderful people, the people of India were kind, welcoming and loved to share their culture. It is such a beautiful and wonderful country. I will definitely be returning.
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