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Tamil Nadu: Day One

Theo: So we went off on our travels to the exotic Tamil Nadu yesterday morning and what a crazy 24 hours it has been…. Isn’t that right Frederick?

Freddie: Oh come on Theodor, you went through it too

Theo: Aha I suppose we did – to be honest it feels like donkeys ago now. Where do we start…

On Sunday 23 June 2018, all 27 of the Tamil Nadu team met at Mill Hill School at 4:30am with suitcases flying open and final checks occurring, ready for the amazing adventure India would take us on. As soon as the coach arrived, we headed straight to Heathrow Airport ready to embrace the long, tedious journey we were about to undertake. On the coach spirits were high but this quickly changed upon our arrival at the airport. When Theo and I went to check in we were refused our tickets because there was a mix up with the booking, we were named Freddie and Theo, our nicknames, rather than Frederick and Theodor which are our real names. With the drama slightly ensuing and the tension increasing, all was eventually saved by Mrs Sanchez who had to pay a substantial amount of money to merely change our names on the booking.

The flight went smoothly and after a seamless transfer in Abu Dhabi, we set off on our second flight to Trivandrum. We arrived bright and early at 3:30am with everyone feeling very confused as to what day it was. We were then welcomed by three minibus drivers and the chaos of the Indian roads which we found very exciting. The journey felt extremely long and ended up taking around 5 hours, something which we didn’t particularly want to face after a 14 hour journey from Heathrow; nevertheless, everyone got a much needed snooze. We eventually arrived at the Sri Jayendra School and received the most welcoming entrance any of us could have imagined from the students, Deputy Head and the Head Teacher.

On our arrival we were crowded by Sri Jayendra students who gave us hugs and presented us with welcome cards. My card was genuinely the sweetest card I had ever received, with my picture on the front and a heart warming welcome message inside; definitely a card I will treasure for years.

Following Tamil tradition we left our shoes outside the hostel before entering and went to explore our rooms. The boys instantaneously started snoozing as soon as they hit the mattress, though we had not worked at all, we could barely lift an eyelid. Shortly after, lunch came along and we got to experience our first fresh exotic curry which definitely woke us all up! We were ready to start preparing to teach Sri Jayendra students.

After lunch we met with Paul Bickerdike, a former tutor of Mill Hill School who supports Sri Jayendra whilst living in India, who along with our Fritzy, gave us a brilliant tour of the grounds which were more colourful than we could have imagined. As we walked past the classrooms, children burst out in cheers and high fives as if we were One Direction at a concert. The Head Teacher of Sri Jayendra, Usha, let us into her office where trophies covered the walls; the pride in her face was also extraordinary, the school might be 3,000 strong but a cohesive and cared for 3,000 at that.

During a quick recky and exploration of the grounds we all searched for spaces that we could teach our lessons in. I was lucky enough to grab the favourite spot, the ‘look out” (a gazebo in the middle of their quad). It is in there that I’ll be teaching my lessons over the next few days; time to start preparing!

At the end of the night we gathered as a group to reflect on the manic day we just had. With some laughs, an intense game of Uno with the locals and a motivational speech from Mrs Sanchez, we pulled out our lesson plans to ensure we were ready for all the challenges which might arise the next day. Long serving teachers offered us the following advice: be considerate of the ability and age of the class and cater your pace to them; stick to the objectives at the beginning of the lessons, if we go stray so will they; and learn from them whilst they learn from you.

We are immensely anxious yet excited for tomorrow and can not wait for our first lesson in Tamil Nadu!

By Frederick and Theodor