Thursday, July 9, 2009

Q & A: Some Facts about what I was doing in India

1) Tell me about the Rising Star Outreach school...
There is a lot to say about The Rising Star Outreach School so I will only give a brief description and then if you would like more information you may visit the URL The Rising Star School is a school comprised of 150 students ages 5-16. These children come from various villages from Southern India who have either suffered from leprosy or have come from homes where their parents or family members suffer from leprosy. 130 of the kids live on campus year round and 20 of the kids live in the nearby village, Thottanaval. Although the parents are not at the school they come to visit These kids every month. The kids are taught both English and Tamil at the school and despite the fact that they have very little they all seem very happy.

2) How did you first come into contact with Shaun/Promethean Spark?
I heard about Promethean Spark through a good friend of mine, Julie Butler. Shaun and Julie both live in New York City and Julie is on the Promethean Spark board of directors. After helping raise money for Julie’s NGO, Rescue a Million, last Christmas by hosting a music and dance concert in Boston she told me about the amazing things Shaun had been doing with Promethean Spark. I was immediately interested in the work that he was doing and shot him an e-mail introducing myself. Several months after contacting him by e-mail I received a response that their was a need for a teacher over in India during the month of June. I was very excited about the opportunity and acted on it quickly.

3) What are you doing to continue the work of PS at the RSO school?
Shaun has come to RSO several times and has taught the kids basic dance movement. Although he has come several times and the kids remember him he has only been able to visit 1-2 times annually

While at the school I am teaching each grade twice a week. I have created a class based on movements that Shaun has developed. We start each class breathing together. Some of the kids think this is funny but it really helps to center everyone and brings the class together. After breathing together we then proceed to do some basic reaching exercise and then go into doing plie’s, tendus and stretching. Following the stretching, we will do pushups and sit-ups and then I will teach them some choreography. I have been working with them to try and get them to point their toes and have helped the older students with more advanced steps such as leaping and pirouettes.
Teaching in the Promethean Spark fashion is different from teaching in the states for several reasons.
The first and most important reason why this teaching methodology is different is because we are not simply teaching dance, we are teaching LIFE SKILLS through dance. As the kids are moving I am will be talking. I will ask them questions, and I will talk to them about using the energy we use in class in their own lives. I am constantly saying positive things to the kids and asking them rhetorical questions like:

“what are you studying today? Are you studying English, or Tamil (the state language)? What are you thinking about? Are you going to go far in life? If you work hard you can do anything you want in life, perhaps you can’t touch your toes now, but I promise if you continue reaching for your toes everyday soon you will be able to touch them. This is exactly how it is with figuring out how to do a difficult math problem or saying a particularly difficult English word, perhaps you can’t do it now but if you work on it everyday you will master it soon. You can do it, and I believe in each one of you.”

At the end of each class I have the students line up and shake my hand. They must all look my in the eye and tell me their names. If they don’t look me in the eye I will have them try again. This was something that Shaun started while in India and I have felt strongly about continuing the practice. At first it was a way to learn the students names but ultimately it helps give the students confidence.

Other differences include the lack of facilities, and proper clothing. I have never taught dance in a Mango grove before. We will stretch in the dirt and I need to be careful that fire ants don’t crawl up my leg while doing sit-ups in the hot sand. I show all of my movement reversed because we don’t have a mirror so I am the students mirror. Although we don’t have a mirror they copy everything I do. In the states kids will wear specific clothing for P.E. or dance, however, these children have two outfits, they have their red uniforms that they wear to school and then they have one pair of play clothes that they also sleep in.

While being here I have seen leaders step forward and I have watched the kids improve. The Promethean Spark ideology really does work, and the kids love to dance!

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