I realised that the Tara.Ed Teacher tour was going to be challenging as soon as the plane touched down in Mumbai. The bursting city was just so different to anything I’d seen or experienced in Australia. Car horns, tarpaulins and roaming children everywhere! I’ll never forget that first night in the taxi: the wide-eyed baby staring at me as I drove past, crawling about on the median strip with only a torn singlet for protection. I couldn’t help but think of the baby monitor fitted to my niece’s cot, let alone the mattress, blankets and toys when I imagined her asleep back home. It was two worlds apart!
By the time we arrived at the school in the rural town of Ajra, it felt like we’d been gone for weeks. I was now accustomed to red onion with lemon before every meal and several cups of chai a day (not to mention eating with my hands and swapping G’day for the Marathi greeting Kusakai). The school was everything I’d imagined; we were definitely isolated from western civilization! There were very few cars and infrastructure, the roads were stretches of dirt, and cows were everywhere. Houses were quaint, painted in rainbow colours. The school was central to the village, and all 20,000 people in town knew the Australians were there. We were definitely the star attraction and the biggest thing to happen in Ajra for a long time. The number of coconuts I collected along the way, dances performed in our honor and the cups of buffalo milk I consumed can attest to that! In all my life experiences so far, I’ve never had such an overwhelming reception!
As a result of teaching Standard II (year 2) in Ajra, I’m more open to teaching experiences abroad and only hope to continue to build global perspectives in my pedagogy. I never thought I could learn so much from a school in a place where my kind of life is completely unknown. It may seem cliché to say that I won’t take things for granted anymore, but at the very least, I’ll be more inclined to bring the differences of students’ backgrounds out into the open. I can’t believe how much I learned from being exposed to the Indian culture. I’ve had firsthand experience of the degree to which simple resources like a blackboard, photo or picture book can perpetuate an understanding of a completely foreign world. Teaching the Indian students about school life in Australia demonstrated this: their amazement at seeing photos of playgrounds in Australia and hearing that children in another country liked to play football, too! Uncovering the cultural similarities and differences is a great way to prepare the students who are the future of our globalised world. The Tara.Ed Teacher tour provided the perfect culmination of my four years of study to be a teacher. I was able to put all of the educational theories entrenched in my head into practice whilst immersing myself in an environment which was the polar opposite to everything I was used to.
My life in Australia is no doubt run by the clock, whereas in Ajra, things definitely run by the sun. I’d like to think that I can incorporate both lifestyles into my classroom and teach in a way that blurs the distinction between the two. To come out at the end with such positive perspectives on teaching and learning has served to strengthen my belief in my suitability for the teaching profession, and I’m so excited at the prospect of one day having a classroom that transcends boundaries.
Macquarie University Golden Key member
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