Interacting with schools is always a fun and enjoyable part of our time spent in Pal and the surrounding tribal villages. The students always look forward to the CERES group visiting their schools, not just for the novelty of having some foreign faces in their classroom, but to practise their English language skills. For many young people a working knowledge of English is important to secure work outside their village, however there is little opportunity to develop these skills. To ensure that we make the most of our school visits CERES Global offers a weekend workshop in teaching English as a second language as part of the comprehensive pre departure training offered to CERES Global travellers prior to leaving Australia. For participants with little or no teaching experience the training offers an opportunity to learn about teaching through play and to develop teaching skills that they can take into an Indian classroom. For qualified teachers the training provides a framework in which to devise their own lessons. In India, our interactive and play based lessons had children laughing and learning and not wanting to take a break even for lunch! Local teachers new to this kind of teaching were keen to learn more and requested that we run a training program for them. Myself and two other teachers ran a three day workshop focusing on teaching through game playing. Teachers were invited to participate from surrounding villages and eighteen teachers, from various disciplines, signed up for the training. So eager for professional development, some teachers travelled up to two hours each way to attend. The training was a huge success not only because of the willingness and enthusiasm of the teachers to trial new methodologies in their teaching practise, but because of the nature of the exchange, and the unforeseen outcomes. Without realising it, we had created not just an opportunity for teachers to learn new skills, but introduced a space for local teachers to reflect on their teaching practise, connect through their shared challenges, and support each other. Everyone participating on a CERES Global India trip expects to learn about Indian culture and, if possible, contribute in some kind of meaningful way. This can be difficult to achieve when we only spend three weeks in one place, however we experienced first hand how powerful sharing experiences, culture and skills can be when there is something that connects people. I feel privileged to have met such devoted teachers, and thankful to have been part of such a genuine and heartfelt exchange of thoughts, ideas, dreams, and achievements about teaching; it was invigorating and inspiring, and provided an insight into local culture and place that I would not have otherwise had access to.
Vanessa Hewson 2011