Filling my lungs

“Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe
And to love you”

Written by Albert Hammond and  Mike Hazlewood,  and performed by The Hollies


Taste that good, clean Northamptonshire country air!

Taste that good, clean Northamptonshire country air!


A few days away from this blog has been necessitated by events. Arriving home from India at the weekend, exhausted and afflicted with the all too familiar “Bangalore Bark,” (a persistent cough that seems to have the sole function of extracating two weeks of city gunge from my suffering respiratory system!), my priority was to catch up with my family, and seek some domestic tranquility. The greatest challenge of working away from home for extended periods is certainly being away from loved ones – skype is good, but it has its limitations.

Living in a location surrounded by fields and trees, one of the first things I inevitably notice and appreciate when returning home from working in traffic choked polluted cities, is the good clean air. It arrives in my lungs as a welcome tonic and has an immediate rejuvenating effect. If I could bottle the good clean Northamptonshire country air, and carry it with me on my travels, it would be well worth the cost of excess baggage.The relative quiet of the countryside, disturbed only by birdsong and the wind in the trees is certainly a boon, but it is the rich quality of the air that I appreciate most. Ten minutes of deep breathing in the garden can result in a most pleasant intoxication.

Back on familiar territory, I have the opportunity to reflect on the hospitality and friendship of colleagues and students with whom I have had the privilege to work over the past few weeks in Bangalore. Whilst their lives and experiences differ greatly from my own, we have engaged in a common purpose, and share in the same ambitions of creating improved learning opportunities for children and teachers. As has been the case on all my previous visits, I have returned home with new learning and continue to make slow progress towards understanding the complex challenges that my Indian friends face in their day to day teaching lives. Their persistence and determination to do well for their students, fills me with admiration.

I look forward to returning to Bangalore to work with these respected colleagues in September, and to sharing again in this educational journey. I wonder how much easier their work might be if they could breathe some of this lovely Northamptonshire air? I’ll take a can or two with me on my next trip!

Tempestuous teaching!

This may be exaggerating Johnson's teaching experience yesterday (with apologies to the actor Greg Hicks) but at times he certainly having to fight the elements.

This may be exaggerating Johnson’s teaching experience yesterday (with apologies to the actor Greg Hicks) but at times he was certainly having to fight the elements.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

                        (Shakespeare – King  Lear)

I had the better part of the day for teaching here in Bangalore yesterday. Spending the morning engaged in lively debate over various models of interpreting behaviour with an enthusiastic and reflective group of students. Biological, psychological and social models were discussed, with the various merits of each interpretation being related to children known to the group. Arguments about the applicability of teaching approaches were high on the agenda, and a profound discussion of attachment led to some high level critical thinking. Our students participated willingly in all of the activities we had prepared, questioned their own beliefs and those of others and postulated theories and ideas in relation to their various classroom situations. This was quite literally the calm before the storm.

After another delectable lunch, Johnson took the reins and began the afternoon session by showing a video-recording of a classroom in Kerala, in a Malayalam media school. His session was well prepared with a series of questions and tasks and he had been looking forward to a vibrant lesson. He could not possibly have anticipated exactly how exciting it would become. No sooner had he begun this process than the heavens opened and rains lashed against the windows of the classroom. I should perhaps explain that we teach on the fourth floor of a building with windows on all four sides of the room. It can be noisy on a quiet day – but this was not a quiet day!

Heavy rain is not unusual in Bangalore, but what then followed was unprecedented in our experience of teaching here. Within minutes sizeable hail stones were cracking against the glass, the wind had picked up to gale force, and the eucalyptus trees behind the screen being used by Johnson, were threatening to smash their way through the windows. Johnson continued manfully, with the determination of Captain Oates going forth into the teeth of the blizzard, he raised the volume of both the video and his voice in a determined effort not to be defeated. In response to Johnson’s strategy the tempest grew fiercer building into a crescendo of rage as if to spite his every effort.

As Johnson continued, we noticed water seeping through windows, and before long two willing ladies appeared up the stairs with cloths, mops and buckets and with great gusto began to address the deluge that was fast building around Johnson’s feet. As a small lake developed in the classroom, Johnson waded forth, set on his mission and not to be distracted. I must confess to seeing an element of the old silent movie comedies in the session as with the determination that befits a seasoned professional Johnson ploughed on with increased resolve.

Fortunately the video had been concluded when the power cut arrived, and as I would have expected, ignoring this adversity Johnson fought his way stoically to his conclusion. Bravo man, what a sterling effort! The students I am sure were as full of admiration for this intrepid performance as myself. Furthermore they maintained their high level of performance and continued to complete the tasks set with gusto.

One of the saddest features of yesterday’s furious storm was the number of mature trees we encountered felled across the roads of the city in the evening. Today’s Hindu newspaper reports that more than 90 trees came down. Travel became an arduous process, and what should have taken fifteen minutes involved a journey of more than an hour. I would like to think that these wonderful giants of the city would be replaced with new planting, but I suspect that this may not be the case, as too many motorists, – these are now the dominant species in Bangalore, – see trees as taking the valuable space that could be given over to tarmac and new potholes.

We are hoping for quieter weather today as students begin to consider the assessed elements of the module. However, just in case things deteriorate further we will be armed with buckets and sponges and plenty more of Johnson’s fortitude!