Children Taught Me English language

Karna Rana

Karna Rana

When I was a cowboy going to high school in the late 1980s, there was no educational mission in my life. Born in a poor economic background, even thinking of high school after primary school (Year Five) was just like imagery. Almost all the primary school graduates used to travel to India for work after primary school education in our locality. This came to me too in the long run of schooling but my illiterate (cannot read and write) mother and two elder brothers (who could not complete even their primary school due to loss of father) insisted me to join high school which was/is at the distance of three and half hour walk from home. After learning English alphabets at grade four and five, my journey to learning English in high school started in the mid-80s. That used to take whole morning to reach the high school after crossing dense forest, river, and walks up and down the hills via three villages. Over three hour walk in the morning and the same distance back home after school every day was more than enough to make me very tired. The dreams might be away from the sleeps but the real dream of life i.e learning English and speaking like professional was alive even in the sleeps, every walk and work throughout the high school.

Although there was no English learning environment in my school, the thought of learning English emerged listening to the rhymes of the kindergarten children of private school and looking at a couple (both teachers) of the school. I wished I could speak English like those couple teachers who were running that kindergarten school. There was no any English language learning centre around the school. Otherwise, I would have possibly joint the class. Gradually, I completed my high school with almost ‘no learning of English language’. I could just read words without understanding what the text meant. However, I passed SLC by memorising the texts, especially teacher’s notes. I must thank those high school teachers for their intensive teaching of English grammar that supported me to learn English in university later. Apparently I could not speak English even if I had every day English class from primary to high school.

This is a common sense – Nepal was/is not a ground of English though the neighbour had been colonial land of English for hundreds of years. I must thank the earlier generation of Nepali who saved Nepal and the diversity of over 125 languages that exist in Nepal even today. Though I could not learn proper English in high school, I learned formal English during my university education. How I learned English is quite interesting to share here. In fact, I learned almost no English from university classes but I learned English speaking and writing from my teaching profession at private schools in Kathmandu. Thank God, I got a job at private primary school where I used to teach kindergarten children. Actually I was learning more than teaching those kids in the school. The English language began with ‘May I come in, sir? May I go to toilet, sir? Come in. Go…’ Wow! How lovely the children were, who taught me English speaking and writing which was really helpful to study English on campus. I could speak general English in the very first year of my teaching profession. That teaching was reflected in the result of my I. Ed. English papers when I got very good marks. Therefore, I always thank those kids who taught me English language.

Let me continue the issue of professionalism in English language. Since 1995, the beginning of my university education and teaching profession excluding high school, I have been learning English. When I was almost at the scratch level even after SLC, I thought of developing English in me. I could develop English to some extent from my teaching profession as well as university education. I was always keen to develop my academic English proficiency throughout I.Ed, B.Ed and M.Ed. That was the main reason I selected English as major subject in the university. Sometimes I used to feel wretched when I could not understand native speakers’ English on TV or movies. Of course I had been teaching English at different English medium schools and community campus in Kathmandu for about eighteen years before travelling to the United Kingdom for my second Masters in September 2009. However, language is observed in communication and academic arts. One of the reasons behind going to study MA in Education in the UK was the same to develop English language in me.

Let me tell my real story in the UK. I could mostly understand the people in the university but it was quite different when I had to communicate with customers at my work. I used to work in service oriented company where I had to speak over the phones and face-to-face with local English people. I don’t know how many mistakes I might have done in the very first month due to misunderstanding of people’s language. There I realised what the real English is. This reminded my linguistic theory that I learned in B.Ed and M.Ed classes in Nepal ‘Language is human specific.’

I believe this reflective story is worth sharing with teachers, policy makers and English language learners. Only running after English language may be killing our innovative and productive life. At the same time, it should be understood that language is/not universal phenomenon and it should be realised in the education policies of the nation. As an emerging researcher, I have been reading education policy of Nepal and other countries, there is a gap between socio-cultural values and English language education in Nepal. As I said earlier Nepal was/is not the land of English where over 125 languages still exist with their socio-cultural diversities. Quite significant, most of the developed countries are gradually adopting migrant languages to reflect their diversity, inclusion and preserve their socio-cultural values. When we lose our languages, our socio-cultural values also die with the language. One reality that we have to understand is that language is not solely education. This is just the vehicle of education.

