Choo choo training. Not training training.
Well hello there! I'm Ronald (seemingly often spelled Ronlad, Roland or 'Christiano' over here) - one of the WAMers sent out to Mumbai. I'm placed in Garodia School, in an area called Ghatkhopar. I've just finished my second year BMus at the University of Edinburgh and as a first trip to India (or indeed this far east in general), it's taken some getting used to.
Trains are a funny business over here. Having arrived Saturday afternoon at the apartment, rested and washed, Sunday's escapade on Mumbai's train network was nothing short of extraordinary. Gone are the nice little queues and people waiting patiently for the train to grind to a halt, in comes the mad stampede, pushing and shoving, faces shoved in others' armpits, asking in broken English "Where from, country?", hanging off the sides of carriages and generally being pushed around in what is a complete ruckus.
In any case, trains aren't why I'm here. Teaching. Teaching? WHoa now, hold on… rings a bell…
Plonked into the first day at Garodia (I'm told it's Gar-OOOOH-dia, not the other mispronunciations I've had going on) - and being crammed like a sardine into the back of a bus for 45 minutes so as to get there - it was quite a little shock to the system. Class teaching back home is, by comparison, like teaching the quietest souls in the world. These guys, on the other hand, were wild: savages. Cute - but savages nonetheless. Striking any sort of bargain, be it 'how long can you be quiet?' etc., was completely pointless.
Ryan and Aaron, the WAMers from last year, had put together a musical curriculum which the school was following with the intention of putting a formal, structured course tailored to the needs of (savage) kids in grades 1 to 4. Blaise, the permanent music teacher at the school, enthusiastically demonstrated how the curriculum was used in class, to great effect. His rapport with the students was at once wholly noticeable and his love for teaching demonstrable by the way he managed to coax every student into singing, clapping and cheering; learning, while having fun. It's up to me now to get a grasp of how to use this as best as possible in class and see how this could be expanded - beginning with the Grades 5 and above, who are a little on the older side to be taught from square one, by way of Kodály-esque 'nursery rhymes' (for want of a better way of explaining what they are) - can't imagine that'd be the most popular idea.
The set-up at Garodia is a little unconventional, in that the school is also involved in operating an after-school 'music school', running from approximately 15:30 to 19:00 every day (oh and that's another thing I've noticed - times here all use 24h format, but are written in 12h… very annoying). The music school is in fact split between two locations: one at the main building (here, on the map) and one over at Bandra (here). It's a little ride on the train and a couple of rickshaws away (don't even get me started on rickshaw drivers). Being involved though in both the class teaching and the after-school one-to-one sessions is something I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to do - as I certainly enjoy both.
From what I am able to discern, there's a great interest in music among some of the younger students at Garodia school. I do notice, however, a different temperament (boom, boom) among the music school students… I understand that extra-curricular activities such as music are pursued solely with the intention of putting it on school applications and so - inevitably - it brings a wholly different attitude to music and, more specifically, learning an instrument. In any case, I hope my initial impressions are misguided - but it's something I'll be keeping a close eye on.