Saturday, 13th June 2015
Miss Duong and Mr Slade will be flying off to Puducherry in India to spend a week with our link school. Do keep an eye on this page for their blog.
Sunday 14th June, 2015
After a long and arduous journey across 3 different continents and over 15 hours travelling; we finally arrived in the bustling city of Chennai. We were welcomed warmly by Sulaiman (a teacher from our link school) and taken on a further 3 hours journey to our final destination in Puducherry. As we were feeling peckish, we stopped at a restaurant to try some local cuisine. The spicy chutneys were delicious and gave us an insight into our diet for the coming week.
Feeling tired and jet-lagged we arrived at our hotel, the Puducherry Executive Inn. We took some time to explore the surroundings, where we discovered a local beach facing the Bay of Bengal. Later in the afternoon, we met up with Sulaiman, Farokh and the Principal Geeta for some sight-seeing. We visited the local Hindu temple and experienced ceremonies celebrating Ganesh, the God of success. We were fortunate enough to be blessed by an elephant called Lakshmi.
To finish off our day, we enjoyed some delicious Indian sweets and weaved around the busy street markets; taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Tomorrow we will be visiting one of the many school sites of Achariya Siksha Mandir Schools. We can't wait to share the rest of our experiences with you. Keep checking regularly for updates!
Monday 15th June, 2015- First day at school!
What an exciting day! We arose bright and early in preparation for our first day at our partner school. Like Hollywood (or Bollywood!) celebrities, we entered the school grounds to a parade of children eagerly awaiting our arrival. We then received a customary Indian welcome, with a blessing and offering to the Gods for a prosperous, friendly and continued relationship.
Moments later, we were whisked to the stage to watch the Monday assembly and whole school prayer. We were gifted traditional neck-ware and some beautiful shawls before watching some South Indian dance and recitals; including the National Anthem.
Since the last visit to India, Marshgate has begun to celebrate birthdays as they do at Achariya Siksha Mandir. The children are invited to wear their own clothes to celebrate with their friends, along with a whole school song of ‘Happy Birthday’.
It was a pleasure to watch and take part in yoga (where we discovered that we need to work our balance!); listen to the school choir and keyboard performance; watch a range of Indian dances and learn about the history of Puducherry. We then had ‘student interaction time’ with a question and answer session with students from standard VI to VIII. The children prepared questions for us to answer about Marshgate and the UK. Amongst many challenging questions, the toughest were: “Who is the modern day Shakespeare?” and “What is the fastest mobile network?” How would you answer these? 5S and 3D we’ll be expecting your answers when we come back!
In the evening, our host Sulaiman kindly welcomed us into his home to meet his family and to enjoy the home cuisine. So far, our favourite food has been aloo paratha, a type of seasoned bread stuffed with potato and herbs.
We hope you all had a great Monday back at school. More adventures from us tomorrow!
Tuesday 16th June, 2015- A Tamil-tastic day!
வணக்கம் or vanakkam! This is hello in Tamil, the local dialect of Puducherry.
Today we experienced true school life at Achariya Siksha Mandir. This is the beginning of the new academic year for the students. We were very impressed with the Mont I children (or reception classes), who were very calm considering it was their second week at school. We watched a range of activities, including balancing, sorting and many more.
Next on our schedule was a visit to a Standard II (or Year 1) where they were matching words for different professions with objects related to them. We were particularly interested in their ‘class teach’ which is very similar to our paired talk at Marshgate. The class reward for excellent contributions is a ‘Wooo!’ with everyone pointing at the star pupil. That child then jumped for joy at their fantastic learning, shouting out ‘Oh yeah!’ and punching the air. This is typical of the positive attitude to learning the children share. We spent the rest of the morning meeting the nursery children and exploring their outdoor space.
After a delicious school dinner, we observed Silamabam (a traditional Tamil Martial Art) and then had the opportunity to be tutored by the mentor in the blazing hot early afternoon sun. The next extra-curricular activity we toured was Mallkahumb, this was a mixture of gymnastics and climbing skills. Children as young as five, balanced on top of a large wooden pole, showing great core strength, flexibility and balance. We then watched a skills project lesson, based on interactive and hands-on Maths. Crazy Professor was our next demonstration; this was very similar to our Guided Reading but even crazier! The children take it in turns to read silently, then out loud with expression and actions. We transformed into students for the final activity of the afternoon, learning the basics of Tamil.
நன்றி or nandri (thank you) for reading! More tomorrow on the adventures of Mr Slade and Miss Duong!
