Teacher’s Anecdote: Teaching Children at Post Earthquake Situation

We tried our best to convince the students to share their personal experiences with us. We teachers involved in group activities and students stayed as audience. Some of us shared our bitter realities of the existing world such as moral disaster, earthquake, landslide, flood and their effects, the rest of the teachers shared our morality. We shared them that the earthquake treats millionaire and the beggar equally and they are on the equal status at the disaster. Hence, we told them to love people and feel pride to be a human being. We also made them aware of what should be done if the disaster re-occurs.

Chetan-Kumar-Timilsena

Chetan Kumar Timilsena

Following the devastating earthquake, it is challenging to resume schools and continue usual teaching in the affected areas like Kathmandu. People who survived in the earthquake feel that they have been granted with their rebirth. The recent earthquake has made thousands of people homeless, and they lost their family and relatives and properties. Thousands of public and private schools were collapsed and damaged. A large number of children became orphans, homeless and also schoolless. The earthquake has brought not only disastrous effects, but it also created many opportunities for us to rebuild better and quake resilient Nepal. We teachers, students, and concerned people have to actively involve in rebuilding process.

The school I teach ‘Shree Ratna Rajya Higher Secondary School, located at Mid-Baneshwor’, one of large public schools of Kathmandu valley has been heavily damaged in the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. Consequently, teaching students in the damage structure has been unsafe. However, the meeting of school management committee held on May 24 decided to follow the decisions of the government of Nepal and Ministry of Education. Thereafter, another meeting of the teachers and staff that was held immediately on May 26, discussed on different issues in terms of reopening the schools and continuing teaching. Following the meeting, some teachers of the school attended workshop on counseling classes for school children jointly organized by the Ministry of Education and the District Education Office, Kathmandu. Then, the teachers and staffs again held discussions on how to deal the quake affected students at post earthquake situation.

Finally, around one month and a half, schools were resumed from May 31. However, many challenges before us included how to start the classes, how to manage the classrooms, how to get rid of fear of the students, how to deal with the psychological aspects of the students, and so on. Both the teachers and the students seemed to be in a dilemma. They both were still in psychological trauma of the earthquake and aftershocks. Despite challenges, it was important for the teachers to seek solutions and strengthen themselves for continuing their daily routines. I planned to deal with the students by sharing some of my experiences and creating some fun and friendly situations. For this, I planned the activities as my habitual actions.

The first day, the school seemed to be a junction. Students were present in the school with their guardians. The teachers were in a dilemma, what to do in that situation,  and how to deal with the students. The temporary classroom building process was continued. There were not enough classrooms to manage the students. There was a silence, but the crowd. I was feeling that the place and the situation was for meditation. One big building with 27 rooms had already cracked so that red sticker was placed in it. It was quite challenging job to manage all the classes from nursery to higher secondary level.

After a long silence and confusion, as an icebreaker, our teacher staffs were engaged in placing the students. First, we started from staff rooms. We placed all the chairs and tables of two rooms. Then we separated one class to one room by merging each four sections of each class. Out of 1500 students almost 400 students were present that day. We encouraged the students to share their experiences about the mega earthquake. At the very moment, almost all the students were so sad that they were not from the fear of such a natural disaster. Some of the students were not interested to share their panic experiences. Fortunately, we had no bad news of our school family. There was again a silence. To break the silence, we teachers shared our feelings and experiences with some motivating ideas. I also shared some of my experiences during rescue and relief process. I had involved in rescuing people in different places of Kathmandu valley such as at Madhyapur Thimi, Bhimsen tower, Gongabu bus park area, etc. After we shared our experiences, the students started sharing their experiences. The reason behind it could be the similarity between teacher and students’ experiences. However, they were sad that they were about to cry frequently.

We did not teach the students’ course books and nor did we talk about them. But we engaged the students in different activities such as telling stories, jokes, reciting poems, singing songs and different games. They were happier after these activities. We also conducted group teachings. Students were happier that multiple teachers were teaching in the same class at the same time. We ended our classes at 1 PM. Then, we had a staff meeting. We shared our experiences. We had a discussion on how to deal with the students the next day in such a panic situation. We decided to take classes with games and jokes being optimistic.

