Learning to Teach: a Teachers’ Seminar

Hilda, executive director of the crèches, holds monthly seminars for all staff, including cooks and the sewing center ladies. They gather at the crèche and sit on mats in a circle. Like their students, staff are serious and respectful. They wear their good clothes and set out a bouquet of flowers.

Hilda sings a song to open and Daisy offers a prayer. Staff quietly passes paper and markers from the school supplies while Hilda reinforces the crèches’ culture of “love, care and education.” They review chants and movements to teach 1, 2, 3 and Hilda presents an engaging diagram for each number, while staff copies and practices.

Beulah, one of the cooks, stands up to sing and act out a song. Those who know it chime in and when she finishes, all clap. The children also clap when their peers present for the group, be it painting, reciting, dancing–they want to do well to earn the approval.

Hilda then assigns each of them to make a drawing. They use tempera, ink in small bottles, crayons and markers, they draw flowers, trees, peacocks, mountains, gardens, houses. They are quietly focused on their work. No one complains about lack of ideas, talent, or materials but there is some speculation about what it’s for.  Hilda delights them by stapling the pictures together, putting them on two rollers in a box with an opening on one side, and turning it into a charming moving picture “book.” They excitedly talk about how this can be used for the children.

Genova, a teacher, is meanwhile making tea, which she serves in tin cups on a tray. Hilda, laughing, reminds them that the next day is Diwali, a holiday, and to come back on Monday. The ladies circulate, shaking each hand and saying, “Happy Diwali, Ma” before taking leave of Hilda, with hands together and a little tilt of the head to show respect and affection. Staff walk home together in groups of two or three, looking forward to their Diwali celebrations.