Wednesday 17th June, 2015- The weather has followed us!
Happy evening to the Marshgate community! This morning, we were stunned to find cloudy skies and mild temperatures! It is currently monsoon season, which has made the weather today significantly cooler. We could almost be back in Britain (as our Indian friends have commented).
Sabi, our host for the day, took us to some other Achriya campuses- Achariya Bala Siksha Mandir (or ABSM) and the Aklavya school. At the Aklavya school, which is an international school, we had an in-depth discussion with the teaching staff about the schooling system in India compared to Marshgate. They were very interested about our handwriting style and our phonics development. We then planted a sapling in the school grounds to leave a legacy of our visit this year. Mr. Slade and Miss Duong loved their doppelganger identities, taking on the guise of Freddie Flintoff and Angelina Jolie! Maybe we should stay in India and become impersonators!
Following this, we moved to the ABSM campus to watch a spectacular yoga performance alongside the principals of the high school and primary. We found it interesting to see that the school campus and buildings were still in construction; prepared to be extended if necessary.
After meeting some Standard II children (or year 1), we were provided with a mouth-watering, traditional school dinner. The meal consisted of, chapatti with dal, then rice with sambal (a thin spiced curry); side dishes of aloo (potato) and poppadums. Yum!
In the afternoon, we interacted with Standard VIII children (Year 7) who asked us questions about our visit; our opinion on India and the school, as well as London life and our school. Luckily, as we headed to another classroom, we came across a western dance session and a South Indian dance lesson. Bravely, we took to the dance floor to show our rhythmic skills (see photo below)!
Mr. Slade was intrigued to see a PE lesson in action, where they focused on physical fitness. The children lined up and performed actions similar to a drill. Then they took part in a mini assault course. It was interesting to know that KS1 children and lower KS2 children learn through play, by using the school playground.
We finished off our day searching for terracotta pots, of which the area is well known. Followed by a South Indian coffee. Much better than coffee at home!
Best wishes from India, from Sir Flintoff and Maam Jolie!
Thursday 18th June, 2015- The penultimate day
This morning, we arose bright and early to go on an excursion to Auroville; a place of peace and harmony. Today our host, Manu, took us there to explore the grounds and to take part in a meditation session within the Matri Mandir- a golden globe shaped building encasing a pure white inner chamber for meditation. Unfortunately, Mr. Slade was not feeling well this morning so we feared the worst for the white carpet! However, like a brave soldier, he fought his sickness and was able to sit in the peaceful chamber. It was calm and silent with the rumbling echoes of a man (possibly too calm) snoring like a bear.
To conclude our visit, on the journey back to the hotel, our host took us to see the beach where groups of teenagers and families were enjoying the warm haze covering the town. It was interesting to see that people were diving into the sea fully clothed, with shoes too!
With Mr. Slade out of action, Miss Duong stood ground representing Marshgate at the Achariya Schools' headquarters. We talked about our recent Outstanding Ofsted report and how our school works very hard as a community to get the best out of our Marshgate students. Well done everyone, they were so impressed!
Finally, as the ladies in the offices heard Miss Duong wanted to buy some Sari (traditional Indian dresses), they took the opportunity to dress her up like a doll. The shop shelves were rainbows draping over the walls. Everywhere was full of beautiful fabrics in different colours, patterns and materials.
Tomorrow, we will be venturing out to Chennai- a metropolitan city in South East India. In the evening, we will be getting ready to fly back to London at 4am on Saturday morning! For now, we look forward to our final adventure in India!
Friday 19th June, 2015- A fond farewell
Time has flown by so fast! Today we said our final goodbyes to our partner school. However, it was not a day of sadness but one of celebration, as the children were taking part in Red Day! Excitedly, we joined in with the festivities with the Mont I (nursery) children.
After a rehearsal for International Yoga Day (21st June), we explored the extended Achariya campuses at their college. Finally, we planted a sampling to commemorate our visit this year.
A race with time ensued to reach Chennai before the fascinating temples closed. We were privileged to experience the beauty of ‘The temple of the Gods’ (described as a World Heritage Site) and the various temples surrounding it.
The chaotic roads of Chennai quickly engulfed our search for last minute souvenirs. Mr. Slade was delighted to discover the mysterious world of Sari shopping! Miss Duong, now an expert, showed him the ropes in Porthys, a well known Sari store. We were then whisked away on our final journey to the airport ready for our 4am flight. We’re really looking forward to coming back and sharing our wonderful experiences with you all.
See you Monday!