My Reflection on Birgunj Conference

Kanokon  Opasmongkonchai

Thailand

One of my great experiences which I’d like to share with you was to attend the conference that took place in Birgunj, Nepal on 12 -13 March 2013. It was Asian English Teachers’ Creative Writing Conference (2013), in which apart from gaining knowledge from expert creative writers, Prof.Alan Maley, Prof. Jayakaran Mukundan, Dr Kirk Branch, Prof. Dr. Govinda Raj Bhattarai, Dr. Vishnu Singh Rai and other scholars, I also obtained friendship with warm hospitality, as well as Nepalese cultural learning.

In fact, I had been there in Birgunj in a team four days before the conference. We had a three-day pre-conference session of only core group members. In the session I got acquainted with some new faces. We shared our poems and stories and had peer-editing that offered an ample opportunity to understand and learn how uniquely we take up creativity. The second day was much more memorable. We had a trip to Trikhandi on a bus. It was about three hours to the south of Birgunj. There I saw mountains stand very close all around and a clean stream rush down. I felt it special for getting intimacy with nature. We were there to empower our creative writing being close to nature. We all carried some stones of our choice and I brought back a heart-shaped one. On the third day we had a great time sharing our poems and stories that we had composed on the stones we had carried. It was of the greatest significance, since we had penned what we had observed on our field trip. It gave us another but the most crucial lesson how to find our surroundings in our literary work.

It was on March 12, the first day of the conference after the key speech by Prof. Alan Maley and a plenary session by Dr. Kirk Branch, I had a paper to present in one of the buildings of a nearby college. I was delighted to have about 35 participants to join the creative writing activity with me “Using a Picture to Stimulate Creative Writing.” I was very much impressed by participants who paid a great attention to the activity. While making a presentation, I wondered if the picture would be too difficult for them to write on or not. But, with their abilities and talents, it was obvious that they could write poems and short stories rapidly and colorfully, indeed.

Here are some of the poems on the pictures that they composed during the session and that I would love to share with you hoping that you may also try writing:

My Heart Says  

Oh, Dear
You look as fresh as dew
I don’t have many words to say
But only few
You are the old one for others
But in my sight, you are always new
I am the sky, you are my moon
When I see you, I forget the morning or noon
I have devoted my heart to someone and that is you
No matter you love me or not
But dear, really I love you

(Krishna Chaudhary)

Mona Lisa’s Change  

Oh, Mona Lisa
Pure and pretty woman
You’re born in a palace
And you end in the Mc Donald’s
Why you change your life?
I know well, my Mona
You don’t like the servants
You just wish a coca- cola!

(By Spanish participant)

……………………………….

What eyes she has,

What eyes!

It’s hardly a surprise

That millions have looked into them –

She looks so calm and wise.

But if, by some strange chance

We passed with a quick glance

Today,

Would we even spare the time

To ask her for a dance?

Or simply walk away?

(Alan)

………

And my friendly souvenir to you:

Let’s Smile!

Nothing to pay
When you smile.
So, let’s smile.

Something you gain
Is friendship
Hope
Joy
Peace
So, let’s smile.

Anything makes you pain,
Forget it awhile.
So, let’s smile.
Smile! Smile! Smile!
(Kanokon Opasmongkonchai)

Pictures used in the workshop:

Picture1

To my mind, participants were quite active and confident of doing the activity with me. They had proudly presented their writings. It was very nice that they had different views-points to write, so it made the workshop more interesting, making me feel that they could secure their own space for potential writers to grow out of them! Best Wishes!!

After the paper presentations on the first day, we got back to the Town Hall to observe the cultural program held by cute school boys and girls. Several times they got me to feel like singing and dancing next to them. They sang songs and danced so well that I couldn’t at all feel how swiftly time had flown away. I also learnt about the diverse cultures in the country through their dresses.

On the second day just before the closing ceremony we had another literary taste. It was a poetry recitation. Several participants including Prof. Maley, Dr. Branch, Prof. Bhattarai, Dr. Rai recited their poems in different languages – English, Nepali, Bhojpuri, Maithili, etc. Although I could not understand the poems in the languages other than in English, yet I could perceive their elegance through the ways they were recited. It was really a good example of multi-lingual harmony in Nepal.

In my view, creative writing is the best challenge to accept if you are learning to write. It requires a great deal of patience as well as love to do that. Maybe love should come first. Self-discipline to practice writing with figurative languages together with observing things around us deeply and correctly with imagination is a very important qualification of being a good creative writer. It is certain that it gives us pain when the idea doesn’t come out and in particular when we write in English, which is not our mother tongue. But, when the good result ripens, I dare say it’s worth it, indeed!

Before taking leave, what I am feeling now is:

Loneliness is…

Loneliness

Is

Fungus:

It’s fast to grow

It’s hard to heal

Its root

Is too deep

To eradicate

And

Ready

To come back

Terrible!

(Kanokon  Opasmongkonchai)

Stay in touch to ward off the feeling of loneliness.

Cheerio!

