Arriving through the gates of this place I had heard so much about, and yet knew so little, was just a tad overwhelming. Kids of all ages finishing school for the day ran for school buses dotted about the campus as I gingerly picked my way through them towards the Secretary's office. A couple of curious glances were directed the way of the pasty Irishman with the questionable hairdo, but the attention was soon diverted towards the much more interesting activity of hopping on to moving yellow minibuses bound for home. I have rarely felt more out of place in my entire life, and did a quick calculation as to how whether I could make it back to said airport as quickly as I'd got here. Where did I fit in amidst the purposeful bustle?
The beaming smile and warm greeting of the school's chief Administrator soon put me at ease, however. Nilufer Sangoporia is a woman who exudes positivity and warmth with every ounce of her being. Maybe she's just a fan of Thursdays and questionable hairdo's but there seemed something genuinely special about her, and the fact that I've since heard her referred to as 'The Mother' of the school comes as no surprise.
After a couple of quick introductions, I was put on one of the aforementioned yellow powerhouses and directed towards my new apartment. I was chaperoned through all of this by Jim and Sovandra, two Americans who are doing are an internship at the school and my house mates for the foreseeable future. We were instructed to be back to the school that evening for an evening of Indian dance with the older children as part of Navrati, festival of Nine Nights. So, no chance for a snooze then!?
A quick tour of the new place(which is fantastic by the way) was followed by a trip around the local area and the many, many eateries that will be seeing so much more of me in the coming weeks and months. A masala dosa and a cob of corn were quickly inhaled before it was time for another one of those yellow bus rides, this time head to toe in traditional garb. At least I would be looking good...
The evening was completely overwhelming in a way that only India can be. Countless teenagers dressed in incredibly flashy traditional sarees and curta's danced their way through hours of music and were insistent that I do the same. These are the kids I'm going to be teaching, that I'd never met yet!
The other members of staff were perhaps even more insistent about the dancing, so by the end of the night I had suitably tarnished the good name of Irish dancing forevermore. Invitations to organise a ceili in the future were fielded with a mixture of enthusiasm and genuine fear. Will keep you posted on that one!
Kiran arrived in from Dehli towards the tail end of the evening, and it was great to finally meet the person behind the much vaunted TED talk. First impressions? The moment she walked into the school, the atmosphere changed in a way that I found hard to define. Everything just became more. It was as if the school is the way it is to such a large degree as a result of Kiran's influence on it, that it becomes more like you expect it to be simply by her presence. From the moment you meet her, you can't help but feel you've really got to do something special to impress her. Which sounds really childish when you say it like that, but I instantly got the sense that she demands a lot from everything and everyone in life. Which is fine by me in general, it just makes me all the more anxious to find my feet as soon as I can.
After getting up this morning I was looking through an appreciation booklet the students made out for the teachers on Teachers Day a week or two back - a profile and picture of all 60 of the 'faculty members' is inside, highlighting what they appreciate about each of the teachers. Which is pretty great in itself, but it was the front and the back covers of the book that really caught my eye:
...and the back.
- You enrich our lives with nurture and care
- You celebrate our creativity and innovations
- You let us be part of your path breaking journey at Riverside
- You let us feel, imagine, do and Share
- You teach us to be passionate about what we do
- You say that you learn from us also
- You help us strive for Excellence
- You show us that journey, the process is more important than the final outcome
- You do not accept mediocrity
- You are our window to the wonderful world outside
- You let us explore
- You let us be us
- You are You
Reading all of this makes me both incredibly excited and also a little petrified. Excited to be joining a team of teachers who are thought of in such regard, but more importantly at the prospect of teaching such bright, thoughtful and talented young students. But the levels of expectation that are latent within all of this is what absolutely scares the bejaysus out of me. Do these guys realize I've never really taught at anywhere near this level before? Do they realise that I spent the last two weeks legging it around Dublin looking for anyone who'd give me a visa, and thus have no preparation done whatsoever? That I don't even have any sun cream with me?
A challenging first couple of weeks lie ahead, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Bring it on!
P.S. The picture above on the blog description is the view from my apartment window, by the way. No Dublin mountains, but we'll take it.