About a week ago (depending on when I actually get around to posting this update online) I finished my final day of teaching until mid-April! The students are having their exams this week, and then have a one month break. I have lots of fun activities lined up for the break, but I will get to that later.
Teaching was, for lack of a better metaphor, really a roller coaster ride! The experience as a whole was full of ups and downs, but in hindsight I wouldn't change a thing. I also think that looking back on the past 6 weeks or so of teaching, I really enjoyed it far more than I realized at the time. It was easy to get caught up in the stress of having good lesson plans and activities. Yet in reality, working with the kids, regardless of how well things turned out, was a lot of fun.
First, the hard part and the lows. You know how I mentioned there being extremes inNepal? Well, the education system is no exception. We (Kitty and I) taught at one of the best, if not the best, schools in the entire country on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then we taught at a government school (unfortunately the 17 syllable name has somehow escaped me) Tuesday and Thursday which is at the bottom of the spectrum, in terms of resources and academics. Each of these schools presented their respective challenges. In the first school the the class size was enormous (30+ students each), small classrooms, the kids were generally unruly (slightly over privileged if you will) and it is tough to teach a subject the students already seemed to have mastered. The government school in contrast comprises less than 30 students total, the students speak no English, meaning they rarely understand us (in fact, the teachers' English is so limited they don't even really understand us) and there are absolutely no resources. Also the government school is frightfully disorganized so one day we would teach class 5 and the next they had combined class 1,2,3,4 and 5 for our lesson. What factor distinguishes between grades is beyond me.
Naturally, lesson planning for two vastly different scenarios was very difficult. It was nice to have the variety, but it was hard. The worst feeling was when I would spend a whole night planning a lesson that would just fall apart completely in execution. Go all wrong.
But that brings us to the best parts of teaching - when things go all right. The feeling of satisfaction you get when the lesson is great is just incomparable. The best things are when the lesson is what or better than you expected, accomplished what you originally intended and more than anything that the kids enjoyed it or responded well.
One of the most memorable teaching experiences for me was our first government school lesson. We decided to do a class about food and dining starting with basic vocabulary. Once we went over all the names of the foods and dining ware, we taught basic phrases such as "I like_____, I do not like_____" and "I have_____". To aid the lesson, I spent hours the night before drawing and cutting out pictures of all the vocabulary words as props. We tacked them on the board next to their corresponding names and for the lesson on "I have___", for example, we let them take the pictures to their seats.
The students responded so well to the lesson, loving the props and the chance to have a more interactive lesson. That day we were only teaching classes 4 and 5. What stuck with me was when I could hear our lesson being mimicked in next classroom. I could hear, in a quiet moment, students going "I like apple" "I like carrot". When I peaked in, I saw the teacher for that class had tried to emulate my drawings and do the lessons with her own students. I was so proud and flattered. I really felt like I had made a contribution to the school that day which, even if somewhat misplaces, was an awesome feeling.
Some of the my other favorite activities from the past few weeks have stuck with me as well. One of the best was being able to set up a pen pal correspondence between my class 5 and two grad 5 teachers inStamford. (Big thanks to Ms. Park and Mrs. Woodside!!) In class 6A we started a class newspaper that featured all different sections from sports to arts. My favorite lesson in class 3 was sharing a New York Citypicture book, then completing a Venn Diagram comparingNepalandNew York. And the monster project in class 4 went over well. The students had to draw a monster, describe it in detail, the swap papers and try to draw their classmates' monsters based on the description alone. It was tough, but they did well with it!
My daily routine at the posher school was mainly centered around food. I had 3 classes a day, but what I really thought about was how those classes were arranged in respect to the various feeding times. Basically, Kitty and I would have a small breakfast before school (usually a granola bar) at about 7:30. Then we were fed Dal Bhat at 10:30, a meal sized snack at 2:30 and then a dinner of more Dal Bhat at 5:45. The food was amazing though! There was always a variety between what was served as side dishes to the rice and lentils (which translates literally as Dal Bhat). Sometimes vegetables, eggs, paneer, papad - I am salivating just thinking of it! The kindest man served our food everyday and seeing him was a daily highlight. He constantly tried to improve our Nepali (as he speaks limited Enlgish) but was met with little success. His efforts were appreciated though!
Every Thursday in addition to the meal we were given prawn crackers. Prawn crackers happen to be one of the most delicious things available and complement Dal Bhat in a heavenly way. Prawn crackers became synonymous with happiness. It meant the end of a good week and that soon we would be with the rest of the group seeing or doing amazing things. Sometimes, it is the little things. Long live Prawn Cracker Day!
So that is 6 weeks of teaching in a nutshell. I really had a fantastic experience and look forward to going back to Dhulikhel in April to continue teaching. I say that, but if for nothing else - for the prawn crackers!