Before coming to Nepal I had mentally prepared myself as best as possible for the journey I was about to embark on. From teaching for the first time, leaving for my first major international trip by myself, and living with a new family in a new and much different culture than what I had been accustomed to. To get the most out of my experience, and be able to provide the best learning opportunity for my students, I knew that flexibility would be an important trait to possess. Until arriving in Nepal, and more specifically my village of Ghandruk, I never knew just how important flexibility would be.
Some of the best experiences that I have had thus far have come as a result of going with the flow. I have been able to engage with the rich Gurung and Nepali culture that lives here in my village as well as form great bonds with my didi’s (big sisters) and dai’s (big brothers), fellow teachers, and community members. Whether it be blindly following my dai through the village at a moments notice when he says “kanchi, jam jam” which results in hand plowing the field and planting garlic with my didi’s all afternoon, or having to abandon lesson plans and resort to playing games outside because that is the only way the third graders will absorb any English that day. Didi will also frequently say “you, me, dance tonight” and an hour later we end up at a “culture program” (community dance night with Nepali music) a few houses away. Since Ghandruk is a bigger village, and my guest house accommodates many, I have try to help out my family when it gets busy. This means that I help serve dal bhat to 40 Nepali high school students who have come to visit Ghandruk on an overnight school excursion. And because the power frequently goes out here, sometimes we serve said dal bhat in the dark, via headlamps.
Without a flexible teaching style in the classroom it would be impossible for the needs of the students or myself to be met. The attention span of students and their willingness to engage with material is unpredictable and changes each day, so having a variety of games and activities that I can resort to is extremely helpful. The curriculum and teaching style that the students are taught here isn’t very practical for their learning, so being able to introduce new and exciting ways to learn is something that I have tried to integrate into my teaching. For many students, reading and copying text from their books is the extent of their English skills. Trying to engage the students in activities where they must answer questions about reading and think more deeply about the material can be challenging both for the students and for myself. Being prepared for these failures in the classroom and having alternative activities is extremely useful for keeping the students interested in learning English while also making them feel confident in their ability to learn. Going into the classroom each day with an open mind and the ability to be flexible is one of the ways that I believe my teaching will successfully impact the most students.
Whether it be teaching in the classroom, plowing the field and planting garlic, or serving dal bhat in the dark, all of these experiences have deeply connected me to the culture and the people of Ghandruk, something that I am very grateful for. Experiencing a new culture in this way has been an eye opening experience and one that has made me deeply appreciate the western luxuries and education system that I have grown up with, as well as respect the hardworking way of life here in the mountains.
Written by: Trek to Teacher Katie Moon