Lastly, I am writing this from the land of English (i.e. New Zealand). Just a reminder, I have realised very lately that English is just a language for communication that anyone can learn from the environment. This is similar to one of the 125 languages in Nepal. Now I speak and write English but I wasted my valuable time of life just running after English language and ignoring life skills. Now I think, I should have learned how to cultivate a beautiful flower in a pot that would give me handsome earning in any part of the world.

Mr. Rana is a PhD Candidate in the School of Teacher Education, College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Why I Chose ELT as a Profession?

Samita Magar

Samita Magar

This brief blog piece speaks my personal experience as an English language teacher. The reflective journal mainly tries to disseminate why I have chosen teaching profession and how someone can be benefited by being a teacher. Besides, there are significant positions of a teacher in the society that encourages growing generation to choose teaching profession. 

Introduction

When I was a high school student, most of the students were satisfied with the teaching of an English teacher. He ever suggested the students reading more than prescribed textbooks. His inspiration led them to be curious and enthusiastic learners. I was one of them wishing to be such a respected teacher. His positive attitude encouraged the students to prepare well and participate every curricular activity. His gentle personality could be easily observed on his smiles at the success of his students. His friendly and cooperative manner provided a space to share our feelings and problems that led us to achieve our success. I believe that his intellect and passion made me choose his profession in my life.

However, the statistics shows that majority of recent school graduates choose science and business studies to go to medical field, technical field and business field. In my case, I have seen my future in teaching profession. I believe that teaching profession is considered as prestigious as other professions. Ayers (1994) stated that teaching is more than transmitting skills; it is living act and involves preference and value, obligation and choice, trust and care, commitment and justification.

This reflects my social values, ethics, responsibilities and determination. I believe that these features pulled me in teaching profession. In my perspective, the good teachers listen to their students, care their daily activities, desires, wishes, interests and problems. The responsible teachers always perform their duties well. Their consistent care for students produces various professionals. In this regard, teaching profession can be considered as the base of all other professions.

I choose this profession mainly because of three reasons: 1) respected profession 2) highly creative 3) role model

Respected profession

The great philosopher, Aristotle has stated that “those, who educate children well, are to be honored than those who produce them”. The case of Helen Keller for instance. She is a famous writer because of her teacher. The credit goes to her teachers than to her parents. Teachers encourage, guide and teach students to learn the beautiful art of living a life. In the east, Guru is the God. There is a verse in Sanskrit ‘Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Maheshwor’. It says that teacher is an incarnation of God. A teacher affects eternity. He or she can never tell where his influence stops.  So it is the reality in the sense that what a teacher writes on the board of students’ life stays lifelong in their memory. One of my school experience also reveals the same dignity of a teacher. When I was a third grade student, all the people in my village used to greet teachers, consult them for information and invite them on all kinds of occasions. They used to be lawyer in our village in need. The respect they used to get inspired me to think about being a teacher.

Highly Creative

Information and communication technologies have shifted the teaching and learning ways in this world. These technologies have provided wider range of learning opportunities for the learners. The learners have access to unlimited information in this digital age that assures creativity in their learning. On the other hand, the virtual environment has generated more opportunities as well as challenges for the teachers. Teachers need to be informed of daily information, and be prepared to tackle the challenges and to survive into the classroom. It is worth quoting Lewis that the task of modern teacher is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate deserts. Thus what I believe that teaching is creative profession. Great teachers mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage the students through several creations inside and outside the classroom.

Role Model

Teachers in the east has always been model for the growing generation. For instance, my English teacher in school was my inspirer, motivator or director who ever stood a figure for me. However, the students in this fast growing world may have different perceptions toward teacher. It is because of the changing roles of teachers as the facilitator, guide and manager. Towne (2012) stated that a good teacher is like a candle; it consumes itself to light the way for others. Similarly, Dey (2013) suggested that the teachers to become models for their learners, so that they can develop into disciplined, hardworking and successful person.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, teaching profession is full of respect, responsibilities, creativity and also challenges. Whatsoever, this profession is socially prestigious because of its leadership nature among other professions. They are found to have a high level of autonomy as a lifelong learner.  This made me think about being a teacher when I was in school.

Samita Magar teaches English at Omega international higher secondary school in Lalitpur. She is pursuing her masters in ELT from School of education, Kathmandu University.

References

Dey, S.K. (2013). Teaching of English. India: Dorling Kindersley.

Towne, D. (2012). Home thoughts. Mustafa Kemal (Atatuk Trans.) Home thoughts. (originally published in 1991).