“Meagan Auntie, you are looking sooo fat!”
These are the first words out of the mouths of the children as they wash over me, a wave of arms and legs and hugs and smiles and big, bright eyes.
In a country where starvation kills thousands, my curves are a sign of health and prosperity. I lost a frightening amount of weight when I got sick here last year, and I know the kids are complimenting me on my return to a normal body. Still, it’s a little startling. As the cheerful chorus of “Yes, yes, looking very fat!” continues, I laugh really hard, thank them, and begin the process of reorienting myself to this culture.
I came here with the idea of taking two weeks to train a group of high school students to be camp counselors, and then running a mini-summer camp with them during the 10 day holiday of the Durga Puja. I tried to hold this idea lightly, because if I’ve learned anything here, it’s that things don’t always turn out the way you expect.
Sure enough, I arrived yesterday to discover that the holiday wasn’t beginning in 2 weeks, as I’d thought, but was starting today! So much for a training period. I hastily gathered my volunteers and figured out a rough schedule for the week, and then set myself to figuring out what and who and how we were going to do this. There are 1400 children at this school and I have 15 girls, ages 12-17, who want to help me teach them. Here we goooo!
Before I left I got a chance to meet with Ryan Nurmela from Quantum Camps to exchange ideas. It was an inspiring and productive meeting, and I was especially excited by his suggestion that I ask the students a series of questions at the beginning of the trip, and then the same questions again at the end, as a way to measure what they’ve learned.
I did this right away, partly to find out more about where my students are coming from, and partly to stall for time. The results were profound. As I read these little windows into the minds of these girls, the focus of my trip drastically changed. I have a lot that I want to teach, but suddenly I have a lot more that I want to learn.
Here are a few of their responses. I’ve typed them exactly as they were written. If you’re interested in the entire transcript, let me know and I’ll e-mail it to you.
Question: Do you like to learn? What do you like about learning? What do you dislike?
“Yes I like to learn. I like to learn about computer and art. I dislike when I am doing practical class and someone is disturbing.”
“Yes, I like to learn. I like about learning is when you hear someone talking you get interested and you want to hear you don't like to get up from there like that I like about learning. If you learn you can teach others. I dislike if I don't learn anything I feel uncomfortable, I feel very disgusting.”
“Yes! I love to learn in new day new things. And I like about learning because when I will learn I can teach other children and I belive after that they will also can teach others “Like You.” Now how you are teaching us to how to draw etc like that one day we also become drawing teacher and we also can teach like you and I belive one day the whole Earth will change by the influences of your picture.”
Question: What makes someone a good learner?
“When we obey our teacher or guider.”
“To make someone a good learner is to teach them the things which is necessary for your life so that if you learn you can know what it is about you can teach others.”
“Focuse make some one a good learner when a child focuse on any things in that anee children get intrested to learn it may be in art, study or anything in their eye. That child is consider as a good learner.”
“If you will forced someone until they get their desire to learn.”
“When the teacher teaches us and we have go and partice it and if we have done currict then we fell like a good learner.”
Question: What makes someone a good teacher?
“By teaching nice with love and intresting.”
“When we will obey and do our best.”
“A good teacher should be punchual in their work. The teacher should be helpful, loving heart and slow to anger (when a child don't know anything) and be faithful to their work (when there are teaching).”
Question: Tell me about a time when you felt proud of yourself. What made you feel successful?
“I feel proud of my self in the time when I think about God and the Good He has done. I do something Good to someone around me in that I feel successful.”
“When I teach the children and it it gets to the children brain and if the children tells me that teacher we understood what you have taught us then I will fell proud of myself. It makes me feel successful when the works has been done.”
“One day when my mom and dad told me that you are studing well that time I feel proud of myself.”