Second day, one of our main focuses was music. It was played for 10/12 minutes before school assembly. Some students added in the classes. The students were happier than the first day. Newcomers, after getting enrollment, were increasing. We involved the students not only in sharing their experiences, but we had asked them to write about it in a few sentences. We divided the classes into different groups engaged them in group activities. Newcomers, from the other different public and private schools, were more active than those of the same schools. That day, we could manage two/two sections to each classroom. We could also manage other classrooms. The lower classes were taught as a Multigrade teaching. The tents were hung so that we could manage Nursery, KG and class one together. We sat together with the students and involved in different group work activities which gave us much satisfaction and pleasure. That day, we found that the students were happier than the day before. With better preparation, we took classes with new ideas and experiences about how to face unforeseen problems. We also encouraged the students to share their new ideas and experiences; we encouraged them to participate in a game with much more entertainment.

We tried our best to convince the students to share their personal experiences with us. We teachers involved in group activities and students stayed as audience. Some of us shared our bitter realities of the existing world such as moral disaster, earthquake, landslide, flood and their effects, the rest of the teachers shared our morality. We shared them that the earthquake treats millionaire and the beggar equally and they are on the equal status at the disaster. Hence, we told them to love people and feel pride to be a human being. We also made them aware of what should be done if the disaster re-occurs.

We needed to know our students personally as they were traumatized by the disaster. We tried our best to know psychological effects on students and treat them accordingly as we found some students were still not feeling safe and comfortable. We involved them in personal counseling. As a positive response, upper classes, especially class 8, 9 and 10 were curious about their new courses in the very beginning of the academic session. We ended our classes at 2 pm. We had also a staff meeting that day. After sharing the new experiences, we discussed about new ideas regarding how to prepare students in the teaching-learning process psychologically. We did not have enough space to have school assembly and morning prayer. The temporary classrooms covered the ground. Then we made a decision to give short break time thrice, a 10 minute break after 2 each period. The long break was cut off then. We also decided to run class routine wise next day. However, teachers should have to teach with their own plans indirectly based on the curriculum.

The third day was happier and much more comfortable than the previous two classes. Most students were in a happy mood. We took classes routine wise. I had better planning and preparation about how to deal with the students in English language teaching practices. I had already planned to teach strip story. Therefore, I prepared the strips of papers and wrote something that needs to be done in the classroom. The class started with the national anthem and Morning Prayer. The school administration had better preparation for managing the classrooms. I had two classrooms when our sections were merged into two. Therefore, we two teachers took the 1st period. First, we started the class with a language game based on yes/no question. Then we engaged them in learning strip story. The activity was continued until the period ended.

Finally, I would like to conclude this blog entry sharing effects on school children following the earthquake and some suggestions to overcome the effects. Negative effects on school children include loss of concentration power, short sleep, fear of different objects, frequent change of mood, headache, lack of interests in sharing anything and studies, anger and short temperedness and feeling of loneliness. Likewise, following the earthquake, children have developed sense of help and cooperation with each other, curiosity to know about the natural calamities, awareness of the environment, natural disaster and its effects in daily lives, and frankly sharing their experiences.

We can help and facilitate the quake affected children in the following ways based on what we practiced at our school. I personally believe that these activities can play significant roles in healing the pain of the students affected by the earthquake.

  •         Proper psycho-social counseling and motivation classes should be provided at a regular basis.
  •         Teacher talking time should be short and simple while dealing with the problems.
  •         Teachers should play the role of a good listener. A good listener can be a good counselor.
  •         More demonstrative and participative activities should be prepared.
  •         Encouragement to every classroom activities should be provided to the students.
  •         Share real life experiences and contextualize it so that students can better learn the behavioural aspects.
  •         Temporary classrooms should be managed as far as possible.

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The author teaches in Shree Ratna Rajya H. S. School, situated at Baneshwor, Kathmandu.

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