Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Incredible India"

It has been an unforgettable journey!

“And to think these days men get away with
giving flowers and chocolates to their wives.”

Final Thoughts

Visiting India has been a tremendous and life-changing experience; everyone that we met here was friendly and welcoming. India is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. While many have reached high levels of success, due in part to the growth of information and technology fields, there are so many more who struggle to eek out a meager living. At the heart of my experience is an appreciation for the people who have to surmount incredible obstacles on a daily basis and yet seem to meet life with a smile. When I cried for the beggars on the street a wise Indian friend said, “it’s O.K., they are happy, Indians take care of each other.” I wrestle with that but have come to accept the fact that even the wild dogs in the streets are fed.

Historically I feel that the nation of India has been struggling to come into her own. With independence from the British in 1947 came new challenges. This is a nation seeking an identity that is not linked to the boundaries of the past but is unique and proud of the diversities in the culture that makes up India today. It is a nation that is on the rise and seeking a spot in the world economy. We have come here to study the education system that will play an integral part in the future of this country.

With the majority of the population under 25 years of age, many of the hopes and dreams for India lie in the hands of the children. 46 percent of the world’s illiterate live in this country. We have observed examples of exceptional schools that are providing high quality education at an affordable cost. While education is offered to all, there are many children that never set foot inside a classroom. Certainly the system has flaws, but there is dedication and perseverance in people on so many levels. I believe there is a great hope for a bright future in the educational system, and for India as an emerging nation. India is working hard to educate its youth and make life better for the next generation.

I am going to miss many things about India…

The food has been great. Many of India’s population are Hindus so it is veggie heaven! I will miss the friends I have made, the smiles of strangers, the colorful clothing, hopping into motor rickshaws to go shopping, the hustle and bustle of the cities, the beautiful temples and historic sites, I will miss staying in wonderful hotels where we are treated like royalty, and I am the only one of the group who will miss the hot, humid weather.

I won’t miss …

the pollution, the traffic jams, crazy driving, bad roads, the mud, the garbage on the streets, “non-western” toilets, taking off my shoes at religious shrines,no garbage cans anywhere, rickshaw drivers who want to drive you to your destination via the gift shop (where they get a commission), the street vendors relentless pressure to buy their trinkets and the hectic pace that has not subsided since we got here.

Thank you
I am grateful to the United States Education Foundation in India. Dr. Girish Kaul and the wonderful people at the “USEFI” offices in India were responsible for planning our very intricate program schedule. They have gone out of their way for us. They planned a well-rounded seminar that included lectures, visits to schools, museums, cultural sites and interesting field trips. They arranged for travel to eight different cities throughout India and made sure we got to each day’s venue. It is a monumental task that was executed efficiently down to the minutest of details. Thank you to the U.S. Department of Education that funds the Fulbright –Hays Seminars Abroad Program and made this trip possible.

It is time to say good-bye…

Along the way we have made many dear friends. I would particularly like to mention a few of the many people that I got to know in India. My friend Varrtika has welcomed me into her heart and I greatly enjoyed her company on our many excursions. Azhar, our travel coordinator has patiently, and efficiently gotten 16 teachers and all of our luggage to each destination and made our travel so easy. He has endured our American sense of humor and we have all enjoyed many laughs together. My cooperating teacher, Lawania is a true professional and dedicated teacher. He has helped me in developing a final project for my classroom and made my visit to his school very special.

Finally, thanks to my family and friends who support me in my many endeavors. I missed everyone and it is good to be home!

Incredible India
It has been an unforgettable journey
Barbara Delaney

Group Reflections of Our Trip

We have been traveling with 16 math and science teachers from all over the United States. Every person in our group is a dedicated teacher and has great enthusiasm and passion for their profession. I have learned a lot from them and appreciated getting to know each and every one. It has been especially enjoyable sharing a room along the way with each of the seven women in our group. In the quiet of our room at the end of the day we reflected on our trip, shared a little about our lives and made a friend for life. It will be sad to have to go our separate ways but everyone promises to share pictures and keep in touch.

The following report was compiled at the end of our seminar and reflects the thoughts of our group of 16 teachers:

The objectives of the Math and Science Teaching and Student Achievement Seminar in India 2008 were twofold; first: a chance for U.S. middle and secondary mathematics and science teachers as well as administrators to observe teaching, curriculum development, and the training of teachers in various cities across India; and two, emerge these understandings into the broader themes of India’s history, culture, and society. With these new understandings each participant is working in collaboration with a partner teacher in Delhi on a curriculum project or their choice.

Some themes were evident in each city. One of the most resounding themes is the complexity and contrasts of modern India. One of the most overwhelming aspects of the trip for most of us was the extreme juxtaposition of poverty and wealth: children and sick beggars outside of a McDonald’s; rickshaws next to BMW’s; beautiful art and architecture next to slums; billboards for diamonds and movie stars above hungry people. Another layer of contrasts is the coexistence of traditional life styles amongst modern technology: women in burkhas talking on cell phones; the holy cow in the middle of a traffic jam; satellite dishes on top of straw houses; some rural families with the desire for children to become engineers and computer scientist. The contrasts can even be seen within politics. For example, progressive laws are on the books to address gender inequity, compulsory education, and caste issues; but real change in people’s personal beliefs and comprehensive implementation is taking generations.

