Having already adapted a bit to the IST (Indian Stretchable Time), I arrive with a slight delay in front of a light green iron door. It is the door to the “Gaia pre-school”, which is just a 10 minutes walk away from the BSM and I can actually walk to work. That is rather unusual in Bangalore, where a lot of people spend a long time travelling through the huge city to their work places.
Anyway, I enter the door with a huge step over a little fence (also light green), which keeps the youngest students from escaping: Some are only one and a half years old, when they enter the pre-school. The oldest ones are around six years old.
So, entering the compound, a large and stimulating environment opens up in front of me: A playground with trees, little cars to cruise around, a trampoline, a slide and a climbing frame. Walking into the classrooms you would find shelves full with learning materials, toys and books for each age group, surrounded by the walls showing the art work of the children. And usually around three “Didis”, what the teachers are called here, in each class.
The gaia-pre-school indeed is a special place within Bangalore – I was told, that it is one of the top ten private pre-schools in Bangalore. And currently, I am the music teacher on Monday mornings. I teach music and movement to the children in different age groups, from the smallest ones to the six-year-old ones. What makes this place unique too is the teaching philosophy: Teachers are obliged to respect each child’s individuality – meaning: Don’t tell them off, don’t give them warnings or consequences for certain actions. What the child does is its own choice. This teaching style is very different to the rather strict style I have experienced in other classes. And of course – the teaching style and surrounding has an impact on the learning behaviour, as you may imagine.
Around lunchtime I head back to the BSM to catch an “auto” (a riksha) to get to Coxtown Government School. The ride takes about 30 minutes through the city and costs around 1.20 CHF. As I arrive at the school, the kids are all sitting on mats on the compound of the school having a bowl of rice and stew for lunch. They wear neat school-uniforms in light and dark blue. The girls wear their long hair in braids, kept together with ribbons. They wave friendly and say: “Good afternoon, Madam!”. And soon kids from first to forth standard would join together in a classroom, sitting in rows, chatting, but ready for the music lesson. In the classroom you can spot different works from the kids that are hanging on the walls and the beautiful letters of the “Kannada”-alphabet. (Kannada is the language spoken apart from English in Bangalore and in the state Karnataka).
But nevertheless the songs being taught in the lesson are mostly action-songs in English, which the children sing with a lot of enthusiasm. They attend the class with a lot of motivation and often want to sing a song over and over again, they say “thank you”, when they get a pair of claves or a shaker. In fact I guess these children are the first ones in my teacher life, that ever said “Thank you for the music lesson!”
The music lesson at Coxtown Government School is a part of the BSMs outreach program – it is taught voluntarily in schools with fewer resources than other schools. So indeed the step from Gaia pre-school to Coxtown Government School is a step from one reality to another – they are kids with very different social backgrounds. And I dare to say, that I can feel this as a teacher also. I wouldn’t say, that the joy of doing music is any different. But clearly I feel that for the children in Coxtown this one music-lesson is special – you feel how eager to learn they are, how open their minds are to receive what you teach them, and how they appreciate it. None of the older students would pretend that the songs would be silly or to childish for them, how it sometimes happens at home.
Finally the image of “sponges” comes to my mind to describe the difference between these students: Sponges can hold a certain amount of water, if they are almost dry, they will suck in a lot of water, if they are already full, they cannot suck anymore. I think you can guess the correlation between that image and students with a different amount of input in their environment. The interesting question to think about further should be: What is the right amount of learning input for a child?