My Routine as a Fulbright ETA

I’m approaching the three month mark and I haven’t really shared much of my experience with many people. I’ve been processing this change of environment before trying to convey it to others. I also get distracted by the things going on directly around me, like the chipmunks scaling flimsy branches outside my window or invitations to lunch, so these posts get delayed more and more! Since this is my one of my first posts, I just wanted to start with a basic summary of my routine.

As of now, my day begins at 9 A.M. I get ready for school and enjoy a breakfast headlined by masala chai. Staring out my window is a source of great tranquility because of the way the trees stir when a breeze strolls by. After a few deep breaths and catching up on the news, I’m off.

I take the metro to school and walk the rest of the way down a road packed with cars, motorcycles, buses, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, pedestrians, manually pulled carts, and many stray dogs. You can get your life together on this street. You have your ATMs and pharmacies (biomed and Ayurvedic), along with the XEROX shops and convenience stores, beauty parlors and tailors, hotels and fast food stops, and, the most coveted of all, sweet shops. Not gonna lie, I almost got hit by a car because I was distracted by one sweet shop that innocently flaunts its Bengali treats at an intersection.

Narmada High Schools is nestled between buildings that make their presence known to us as the day goes by. Most of them are residences and we frequently see people hanging up their clothes to dry or hear the sounds of conversations, cleaning, and the occasional crying baby. One time, there was a toddler carrying a naked baby across our classroom and my 5th grade class died laughing piling on top of each other to greet our companions.

Narmada and its neighbors

Apart from 5th grade, I am co-teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English literature, grammar, and activity classes. I am working with two teachers who will be teaching half the syllabus. This distribution of classes is quite different than in the United States and will involve a lot of planning. Nevertheless, I am excited to interact with a larger variety of classes all of which I will see for 40 minutes, three times a week.  My classes vary in size from 12-25 students on average, with my largest class at around 35 students. With these classroom sizes I am able to dedicate more time to each student and plan a larger range of activities. Two of the main challenges are adapting to the school’s protocol and integrating my own teaching methods into the curriculum. While the discipline of the students has been excellent from the start, I’ve realized that their critical thinking abilities and creativity certainly have room for improvement. (Stay tuned for more on this.)

This is where students gather every morning to recite a school pledge and say a prayer.

(Closer view of the mural art) This is where students gather every morning to recite a school pledge and say a prayer.

School days end at 4:40PM at which point I return home to relax, grade, and plan for the next day. On Mondays we attend a weekly teaching workshop sponsored by The Fulbright-Nehru Program and the United States – India Educational Foundation (USIEF). It’s been extremely helpful to have the American Center in Kolkata and the support of the USIEF because those first few weeks settling in would have been infinitely more stressful. Moving forward, I will attempt to integrate Bengali lessons into my week, as well as exercise, volunteering, and cultural activities. It’s a serious challenge given the frenzy that is everyday life, but time is slowly dwindling.

As of now, the personal challenges are different than the professional ones and I will need to unpack those in future posts. I have to give a shout out to the special people that are sharing this experience with me: my fellow Kolkata ETAs. Not only am I grateful and humbled to be chosen alongside them (because they’re so cool), but also free to be me.

If you, or anyone you know, are interested in applying to the Fulbright ETA program in our outside of India, please stay tuned for more updates and feel free to reach out! I would love to answer any questions and receive feedback!

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About Nathalie