Similarly, a complex spectrum exists in India’s education system. There are still children who because of accessibility and economic status do not attend school while at the same time India’s elite private schools are producing some of the most talented math and science professionals in the world. We were exposed to numerous prestigious private schools with impressive resources and programs for their students. On the other hand, in spite of our limited chances to visit government schools or schools that served underprivileged populations we were impressed by the learning that was taken place and the dedication of the teachers with use of very few resources. We had no experiences with rural schools.

We were impressed and inspired by our visits with some of the leading educational institutions and government officials. There seems to be general recognition of a need to shift from the sole use of rote learning to including inquiry based and investigative learning practice. Likewise, many professionals recognize that to actually impact the classroom teachers’ attitudes and practices will need to change over a period of time.

We realize that our small fraction of time spent in India has been nowhere near enough to completely understand its society, culture, or schools; but it has given us small glimpses into the broad themes of India. It has also allowed us a different lens into our own culture and classroom practices at home. What follows is a compilation of the educational and cultural highlights from each city.


If we had only spent time in Delhi, the objectives of the seminar would not have been met. A powerful part of the seminar was the fact that we were able to see so many different and unique cities in India. We were able to form a much more complete, concise, and clear picture of the Indian education system, curriculum development, and instruction. It was because we were able to visit so many parts of India that allowed us to really meet the objectives of the trip. Throughout the trip each of our curriculum projects gradually took shape. It was a gift really to have each city contribute to each of our individual academic and personal interest and add those insights into our project. Our collaborative teachers in Delhi were helpful throughout this entire process.

Each person in this group had a number of takeaways from this experience –both personal and academic. It is safe to say that we each will be a better teacher or administrator upon our return to the United States because of the perspectives we have gained on this trip. We are eager to share our projects and our experiences with our students, schools, communities, and families.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sabbath in India

Kolkata Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Gateway to the Streets of Kokata

Pot Luck

Cleaning up in the outside sink

Spicer College, Pune

Guest Speakers from Africa

I was fortunate enough to get to visit several Adventist churches while I was here in India. New Delhi is a huge city with millions of people. We have our meetings at the “USEFI” office (United States Education Foundation in India). Amazingly enough the Adventist Headquarters was located right across the street! At the beginning of my trip I stopped in the office and they gave me a listing of churches located in the cities where we would be traveling. I enjoyed attending church in Kolkata and Pune. I have plans to spend my last day in India with the folks at the New Delhi Church.

Getting Around India

Planes, Trains and Buses

So far we have been on 11 plane fights, logged countless hours on bus trips, and ridden to the shopping markets in taxis, motor rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws and even handpulled rickshaws. A few of us floated down the Hoogly River in Kalkota on a river barge. Some have ridden on camels and in Jaipur we climbed up the side of the Amber Fort on an elephant. It is interesting to have to move the masses of people who live in India. We are fortunate to be able to experience travel in so many unique ways.

India by Air
Every time we travel to a new city it has been by plane. Jet Blue, Kingfisher and Indi-go Airlines are extremely modern and efficient. We pull up to the airport in our bus, it is unloaded for us and we make our way through the maze of security checks. Security is tight but we go through quickly. Every flight has been on time and we always get a meal. We arrive at our destination, walk off the plane, and a few minutes later our luggage arrives. The U.S. could take a lesson from Indian airlines.

Bouncing Through the Clouds
Our flight between Bangalore and Pune was pretty exciting. It was a mere twenty-minute flight. Monsoon season has started and it was raining. Because we never got above the cloud line we were in the thick of the storm. We bounced around quite a bit. Many of us were white-knuckled as the plane did a lot of roller coaster moves. We finally touched down to a huge round of applause. We weren’t too excited about having to get on a plane an hour later.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So “Saree”…Lucy had some “splaining” to do.

I titled one of my blogs “A BAD” Day at School” (July 8). My cooperating teacher and his principal read my blog but they wanted to know why my visit was bad. At our farewell dinner I explained my play on words (B.A.D. are my initials) and I hope they understand my sense of humor. My school visits with Lawvania was truly one of the BEST days of my experience! As I say to my students when I sign their homework papers “BAD” is good!


Traveling with us is Azhar, our travel agent from Kashmir. He makes all our travel run smoothly. At every city he oversees our day trips, arranges rides, and books our hotel rooms. His other jobs are to be our translator, souvenir consultant, water boy, and generally to keep us out of trouble. He is very patient as he tries to meet the needs of sixteen helpless Americans traveling in India. He does his job with quiet dignity and grace. He is learning how to have an American sense of humor.
One day he announced that we would need our passports at the next stop. I couldn't find mine but he know full well that I had left it behind at the hotel and now we were on to the next city. He graciously made all the arrangements to have it forwarded to our next destination. (Without my passport I would have been grounded!).
Azhar made life very easy and I appreciate all that he did for us. We do a lot of teasing but he is a true gentleman who has made our travel interesting and stress free. We are very thankful to have him with us. We wish him well for his upcoming marriage in the fall.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Trivia Answer

And the answer to last week's trivia question (see Aug. 3) is... "The Jewel and the Crown". In the series there is a scene where the main characters are boating on this lake in Jaipur. This was an excellent mini-series about the British Rule in India before India gained independence in 1947. It is well worth watching!

The two-time trivia winner is Diane Somerdyk!