Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Culture of a School or Ode to a Principal

School culture, the symbolic gestures and philosophical underpinnings that express "the way we do things" are woven seamlessly into school life here. I asked the school principal how she defined the school culture and beyond academics, she identified the values education that is embedded in the curriculum, along with the authentic nurturing provided by the school staff, as essential to the continued growth of the school.

These ideas are expressed symbolically everyday. Each morning the children, k-12, gather on the playground to sing, to listen to a story, to say the Indian national pledge in unison, and to pray. Students of all religions represented in the school, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian, come together during this time.

Children are expected to show kindness, thoughtfulness, and respect towards each other. They are required to look their best, following a strict dress code.

Parents are involved.

The philosophy that "we are in this together" is visible in symbol, student proximity, and philosophy.

This includes the principal. For example, she has situated her office in reverse. Her desk is right inside the door. Each morning she signs any notes from parents brought in by students, she welcomes any impromptu parent who arrives, and she has a handful of children who must check in with her to receive extra encouragement or as a reminder about a behavior in remediation...

Most of the day she is out and about the school. With a quiet, nurturing demeanor she models her expectations.

Even with the limited resources at hand, she is positive and thinking towards reforms and improvements for the school.

This is only a glimmer and glance at the complex structures that define this school and I am only an outsider looking in. But If this were my town, this is somewhere I would want to be.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let's Talk Laundry

It was inevitable. After six days in a humid, tropical climate with four changes of clothes in my suitcase, I had to do laundry. The girls living at the school charitably offered to assist. (you can click on the photos to enlarge them and you may want to to get the full picture...)

First to the main laundry room where the girls awaited.

Next fill your bucket with water.

Add soap and start scrubbing.




Checking, squeezing, and rinsing.

And finally, hanging to dry. (a two or more day process, depending on the weather...)

I never knew that doing laundry could be so much fun.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Let The Games Begin

Well, today is Saturday and it was a full day of school. Next week there are Hindu and Muslim holidays and students will miss three days of school. By early afternoon preliminary heats began for the all school sports day to be held next week. Some 6th grade boys explained the sequence to me.

In a related story, a couple of days ago I talked to some boys who were digging a hole in the playground using a large pick ax. Did I mention they were completely unsupervised? When I told them this would not be happening in the U.S. they hammed it up to make it look even more dangerous.

Turns out they were putting up the goal posts for a moment like this at today's games. (Note the two bamboo poles at the goal line.)

The students played several games with great enthusiasm while everyone watched. Even during a downpour of rain.

The school principal, who organized all of the games, was right in the middle of everything all day.

How to Make Chapati

Every night I have the pleasure of eating some of the most delicious food in the world. Four young women from Assam combine the flavours of fresh coconuts, pumpkin, tapioca, and local fish with chilies, home made curd and banana stem from the back garden to prepare a delicious meal. And I have been learning to make chapati with the experts.

Mix together flour, salt, boiling water and a little coconut oil.

Combine to form the dough.

Knead until soft and pliable. Form into flying saucers.

Roll out thinly, working in a circle.

I give it a try.

Continue until many lovely circles appear.

Now into the frying pan. (It's a cast iron plate actually.)

Turn frequently, encouraging the chapati to puff like a balloon.

Fold in half and store in a pot with a lid until dinner is ready.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Calicut Fruit Market!

This morning I found myself in a roadside tea shop drinking a glass of chai tea with a nun in India. I never dreamed to be narrating this story. I am grateful.

We stopped at a fruit market where beauty and life were in full swing.


Guava. Melon.

Sugar cane.



Buying local.