Recruitment Class Of Teachers From India Get Passing Grade

By M.R. KROPKO, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Schoolteachers Angela Augustus and Sunitha Narayanan are looking forward to a second year in the Cleveland school district, where their experiences this past school year were at times frightening, puzzling, rewarding and comical.

The two were among 53 teachers recruited from India into the district for the school year that just ended to fill needs in mathematics, science and special education.

"The Indian teachers on average did as well as or outperformed our traditionally new teachers," said Carol Hauser, the district's employee services and recruitment director.

Their performance was expected because the teachers had at least four years of experience, she said.

"Many of our new American teachers are straight out of college, so we're very pleased with the way things have gone," Hauser said.

Two teachers left during the school year for personal reasons. One will not return and will enter a college doctoral program.

Hauser said the 50 remaining passed evaluations and are being offered jobs next year. They have until July 10 to respond. Many have returned to India for the summer.

Hauser said there is no more recruitment from India planned, because the district recently received a U.S. Department of Education grant for recruitment and training of professionals in other fields to be teachers in mathematics and science. The district has partnered with Cleveland State University and Ashland University in that project.

Augustus, whose family is now with her, and Narayanan, whose family is still in India, are staying in Ohio for the summer to continue to adjust to American ways. Both are from the southern Indian port city of Chennei.

While Augustus, 45, focused on teaching physics and chemistry at John Hay High School, some of her students were focused on her long, braided hair.

"It was very hard, but also very challenging," Augustus said. "I was teaching the seniors and they were very well behaved, I can say."

One of her early observations was that American teachers do not automatically receive the regard from students accorded in a typical classroom in India.

"In the beginning here, I thought we were not shown the proper respect," she said. "As they came in, I would wish them good morning. But after a while, they were wishing me good morning!"

She said she and other teachers from India "made them realize they had to show respect to the teacher."

Narayanan, 29, discovered that her middle-school special education students were fond of correcting her spelling, not realizing that the English she learned in India was British-style.

They also were interested in her culture and what it's like to be Hindu.

"It was a really healthy experience. I learned a lot," Narayanan said. "The kids were really curious about why I was there, so they were asking me questions about India and my culture and traditions."

Building a relationship out of more than curiosity took a while.

"They wanted to know if I knew about baseball," she said. "If I didn't know something, I would tell them, 'I don't know it so let's work on it together.' That way it worked out fine."

There was also a certain degree of fear. The recruited teachers heard stories of violence in American schools.

"We were very much afraid in the beginning. But we are used to the children now," Augustus said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)