Blog on Creative Writing Workshop and Conference in Birgunj, Nepal

Li Wei

China

March 9-13th, 2013

This is my fifth time attending Creative Writing Workshop since 2006. I have been to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Nepal with other core group members during the past few years. Birgunj has been my second trip in Nepal. I have had wonderful memories about the beauty of local natural scenery and the hospitality of local people. The experience in Birgunj has deepened the unforgettable impression of Nepalese culture and people.

Every time when I prepared to attend the creative writing workshop, I went through a very energetic and productive period of writing. The time constraints pushed me to engage in the writing, thinking, creating and rewriting cycles. My mind has been occupied by the inspiration of creative impulse and the floating images occurring from my life experience and my imagination. I was often tortured by the writer’s block at the very beginning. Facing the blank paper, my mind was full of unknown thoughts. It seemed so difficult to get started sometimes that I switched to absent-minded state. Usually, the nervous mind got relaxed during the time. Then the inspiration returned little by little and the writing process started from the moment I typed in words on the computer screen. Once I started writing, my hands would be led by the inner talk or ideas appearing in mind. As an effective way for me to keep writing creatively, free writing helped a lot.

Writing leads to rewriting. It becomes much easier to rewrite or revise once there are plenty of words on paper waiting to be reshaped and processed. Our brain works better under a little bit pressure but not so well under an enormous burden of the external or internal pressure. Facing a blank page brings much more pressure for a novice writer, which stops him or her to pick up courage and start writing. While facing a fully occupied written page, the brain is more relaxed and ready to cut dissatisfied parts and add more details from visualization. After some practice, gradually I come to understand the tips of overcoming writer’s block, which are free writing without self-judgment or self-criticism and fast writing without thinking too hard or worrying too much. Free writing and fast writing are the two best ways for me to start writing and keep on writing whenever I face the blank page. In addition, extensive reading and journal writing can also bring inspiration now and then.

Things are getting much easier when the first draft is ready to be read. Revision is cooking a ready-made dish with some sources and refreshing views. Inspiration only comes naturally after racking one’s brain. It is a bit like giving birth to a baby. Thinking is the pregnant process and inspiration is like the hard push. The new-born baby looks ugly as if the first draft seems rough and imperfect at the first glance. Revision and rewriting are the upbringing process, which take a lot of energy of the writer but the writing piece is taking shape after some hard work. In the creative writing workshop, every participant shows others his or her prepared writing as if showing the photos of the cute baby. Then the readers are supposed to give comments or suggestions to the writer.

The communication between the readers and the writers is crucial during the revision process. The writer can receive different opinions from different readers and find out the weaknesses or shortcomings in his or her writing as well as the positive feedback about the writing. The whole communication process is carried out in a friendly and helpful atmosphere. No one should be laughed at or belittled during the mutual comment process. It is often an interesting process to discover how your readers understand your story or poems in a slightly different way according to their own life experiences and cultural backgrounds. If the writing touches the heart of the reader, it can be shared in experience universally no matter which culture it might represent. There are a lot of commonality among human life experiences and emotions. Cultural differences bring diversified settings and environment into the story and show various mentality of the main character, but the basic emotions are in common.

In our creative writing workshop we worked as a team. We read one another’s story and poems, and then we gave our comment to the writer. I could often learn a lot from my readers and realize how to revise my work. For example, as core group members, we were required to write about a picture called Nighthawks. It was interesting to discover that everyone saw the same picture in different ways. Although the main theme was the same about solitude or loneliness, the writers in different ages and from different cultural backgrounds did illustrate the picture in their own way. It was inspiring to read various poems written about the famous painting Nighthawks. The universal emotion of human being was very influential and powerful. Writing from observing a picture was also an effective way to learn to observe carefully and write something out of box. The picture was the stimulator and the restraint. We need to observe the characters in the picture and we also need to think imaginatively out of the picture. As creative writers, we should not be locked into the picture itself like the main characters in it, but we should jump out of the frame and write something unseen.

Talking about my presentation during the concurrent session, it had attracted a roomful of audience and most of them were students in the university. They were eager to listen to my talk and I could feel their enthusiasm from their eyes. I divided my talk into two parts. The first part was about what creative writing meant to me. I thought creative writing had made me love writing much more than before. It was a process of learning to write and also a process of self-discovery. Whenever I tried to create a character, my life experience and people who were familiar to me were jumping into my mind. I thought creative writing could not come from an empty space. The seeds of a story must lie somewhere in our daily life. Through reflection and observation, stories would take shape in some way or another. The second part was about activities which could be used in English writing classes of different levels. Even some very simple activity could lead learners to create unexpectedly beautiful poems through right guidance. For example,

‘When I think of …

I can see…

I can smell…

I can taste…’

One girl in my presentation room wrote about sunset in the form of the above simple pattern. It was so beautifully written that I could not help offering my praise to her in front of the audience. Her poem really inspired me to use the simple-form poem activity with more advanced students because their imagination and language expression were more interesting in a way. Although the form could be simple, the ideas and the feelings were thought-provoking without limitation. Once learners knew how to play with words within the restraints of the form, their thoughts and imagination could be as flexible as the flowing water which could be filled into any shape. I felt the most rewarding experience of doing creative writing was that the potential inner creativity of oneself could be stimulated in the process of word play. The sense of achievement was fulfilling for most English learners. To find your own voice and express your inner thoughts in a foreign language were very challenging as well as exciting. The happiness of composing a short poem or a short story was so strong that the painful producing process seemed bearable.

