Lori Woitalla

As I sit here contemplating the question of how my trip to India has influenced my teaching, I realize that traveling to this magnificent country has impacted my life both personally and professionally.

Before I started this program, I knew very little about the country of India other than where it was. While in India, our group was able to explore a multitude of experiences. We talked with a variety of classes of people, were able to see life in small villages as well as large cities, visited temples and churches, and observed the lives of both wealthy and poverty-stricken people. The ability to partake in such encounters was definitely a positive experience for me. I felt like this trip enabled me to look into the world of an Indian citizen for a brief period and to begin to understand what it must be like to live in this country full of extreme opposites.

As I continue to let my mind wander back in time, many wonderful memories appear. Repeatedly, I keep coming back to the people of India. Everybody we met was kind to us. In the temples, they let us explore their religion. People selling their goods were persistent but were always accepting of us whether we bought their merchandise or not. Educators shared their knowledge and pedagogy freely. Village people talked with us and let us take their photographs. Weavers invited us into their homes to see how and where they work. Doctors and nurses took good care of us when we were ill. Every person we met greeted us with a smile. The people of India made my experience most memorable. They taught me about life in ways never intended, but lessons learned will never be forgotten. I came home feeling very blessed to have met so many wonderful people in my time away.

A person could devote a lifetime to studying this country and culture and still have more to learn. However, the most significant piece of wisdom I have gained from this trip is the realization of how important it is to not judge other cultures by my own American ideals. This one piece of knowledge has influenced my teaching the most.

My third grade students were fascinated with every aspect of Indian society that we explored. They loved learning about the schools, family life, food, clothing, housing, music, and even practicing Yoga. We enjoyed comparing and contrasting the two cultures. Throughout the lessons, I made sure to emphasize that one belief or way of doing something was not superior to the other. They were just different. It is very astounding to children to learn that other cultures do not always agree with the way we choose to do things in America. It is my hope that my students will grow up to be adults who think and make decisions on a global level.

India changed me personally and professionally. I feel fortunate to have been part of such a dynamic group of teachers exploring a country that in so many ways is different from our own. I look forward to sharing this knowledge with students and adults for countless years to come.

Lori Woitalla
Lori teaches 2nd grade in River Falls, Wisconsin

Go to Lori’s lesson plans (Elementary+):

How Many Languages do you Speak?
What is a Democracy? 
What Makes House a House?
A Comparison of Two Great Leaders: Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr