Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Photos From My Trip

This is Rae, the principal's wife. She has beautiful feet! She also has a nine-month old baby, Pallu. She asked me to be her American Mommy. She wasn't satisfied with calling me "Aunty."
As a following directions and making a step-book activity, we made Chocolate No-bake Cookies. May, second from the right, has beautiful feet, and is from a Northeastern state. She came as a volunteer.
This is what my surroundings looked like.
This is Apple Country! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

The School and Teachers

These are the first graders. In the classroom, there is currently no electricity, so it is very dim. If it is not raining they move their table and rented chairs outside. They only own four of the chairs. The tables were made possible by wood donations, and donations for labor by another foreign friend. You'll read more about this teacher and the other educated teacher below. This teacher asked for help, and seemed very receptive and appreciative. She had no idea how to teach reading.
Believe it or not, it used to look worse, before the white wash. Damp conditions quickly ruin nice paint jobs on walls, as my own freshly painted walls can attest! When I left, there was one more colorful teaching poster, several inspirational quotes, a number line counting up the days in school, and a clothesline with pins to hang student work. I did as much as I could in the four days I had. I left all kinds of supplies, and added many books to their library, which consisted of one set of Childcraft Volumes, donated by the same friend who paid for the tables. They also gave two used computers, a VCR, tapes, and software for use with the kids. They had no idea how to use the Childcraft books, so we had a training session where I explained and demonstrated their use. I brought some practice books and plastic report folders to use with them. I showed them how to write, wipe, and reuse. 
The principal asked me to lead a whole-group session to teach them action songs and help their English. They knew Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. I taught them Open Shut Them, Clap, Clap Your Hands, Peter Hammers With One Hammer, Father Abraham, Kumbaya, and some games.
These are the second and third graders. Their teacher has an education degree, but her oral English is very weak. She uses Hindi to teach even English, although this is supposed to be an English medium school. There are two little girls at this table. Can you find them? I couldn't tell the boys from the girls because they all dressed alike, had short hair, and some girls wore boys shoes, and boys wore girl's shoes! This teacher was harsh, and not very open to suggestions, as she has a degree. She would not eat with the students or other teachers (except for the one in the outside photo) because she considers them below her. She would not eat the cookies we prepared together, because Christians had a part. The principal considers this "untouchability" which he says has no place in his school. I think this teacher is history! He told her if she couldn't agree with the ways of the school, then don't come back. She did not return Wednesday afternoon, nor did the first grade teacher. Sad, but I really was not impressed with them at all. They were harsh, smacked the kids in the head, taught by rote, and did not encourage the students. They did not read to them, display any of their work, or let them do anything creative.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Victorious English School

I recently traveled on roads literally cut out of the mountains with no visible shoulders
to where the apples grow
and the insects are large and plentiful...

where traffic jams look like this (future shawls and sweaters)

to visit a tiny new school in a very remote and rural area in the Himalayas.
The school opened in February with only two students, and currently has 22 students ages 3 to 7. The school consists of two classrooms, one sharing office space for the principal/teacher. If the weather is good, the students move their chairs outside for class. Until recently, they only had rented chairs, but thanks to a donation, they constructed some some small tables. It is an English medium school, but most instruction is in Hindi, as the students are only just learning English. All of their books, except for their Hindi language book, are in English. I was invited to help the teachers with teaching methods. The teachers have "beautiful feet," but little experience or training in teaching. The school gives them opportunities to share His love with the community as well as the teachers, students and their families, to provide area students with an education in English, and to have means to stay in the area. Before they opened the school, "Bill" and "Rae" were just seen as Christians -someone to be avoided in this syncretized animist/Hindu/Buddhist area. The local beliefs are a mix of the three. The taxi which picks up the school children has a photo of a Buddhist lama hanging from the mirror, as well as a statue of a Hindu god, Ganesh, on the dash. Apples came to this area in 1904 with an American who was struck by the poverty of the area. There were apple trees, but the fruit was sour. Samuel Stokes smuggled apple grafts from America. Now, the people of this remote area can make a living from the apples. Biting into the dar red skin, one can taste the fresh air and water when crunching and chewing the white flesh of the fruit. Apple season is such a busy time in this area, as the people have their day jobs, as well as the orchards to tend to. Donkeys and Nepali laborers help transport the apple boxes to the trucks. The colorful apple trucks cause ruts in the rain-soaked roads, and traffic jams into the larger cities. As a gift for teaching, I got to hike up the mountain (for thirty minutes) and choose my own apples! On the way down I dreamed of apple pies, apple cinnamon muffins, apple sauce, apple butter, apple turnovers, apple salad, and apple slices with peanut butter!
In the next post, I will share details and photos of the school and its precious students and faculty.