Parents’ (or caregivers’) involvement in the formal education — school related activities — of their children is crucial. Helping them just with their homework is not enough.
Recognizing that, I volunteered to read to my little nephew’s class.
His pre-school didn’t take up on my offer at all. 🙁 But the primary school he attends now took it up and last Friday I went and read to his class for the first time, even though I had volunteered to do so at the beginning of the academic year, back in April.
In Dassain: Traffic, Goats, Sheep, Chickens and a Trek, I mentioned how children in Nepali schools, even private schools, are largely taught about our “mainstream” culture and tradition, i.e. one based on Hinduism. I had also indicated that, if invited, I would “read books that talk about other cultures, religions and people in the country.”
I took four books, and was able to read all but Oh The Places You’ll Go. Set in the mountains of Nepal, the story in the Nepali book is also about Tibetans, like the one to its left. I wouldn’t be surprised if this had been the first time in the school that the children were exposed to stories about Tibetans. (The two books on the left were gifts to my little nephew from my friends The Allens who visited us a few years ago.)
If I had gone along with their request however, this wouldn’t have been just a reading session!
When the school got in touch, the coordinator requested, in addition to reading to the children, that I also talk to them about discipline! Yeah, discipline! It’s a major part of formal education in Nepal, sadly! Many adults in Nepal, whether in teaching profession or not, seek and expect discipline from children — almost blind obedience — more than most other things!
I don’t know how and why the school thought that a care-giver of one of the children in the class talking to them about discipline would be appropriate, forget about its educational value. I have no clue about their logic. And there’s more.
She wanted me to coordinate with the discipline in charge (DIC) to plan my spiel to the children on the topic.
I had heard about this practice of having DICs (yeah, DICs!) at private schools in the valley. As far as I can tell, what this looks like is the school outsourcing of both classroom management of “misbehaving” children and school management and enforcement of rules and regulations. I don’t know how true this is but I have heard that they are recruited from local “gangs.” Not surprisingly, they apparently look like bouncers — big and intimidating!
I don’t know how wide-spread the practice of having them at private schools is, but based on what people have told me, it’s quite common!
Anyway, I told them that in my more than fifteen years of teaching secondary school children, I couldn’t recall talking to my students about discipline even once. I don’t recall anyone — whether a primary or secondary school teacher or administrator — at any of the schools I have worked in around the world ever uttering that word to their students.
And, no different from how I have been with my students, I have never uttered the word to my nephew in all his six years I have been part of his life, and I wasn’t going to start now. So I didn’t!
I only read to them and then they interviewed me!
They had three questions for me:
- What is your name?
- Where do you live?
- What do you do?
Being the first time, I wasn’t as chummy as I would have liked to be, but the next time I go, I hope to be!
As for my nephew? The sensitive and shy little boy that he is, he was a little coy. But he was happy to give me the “Thank You” card the class had prepared and to accompany that with a kiss on my cheek!