It wasn’t until the final week of school when I figured out how to maximize my opportunities to engage with the students. Even though it was a short 3 day week, thanks to Independence Day and the Raksha Bandhan Festival, I became closer with so many children in numerous classes. The key: stop using free time for relaxation and go find a class to disturb.
Class of the soccer boys. By the 3rd week, we already had established teams during their play period. I understood that there was no use in asking to be goalie because that was Abbeyshake’s position. He excelled at it. I also understood that it didn’t matter how many times I coached them to spread out, they would crowd around each other like a herd of cattle anyways. To an extent, it actually made the game more fun. You got to steal it and then re-steal it from your teammates. My team called themselves the Panthers. In our last big match Michael played on the other team. I was so proud of my team for playing amazing defense. We were a brick wall. Even though we lost 3-1 in the end, it was only because Michael kept launching shots from across the field when no one was ready.
“As I return back to my American life, I have made plans to write my beautiful girls. This isn’t goodbye. It’s we’ll talk soon.”
Around lunchtime on Tuesday, Sammy and I decided to go check out the school cafeteria. We walked into the kitchen prep area and were thrilled to see the lunch ladies frying Puree bread in gigantic woks identical to those used at the neighborhood Independence Day celebration. Children were beginning to file in line for trays so we decided to just stay and sit with them. I sat with a lovely group of young ladies in the 4th grade. We discussed siblings at first. They were shocked when I told them about all seven siblings of mine. That is until one girl in the group said her Aunt had 11 children. We went on to discuss favorite foods, colors, and hobbies until the end of lunch. Before they headed back to class Angela, a girl I was sitting beside, wanted to know the extent of my Hindi speaking skills. It didn’t take her long to figure out how much they lacked. She came up with a brilliant idea. “You teach us English and we’ll teach you Hindi,” she exclaimed. Absolutely. I would love that.
I fell in love with my first little kindergarten kid, Ducks, after attending one of the class dance rehearsals for Vidya school’s Independence Day ceremony. The music teacher warned me that he was a cute little kid, yet mischievous. I couldn’t believe it. He was so cute he had won the “Most Cheerful Award” at the ceremony. Well when Sammy and I walked into their class on Monday, sure enough there was Ducks being scolded by the teacher for drinking his water bottle during not-water break. All the other children in the room were coloring so I sat in the back next to Human. I think Human was fascinated by all the exaggerated faces I was making while talking to him, so he tried copying me. Soon, we were crossing our eyes, sticking out our tongues, blowing up cheeks, and wiggling fingers above our heads. The little kindergartners thought it was hilarious and began to crowd around to see the action. At that moment, Sammy and I came up with the great idea to teach them all handshakes. The teacher made them get into two single lines if they wanted to try a handshake. It went pretty successful. Somehow by the end of class we were doing the song and dance to Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, The Hokey Pokey, and The Chicken Dance. It was completely unexpected. Way better than any flash-mob you’ve ever seen.
On the very first day at Vidya, Sammy and I were thrown into class VIIA — like being thrown into a den of lions. Not having had anything we planned, we attempted and horridly failed at trying to learn everyone’s names. Somehow we thought we’d able to correctly pronounce everyone’s names with our strong American accents. All the kids laughed at us. I’m sure we sounded ridiculous. Fast forward three weeks, and I’d have to say I have become attached to this class — especially the girls. They were the first to teach me how to play foot cricket. I blame them for why I believed real cricket was played with a soccer ball for an entire 2 weeks. They taught me their latest dance moves from dance class, and convinced me to sing Nicki Minaj to them. They learned the American game Red Rover. I learned the Indian games of Coco and Kubadee. Whoever’s team I was on always lost in Kubadee. I was awful. When playing, a player will cross a line to the other side, then try to touch an opposing player, and make it back across the line before being tackled. It wasn’t that I got tackled. I just couldn’t remember to keep my mouth closed when I was “it”. My last hour at Vidya was hanging out with them. I was able to retrieve home address from Priyanka, Nancy, Saloni, Nikita #1, Nikita #2, Priya, and Lakshmi. As I return back to my American life, I have made plans to write my beautiful girls. This isn’t goodbye. It’s we’ll talk soon.