Eleven Questions

Thank you to Padre from Padre’s Ramblings for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! As promised, here are my answers to the eleven nominee questions:

Sunshine Blogger Award

Why did you start your blog?
Many reasons. To document my Fulbright experience, both for my own memories and with the goal of sharing my thoughts with prospective Fulbright students, friends, family, and interested members of the WordPress community.

I also wanted to create a platform that would serve as a sort of in-between writing space—a place that wasn’t as informal as my journal or as formal as a college paper. Having a space to write semi-edited prose on a semi-regular basis is great. It’s motivating, doesn’t demand perfection, and welcomes experimentation.

Has it achieved what you hoped?
Yes! Before launching my blog, I set one condition: I could write about anything so long as my blog was honest, comprehensive, and diplomatic. I didn’t want my posts to create the illusion that life was perfect. Neither did I want to fixate on the challenges of teaching/living in India, forgetting to acknowledge all the wonderful, sometimes unexpected, joys of my experience.

I definitely struck this balance throughout my posts. Blogging also inspired me to try my hand at satire, book reviews, and flash fiction—genres that I never imagined writing in before.

Blogs are notorious for being difficult to keep up. (I know because I’ve started and discontinued at least two.)

What role does faith play in your life?
A difficult question. I do believe that there are forces in the universe that we may never understand. I am Jain, and I appreciate how my religion (along with other religions) can play a powerful and important role in creating stability, discipline, hope, honesty, community, and much more. However, I can’t say that I believe in God.

Would you rather be an important person or a respected one?
Important. Better to do things that count rather than to only be liked. But I’d have a difficult time believing that I was important if nobody respected me. Hate to admit it but I am the kind of person who needs the approval of at least a few people to believe that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

What things are the most important in a friendship?
Honest conversations, laughter, forgiveness. Growth.

What is your favorite film?
Nothing comes to mind. I don’t think I watch enough movies to have a favorite.

And what is your favorite book?
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. 

If you had to give up the book or the movie, which would it be?
The movie! Why is this even a question?

What recipe brings back childhood memories?
Rajma and rice, mixed together in a single white bowl. Rajma is a popular North Indian dish made out of red kidney beans in a thick gravy.

What would be willing to risk for one you love?
Umm…anything? I don’t think there’s any other way to answer this question.

Here are my nominees for the Sunshine Blogger award:
Call a Rose a Rose
Only100 Words
Jane Dougherty Writes
Still Loved…Still Missed…
Ashley O’Melia
The Midnight Ember
V Ramasamy: A Globetrotter
The Dark Netizen
Fatima Fakier Fiction Writing
A Writer’s Path
Educated Unemployed Indian

Here are the questions:

  1. Why did you start your blog?
  2. How has your blog/writing style evolved over time?
  3. Describe some of the things that are on (or in) your desk right now. Anything special?
  4. What are three things in your fridge right now?
  5. Describe a fond memory from your childhood.
  6. Describe your hometown.
  7. What’s your favorite way to spend the weekend?
  8. Who are your role models?
  9. What are your pet peeves?
  10. What advice would you give o your younger self?
  11. If you could write the name for a new Crayola crayon, what would it be?

And here are the rules for nominees:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the questions.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for the award and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger award logo on your post or site.

Ma’am, I Have an Information!

I can’t believe my time as a Fulbright ETA is almost over. The past two months of school have been a hodgepodge of different activities.

In early February, students from Class 5 onward started preparing for/taking final exams. So I scrapped my old timetable and switched to teaching Class 2B and Class 3 a couple times a week.

My first day of teaching Class 3 felt like a disaster. It started off on a chaotic note when a student turned on the ceiling fans and the small, square pieces of paper I had cut out for an activity (along with a handful of worksheets) blew everywhere.

Before I knew it, ten students were scrambling to help pick them up. Naturally, the rest of them decided this was the perfect opportunity to talk and scream.

Their regular class teacher soon noticed the chaos and told them to stand up for the remainder of the class. (Luckily, there were only 10-15 minutes left in the period.)

Luckily, I had much better control over the class on Day 2. When the students started to get out of hand, I used the “If you can hear me, clap once. If you can hear me, clap twice.” trick, and it worked like a charm. They immediately quieted down and listened to my instructions.

But the beginning of class was always noisy. Almost every class period started like this:

Ma’am can I pass out the papers?  Can I pass out half the papers?  Can I rub the board?  Can I help you with something?

(A group of five or so students clustering around me and begging me to assign tasks to them.)

And involved conversations that went like this:

“Ma’am, he’s sitting in my chair.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just sit in a different seat.”
“But Ma’am, he’s sitting in my chair.”
“I don’t care.”
“But Ma’am he’s sitting in my chair.”
“I DON’T CARE. JUST SIT HERE.”

And interruptions like these:

“Ma’am, I just wanted to show you a new book that I got.”
“My finger is paining. Can I go to Manju Didi?” (The nurse)
“Ma’am, I have an information!”
“Ma’am, I have a confusion!!!!”

(I felt lucky if I could say two sentences in a row without being interrupted.)

Despite its craziness, teaching the junior school was a nice break from teaching literature. I did lessons on articles and adverbs with Class 3 and lessons on adjectives and synonyms with Class 2.

My favorite way to review grammar was by having a class competition. From experience, I knew that competition was the best (and often the only) way to get students focused and engaged.

Though they differed in content, my review games followed the same basic structure: I had students pass around a ball and answer a question or make a statement. I also timed how quickly the class completed the task and challenged them to do it in less time during the second and third rounds.

Here are some of the games we played:

The Opposite Game: I say an adjective. Students say the antonym of the adjective.
This cake is…: Students complete the sentence using one of the 15 synonyms they learned for good/great (Ex: Amazing, spectacular, outstanding, etc.)
PB&J Adjectives: Students say one sentence describing either peanut butter, jelly, or bread. (I taught them how to make PBJ sandwiches the day before we played.)

It’s truly amazing how much you can do with just a small polyester ball.

Baseball

This ball has probably passed through the hands of at least a 100 students at Akshar.

During my free time, I also helped Dhruv and Aditya (two of the Further Education students) write short books:

Autobiographies

Aditya also wrote a book on Soumitra Chatterjee, a famous Bengali actor:

Soumitra Chatterjee

(Note: I designed these books on Canva. The software is free. It’s easy to use and is great for designing books, flyers, social media posts, etc.)

Doing these projects was fun because Aditya and Dhruv are motivated students. It also gave me an opportunity to teach Aditya the elements of the writing process (brainstorming, outlining, writing a rough draft, editing, etc.) and some basic skills (such as saving files on a flash drive and scanning photos.)

Dhruv and I also had a chance to interview a manager at Oxford Bookstore, which is one of the oldest bookstores in Kolkata. She offered to help us organize a book launch party.

We just finished the books today so (fingers crossed) hopefully we are able to organize the party within the next couple of weeks!

Oxford Bookstore

Interview at Oxford Bookstore