Teaching…To Learn and To Change

shanti nikunj primary-cropped

And so it began…today…this morning…a new gig…a new teaching gig like no other!

At an interaction with students at Little Angels School, early last month, I realized I missed teaching! By then it had been about two years since the last time I had stood in front of a group of students and enjoyed the experience, having completely been put off teaching by Qatari and other Arab students at Qatar Academy.

Soon after that experience however, I decided I needed to get back into the classroom in some form, in addition to continuing to speak at schools. (In my two-week visit to Hong Kong for instance, I spoke at four different international schools. Click here for a video of one of those presentations.)

I have volunteered to work, part-time, alongside the science teacher to the English medium section of the 6th grade children at Shanti Nikunj School, one of the two government schools in Kathmandu valley that COMMITTED assists.

Three times a week, when I am in the city, I shall be working with the young teacher to assist her deliver Science a little differently. I won’t be planning or grading etc. of course. I just won’t have the time for all that.

Being in the classroom with the kids, I hope to also serve as a role model to them. Hopefully, as they get to know me better, I’ll be able to help them believe in themselves, believe in their potential. I hope I’ll be able to encourage and inspire them to strive for their dreams!

All that will not be easy…of course.

For one, science resources are severely limited. I have worked in schools where I was given pretty much everything I wanted…and more.

The whiteboard.
The 6th grade classroom whiteboard at Shanti Nikunja.

At Qatar academy, for instance, my huge room/lab had a data projector mounted on the ceiling, an OHP, both a fixed white board and a mobile one. I had access to two computer labs just right down the hall. (The room also came with a desktop which I never had any use for really!)

Being a one-to-one laptop school, every student had a MacBook. Every teacher was also provided with a laptop and many of them were also given an iPad, including yours truly!

Printers and xerox (photocopy) machines were dotted all around the building.

Our department had three amazing lab technicians. We had ample supply of chemicals and instruments for pretty much any and every experiment a secondary school science teacher would ever want to conduct. If something was missing, all we had to do was either put in a requisition order or bring it in ourselves and get reimbursed!

The department also subscribed to a number of online resources which we could use in our lessons. The details of lesson plans and other notices — homework, deadlines, test dates, curriculum plans, and other announcements — were communicated to the students and parents via Moodle and Atlas Rubicon etc. etc. etc.

In Azerbaijan, a requisition order I placed following an inventory of the stock-room resulted in it being restocked with over twelve-thousand-Euros worth of chemicals and materials! And, of course I had a blast teaching Chemistry there!

Needless to say, most schools I worked at were very well resourced.

While expensive materials and instruments are not absolutely essential, a little more than the bare minimum does go a long way.

At Shanti Nikunja however, the two of us have a classroom full of 35 beautiful and eager students, fourteen metal-framed wooden benches, a small white board in the front of the classroom, white board marker, the government prescribed textbook and…our imagination to do science.

The students. Girls in the foreground and the boys are in the background.
The students. The girls are in the foreground and the boys are in the background.
The Students. The boys are in the foreground and the girls in the background.
The Students. The boys are in the foreground and the girls in the background.

For another, I am told, most of our students are either domestic workers themselves or children of domestic workers. In a society where the destiny of a person is dictated and largely determined by the context of their birth, any child wishing to break out of that must display considerable drive, stamina, and mental fortitude. In other words, inspiring them to reach higher than what the society tells them they are capable of will be an uphill battle, but not impossible!

And so, working with just the resources at the school and what I have, working with my new colleague and with those beautiful children, will be like no other teaching experience. And as such, it will open up a window into a different world to explore, to learn about AND to learn from.

It will be a real challenge not unlike most other things I have attempted, done and continue to do in Nepal. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

After all, I did return home…to change!



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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mark Devan

    Dorje great to hear you’re back in the classroom. I am sure the students and teachers will be inspired. All the best!

    1. Dorje

      Hey Mark, yes it’s good to be spending with children in a school environment, even if just three times a week in the classroom. Unfortunately, I am not able to spend much time with the students outside nor am I able to spend much time with other teachers. I might not therefore be able to inspire other teachers, but hopefully I’ll be able to inspire my colleague to teach science a little differently from the way she teaches, which is how she was taught–straight from the textbook, getting the kids to memorize and regurgitate its content. And that’s how it seems it is with most–not all–teachers in Nepal.

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