Bangalore is never quiet. Traffic creates a steady din throughout the day and late into the night. I fall asleep each night to a discordant symphony of bleating horns and awake in the morning to a very similar grating tune. And these, all accompanied by a masala of barking dogs, screeching squirrels and men shouting from the streets form a typical backcloth to the starting day in Jayanagar. This morning was further marked by the call of the muezzin from the minaret of the mosque across the way. Real voice or recording I wonder? Who will respond to this early call to prayer? I glance at my watch 5.35am. The choice to roll over and return to sleep has gone, might as well get up, shower and start the day.
The early Saturday mornings of the modules we teach here are times for quiet reflection, seated on a balcony overlooking trees and beyond these the ever increasing high rise buildings that mark the Bangalore skyline. I always enjoy the wheeling acrobatics of the kites, an ever present feature of the skies here as they tumble and glide in an airborne ballet on eye level with my vantage point. The temperature in the early mornings so pleasant for an English visitor, is described as cold by Indian friends who wrap shawls around their shoulders until the sun rises higher in the sky.
In some ways the day feels disjointed. We have so many little tasks to complete, feedback on recently marked assignments, tutorial support to ensure that students are ready for the next, reminders of the essential procedures of referencing and, of course, the inevitable module evaluation sheets. By far the most interesting part of the day is the time devoted to student presentations of their projected assignments for this module. Their task is to develop an intervention or procedure for use in their school, to apply this and evaluate how it goes over the next few months. This action research, focused upon their own teaching situation encourages them to apply the learning we have shared together throughout the week and to evaluate its application in the real world.
The planned actions are wide ranging and provide insights into the challenges that our students face in school. The encouragement of handwriting skills in a child with poor motor co-ordination; understanding the implications of inappropriate sexual behaviour in pubescent boys with learning difficulties; evaluating teaching attitudes and expectations in respect of inclusion; helping teachers move beyond teaching concrete operations in mathematics and towards more abstract learning. The diversity of topics represents some of the issues that are prevalent not only in schools here in India, but throughout the world. The opportunities that our students have to investigate an issue and develop approaches that can have a real impact in their schools is one of the most exciting aspects of this course.
Parting at the end of these intensive blocks of teaching is an emotional experience. Students and tutors alike have been united in an inclusive venture towards increased learning and understanding. There has been a definite frisson about many of the sessions this week as we have travelled together on a mission to explore inclusive teaching. Now will follow a period of individual tutorial support both here in India and at a distance, as each course participant is supported and challenged towards completing their assessed work. In April we will reconvene, not so much as students and tutors, but rather as fellow explorers trying to discover how together we can make our schools a welcome haven for all learners and their families.
A few more tasks need to be completed here before in a few days we will leave India. Parting is always tinged with sadness at saying goodbye to so many friends. But I will be happy to be reunited with my family who I always miss so badly during these times away and look forward to settling back into my home routines. But I also anticipate with joy returning here to strengthen old friendships and make new ones, to explore the promotion of inclusive schooling with teachers and students and to renew my efforts to understand this country, its culture, its peoples and its many contradictions.
It is 6.25 pm and the muezzin is renewing his call, thus the cycle of life goes on.