1/20/15

A Day in the Life of a Nepal Summer Volunteer


I start off my morning waking up begrudgingly as I never seem to get enough sleep, however the Nepalese appear to need far less sleep than Americans do.  I wear ear plugs to keep out the sounds of the mosquitoes buzzing around my mosquito net and the ruthless barking and whining of a rather large German Shepherd, who looks at me like I could be his next meal.  His name is Laika.  

After waking up, I collect my towel, wash rag, change of clothes for the day and sleepily walk to the bathroom, which is upstairs and I take a cold shower that, in hindsight, actually gives me no choice but to wake up, which is fine with me.  I've adapted quite well.  There is no separate shower chamber, so you must squeegee the excess water to the drain against the wall.  Then I head back downstairs and start to get ready, already sweating by this time.  I make no attempt to dry my hair; kind of pointless in this humidity.  Shortly before I leave for school, I am called to eat my dhal bhat, around 8:30 in the morning.  It's difficult for me to start my mornings off with rice and lentils, quite a large platter, including eggs, a side of vegetables, and water and chia (tea).  Completely stuffed, I check my bag and off I walk to school, which takes me five minutes 

When I arrive at the school, I'm told numerous times that my class doesn't start for another 20 minutes.  What's confusing to them is that no one preps for a class.  They simply show up and work out of the lesson plan book.  So the fact that I sit alone, most of the time, in the teachers' prep room must be odd to them.  But as time marches forward, many who have made no previous attempt to acknowledge my presence begin to peek their heads in to say hello. They'll wave from their classrooms as I leave the campus, and are starting to speak as much English, as they are capable, with me.  

My host teacher is a bit of a different character and sometimes I get the feeling that he is using me as his stepping stool for recognition by the government as being an exemplar teacher, so I am learning on the fly how to work alongside someone who often doesn't let me finish my sentences, demands that I create his lesson plans, and sends mixed messages on times, expectations, etc.  We have our first WorldTeach meeting in the city today to discuss our experiences, struggles, and successes.

So, Sunday through Thursday, I start off my morning at 9:35 to work with level 12 learners who are there upon a voluntary basis.  It's a program after their classes are finished to sharpen their English skills in speaking, writing, listening, and reading.  Their mandatory classes begin around 6 am and will run until ~9:30.  This includes the 2-year bachelor's students.  Then the younger students begin their day at 10 am and will go until 4 pm.  So my level 12 class ranges in size from 18-35.  They are a really nice group of students and seem to really have a deep appreciation of my being there.  Already after 4 days, they are becoming more and more comfortable in trying to speak English.  They've learned English as a compulsory subject since the grade 1, and as 12th graders, they were never given an opportunity to present in English.  They can read passages but have no idea what the passage means.  They can listen intently, but don't or can't always process what is being said.  Part of this issue stems from many teachers who are ill-equipped or insecure about teaching a language that is foreign to them, so most of the English classes are taught in Nepali.  

After my level 12 class, I have about an hour to plan at the school until I teach my level 3 students, followed immediately by my level 4 students.  I've never taught the elementary classes, so this was a foreign concept and having no prior experience, I struggle to come up with engaging activities, games, and other learning components.  So, I've purchased a pack of copy paper and have used colored pencils, crayons, pens, and pencils to create flash cards, homework assignments, maps, and yes, it is very tedious, but not only am I trying to engage my students to learn English effectively, but I'm also modeling different teaching strategies to my Nepali co-teachers who work really hard and actually embrace the concept of co-teaching.  Sometimes they help translate, they'll even write down my lessons, ask to use some of my tools I've created, and see a different way of presenting material. They are extremely friendly, and shy, and most speak broken English, but I imagine they're learning a lot just from me speaking English the entire time in the classroom.  

The students are absolutely wonderful and charming.  They work really hard and they work to impress!  They are very respectful of teachers and all adults, and so behavior management is not really an issue.  Sometimes, when I think a prepared lesson is going to be a hit, it absolutely fails, and so through constant self-assessment, I spend at least another 5-6 hours in the evening sharpening my next day's plan.  

Between my level 4 class and my level 2, I walk back home to have some chiso (cold drink), and a snack.  Then I head back to the school for my 2:40-3:20 class.  I've sung a few songs and they love it and the songs tie into my lessons, which is great!  They are such fun children, but a major disconnect is that there are age ranges among the students.  There are clearly some students who should be bumped up to the next grade level and some that should be dropped a level just so that they have a fighting chance at learning.  There is also a handful of students who have just moved in from remote villages, so while they practice writing their alphabet in English, most of the other students are working on the presented material.  There is a major disconnect, but at the very least, we can share a smile.
-Holly, WorldTeach Nepal Summer 2014

WorldTeach is now accepting applications for 2015 summer programs. If you are interested in learning more about WorldTeach, check out our website at www.worldteach.org. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us at info@worldteach.org or give us a call at 857.259.6646!

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