A Grateful Thanksgiving

Visiting a government school in Chennai was and inspirational, educational, and humbling experience. Upon leaving the bus, we were welcomed by teachers who led us into different classes. The children were a bit shy at first, but once we began the basketball drills, the atmosphere became lively, and energy was infectious. After we went inside, it was time for class. I noticed that the children were eager to learn, and they were studying words such as grit, zest, optimism, gratitude, self control, and curiosity. They were also understanding the concepts of summarizing, how to make an inference, forming conclusions, making predictions, visualizing, and making connections to themselves. The teacher was talented at using a unique method for the students to understand concepts. For instance, she was teaching them the word "investigate". At first, she explained that it meant to "find out". Then, she gave them an example by saying "If a robber is at your house, what do you do?" The children exclaimed that they should call the police. The teacher followed by saying "And what do the police do?" Which was followed with the children shouting, "Find out! Investigate!" Lastly, I observed how the kids loved to play games such as duck duck goose and Simon says. They also enjoyed learning about basketball, especially the defensive slides. A love of having fun and competing with each other was evident.

How do the students utilize their potential, despite unfavorable conditions? There were plenty of extremely smart children that I met at the school today. They have potential to be incredibly intelligent, however they don't have an equal chance to succeed as students at various other schools. There were no desks in the classrooms, and the students had an assigned spot where they sat with their notebooks. They were eager to learn, however it was unfortunate that they weren't equipped with the tools that other children have access to. I'm also curious as to how they measure success in the classroom. Do they receive grades on a 100 point scale, or do they receive gold stars? In most classrooms, there needs to be a motivating reward. Personally, I'm inspired to learn the classroom material in the hopes of getting a good grade. This makes me wonder what their motivating factor is and how the education system demonstrates the positive effect of being educated.

One feeling to describe my experience today would be humbled. It was humbling to see such young students being engaged in their work, despite not having desks, and being recently effected by the Chennai flooding. I was inspired by these kind and compassionate kids today, which I will sure remember for a lifetime. As we were leaving, they handed us clay candle holders, a representation of their thanks, which was also humbling to me.

- Matt Shea

Niswarth ProgramComment