Teaching at Shree Shradha

 Posted by Kristin Schutz at 10:04 pm  Nepal
Dec 192014
 

It’s been a few weeks now that I’ve been teaching at the Shree Shradha Women’s School and I haven’t even posted about it! My apologies!

Let me first describe a bit of the structure of the school and culture, and then I will write about some of the individual ladies who brighten my days!

There are six classes (levels 1-8, with levels 4 and 5 not offered because there are no students at those levels this year). The ages of the students range from 12 to…old. How old I can’t say because I’ve been too polite to ask! But there are definitely some very adorable, wrinkly, old ladies. Each class stays in their respective rooms while the teachers rotate. There are English, Nepali, math, and science classes. The higher classes will take the government exams in a few months, so it is an official school.

An old man sits behind the gates on a chair all day. He is responsible for keeping the school safe and for ringing the “bell” when it’s time to change class. The bell is a metal pot and a metal spoon, which he bangs with such force that it makes me jump out of my skin every time. I think he may be a little deaf. He smiles at me every morning and gives me a cheerful “Namaste.”

The classrooms are pretty bleak but the bright reds, greens, and oranges of the ladies’ dresses make up for it. Each is equipped with long benches, tables, and a chalkboard. Little else. Class 8 meets outside on the balcony.

There is no elecricity in th school, so on the rare day when it is cloudy the classrooms are very dark. Most have windows but some don’t and that makes it really difficult for the students to read. It’s an old building but serves a basic purpose. My thoughts have drifted to having a painting and gardening day, if the ladies are up for it. We could paint the walls and bring in some plants to make the environment more stimulating.

I teach English alongisde Sanu, who has been at the school for many years. She is a serious woman. Every now and then she will let loose and be goofy. It comes as a shock and I get awkward because I’m not sure what to do with it! She is very affectionate with the younger students, holding them close like they are her own children. The women here are all very affectionate with each other. They sit closely, play with each other’s hair, dance with and tickle one another.

Sanu and I teach out of textbooks. She helps me translate to the students and I help her come up with fun and creative ways to teach the lessons.

Standard Nepali education is very linear and the students learn in almost a photographic way. They write sentences on the board and just repeat them to death. Some students can learn this way, but others clearly aren’t getting anywhere. One of the reasons the volunteers are here is to bring a different teaching style. I’m not formally trained, but I did learn a foreign language. So I’m incorporating the methods my German teachers taught me with. Sanu has teacher training, but that training didn’t include creative learning methods. So we work as a team to bring what we each have in our aresnals. Each day I bring a new way to look at the lessons: games, worksheets, drawings, puzzles, etc.

Sanu told me one day that it’s very hard for some of the women to attend school. Women here still have to do all their “womanly duties” on top of studying and coming to class. They wake up very early in the morning to make breafast (daal bhaat), wash clothes, and get their kids to school. Then when they come home, they have to cook dinner and do any remaining chores. There is little, if any, sharing of household duties between husband and wife here. The women still have to get persmission from their husbands to attend school. It’s actually not so far fetched from what women in th U.S. had to go through. And many women back home today still experience the exhausting struggle of working, studying, and being mothers.

Nepal as a country hasn’t been open to the rest of the world for very long, just since the mid-20th century when climbers and trekkers came here for the mountains. It’s geographically very isolated, wedged inbetween the goliaths of Inda and China, with no water outlets. So it’s really been the age of internet that has brought Nepal into contact with the rest of the world. I loosely compare the status of women here to that of women in the US in the 1950s.

Just like any other school there is a full cast of characters. Some women are linear thinkers and some need more hands-on, visual teaching. Some are quick to learn, some take more time. Some women are quite and polite, some are loud and sassy. Some smile at me every day, some give me straight stares.

Bhagwati is in Class 1, the lowest level. She is always the first to volunteer for anything! And everytime she puts on a shy but knowing smile, like “I know I can do this but I’m going to be humble about it anyway.” She’s one of the linear thinkers; I can put any sentence on the board and she will figure it out. She also has a great memory. She can read several sentences in the text book and then write them on the chalkboard minutes later.  Her daughter lives in Washington, D.C. But I haven’t yet deciphered what she does there. Sanu knows a lot of English but there is stll a language gap between us. I met Bhagwati’s nephew (nephew is a loose term. It could mean any younger man in her family that isn’t her son). He came to my host family’s house. Apparently he is the cousin of my host brothers (again, cousin is a loose term). Everyone seems to be related to everyone somehow!

Monah is the oldest women in Class 1. She’s the one that I can’t tell her age but she is adorably wrinkled. She wears a yellow Thika, while the other women wear red ones one (the blessings on their forheads). I think it may mean she is widowed, but I’m not sure yet. Something to figure out. I love how she is so old but hasn’t given up on furthering her education!

In Class 6 there is Delshi and Maya. Delshi speaks excellent English for her level. She is 18 but looks about 14, long and lean. On one of the bad days I mentioned earlier, she brought be back by saying how much she likes my lessons. How they are challenging, but different from what she is used to. Delshi used to be Christian but is now Hindu. Again, I haven’t deciphered why because of the language gap. Maya doesn’t understand much English but is very bright and the cutest thing I have ever seen! She is very small with a button nose and sparkly eyes.  And she is a perfectionist, intensley erasing her writing if it isn’t up to her standards. These girls are constantly giggling! Delshi walked me home on the day before I got sick. She asked me if I had Facebook and I promised her that the next day we would connect. So I have to do that when I get back!

In Class 8 there is the trouble-maker, Ashmita. She is incredibly smart and knows it. I also think she is a little bored in class because the other students are further behind. She’s been my biggest challenge, getting her to concentrate and not bother the other students. But there is a lot of potential in Ashmita, if we can just get her to focus on something interesting enough. She’s also 14 and in that rebellious stage when there are more exciting things than school (boys, gossip, music).

So any teachers reading this, please feel free to offer your advice! I could definitely use direction on:

1) Games and activities for lower-level students

2) Alternative learning styles. How to recognize them and how to teach to them

3) Managing the sassy girls who don’t want to concentrate on school work

Thanks!

I’ve been sitting at a cafe for hours now, enjoying tea that actually stays in my stomach! Tonight I’ll go back to my host family and tomorrow will start teaching again. I’m sure the ladies will bombard me with questions about what happened, why was I away for so long?!

If there’s anything specific you want me to write about, please let me know! I didn’t write about smells here because the school doesn’t really have any. Besides the general BO of everyone crammed into a room (myself included) and the bathroom. But no one wants to read about that…

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

Much love,

Kristin

 

The oustide of the school:

 

Class 1 ladies making sentences with sticky notes. I tell them the sentence and they have to find and order the words:

 

Ashmita, Lila, and I. The girls of Class 8:

 

The walk to school from my host family’s house:

 

 

   

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