India: English teacher Kyle Vaughn


Photo provided by Kyle Vaughn

People often talk about the ‘culture shock’ of traveling to a foreign country. The hustle and bustle of India, with a population over a billion, should warrant the same feeling from even the most acclimated Americans. But for Upper School English teacher Kyle Vaughn, the ‘culture shock’ occurred upon his return to the United States.

Vaughn traveled to Kolkata, India for five weeks this summer to teach English at an all-boys school called St. James. The American Councils for International Education, a non-profit organization funded by the U.S. State Department, sponsored the trip. Ten teachers were accepted to attend after a rigorous application process, which included submission of original written work and lesson plans.

The trip made Vaughn’s perspective as a teacher as broad as the whole world, he said. Though no stranger to the ‘Hocka-bubble’ effect, “getting outside made [him] realize how much [he] can be a part of that bubble too.”

He said that the school where he taught, St. James, could not have been more different from Hockaday. The all-boys school enlightened Vaughn to some of the universal traits of boys: a love for video games, a constant restlessness and a penchant for fighting.

For five weeks, he taught English to a class of 50 boys. Since children in India only attend school for half of the day, Vaughn used his free time to volunteer at other organizations, including New Light, a non-profit community development project and charitable trust. The organization, located in one of the oldest red light districts in Kolkata, provides shelter, education, recreation, healthcare and legal aid to children, girls and women.

The kids at New Light, many the children of prostitutes and outcasts, were “so loving and excited,” Vaughn said, “The second or third time we came back there, they all ran up to us and were jumping all over us.”

Photo provided by Kyle Vaughn

He and Breanna Reynolds, an IB language and literature teacher at the THINK Global School, an IB-authorized traveling high school, also contributed to a special project for New Light. They took portraits of the kids and collected their art and writing assignments to make a book similar to the Hockaday literary magazine Vibrato. Printed with money from a grant given by the American Councils for International Education, the book will come out this fall.

Influenced by his experience at New Light, Vaughn brought his humanitarian spirit into his classroom. With the help of Director of Community Service Laura Day, he has incorporated a service learning project into his freshman English curriculum. They will work with Mosaic Family services, a Dallas-based organization that helps refugees and immigrants, especially survivors of domestic violence or human trafficking.

“I don’t want to be a teacher that ignores the anguish of so many,” Vaughn said, paraphrasing a quote of Sr. Cyril, a proponent of education reform in India.

Vaughn hopes that while the freshman read and write about world literature in class, “they see that even in Dallas the whole world is all around us, immigrant communities and refugee communities,” he said. “I hope that we can get out there and do some positive things.”

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