A row of serious children sat in front of the screen and stared at me. This was my first interaction with 5th graders at KNB in Phaltan, India but, with several years of Granny Cloud experience, I knew the discomfort wouldn’t last long. Despite the standard response to most of my questions being blank stares, I persisted and, within a few sessions, we were all more relaxed and the children’s confidence and English began to improve.
With the passing of time, the sorts of things we could tackle in sessions developed. From simple topics such as animals and colours, we advanced to searching google maps for places, exploring distances, finding out about languages…
In one session we talked about sports, they told me about Kabaddi and Googled Aussie rules. In another session we looked at art. I introduced them to Picasso, they did their own searching and then produced surreal pictures of themselves.
They told me about their school, their lessons, their families and their celebrations. I shared pictures of my grandchildren and, on one occasion, I showed them the classrooms at my school and they had great fun reading children’s bios on their lockers and noticing commonalities.
Once we did a combined session with another group at a school in Delhi. In the middle of what I’d thought would be an interesting opportunity they sent me a text to say they would rather talk to Edna Granny.
Gradually individuals began to emerge as leaders. I observed Aditya’s particular curiosity and eagerness to learn. I noticed the thoughtfulness in Sanika’s eyes when ever a question was posed. I was delighted by Diya’s confidence in disrupting my plan for a session and replacing it with her own.
And then, miraculously, I had an opportunity to meet ‘my kids’. A few days in Pune for an IB workshop were extended to include time with my friend Suneeta and a couple of very special visits to KNB, once to work with the teachers and, finally, to meet Saniya, Aditya, Diya, Sairaj, Jayesh, Aishwarya and the others… in person.
They waited eagerly near the gate, then hung back a little shyly at first but a couple of warm up activities melted the ice and soon everyone wanted to talk and there was much laughter. They took me on a tour of their little school, showing me each classroom with its stone floor, old style desks, glassless windows and surprising, colourful images adorning the walls, painted by the children and their parents, of honey bees, pandas, flowers and flamingoes.
They took me to the library and we sat in a circle on the floor reading the picture book I had brought them. They sang and danced, we played and talked and they presented me with carefully made cards.
I’m not sure if the photos can capture the magic of our first face to face encounter…