“I want to help the children from very poor families to get a good education."
"I want my students to learn themselves and to know their talents and abilities.'
"I want to help the students who are behind learn their subjects so they can graduate.”
These were the comments I heard from nearly a dozen Indian teachers on the opening day of their Teacher Training Seminar. As a teacher at The Academy for G.O.D. and a member of G.O.D.'s India regional team, I came for a six-week trip focusing on education. The four-day seminar kicked off my trip, which coincided with the start of the new school year at the local public school that we have been working with.
This new school is located right next to the office headquarters of G.O.D. India, just outside of Delhi. With four tiny classrooms and a dirt courtyard to play in, it is less equipped than many schools in India’s capital city. Their physical education supplies include a soccer ball and a kick ball. The “nice” classrooms have both a light bulb and a single fan to keep the warm summer air circulating.
Yet despite it’s obvious structural needs, most people recognize that the most important factor to a good school is the commitment and skill of its teachers. And these teachers showed up eager to learn each day, enthusiastic about their binder of charts, illustrations and notes printed in both English and Hindi. They squeezed into the small benches meant for legs half their size, and gave me undivided attention and participation as I presented my material.
The first day was a basic introduction to children’s cognitive development. I offered practical examples on how such patterns should affect teaching. Building on this foundation in the following days, I discussed lesson planning, creative classroom management, and how to engage a classroom of diverse students.
When classroom supplies are limited, creativity and children’s imaginations must be engaged all the more. I was able to help them see the kinds of supplies they could make that they may not have thought of. Each seminar was packed full of engaging activities, with materials that could be obtained locally and affordably. I showed the teachers a bag of large, dry beans (‘Math Beans!’), and encouraged them to use hands-on materials when teaching math to the youngest students, rather than written worksheets. The next day I brought in homemade play dough made with ingredients from a local shop, and left each teacher a small stash of the helpful manipulative. Each day the teachers practiced a variety of games and activities with similar supplies, and I demonstrated as many helpful tips as I could on how to engage students for an exciting class time!
In a culture that relies largely on repetition and rote memorization, the teachers were hungry for these kinds of ideas. They asked about managing fidgety students, especially the boys, and we laughed and acknowledged this as a universal. I encouraged them to appreciate the energy that kids are created with, and to try to work with it rather than against it. They were amazed when I shared with them charts and statistics that connect lots of physical activity with improved test scores!
We practiced taking lesson material and crafting different activities to engage students with varying content. For example, one pair of teachers was assigned to craft a lesson on 10 new English vocabulary words. They opted to compose the new words into a song, perform an accompanying action and sound for each word, and then led us outside to play a game that required a quick recall of their newly learned words. They were stretched to consider how to create and reinforce content through such activities.
It was a wonderful week of learning for these educators. On the last day, we finished the seminar with a final review game, ‘Jeopardy’ style! We then celebrated with ice cream, and each teacher received a signed certificate acknowledging their completion of training. They insisted on posing for pictures with certificates in hand; their pride and enthusiasm was palpable. In written feedback evaluations the teachers reported how excited they were to have learned so much and gained creative ideas that they would use in their classrooms.
I walked away from the seminar thanking God for the chance to offer this time of training. My hope is that the ideas introduced this week act as a beginning, that this group of educators will kick wide open the door of possibility! Please pray they can persevere in their passion to offer an engaging education to each precious student who enters their classrooms.