Commentary by Eesha Singh, Arya Goel, and Asini Jayarapu
As high schoolers with a Hindu American identity, we’ve gone through years of school and many interesting interactions with those curious about our culture, and we have made many observations. Throughout the years, it has been apparent that there’s been a steady increase in the Hindu population in Indiana, specifically in the Carmel and Fishers school districts. Considering this growth, we thought that it would be beneficial to familiarize our teachers and community members with our heritage and who we are.
In the past, we’ve involved our teachers by inviting them to an annual Hindu tradition-based teacher appreciation ceremony, Guru Vandana. We would often notice that our teachers’ typical reactions were laden with curiosity, surprise and appreciation. Considering the list of frequently asked questions collected over many such Guru Vandana events, we felt that the time had come to present to CCS teachers about our culture in a structured and informative workshop format. The intent behind this Dharma Awareness Workshop was to enrich teachers’ understanding of Hindu culture so that they could connect with their Hindu students at a more personal level.
In June, we presented our first Hindu Cultural Awareness Workshop to Carmel Clay Schools teachers and staff. We addressed misconceptions that many non-Hindus have, as well as the basic principles of Hindu Dharma. After receiving positive feedback from this workshop, we wanted to continue this effort.
To prepare for the Smoky Row workshop held this month, we began by attending the Dharma Ambassador Workshop conducted by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. This was an educational event that provided us with the resources to redirect this information. We then brainstormed the key details we wanted to resonate with the teachers. Most importantly, we wanted teachers to gain a better understanding of how to make their students comfortable in the classroom, so they can confidently connect with them in a personal way.
To be able to conduct our presentation most efficiently, we held a mock presentation and used the feedback to improve the quality and effectiveness of our delivery. Finally, to provide a visual representation, we set up a traveling poster exhibition on the Hindu Civilization called Darshana. The exhibition provided attendees with a clearer understanding of 24 topics related to Dharma, yoga, temples, symbols, Ayurveda, architecture, mathematics and arts through colorful illustrations and simple explanations.
Throughout the presentation, it was heartwarming to see teachers who had a genuine desire to learn about Hindu Dharma. Not only did they ask multiple questions about how to implement more inclusive practices in their classrooms, but they also deeply resonated with the relevance of the topics. The main reason for this was that we are all Hindu American students who attend CCS schools, so we were able to bring a more personal approach to this workshop. Mutual respect was recognized as teachers became better equipped to engage their Hindu students.
Eesha Singh, Arya Goel and Asini Jayarapu are students at Carmel Clay Schools.