After one forgotten passport and a hectic flight and journey to the flat, we arrived safely in Ghatkopar East. Our flat is basic but functional and cosy, with the surrounding areas greatly filled with restaurants and other oddities which we won’t attempt to describe. It’s safe to say that this area isn’t remotely touristy. The morning after we arrived we took a rickshaw (Mumbai’s most basic taxi) to the school and the journey there gave us our first real taste of chaotic Mumbai. There are rubbish heaps for domestic waste on most streets, cows roaming freely in the road, stray dogs everywhere, and slums under railway stations – the city is chaotic but exciting. People drive manically in Mumbai (compared to in England) and at first it’s terrifying though we are getting used to it now. The heat is intense but it is mostly humid with occasional torrents of rain lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to about an hour or more. However, some parts of Mumbai are very westernised, especially Mumbai’s largest shopping centre, the ‘R-City Mall’ which we visited today.
The school we are working at is the Garodia International Centre for Learning in Garodia Nagar, and it is a primary and secondary school consisting of three separate parts: P.G. Garodia, in which students work towards the Indian Secondary Certificate of Education (ICSE), Garodia International, in which students work towards the International Baccalaureate (IB) and other international qualifications, and the P.G. Garodia Conservatoire, where students are given instrumental lessons, and study music theory. For the first week, we were thrown into teaching music in classrooms to children from ages 7-8 (Grade 2) to ages 13-14 (Grade 8). We observed some music lessons being taught in the school before we took our own classes, and they consisted mostly of group singing and musical games with the younger children. We were keen to build on this foundation which seemed to be a time filling exercise more than anything else, and our first few lessons consisted of clapping and singing games with the younger children, and popular song structure using a Bob Dylan song with the older kids (we played Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t think twice it’s alright’ to death on that first day.) We have since started teaching children’s rhythmic syllables using Kodály’s method, which is well received by most kids, even very young ones! We also tried teaching rounds such as ‘London’s Burning’ to the kids, but they didn’t seem to grasp those as effectively. An interesting project we have agreed to help out with is the school’s annual musical, which for this year has the theme of ‘Under the Same Sky’. Our job will be to choose appropriate songs and rehearse them with the children in preparation for a show in November. The teachers insisted that there should be little dialogue but as much lively dancing and singing as possible.
We have also taught piano at the Garodia Conservatoire this week. Conservatoires are very different in England, since this Indian conservatoire consists of a single room shared with the International school, containing multiple electric keyboards, an electric piano, 2 drum kits, and some guitars. Instruments are taught in groups and in piano lessons, each child in a group of about 5 will come to the teacher for 10 minutes at a time at the piano and then practice on keyboards while the teacher sees the other pupils. To assist the piano teacher we helped students as they practiced on the keyboards helping them improve their musicality, piano technique, and practice technique, however, we are keen to improve the format of these lessons, as well as the resources the conservatoire uses including maintenance of instruments and teaching materials such as books. The children coming to the conservatoire are in fact very responsive to our teaching, which is very encouraging – if we can improve how these children are taught, then there is nothing stopping them getting better and better.
That’s all for now – we are off sight-seeing in Mumbai tomorrow!