Thursday, 18 July 2013

Working at the Himalayan Cultural School in Gulabgarh by Alessandro Bordoli

I worked at the Himalayan Cultural School, located in Gulabgarh, for only three days unfortunately: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The experience really had an overwhelming impact on me, however. I was able to work with several different classes, which meant I interacted with kids over a wide span of ages, from very young children with little experience learning English to older kids who had studied the language for years. The kids all showed the utmost gratitude towards me for having come to teach them. I tried to show them activities that maybe they weren’t so accustomed to, to move them out of their comfort zones and begin to interact with the English language in new ways: through group work, speaking in front of their peers, creating presentations for the class, expressing themselves through short compositions, etc.

I found the experience to be extremely rewarding, and even after three days I could see that I was having some impact on the students. They responded quite well to my challenges, albeit with a little initial hesitation as was expected, and I believe they really enjoyed the classes. I had the younger students come to the front of the class and do something as simple as introducing themselves to me or showing me where their "hands" or "feet" were, but they absolutely loved it. One of the memories that sticks out the most from my trip to India is of my younger students coming up to me the next day to shake my hand and introduce themselves as I arrived at school. They all wanted to show me that they had learned it properly. Their laughs and smiles as we did these activities was enough to convince me that my efforts were making some impact. With the older students, we did some role play to learn restaurant vocabulary, and I also had them present Gulabgarh and their favorite things about where they live to the class. One day we played a game where they had to ask their classmates what they like to do in their free time. There was definite hesitation initially, but they soon really took to these tasks, and I could sense their confidence growing after only a few days. 

It was in between the classes, when I could sit and talk with the kids as a friend and not only a teacher, that I really had the best interactions, though. All of the students showed a real interest in my personal
life: where I came from, what my family was like, what I did for fun. They also strived to show me their own culture and introduce me to the life where they live. They had great pride in their village and the beautiful location around it, and I learned quite a bit about the place from just speaking to the kids. Their ambitions and their vivacity for life give me an extra motivation in wanting to return to the area in the near future to help teach again. One of the last activities I did with the students was have them write letters to imaginary American students explaining where they are from, what they like to do, etc. My hope is to bring these letters to a school where I live and start a pen pal program, a chance for students on both sides to learn about a place and culture different from their own. I hope I can return next summer to deliver some of the return letters myself!

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