The Global Exchange Blog from Deshpande Foundation has moved homes! With the relaunch of our new and improved website all of our blogs can be found here, new and old! Our first new post from the Global Exchange Program has already been posted there: Chiara talks about living in the Sandbox! We’ll see you at our new blog home!
During my most recent visit to Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, I inquired about a young man I interviewed for last year’s “Development Dialogue” video. I asked about him because he left a lasting impression on me. Last year, he told me about his daily routine. During his mornings, he would go work at a restaurant where he cleaned the bathrooms. After that, he would come to Samarthanam for English and computer classes. He came to this institution because he wanted a better job and a better future. While interacting with this young man who was blind in one eye, it wasn’t just his story that touched me. When I talked to him, I felt he was being sincere. I never felt like he was telling me these things to get attention; rather, it was to tell me who he was as an individual. When I went back to Samarthanam this time around, I was hoping to hear how this young man has progressed. Unfortunately, what I heard left me feeling uneasy for the next few days.
Living in Hubli, where cows wander past my bedroom window, neighborhood children fly kites made of plastic wrappings in the field by the house and trips to schools are met with whispers and questions about where I’m from makes my time teaching in the States seem like a past life. Until the mail arrives.
The mail, traveling from Harrison, New York, to Somerville, Massachusetts to New York City, finally arrives at my house in Hubli when I receive a copy of the Summer 2010 newsletter from the last school where I taught. The principal’s letter talks about alternative routes to certification and the importance of thorough and accurate preparation for teachers in fundamental skills like teaching decoding and reading comprehension. And most interestingly for me, all the reasons why existing programs are not suitable and the actions the state is taking to allow alternative routes to certification.
I’ve had some pretty tough jobs in the past, including counseling children with severe emotional and behavioral challenges at Ryther Child Center and advocating for victims of domestic violence in the court system at Family Violence Prevention Center, and while these jobs certainly pushed me, there’s no doubt that my work at DCSE has pushed me to reach a level of professional development that is unparalleled to my previous work.
At times, I feel like EA is a baby that requires constant care and attention. If I’m not pitching to new partners, designing courses, or teaching students, I’m training faculty, designing new marketing materials, or coordinating guest speakers. While I’m very passionate about my work, it is also incredibly draining and there are days in which I really struggle. Throughout the ups and downs, I’ve found that what really keeps me going is the community that I’ve developed here.
One afternoon last week a RAPID Member entered our office positively glowing. She took out a box of Pedas, a sweet famous in Dharwad, and offered them to everyone in the office, which is a popular way of celebrating a special occasion. She just completed her first month of work in a factory, a placement RAPID helped her to find. She had received her first paycheck and brought some sweets to the RAPID office to celebrate this milestone.
One of my more recent responsibilities at the Deshpande Fellowship Program has been to conduct a weekly class on critical thinking for the current cohort of fellows. I feel that the ability to think critically is something that a person educated in the States is likely to take for granted. I am conscious of this because I find I possess decent critical thinking skills without having formally studied critical thinking. It was therefore a bit of a struggle for me to design a course that would focus solely on developing the fellows’ critical thinking abilities.
After a discussion with Julia Bach, a current Sandbox Fellow who works at the Teacher Foundation, I decided to create a class based around reading The Onion. Fellows in each class were placed in groups of three and assigned one of seven articles whose premise was severely skewed by false facts feeding a satirical idea. For example, one article informed its readers about a recent decision by the US Department of Homeland Security to release five terrorists who were perceived to be the most dangerous in the country for the purpose of providing an opportunity to the US military to test its national security. The military would be responsible for preventing any attacks after the terrorists would be released and given ten thousand dollars along with a forty-eight hour grace period during which they would not be tracked by anyone. Continue reading