10 May, 2010

English Classes…sigh…

Today was the long awaited first day of school after the Maoist strike ended on Friday night. Sunday is not a ‘weekend day’ here (only Saturday) and yesterday, Bhola informed me that I would be going to school with the kids the next day. I enjoy surprises and the thrill of the unknown, but decided that some things are better off identified. Over dinner, I asked him specifically what I would do there. He rattled off many things, but I really wanted to get more of an idea of how my day would go, so I asked him to basically describe my day there. Everything was fine until I heard “and you will have English classes.” I am not a teacher; I love kids so much more outside of the claustrophobic four walls of a classroom.

I was very honest with him that “I don’t enjoy teaching. I don’t have an education degree. I do not know what to do with the kids because there are no lesson plans in my head". He said, "You just have to talk to them". How do I explain that I don’t know what to say? That I look at a room full of ‘older’ kids and freeze up. Put me in a room of 2-4 year olds and I am content, but give me a room of teenagers and I am like a deer in the headlights. Maybe it’s because I have taken language classes and know how much I disliked being called upon to speak? Realizing that I was getting nowhere in my struggle to get out of it; I gave up and went to my room straight after dinner and laid in bed listening to comforting sound of little bat wings as they swooped again and again close to my window eating their fill of insects.

Per the instructions “you must leave with the children at 9:30!”, I got ready the next morning and assumed that we would leave at 9:30. Around 9:50 we (all the children, Chandra and I) walked off the property. I again wrongly assumed that “you will take the bus” meant the bus would pick us up at CPH. After walking for 15 minutes, picking up children along the way like the Pied Piper, we then sat down in a shaded area to wait for the bus, which arrived sometime after 10:15. Everyone crammed in (literally) and we were off to school.

I followed everyone into the school and Chandra motioned for me to follow her. (bhola had said that I would ‘mingle and talk” to the teachers in the morning, but I jumped at the chance to walk the opposite direction of the teacher’s lounge). We went up to the top floor of the school and there was a nice ‘living room’ with an adjoining bedroom and bath. This floor used to be used as the living area when students lived at the school (before Children’s Peace Home was created). I helped her clean the rooms all up since they had been vacant for a couple of months and then feeling safe there, I picked a book off of a shelf and started reading. Eventually, I figured I should venture down to the teachers area…

As soon as I walked in the Vice Principle said, “oh good, you are here, a teacher didn’t show up today, so you can take the class”. I looked kind of dumbfounded and said “uh, what do I teach?” and he said, “You can just talk to them in English”. Sigh…I said “for how long?” and the reply was about 30 minutes. (I thought, yeah, right…) I walked into Class 10 and introduced myself and then said that they would all get to ask me one question in English. Since no one jumped at the chance, I then pointed to the girl in the back row and upon catching her horrified look, said “you first”. After the girls around her giglged and confided with her, she spurted out “Where are you from”. After drawing a horrific diagram of North, Central and South America I explained where the US was and specifically where KS is. I figured I would give a geography lesson in every class; since here they always refer to the US as “America” neglecting to realize that there are MANY more countries technically classified as “America”. I went around the room answering each question; “favorite sport, color, actor, etc. and then realizing that the class would actually NEVER end, I resorted to the ole’ take out a sheet of paper and write your name, family, favorite subject, etc. Just as they were starting the bell rang and I breathed a BIG sigh of relief.

All of the children stood up and said “Goodbye Miss” and I stood there and said Goodbye. They continued to stand at their desks and I said “You can go now, class is over”. They didn’t budge and finally one of them said, "we stay, you go" and I then remembered a conversation I had awhile ago about the school system…In Nepal, the students stay in one classroom and the teachers move to them; contrary to the US where the students move and the teachers stay in the room. I laughed and said, “OH!” And went on my way only to have the VP tell me that Class 9 is waiting for me. Dammit!

I entered Class 9 and immediately felt at ease. There were 4 kids from CPH in that class!! I did the ole’ ask me questions and these younger kids (probably 12 – 14) were not so reserved. “How old are you” was the first question and after having them fail miserably at guessing, I told them and watched the strange looks on their faces. I said, “Yes, I am older than most of your mothers but I promise you I don’t act like them.” After letting them “stroke my ego” about “how you don’t look 42”, I continued the questions. After each had a turn, I then honestly said, “Now what do we do”, and someone replied “tell us more about your country”. Figuring that I can’t go wrong with that, I proceeded to tell them about the US and Kansas. They then asked me questions like what was the national dress. Here the women wear a Sari or Corta (see photo’s -girls are wearing 'corta's' and Jaya is in a Sari) and I tried to explain why women in the US do not have traditional clothing. I figured telling them that if we hadn’t killed off the Native Americans and taken their land, but instead merged into their society maybe we would, probably would go over their heads. Instead I resorted to the short sweet story about how the US is made up of many different people from many different countries, (again, choosing not to tell them that according to all the racist FaceBook posts and groups, many many many US citizens neglect to realize that at one time, THEIR ancestors were immigrants and were trying to provide a better life for their family.) but I digress…

Anyway, that class went much smoother and soon the bell once again rang in no time at all. When I retreated to the Teacher’s lounge once more, I then asked how long each class is and found out that they are only 40 minutes; three 40-minute classes a day? Hmmm…maybe I can actually handle that.

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