Within and beyond classroom for teaching English

Simon Taranto

 [In his narrative, Simon Taranto shares his experience of teaching English in a public school in Nepal.- Editor]

Family/Village Life Situation

Living with a Nepali family was a challenging but very rewarding experience for me.  There were many cultural, societal, and language differences that I had to get used to when living with my Nepali family.  I could not speak Nepali in the beginning. But my Nepali language skills improved slowly over the last 9 months to the point where I am now able to hold conversations and joke around in Nepali.  During the first few months of my time in the village and at the school getting over the language barrier took a significant amount of energy.

The Khadka family provided me with a very comfortable room, clean water to drink, comfortable facilities, and outrageously delicious food.  Uttam-ji, Manju-ji, Ujjwol-ji, and Hajurama-ji, were incredibly warm, welcoming, and helpful throughout my stay.  They really made me feel welcome into their family.

I met many people who live in the village and over the past many months I was able to foster relationships with many of them.  From the teashop owner to the recent college graduate and from the bicycle mechanic to the fitness center owner I really enjoyed speaking with and getting to know people.  The village is very quiet and pleasant but also located very close to Patan city so it was easy to move in and out of the city to attend meetings and other events.

School Situation

Rimal sir was an outstanding, ambitious, and energetic teammate to work with.  He showed me the ropes when I first arrived, organized an ornate welcoming ceremony, and made sure that my teaching at the school was run smoothly.  Shambhu KC, our school’s principal, was also a key asset that allowed me to work within many classes at the school of 350 students.  I regularly taught Grades 7-10 and frequently filled in for absent teachers in other lower classes.  The students and I got along well and we were able to share cultures and languages easily.  Whenever time allowed I chose to work outside of the textbooks so as to show other teachers some new teaching ideas and to give the students a broader learning experience.  The school does suffer from volatile teacher attendance and fluctuating student attendance rates.  With a new principal coming in next year and a new school building nearing completion, I expect that the future of Siddhi Mangal is brighter.

NELTA/Fulbright Cooperation

I am very grateful to the immense amount of work, time, and energy that is dedicated to NELTA by its numerous volunteer members.  NELTA’s cooperation with Fulbright is a good relationship that I hope continues far into the future.  Many of the trainings that were run by NELTA members were very impressive and helpful for teachers.  The network that NELTA provides to English teachers is an excellent resource that members should take advantage of.

It would be helpful if NELTA were able to alert ETAs with advance notice of upcoming events so that ETAs could plan accordingly.  In addition, with school selection for the next batch of ETAs I would recommend that NELTA cast its nets wider so as to include schools outside of the Valley and with schools that don’t have a traditional NELTA presence so as to spread the excellent benefits of being a part of NELTA.

Teaching Exercise/Lesson Plan

I frequently found that students were very adept at answering questions they were used to but struggled with slight variations of those same questions.  For example, ‘How are you?’ is question that can easily be answered by students.  However, how’s it going?’ or ‘How was class?’, all of which require the same kinds of answers, are very difficult for students to answer.  With that in mind, the following exercise can help students to be more linguistically flexible, feel more comfortable in unknown language territory, and be more confident.

One of my favorite exercises to run with both students and teachers is titled ‘You Can’t Say Fine.’  This exercise teaches students different ways of asking ‘how are you’ and an array of adjectives that can be used to respond to these questions.  There are many ways to run this exercise.  I am a proponent of getting children out of their seats and outside of the classroom.  With that in my mind, this exercise can used while walking around the school or while on field trips or picnics.  Below is one way to run this activity while inside of the classroom:

  1. Ask students, ‘How are you?’  They will likely robotically respond, ‘We are fine.’
  2. Write ‘fine’ on the board and then put a large X through it.
  3. Tell students they are not allowed to say ‘fine.’
  4. Ask them again, ‘How are you?’ and write all the different responses you get on the board.  This may require the teacher to ask hinting questions about other adjective that be used.  Examples of good adjectives are: excellent, outstanding, fantastic, great, very good, good, okay, alright, bad, terrible, miserable etc..  These responses will likely come from the students in an arbitrary order.
  5. Have the students work in groups and put the words in order from best to worst and write the results on the board.  Have the students copy this down into their notebooks.
  6. Next, the teacher will help the students to practice using these words by introducing other ways of asking ‘How are you?’  Some examples include: ‘How are you doing?’ ‘How are you today?’ How is your day going?’ ‘How’s everything?’ ‘How are thing?’  There are many more but this is a good start.  Write these on the board and have students copy them also.
  7. Show an example of how this works by asking a volunteer one of the above questions.  The volunteer must respond with an adjective and a reason why.  For example,
    1. Teacher: How are you?
    2. Volunteer: I am excellent because I am a volunteer.
    3. Teacher: That’s great.  Thank you.
    4. Have students work in groups to practice these different questions and responses.



Notes:

1. The title is given by the Editor.

2. The author would first like to thank NELTA, the Fulbright Commission in Nepal, Shree Siddhi Mangal Higher Secondary School, and the Khadka family for making my stay in Nepal possible.  I am very grateful for all that you did to make me comfortable.  I hope that cooperation between all these hard-working groups continues.

3. The author is a Fulbright ETA-2010 in Nepal.

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2 Responses to Within and beyond classroom for teaching English

  1. DThapa says:

    Great experience and exciting inspiration!

  2. […] Simon Taranto shares his experience of teaching English in a government-aided public school in Nepal. His narrative depicts that understanding local context is an indispensable component of teaching English. A brief account of his teaching experience indicates that teaching English is always a situated practice i.e. without understanding local exigencies it may not be possible to expect effective teaching of English. In order to understand contextual realities, as he describes, we have to engage ourselves in outside-classroom-interactions (with teachers, community members and students) which help to understand dynamics of teaching and learning in school. He also suggests that it is important to be a part of teachers association like NELTA for professional development. At the end, he presents how students can be helped to produce a variety of language by using a simple communicative activity. […]

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