As anyone who has ever heard me talk about teaching would know, I love the babies and the littles. So to my delight last Wednesday I got to spend the morning in the nursery at Debvari school, not so much teaching the children (as my Nepali is currently limited to ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘honeybee’) but playing with them. This was to hopefully give their teacher some ideas about teaching engaging lessons such as using cards to get the children talking, using construction cubes to identify colours and strengthen fine motor skills, teaching them a song, and pretending to be different animals. We finally unleashed all mayhem on the class when Saran whipped out some balloons. In all honesty we lost them at that point, so we let them run riot and trample us chasing balloons around the tiny classroom.
After this, I asked via Saran if she could teach so I could get a feel for how the nursery is run. After a few fast words in Nepali, the children all cracked out their copy books and started furiously writing down the English alphabet, some from memory, most peering at the paintings on the wall to help them. There was some definite resentment about putting the balloons away. Needless to say the teaching methods here are very different to those in British nurseries.
We went to visit Papaldanda the next day with armfuls of books to work with the children in the nursery. Barbara and I aped around making fools of ourselves to the hysteria of the children, and showing the teachers how to use resources to count, talk about colour, and doing lots of work with an alphabet foam mat. We watched some lessons in the afternoon, and I was fascinated to see the teacher’s toddler following her around the class. At one point he climbed on top of a desk and other than scooping him back onto the floor, both she and the students completely ignored him. Barbara tells me that it’s very common to take your children to school with you, especially in the village schools.
More teacher training on Friday, we went back to Debvari to work with the nursery, class one and class two teachers. I talked about using lots of different activities to break up the day, and we gave them a table of ideas to use. The three teachers were brilliant, taking on our ideas, and then we went down to a classroom show them what we were talking about, playing with balloons, alphabet shapes, and jigsaws. I gave the performance of my life when I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a large crowd of children and teachers with as much gusto as I could muster. I’ll be expecting that Oscar any day now. The schools have now broken up for Deshain, the Hindu equivalent of Christmas, some for as long as a month, some for a couple of weeks.
Barbara, Janaki and I have big plans for a trip to Pokhara, and I must confess I’m looking forward for a few days of downtime. We’ve had such an intense few weeks with school visits, training, not to mention settling into a new country, and I’m feeling particularly sluggish because I’m definitely not drinking enough. I can practically hear my mother recoiling in horror at that last sentence. I keep being woken up in the night by the sounds of bugs hurling themselves at my window, and the spiders here are bigger than my hand – I physically shudder each time I see one hanging in the middle of its enormous web.
Oh, and this week, after giving a lot of big talk at dinner one night that I ‘never get bitten,’ I have been chewed to death by some particularly mean spirited mosquitoes. That’ll serve me right. It’s like that time at Delhi airport when I blithely said, ‘Oh we’ve had such an easy journey so far!’ Only to be sent packing to Kolkata on our doomed flight to Kathmandu.