by Loren Breen
About halfway through our program, we were invited to the Child Friendly Spaces teacher training. Not wanting to appear ungrateful for the invitation, I accepted, but I was thinking in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to get much out of the session. One, I am not a teacher so I would be so behind and this training would be beyond my skill set. Two, this training was being lead in Guajarati so anything that I might have benefited from was bound to go over my head. To my surprise, I left teaching feeling full of joy and with a renewed optimism to pour myself into my work.
Language is a large barrier in India because each state has its own unique language or dialect. Even though we spend an hour and a half every morning learning Hindi, communication is new territory every day. I never know if I am going to encounter someone that speaks English or Hindi because there is just as high of a chance that they only speak Gujuarti, a rural dialect, or another language from a different state. In a place like Ahmedabad where over 60% of the population are migratory workers, there is a good chance that you won’t even be able to tell your cab driver you only speak English in a language he will understand.
When I walked into this teacher training, any barrier imposed by language melted away. I received a warm welcome consisting of waves from the teacher I had the pleasuring of meeting prior and introductions from those I was just meeting. Before I knew it, we were all sitting in a circle on the ground drinking chai and eating dal vada. This “training” felt more like a group of old friend gathering together with a common goal.
After the customary chai break, we jumped into learning different interactive songs, dances, and stories that can be used to teach everything from counting to morals. All fifteen teachers and four coordinators were actively participating during this opportunity to share ideas. We went around the circle and almost every woman took a turn to lead their favorite creative movement and interactive activities to do in their classroom. Jay, Rebecca, and I were even asked to teach “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” to all the teachers because we had taught the song to some students the week prior.
On top of the inclusive atmosphere and eagerness to learn, my favorite part of this training was that it was full of laughter! These teachers were all such a joyful group; no one was embarrassed to dance like a fool and sing at the top of their lungs. They also were not afraid to laugh at themselves. One of the fables was about a lion, and when it was time to make a lion sound the teacher turned to Gopal bhai. As a coordinator for CFS and the organizer of this training, I anticipated Gopal bhai to observe and take notes; to my surprise Gopal bhai let out the most theatrical lion’s roar including teeth baring and all. As if rehearsed, the women broke out into a chorus of laughter that floated through the room and right out the open windows. This joy was a refreshing juxtaposition to the crowded labor colony in which we were standing. Everytime we learned a song, someone would teach a silly dance that would send giggles rippling through the group. While I didn’t always get the joke because of the “language barrier”, laughter has no language, and I found myself unreservedly laughing right along with them.