In a word, the Birgunj Creative Writing Workshop and Conference were very successful and unforgettable with the help of many organizers and participants. I believed that there would be more creative writers appearing in Birgunj who would love to share their stories and their poems with the rest of the world in both Nepalese language and the world language English. Let’s write and enjoy!

NeltaChoutari: March Issue, 2013

Welcome to March, the Conference Special Issue of Choutari 2013! 

Editorial

As it has been the convention from past years, this issue of Choutari focuses on the (18th) International conference of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) which was recently held partly in Kathmandu, the capital of the country, and partly in Janakpur, also known as the capital of Mithila Kingdom in ancient times. The theme of the conference was ‘Transformations in ELT: Contexts, Agents and Opportunities’. The conference which was attended by participants and presenters from 18 different countries including U.S.A, U.K, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Poland, Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, India, China, Bangladesh and Australia. I thank everyone who contributed to this issue on behalf of my fellow Choutari editors. I hope that readers will find the varied contents of this issue interesting.

The first entry here is the presentation material of Dr. Richard Smith, the keynote speaker, who is a professor from Warwick University, UK. Dr. Smith also facilitated the plenary on ‘Teaching Large Classes’, and building on the plenary, he also facilitated a smaller workshop on teaching and researching large classes during the concurrent sessions.

The second item includes the presentation materials (along with brief blurbs) provided by another keynote speaker, Dr. JoAnn (Jodi) Crandall from Maryland University, U.S.A. who delivered her key speech on ‘Preparing Global Citizens for the 21st Century: The Role of Content-Based Language Instruction.’ Dr. Crandall facilitated two plenary sessions: the first entitled ‘The Expanding World of the ELT Professional: Opportunities and Challenges’ and the second ‘Culture as Content in the ELT Classroom: Helping Learners Develop Intercultural Competence’.

Associate Professor Ganga Ram Gautam, who is also one of founding members of NELTA, made his observation and reflections on the key speeches delivered by key speakers Dr. Richard and Jody’s speeches on the conference theme and preparing global citizens for the 21st century: The role of content based language instruction respectively.

The next entry is a contribution by Mandira Adhikari, who was a rapporteur at the conference. Ms. Adhikari reflects on the plenary and concurrent sessions she had attended during the conference of NELTA. She shares how the conference turned beneficial to  her personal as well as professional development.

Choutari asked the participants who attended the mega event of ELT about one thing they are taking away from the conference to their classroom. The compilation of their responses, as another blog entry of this month, reflects why a teacher needs a professional association like NELTA – which is also a lesson for those who missed the conference.

We have also included a blog entry from Madhav Kafle  who shares his stance on monolingual policies in multilingual states like Nepal and its implications for language Teaching urging Choutari readers for joining the thread of discussion. 

What an incredible work Nepalese youth icon Rana has done establishing English medium School, which teaches children free of charge! The written documentary with YouTube video contributed by Apar Poudel will make us feel inspired and motivated to do something different for our community, society and the country.

Here’s the table of contents for convenient navigation:

—–

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the contributors including the Choutari Team for their support and contribution. Thank you all for your continuing effort and contribution to NeltaChoutari, and we expect more contributions of yours on Chouatri for the next issue ahead. Please share with us any new ideas you think is better to make Choutari better.

We always welcome your constructive feedback to make our publications more reader friendly in terms of the content and issues in ELT. I urge you to join the professional conversation on Choutari by posting comments or sharing among your circles via social media networks like facebook, twitter, google plus, pressing likes under the blog entries you have read and printing for those who lack the internet access to the webzine.

Enjoy Reading!

Praveen Kumar Yadav

On behalf of Choutari Team

Key Speaker Dr. Richard Smith’s Key Speech and Plenary

Transformations in ELT: Contexts, Agents and Opportunity- Key Speech

Professor Richard Smith began his talk with a brief historical overview of western language teaching methods and their export, highlighting the needs revealed by this history for teaching methodology to be appropriate in context. Moving on to agents, he stressed that the main agents of change in ELT are teachers, and he argued for the idea that the genuine transformations only tend to happen gradually, from within existing affordances. Finally, then, he laid emphasis on some practical and realistic opportunities for teacher development and teacher research which have the potential, at least, to bring about lasting change. For his presentation slides/materials, please click here Transformations in ELT: Contexts, Agents and Opportunity

Teaching Large Classes: Plenary

Referring to cases of good practice from recent research in developing country contexts, he has shared the findings on how  some teachers and learners have addressed difficult circumstances including large class size, lack of resources and heterogeneous groupings. On this basis, he mapped out some directions for future  teacher development and research work, drawing particular attention to the activities of the Teaching English in Large Classes network. For Dr. Smith’s plenary talk on teaching large classes, please click the link Teaching Large Classes 

 Teaching and Researching Large Classes: Workshop

Building on his plenary  ‘Teaching Large Classes’, Dr. Smith encouraged the participants to share their own recent teaching successes. He also mediated further ideas from teachers elsewhere, and he showed how they can show themselves do research into the problems they face without too much added burden, indeed actually lightening their load.

