A special connection…

I have a new friend. His name is Kalpesh and he lives in Talere, Maharashtra, India. He’s 15 years old, in 10th grade and his favourite subject is science. He likes his teacher because he makes jokes. Kalpesh loves Ben 10 cartoons, is a karate fan and likes to play cricket. His best friend’s name is Raviraj. His home language is Marathi and he speaks Hindi too. His English is limited to the classroom… and now his interactions with me. 

I learn these things from our interactions via Skype through the SOLE project, about which I have written before here and here. It’s amazing how much we’ve already learned from each other, when you consider the limitations of our communication. Apart from the language barrier, there is no sound when we connect, although there is video, so we communicate by typing and by hand and facial gestures. This SOLE is in the Vaibhavwadi taluka of Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, in the village of Talere, although the children also come from surrounding villages. I’m told that the SOLE itself is a room with a tin roof which makes it feel like an oven in the summer heat.

During our ‘conversation’ about school, Kalpesh tells me there are 80 children in his class. He knows I’m a teacher and asks to see photos of my school, so I show him a few images of students learning in the classroom. His responses are usually brief and often single words and I know he doesn’t always understand what I type, because then he simply doesn’t respond. So I wonder if he’ll know what I mean when I ask ‘What did you notice?’

[28/04/2011 3:38:43 PM] SOLE C1: mam your school photos 
[28/04/2011 3:39:01 PM] Edna: let me look. 
[28/04/2011 3:40:29 PM] Edna: here are some pictures of children at my school 
[28/04/2011 3:41:26 PM] SOLE C1: nice photos 
[28/04/2011 3:41:34 PM] Edna: what did you notice? 
[28/04/2011 3:42:42 PM] SOLE C1: typing your school childrn in laptop and painting 
[28/04/2011 3:42:51 PM] Edna: yes 
[28/04/2011 3:43:09 PM] SOLE C1: thank you

I’m filled with mixed emotions… shame at having shown him the colourful classroom with small groups working at laptops… pleasure that he has understood and responded in a whole sentence… gratitude for the opportunity to see what learning looks like in a different context… disappointment that there’s no sound and I can’t hear what he’s saying to the other children as they laugh… frustration at the limitations imposed on our conversation by language… warmth towards these eagerly responsive children… delight that despite the obstacles, I have managed to make a connection…

[28/04/2011 3:55:08 PM] SOLE C1: mam you come India and my house

I would love to.

 

14 thoughts on “A special connection…

  1. Well, you’ve done it again! Tears welled up in my eyes. Those ‘touched my heart’ sort of tears. Making connections is what it’s all about. With connections and understanding the world becomes a place of genuine caring and authentic learning. I am, as ever, awed by your innovative, courageous and caring forays into the world. I’ll just continue to tag along with my big box of tissues!
    Fiona

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      1. Right, you are Edna! Not even ‘cry when there are no connections’ because its all part of the journey. and ‘Tomorrow is another day’!🙂

        And, like I mentioned during our skype chat, the word ‘notice’ typically means an official memo/note, but he does seem to have understood what you meant in this context. It will be interesting to meet him in person, yet again, later this month.

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  2. It’s really a connection between a teacher and a student belonging to two very diffrent parts of the world.

    In India there has been a resource deficiet, modern facilities of learning not available to all, But still no dearth of learning.

    Kalpesh was probably amazed as a child to see the kind of facilities that other students have in other parts of the world and now wants the teacher to see his class , house etc. .

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  3. Edna, I can understand your mixed emotions. You re opening up Kalpesh’s world so, although you may be somewhat uncomfortable showing him photos of your school situation which is so unlike his own, you are also giving him the opportunity that life is different elsewhere and maybe this is the knowledge that empowers people. I don’t think I’ve voiced this very well, but I hope you get what I mean.

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  4. Hi all of you! I think Edna and the children at her school have had this kind of experience several times. But the difference in the kind and extent of resources does not appear to have hindered the interaction. I feel the same way quite frequently when they ask to have the webcam pan around my house so they can look around and have been after me to bring them to Pune🙂 . or even when I am physically present at the SOLEs, I am conscious of the fact that I do come across ‘different’ despite my dress, the fact that I speak the same language etc. But what comes across quite strongly is that this [awareness of difference] is part of opening up horizons via curiosity… Lets see where it all leads…

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  5. Your last paragraph on mixed emotions is so well articulated; I feel you.

    I believe that connections are made stronger not just in seeing similarities but also differences, acknowledging and celebrating both. Humanity and relationships are made better by the diversity within.

    I’ll read more about your SOLE project but for now, really just wanted to say that this post is fantastic.

    cheers,
    Malyn

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  6. Hi Edna! My name is Dana Johnson, and I am an EDM 310 student in Dr. Strange’s class at the University of South Alabama. I think this is a great post! I am so glad it was able to get shared with me!

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  7. Hello Edna,
    I have read your post and I commend your efforts in your SOLE project. I think this is a great initiative that I need to and will learn more about. I understand what you mean about your mixed emotions. On one hand it’s good to connect around the world; on the other hand, I know it is tough to be behind so many communication barriers. I suppose a connection is better than none at all. Also, I am a student at the University of South Alabama and I’m currently enrolled in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. I will be keeping up with your blog when I can because this is one of the most interesting and informative ones that I have come across.
    Thanks a ton,
    Kevin White

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  8. I really admire you for not letting obstacles interfere with the global connections you are making. You are a great role model to those of us who are just beginning this journey in creating networks with others!

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