Monday, October 1, 2007

"Ji Sir" Teaching in Action

This morning I was invited to go visit a school where a few of my friends are teaching. They are my age and teaching primary school as a side job. Just that fact is so different from Canada, where a teaching job is a challenge to get and requires a university degree, not just studying in the equivalent of high school (college here). I visited this school and found a very nice place. The buildings are constructed with a concrete base (except 2 with mud bases), and they have corrugated iron sheets up about 3 feet on the walls and then jute mats for the rest of the walls. The roof is also corrugated iron, and the interior of these buildings would probably warrant a day off school in Canada. I began to sweat just stepping through the door, and without any airflow this place would be a tough place to learn. I felt useful right away helping some of the Class 1 and 2 students with English and Mathematics, and I visited 3 different classes, introducing myself and observing the teaching styles. Then we had a break where I was offered breadsticks covered in chili powder and muri (puffed rice).

Then, entirely lacking any foreknowledge, I was told I was teaching the entire school a song. Being slightly unprepared I racked my brain and came up with "The Hokey Pokey" which is, as I found out, not an easy song to explain, or to sing along with, when the children are not native English speakers. But the children loved the actions and requested that we sing the song 5 or 6 times. When the song was finished I was told I still had 10 minutes to teach them a new song. I was now stationed in the centre of a large circle of about 100 children and was asked to teach them a new song. Luckily, I remembered the song "Head and Shoulders", a song which teaches the parts of the body, but is very easy to learn and sing along with, it also has good actions. This song also was well appreciated and before lunch the children finished by singing a song in Bengali for me. This experience reminded me that learning has to be fun, and that it is possible to find fun activities to do and songs to sing even without preparation. Thankfully I am not someone for whom lack of preparation, or planning is a huge problem. I loved the ability to visit the school and will be very happy to return often to do peace trainings.

In Peace.

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