Key Speaker Dr. JoAnn (Jody) Crandall’s Key Speech and Plenary

Preparing Global Citizens for the 21st Century: The Role of Content-Based Language Instruction – Key Speech

Content based language instruction has a valuable role to play in preparing global citizens in an increasingly interconnected world. It builds content knowledge and offers the possibility of integrating the “21st century skills” of critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration. It also fosters authentic use of language, with real purposes and audiences, in a range print and digital literacy and in contexts that promote authentic and often intercultural communication. These skills can begin to be introduced to young learners in language programs and ne expanded as students move through secondary school and the university to achieve more advanced language, literacy and content knowledge and skills. For her key speech, please click the link here Prepari_Global_Citizens-Role_of_CBI_CLILNepalfnl

The Expanding World of the ELT Professional: Opportunities and Challenges – Plenary

A number of factors have come together to make the world of English language teaching one of increasing opportunities. These factors include the globalization of English, the introduction of English in early grades, the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction at some level of education (especially higher education), the increasing reliance upon digital technologies, and the rapid creation of new knowledges, which if met, enable us to continue to grow and perhaps, reverse the tendency to “burn out” or become less motivated by the profession we have chosen. Dr. Crandall’s talk focused on the opportunities and challenges that are presented to us in the new life cycle of an ELT professional. Please go through her presentation in the plenary by clicking the link ExpandingWorldofTESOLProfessionalNepalfnl

Culture as Content in the ELT Classroom: Helping Learners Develop Intercultural Competence – Plenary

The language classroom has long been seen as a natural context for the teaching of both explicit and implicit culture. We include cultural practices and institutions, customs and traditions, verbal and nonverbal communication and many more cultural topics in our classes (Datesman, Crandall & Kearny, 2005) In many English classes, we also include both target (where the language is widely spoken) and source (the students’ own) culture, since one goal of the language class is to help students better understand their own culture. But the role of the culture in the English classroom is more complex and the goal of intercultural competence even more critical, as English is used internationally to communicate across cultures. Thus, those of us who teach English as foreign or additional language (EFL/EIL classes need to take responsibility to build students’ intercultural communication skills in order to prepare them to be effective users of English in global contexts. An important step is to build a “sphere of interculturality  ” (Kramsch 1993) in the EFL classroom that promotes a healthy process of learning about cultural difference through reflection on one’s own culture. That can be followed by the use of a number of activities to promote intercultural awareness, knowledge, tolerance/respect, and behavour and to help learners develop increasing “intercultural sensitivity” (Bennet 1993) and intercultural competence.  Please click the link Culture as Content in EFL-EIL- Helping Learners to fnl for the materials/slides presented in the plenary.

Take-away of this year’s NELTA Conference Key Speeches

Ganga Gautam

NELTA Member

This year’s NELTA conference began with the two powerful key speeches;

1)      Dr. Richard Smith – Transformations in ELT – Contexts, Agents and Opportunities

2)      Prof. Dr. Jodi Crandal–Preparing Global Citizens: The Role of Content-BasedLanguage Instruction (for English language instruction at all levels)

Dr. Smith in his presentation talked about how ELT has undergone massive transformation and he highlighted the key milestones of the shitfs in the ELT paradigms. One of the important messages that Dr. Smith brought in his presentation was the shift in the teaching methodology. He made endeavors  to communicate that talking about the single generalized method of teaching would be irrelevant at present context because it is the teachers who invent and create the methods by themselves based on the local contexts and the need of the learners at the local level. Rather than just following the approaches and methods from the BANA countries, it would be wise for the teachers to look at those methods and see how they can judiciously use them with the modifications and changes to suit their learners and the local context. Collaboration among the teachers from different settings would thus, produces appropriate methodology for the teachers. The methodological inventions are, therefore, bottom-up and they are led by the teachers rather than top-down as it was in the past. He concluded the session with a thoughtful question

“How can you bring about appropriate transformations in your ELT practice, in your own context, as an agent – at least partially — of your own destiny, and what opportunities do you see for supporting your students’ as well as your own development?”

The second key speech, which was given by Dr. Crandal, highlighted the role of content integration in the EFL/ESL materials. She shared that the global citizens of the current world need the 21st century skills and the EFL/ESL classes should include the materials from the wide array of disciplines so that the language teaching becomes not only lively and meaningful for the learners but also expose the students to the materials they will encounter in their real world after graduation. She also presented how language and content can be integrated together and shared some examples of the collaborative efforts made by language and content teachers to implement content integrated language teaching and learning in class.

