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Vantage Points

July 9, 2011 4 comments

    So, I haven’t added much to this blog lately. I’ll admit, I’m not totally invested in it just yet…not that it really matters, as I’m pretty sure there are only two people paying attention to my infant blog experiment (thanks Mom and Dad).
    I’ve only got about two weeks left in Nepal, so I’m going to add as much as I can in that time. Here’s a bit of reflection that I scribbled down sometime after my first few weeks volunteering at the school.
    Excerpt from my journal, May 22nd, 2011:

    I’ve been in Nepal nearly a month now. My job is the main focus of my time here. The school, Sunrise English Boarding School, is an interesting place. It feels like an incredibly relaxed atmosphere to me. No one looks over my shoulder…the principle more or less just showed me where the classrooms are and left me to it. I feel a lovely sense of freedom as far as my lessons are concerned (or at least I would, if I had more teaching materials). They trust me to use my time efficiently, and I’m doing my best to make these three months a great learning experience for my students.

    The classes are sometimes simple to teach, and sometimes totally excruciating. I have no books, no paper, no coloring pencils, no flashcards, no tape, no glue, no scissors, often no sanity. My creativity, or my “teacher-magic,” is starting to get stretch marks. Some of my classes are small, with older children who require few props and/or supervision. Other classes are quite large, with 20 or more young students, and they are…unruly. Nepali children are often amazingly polite, but get a whole lot of them in a classroom, and they don’t seem to understand that shouting and giving each other a slap or two with a notebook is not ideal behavior. I’ve got one little girl in my youngest class that yells strings of Nepali into my face furiously and hides the chalkboard eraser. Every day. To use the parlance of our times, WTF?

    Mostly, though, the kids are completely endearing. The first time I showed them some National Geographic magazines, the response was of exuberant appreciation. “Miss, give the book one more time, PLEASE!” was a sentence I heard over and over. Some flipped through a magazine intently with quick, rough flicks, and some slowly traced their fingertips over the glossy images on each page…but all of them were intrigued by the beautiful photography. I think they’re a bit intellectually starved. There’s not much of the proverbial fuel-for-the-fire here. Nepali kids are so easily entertained that it makes my job as a teacher a bit easier, but it also makes my bleeding heart even softer.

    I have recurring thoughts of adopting a little dark-eyed Nepali child, and if I did I would make sure that child had a life chock full of…I don’t know, STUFF. Kids need trips to museums, sticky or spicy foreign foods, music, board games, finger paints, vast sheets of white paper and boxes of markers and crayons, books books BOOKS…how else can they explore their blossoming abilities, discover what inspiration feels like, and get a taste of the bigger world outside their own? Nepali kids are missing out. I want to take them all back to my hometown, let them walk on the beach and smell the air. I want them all to know the relaxed sort of pleasure that is a rainy afternoon spent in a library with the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. I guess this is partially my American arrogance, but I want to be able to magically give them all the childhood that I had, the enriching, well-rounded childhood that everyone would have if the world we live in was utopian.

    I’m trying to see these kids, and their lives, as they are. I know I’m looking at things from a vantage point made up of my own life experiences…but I feel that part of my job is to leave that vantage point, and the judgments and perceptions that come with it, behind. I’m not sure it’s even possible, but it seems necessary in order to be fair. Maybe Nepal has its own versions of inspirations and outlets for a child’s mind…but I think not. I’m not able to see them from where I am.

    My job seems huge to me, important, and a task of Herculean proportions. A day at a time, a class at a time, an exercise at a time…but really, how do you teach creativity? How do you pump some lifeblood into an atrophied imagination?

…More on this later…*sigh of frustration*

Thanks for reading 🙂