Imagine a middle-aged teacher in Australia singing a song together with a group of bubbly kids in an urban slum in Hyderabad, India!
If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you’ll know about the SOLE (Self organised learning environment) project and you’ll have read about some of my interactions on Skype with kids in India. There were no sessions for a while due to reasons which remain a mystery to us. Often the cloud mediators will wait online in the hope of an interaction, never knowing whether the reason for a no-show is a holiday or exam time or there’s no internet connection.
But they’re back! It never ceases to amaze me how much fun I can have with a group of kids so very different from the eleven year olds I teach here in Melbourne. Most of them have very limited English. Yesterday’s was a delightfully enthusiastic group of chattering girls, who are regulars at the SOLE, a room with computers, next to their school. This was our second interaction and they were excited to chat with me again. As usual, they vied for the ‘front seats’ at the computer. Neha took control, probably because her English is a little better than the others. There were also Thaseen, Atiya, Zakiya, Jabeen and a few others who came and went in the background.
They speak little English and their background couldn’t be more different from mine, but we connect as human beings and I love that. We laughed a lot. We made faces. We sang together. I showed them how to fold an origami dog. I’m not sure whether they knew it was supposed to be a dog, but they loved it anyway and it kept reappearing in front of the camera as we chatted. They told me they learn Urdu at school, so I asked to hear what it sounded like and they spontaneously recited a poem in chorus! They also sang a song in Hindi, but the highlight was the English song we could sing together. They finished each presentation with a theatrical series of thank yous. I clapped, they clapped, we laughed some more. They taught me to say thank you in Urdu (shukria) and in Hindi (dhaniyavath).
Every experience I have influences who I am as a teacher. I know I learn as much from these sessions as the kids do. So I find myself imagining such interactions between my own students and these children. I wonder what learning they would take away… A small attempt last month was very successful. Let’s hope we can get around the time difference and make further connections possible.