So the take-away of the conference from these sessions is that it is the teacher who is responsible to make the methodological decisions in the local context to suit the learners’ need, interest, culture, their native language and so on. Collaboration with other teachers at the local, regional, national and international level will promote mutual learning building upon the successes in different countries and enhance professional harmony among the practitioners. Similarly, the integration of language with the content area subjects will promote thinking skills among the learners and the learning will be authentic for our students.

A rapporteur’s reflection on the 18th Int’l Conference of NELTA

Mandira Adhikari

Attending conference is one among various ways of teacher’s professional development.  Maggoli (2003) says that many teaching professionals attend conferences, seminars or courses as a part of their professional development. She further puts an emphasis on the conference plan that a participant should have so that they will have the aim of attending the conference and they will utilize their learning after returning back to the classroom. For the same cause, I attended the 18th international conference of NELTA to gain various ideas that will be useful for my classroom teaching, personal learning and professional development.

On the first day of the conference, I attended the speech of Key Speaker Dr. Richard Smith from UK on the conference theme ‘Transformations in ELT: contexts, agents and opportunities.  I would like to share with the community some of the key extracts from the key speaker. English now is no longer owned by the native speakers, the number of English speakers is increasing rather than decreasing day by day and there is the need of more English teachers. The main message of his presentation was to focus on the bottom –up approach in ELT and teachers can be the best researchers as they are well aware of their contexts and the problems they are facing. Similarly, finding out the solution by the teachers themselves would be more effective as they are the ones who are contextualized in their classroom. He concluded his session remarking that transformation is going on and new challenges in the ELT are emerging that demands bottom-up approach and teachers are the major ELT agents in their own context.  Thus, his presentation motivated me to be the researcher of my own classroom and helped me build up a confidence that I am the one who can better understand my context and my classroom rather than any other person.

Another session which I attended was facilitated by Sayeedur Rahman from Bangladesh on ‘Politics of English Initiatives Implementation in Bangladesh: An Investigation of ELT Reforms which clearly mentioned that the programs implemented in Bangladesh in order to improve English language are not as satisfactory as they need to be. He also presented various facts and examples that pose challenges to the program implementation without desired output.

Similarly I found the joint workshop by Ashley Hager, Madhukar K.C. and Sumati Shakya entitled ‘Enhancing critical thinking and creativity in EFL Classroom more effective. This workshop helped me to gain the idea that critical thinking is something that makes an individual think critically rather than just a plain reading. It is something like ‘thinking outside the box’. At the end of the workshop, I thought critically and was able to make my own quote “innovative mind for revolutionary world”.

On the second day of the conference, the three plenary sessions helped me to gain ideas especially on the problems of large classes and the use of ICT its impact, affordances and constrains in ELT. The plenary session by Prof. Dr. Jodi Crandall, on The Expanding World of the ELT Professional: Opportunities and Challenges’ mainly focused on a number of factors have come together to make the world of English Language teaching one of the increasing opportunities such as the globalization of English, the introduction of English in earlier grades, the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction at some level of education especially higher education, the incensement reliance upon digital technology and so on. Her presentation highlighted the different issues of teacher development such as mentoring especially the role of the mentor to develop one’s professionalism. The way she presented the challenges and opportunity for the teachers looked as if she represented the stories about all of us who are facing several challenges but are trying to create opportunities within those challenges.

Another plenary by Dr. Richard Smith on Teaching Large Classes basically focused on successes and challenges of large classes where he encouraged the participants to share their own teaching successes and challenges in large class. From the discussion sharing, major challenges of teaching large classes included unable to check the homework, no participation of all students, difficult to get students’ attention, difficult to control noise in the classroom, problem in dealing with mixed ability students, difficult to achieve rapport among students- students and students-teachers, difficult to hear individual responses from the students, difficult to promote active learning, difficult to manage the classroom and difficult to remember all the students’ names.

To address the above problems Dr. Smith concluded with the suggestions that they should apply group works to make all the participants active, develop ground rules to minimize noise level, ask them to write notes and see at home to understand the mixed abilities of students, chat with students every time when the teacher gets time and play the role of the moderator to build rapport, ask students to find themselves or ask them to do project work in group to make active learning fruitful and ask students hang a name tag in their uniform when they come in the class to remember all the students’ name in the large classes.

Kalyan Chattopadhyaya from India in his presentation ‘Transformations in ELT: ICT in Learning Spaces, and Teaching Practices showed how the use of technologies is changing the ways of teaching and learning of English language teaching. His presentation was database and was focused on the following points; Teachers’ use of ICT tools, Impact of the use of those ICT tools, Affordances and constrains of emerging language learning spaces and challenges of those tools in ELT. He found the teachers were using ICT in language teaching to fulfill the objectives such as finding out the useful information or idea, expressing oneself through the web, communicating across cultures and fostering independent learning. He presented that ICT integration in ELT has larger impact such as learning beyond the classroom, providing new learning spaces, BYOD/BYOT: learning with your devices, supporting and sharing the ideas and self- exploratory practices. Despite of some limitations, ICT tools provide us the opportunities in ELT and we should never think that at first we need to master in technology first and use it later however, we can simply learn the essential tools and start using it.

