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Guests learn some, share some

Adizah Afua Eghan talked about gender sensitisation and shared with the girls of Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan her experiences of working at refugee camps in Jamaica.

Ryan Michael Corrigan taught students to interview teachers and profile them to foster greater bonding.

Rachel Marie Glogowski introduced storytelling sessions at Dolna Day School to make English lessons interesting.

Stacia Mikaela Koster held an art and craft exhibition at Abhinav Bharati High School to introduce learning through art.

Christine Zographia Purdy wore a ghagra and danced to the tune of Madhuri Dixit’s Aaja nachle for her students at St. John’s Diocesan Girls’ Higher Secondary School.

Christine, Stacia, Adizah, Ryan and Rachel, all teaching assistants from the US, were in the city as part of USIEF’s Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistant Program. Each of them spent nine months teaching at a city school.

To begin with, Adizah was daunted by the sheer size of Indian classrooms. “I could barely walk between two rows of desks! But slowly I got used to it. Later, I made them sit according to their house so that they could be held accountable for discipline,” said Adizah, who found the chorus of “Good morning ma’am” on entering the classroom amusing. “Kids here definitely show a lot more respect which I think is nice.”

All five teachers spent a month learning Bengali for five hours a day before they started taking classes. “We understand it is important to know the language of the people you are working with. Our training in Bengali also helped us blend in and understand the nuances of Indian tradition and culture,” said Stacia, who taught at Abhinav Bharati High School.

Madhura Bhattacharya, the principal of Dolna Day School, where Rachel was assigned, was happy with the way her guest adjusted to the atmosphere. “She comes from a distant land and when she stepped into our classroom she carried with her the history, geography and music of the land she comes from. So, our students shared a bit about our land while she gave us an insight into her country. And she did a wonderful job. We’re very glad she came to work with us.”

Agreed Rupa Roy, the administrator at St. Joseph & Mary’s School. “Ryan was like a celebrity. Everyone was eager to talk to him and to get as much information out of him as possible. And he was always very patient and willing to answer all their questions,” she smiled.

But that doesn’t mean lessons were ignored. “Stacia followed the guidelines given to her for completion of syllabus, but she also introduced her own creative nuances,” Sanghamitra Mukherjee, the principal of Abhinav Bharati, said at an interactive session on completion of the exchange programme.

Joanne Joria, the director of American Center and moderator for the session, was glad the project had turned out to be such a hit. “The kids seem to have enjoyed themselves and so did the teachers. The schools just couldn’t stop raving about them!”