Monday, November 17, 2014

Starting Again

Everyone enjoyed South Africa. We climbed beautiful rocky cliffs, swam in crystal blue waters, witnessed National Geographic type moments in nature and pushed ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. After my time in Mozambique I feel a deep connection to Southern Africa and it was good to return. I feel comfortable there – like part of me was coming home. But comfort was also a problem. Life in “White Plett” was not all that different from life in the states and it brought out some character traits that most students had hope to leave behind in high school. So as we approached the end of October everyone was ready to go.
But India is another world. The excitement of new sites and food mingled with the uneasiness of culture shock and the strains of a complex language barrier. Our group, recently divided by social cliques and dirty looks, was bonding over curry and roti, awkward public toilets and exhaustion. The long days of travel allowed for conversations with different members of the group and forced the students to reach out for support. India is the fresh start we were all looking for.
My "Mento" Group
Placed at the foot of the Himalayas, Palampur is vastly different from Plettenberg Bay and it lends itself quite easily to meditation and self-reflection. We are being pushed to reexamine our idea of education and look deeper at the relationship between student and teacher. Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” implores us to consider education as both a tool for liberation and for oppression. Are students treated like independent critical thinkers or as empty receptacles waiting to be filled with someone else’s knowledge? As teachers are we bringing new, relatable ideas to the table for discussion or are we simply telling students what is important so as to maintain the status quo?
These are big questions that few of us ask. But they are important questions that need to be considered. As a lifelong learner who fell into teaching, I am forming my own thoughts right alongside the students. Even as I fill the role of teacher, educator, facilitator, I am encouraged to also be a student. To expand my own world and grow in ways I didn’t know possible. This experience will change me as much as it will change the students. We are being pushed and pulled in so many directions but have a strong support system to turn to when we are stretched further than feels comfortable. Not many people can say they have both the huge growth opportunities and the built in security net to catch them. It’s quite unique actually and I am immensely grateful to be taking part in the experience. 

the view from my balcony in Palampur

Starting Again - Ryan Montbleau


  1. Love this update! Sounds absolutely amazing, Em. Miss you.

  2. Thanks for the update Em! And for giving me plenty to think about at 9am on a Monday. I wish I was there with you! Love you lots! Stay safe & warm!

  3. Your students and peers are lucky to have you.