On the same day I with three of my co-presenters (Dhanapati Subedi, Nibedita Sharma and Bhumika Adhikari) presented our paper based on the need of the teachers of Kathmandu valley. Upon our presentation, I found the participants more interested to learn the current need of the teachers and conduct researches on the area. The opportunity to present a paper in a mega event of ELT made me more confident adding a brick in my professional development.

The 18th international conference of NELTA was more helpful for me to learn a lot for my personal as well as professional development gaining substantial ideas that I can implement in   my classroom of real situation and building my self- confidence for further presentations.

From the Conference to the Classroom

We had asked the participants of the 18th international conference of NELTA – Could you please share with Choutari one thing that you are taking away from the conference into your classroom? 

In the response, we have received the following views, which have been presented below:

I bring the passion of ELT young fellows from this conference to my classroom as they are so curious to learn something and I am fortunate that I have the moment to share my learning. During my stay, I am feeling that NELTA people are so much sensitive about systems and about English teachers but they should collaborate with the new sense of young ELT fellows and go ahead who are far from the valley and struggling with their contexts and contents together.

– Ms. Kate Miller, UK, NELTA  Member

I learnt the ways to tackle with the large class in the plenary hosted by Dr. Richard Smith in the conference. Upon retuning to my school, I am sure I can effectively manage my classroom and make my teaching better than before.

– Madan Kafle, NELTA Sindhuli

I found that ELT [practitioners] sharing latest information is applicable in real classroom. It was great opportunity to know about ELT situation of other countries and share the existing situation of Nepal. The resources shared would be so essential to develop language competency. Besides, I have learnt different ELT methodologies the presenters presented and their application into classroom.

                         – Hom Raj Khadka, NELTA  Banke

I enjoyed the class of Ms. Christine Stone in the 18th International conference of NELTA as I found it so useful especially for teaching primary level students. Despite of her ageing, she was proactive facilitating the session with support of her co-presenters. Her sessions were indeed impressive to me.

– Dor Bikram Thapa, NELTA Sindhuli

I liked the way Ms. Kate Miller engaged the participants in interaction in her presentation. She talked about early childhood education. I liked her simplicity dealing with the learners, which I am going to apply with my students and her techniques in the classroom.

– Dipendra Lal Karn, NELTA Janakpur

The session entitled Teaching Writing in Large Classes: Models, Rubrics, and Peer Review facilitated by William Wolf from Bangladesh during the conference upgraded me to teach writing skills in the classroom in a different way.

–Krishna Lal Sharma, NELTA Nawalaparasi

When I entered into the auditorium, I found the executive members and volunteers busy managing the event with their efforts they could. I was totally upset because nobody talked to me but soon my attentions drew to Dr. Richard Smith’s talk during the plenary session. Dr. Smith’s views about controlling the large ELT classroom were no doubt appreciative but I was puzzled whether the techniques he suggested will be applicable in the context of Nepal or if yes, to what extent. I wanted to raise this question but I could not ask.

–Keshab Dutta Bhatt, NELTA, Kailali

I found a new trend of presentation in Pecha Kucha Fun which had been performed by a team of Students from Kathmandu University led by Associate Prof. Laxman Gnawali. Although it was interesting in the audiences’ views, I could not learn any contents but it was helpful for entertaining the students of ELT with ELT humors. I learnt that several pictures can be used to motivate the learners on the contents.

– Dinesh Kumar Yadav, NELTA Janakpur

I learnt a good lesson from the special session facilitated by Mr. Fife MacDuff and Mr. Bishwa R. Gautam about applying the techniques and ways for ELT Graduate Studies and Assistantships from American Universities.

 – AP Bhattarai, NELTA Life Member, Kathmandu

I am impressed by the lecture given by Mr. Richard Smith, which was about the new trends and the mobilization of ELT in the current global situation. But I was sad because I did not find any advisors who used to be our celebrity and the stars in NELTA.

 – Gopal Prasad Basyal, NELTA Palpa

 I wished I could attend some presentation focusing on the role of the ICT in the ELT classroom. My wish was fulfilled when I participated the session of Dr. Kalyan from India. He shared with us different ways and ideas how ICT tools can be integrated for effective ELT classroom.

 – Ms. Shyama Tamang, NELTA Nuwakot

 I attended the concurrent session of Ms. Monalisa Khan from Bangladesh. She shared us about the challenges while teaching EFL writing at the tertiary level. The content was interesting to me and more interesting were the ways she presented her paper. I learned some measures that will help me overcome those challenges in my classroom.

 – Dipesh Kumar Sah, Siraha

If  you have participated in the conference and you wish to include your views to the list  or share your response to the above-mentioned question with the larger ELT community home and abroad, please add your response as a comment.

