For three days a week over the past month, I have been sharing in English classes with a group of women in Juhapura, an area of Ahmedabad. The group of women that I work with are teachers at Saath’s balghars, pre-school education centers located in Juhapura. As I have no knowledge of Hindi or Gujarati, and the majority of the teachers have a very low level of understanding in English, we truly started the class from square one. The teachers are energetic and lively, and despite our divide in language, we have been able to produce an enjoyable learning environment together.
On the first day of class, we established our goal: to improve communication with visitors to the balghars. We start each class with a chai and a “warm-up” activity, which often includes sharing information about ourselves or some type of physical activity. The class is always a warm and vibrant space, and the eagerness of the teachers to learn is clear with each lesson. Due to our language barrier, I often use drawings or gestures in teaching, making for an active and frequently comical classroom.
After ten classes together, we have covered a range of English vocabulary and grammar structures, and the class has progressed at an inspiring rate. All of the teachers are now able to carry out a basic conversation, and seek information such as name, country of origin, and other personal information. Each student is also now able to introduce others, which is demonstrated whenever an outsider comes to the classroom and is introduced in English. After ten classes, we have already reached the basics of our goal, and we are now moving forward to different topics.
The teachers are now excited to practice their new conversation skills with visitors to the balghars, who they face trouble in communicating with. Sharing this time with the group of teachers has been an amazing experience for me, and I am certain that I am taking just as much, if not more, from the class. Many of the women have shared their homes with me, both inside and outside of Juhapura, and introduced me to their families and neighbors. As we cover more English in the classroom, we are able to understand and to communicate with each other in more depth. I am so lucky to find myself surrounded by such positive energy each week, and I look forward to the future classes that we will share together.
(by Catherine McBride – Intern)