Monolingual Policies in Multilingual States: Implications for Language Teaching

Madhav Kafle

Penn State University, USA

In this brief post, I share my rumination over the concept of ‘a language’ and concept of correctness in language teaching and learning. Historically, neither did human beings claim a language by the virtue of belonging to a place nor did they police communicative endeavors of the learners as we do in many academic and non-academic spaces today. So when did we begin to have the concept of a language from that of the Language? By the Language, I mean the semiotic affordances our predecessors exploited to communicate with each other. We might first be shocked to realize that languages such as English, Nepali, Hindi, Chinese and so forth as we conceptualize them today as bounded entities belonging to a certain group of people were invented at some point in the past. Today, as we know, in most parts of the world, languages are taught as if they always existed as self-contained systems with discrete borders. If we mix words or chunks of so-called language “X” to that of a language “Y” in academic discourse, then we are often seen as a language learner who has yet to master the language fully rather than a member of an elite family. Despite being pervasively prevalent in everyday interactions, mixing is seen as one of the seven sins, if you will, in the academia.

And you might be saying, well you can do that in speaking but not in writing; writing is formal and is set in stone whereas speaking is ephemeral and assisted by multiple channels of meaning including gestures and facial expressions. To speak only of English (as ‘a language’) in Nepalese context, we expect our students at all levels to be able to show the mastery of certain national goals and objectives stipulated by the policy makers. Needless to say, the objectives of the language education are monolingual; therefore, teaching materials and resources all are only in English and the medium of instruction is also assumed to be English only (Let’s not get distracted right now by caring to talk about the reality). The pedagogy in most cases is test-driven. Therefore, instead of assessing the effectiveness of the utterance to the local context, we dwell up on the global binary of right and wrong.

Let’s talk about issue of normativity for a while. Modern society judges all human experiences by putting them through the parameters of ‘normalcy’ whereas this very concept has been shown as a matter of social and historical construction rather than a condition of human nature. According to Lennard J. Davis, as he recounts in his essay “Constructing Normalcy” in The Disability Studies Reader, the word ‘normal’ as ‘constituting, conforming to, not deviating or different from the common type or standard, regular, usual’ only enters the English language around 1840. The boundaries and strictures of normalcy, which we think of as ‘natural’ givens now, were constructed just one and a half century ago, at least in the western intellectual history. Likewise, according to Davis,

the word ‘norm’ in the modern sense, has only been in use since around 1855, and ‘normality’ and ‘normalcy’ appeared in 1849 and 1857, respectively. If the lexicographical information is relevant, it is possible to date the coming into consciousness in English of an idea of ‘the norm’ over the period 1840-1860. (10)

Further, Davis  goes onto say that before the construction of the concept of the norm, there was the concept of ‘ideal’, which also dates only from the seventeenth century. However, since the ideal was linked to the world of the divine, it was simply impossible to be achieved by mortals. Within such a schema of the ‘ideal’ there could be no room for the notion of deviance. Disability, for example, did not mean deviance but a part of the ideal. After the construction of ‘norms’ around the mid-nineteenth century, rules and regulations were created in each and every domains of human experience. This historic account of norms might sound a little simplistic; however, the purpose should be clear: norms are social constructions as are languages. As an aside, let me say this to you, I had to resort to western literature to elucidate this point, I wish I was able to find some relevant sources from our local multilingual archives .

Now, once constructed, do the norms last forever? An example from The New York Times example might be insightful. According to the article, the current association of baby clothes, which are often sorted by gender and color lines, pink for girls and blue for boys, were once just the other way around. Before the World War I, boys were pink and the girls were blue. This indicates that the norms can change according to the needs of the new times (or even for some mysterious reason).

If you permit me to continue this philosophical rambling, to have a historical understanding of the language standards, how about we travel a little back to the pre-colonial times? Would not it be interesting to explore what kinds of language norms were exercised during gurukul education system?  Maybe,  our tendency of seeing ourselves as authorities and our language  policing in  language and literacy teaching, has some kind of legacy to gurukul system as well. Again, unfortunately, the literature covering that time is relatively sparse and we are raised in a culture of looking to the West.

Consciously or unconsciously, we seem to be unable to conceive of other ways besides following the mono-normative pedagogy by default. We take for granted that skills such as reading and writing once learnt are going to be useful for ages while that is in fact not the case. If we talk about professional development, rarely is the case where teacher training programs do capitalize on local (multilingual) pedagogy. Similarly, well-meaning literacy sponsors such as British Council and US Embassy and other funding agencies would not probably commend our proposal of mixing different languages for academic purposes. This is not to say we do not have local conventions, but we often tend to discredit them as incorrect or substandard. We do not often look for hidden legacies we might have. To put it a little differently, we have yet to create the knowledge base that validates our centuries long practices.

On a more positive note, there are some signs that we are going to regain the multilingual history at some point in near future, if not soon. European Union today is a case in point. However, I am aware of the fact that while economic prospect of multilingualism is now visible in developed countries, English is still getting an unjustly superior position in many developing countries like ours. Therefore, to envision a future where we can follow the middle path by striking the balance between the indigenous and dominant languages, whether they be English or Nepali, we need to start acting today. We can’t outright negate the ‘a language’ discourse as it is rather deep, but we can at least start destabilizing the concept. The recent discussion on speaking English (only) in and out of the classrooms in NELTA yahoo group can be taken as one of the examples of possible steps forward.  Through such intellectually engaging discussions, we will be able to reinvigorate and build on our past pedagogies.  Yes, we won’t reach to conclusions easily, but the fire of criticality will keep us guiding to a better future. I hope we soon realize that erasing tribal languages in the name of validating economically advantageous languages in academia is neither fair nor foresighted. So, what kind of pedagogy would be more socially sensitive and culturally appropriate? Let’s keep the discussion going on!

Nepalese Youth Icon Rana’s Love for Change: Teach Children Free of Charge

Apar Poudel

Amid the forest and alluring natural beauty, there stands Maya Universe Academy, a child-friendly school for the children from the poor and marginalized community in Tanahun District of Nepal. It is a model school which offers the children with international standard education free of charge.  A youth icon Manjil Rana, who envisions establishing such schools over the country based on experiential learning, has started from his own village.

Let’s watch the video on YouTube, where Rana shares how he started his project of founding Maya Universe Academy.

Rana in his early twenties started his dream project Maya Universe Academy, a free school, in his village in Udhin Dhunga of Tanahu District two years ago. Now he has scaled up the project establishing two more schools as its branches in the remote villages of Syanja and Makwanpur districts too.

Before he started this school, Rana completed his high school from St Xavier’s School in Kathmandu and then University education in India and the United States of America. In the present context of the youths flying abroad for foreign employment and studies, Rana stands as the symbol, who models the youths to inspire to take a welfare initiative and initiate the campaign for a common cause in their community that can make a difference in the Nepalese society.

The curriculum of the Academy meets the international standards. It is practical and based on experiential learning. The effectiveness of the curriculum is reflected in day-to-day life of the kids as they use not only Nepali but also English for communication.

Rana’s initiative has received support from many helping hands and volunteers. It runs with the minimum fund collected from the volunteers from abroad. In addition, the guardians’ voluntary service, and school’s own agriculture and farming have also contributed to covering the expenses.

As a part of community development service, foreign volunteers from different nations are cooperating with the school management by teaching the children. Every month the Academy arranges some volunteers and cooperates with the local teachers for effective teaching-learning.

An American volunteer Aayean says, “I am highly inspired by the school and having great time here. I believe that students are having fun in learning practically and these are the precious days for me too.”

The Academy has its own rules and regulations that have shaped its uniqueness. The best part of the school is reflected in the students’ uniform i.e. Nepali daura and surwal with dhaka cap for boys and skirt and cholo for girls. It can be one of the indications that our children can learn English without losing their cultural roots.

As mentioned earlier, the students do not have to pay any fees for their study. Instead, their guardians should volunteer in the activities of the Academy. It can be farming and construction or even preparing breakfast and lunch for the teachers and staff. The Academy has raised the hope among the guardians. They are happy to have such an ideal school in their community.

“It’s a joy to have such a school in our village. I feel lucky to see my kids learning English happily.” says a guardian Machindar Dulal. Another guardian Mahendra Adhikari shares his views, “School is really a gift for the people of the poor community, who are marginalized and deprived of quality education”.

The support from the local community has added new enthusiasm to the Academy. The regular meetings and gatherings work out and entrust the responsibilities of guardians for the welfare of the school.

Apart from the educational initiative, the school has also initiated in social transformation through various activities. As a part of social initiative it has been working for the production, promotion and marketing of local products. Rana has come up with the idea of promoting local products along with their production and marketing. For example, he has cooperated with the guardians in producing the orange jam in the village and to sell it in the cities. For this initiation he has trained a team with the skill of producing jam. This has really inspired the locals, who were unaware of such potential of the markets and products.

He is determined to translate his vision into reality. However, he sees people’s mindset and lack of communication among themselves as a major challenge. He feels that passion is the driving force we youths should carry and move ahead that surely leads to success. He has  a dream of educating the kids from rural parts of Nepal so that they can explore and compete for the global opportunities. Obviously it is English that gives them competence and confidence to embark on the journey from the local to global.

This school is an exemplary one for other schools in Nepal, especially the private ones which increase their fees year by year to provide education to the children in the name of English. Besides, it establishes a friendly relationship among the students-teachers through good communication and interaction.

It’s an inspiring step that can surely bring about change in the education system of Nepal along with social development.  Only the thing is that the society should be positive and supportive to help the visionaries put their thought into action. Rana argues that his initiation can bring about change in the education system of Nepal within 20 years. As a promising and aspiring youth, he believes that the schools like this should be set up throughout the nation.

If you want to learn more about the school, click on http://www.mayauniverseacademy.org/

 Mr. Poudel is the manager at Radio Bani Network in Kathmandu and teaching English to higher secondary and bachelor’s level students.

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