(Compiled by Praveen Kumar Yadav and Madhav Kafle)
Especially when it comes to community building, bigger is better!
We are delighted to introduce a number of new colleagues as editors of NeltaChoutari. As we do so, we also include some thoughts and ideas that we asked our colleagues to share, so we go beyond simply saying who is who. We hope that you will enjoy reading the post as your time permits and get to know these new brilliant scholars as new editors of this forum.
Uttam Gaulee is a PhD candidate at the University of Florida. After working in Nepalese ELT field for many years, Uttam went to the University of Pittsburgh on the Fulbright Scholarship program. He joined his current university (which is Florida state’s flagship institution) last year. Here are a few things straight from Uttam:
As an active NELTA member, I had an opportunity to become familiar with the blog since its inception. I think this was because the blog was promoted during the NELTA conferences. I used to glance over the materials shared whenever the precious internet connection allowed me to do so. … The initiative was appreciated by one and all. In no time, it did turn out to be a regular rendezvous for scholarly conversations addressing various critical issues in Nepalese ELT. However, frankly, in those early days, because Choutari was run by some folks living far far away from Nepal, it was often intimidating for the shy teachers in the hinterlands as it was for me. And yet, this was one of the go-to sources because of the unique discussions (with Nepali spice) that were not to be found in many other established international websites offering a plethora of resources geared to help English language teachers. So the resources and ideas shared were relatively more appealing, accessible, and useful for the English language teachers in Nepal. Toward the end of the year, however, something happened that shocked me.
The shock factor had come as an email from the Choutari editors requesting to contribute. What? This was something not only unexpected, but also unheard of. What could an English teacher serving in a Nepali high school or college ever contribute? Do they have something to say? Probably they do but can they write? Probably they can but could that be publishable? Who would read? What are these editors doing? Aren’t they “the scholars” who should keep teaching us? Why are they reaching out to us? All these questions were handled by the Choutari editors with calm and friendly manners. They probably condescended from their stature to answer all these crazy questions and convinced the local teachers that Choutari is not a one-way traffic. Choutari is a place to share the stories of successes and failures, experiments and theories, perceptions and interpretations, as well as explorations and collaborations. They reached out and encouraged young ELT professionals in Nepal to write and share. By inspiring and creating this kind of opportunity for these young professional to write and be heard, the editors gave the local teachers voice and identity. This is exactly what inspired me to join the team.
Umes Shrestha is a master’s degree student at Kathmandu University’s higher education program. He joined this program after completing his M.A in Mass Communication and Journalism. His areas of interest and skills include teaching English, Business Communication, Journalism, Concert and Band Photography, Blogging and Podcasting. We knew Umes as the blogger who writes at latebecame, a wordpress blog– among many other places where he is a productive writers/scholar and member of community. Here is what Umes shared with us when we asked how he learned about Choutari, what he likes about it, and what benefits he sees for writers and readers.
I can’t quite remember how I came to know about Nelta Choutari blog, I must have stumbled on to it through google. I had my own blog and I was looking around for Nepali blogs which also focused on teaching and learning English language. I didn’t even know what NELTA meant back then.
I remember the times when I used to hastily post rash comments on the blog (and on yahoo mail group) and used to have heated but lively conversation with others. The tension was so evident that sometimes I could literally smell the hatred thrown at me. Or, that’s how I assumed. For me, it was purely for fun. I just wanted to stir things up. And, man did I stir things up sometimes! (Shyam sir – hehehehe). I would post some ‘direct’ comments and visit the blog again and again, anticipating the rebuttal and I would be ready to pounce back on.
Fortunately, there was no name calling, there was not pointing fingers. I believe it was just frenzied yet healthy discussion. Gradually I started hanging around the blog and spent my time reading earlier posts, reading comments and appreciating the work put up by the people behind it. Even though I had different opinions (which everyone has), browsing around the Choutari made me understand and respect differing opinions.
Eventually, I started contributing articles and found Choutari team more embracing and welcoming than ever. I have always loved writing and what better place for a ‘blabbering’ teacher like me to be featured in Choutari’s monthly issues. Finding that Choutari allows space for differing ideas was very inspiring for me. Equally motivating was (is) the fact that one’s articles would be viewed and reviewed and commented on by professionals and teachers of the community. So in many ways, Choutari became the most obvious platform to start if I was ever to get my stuffs published on journals and professional spaces someday. We all need that first step and Choutari was the one for me.
We invited the new colleagues on the basis of their outstanding skills and experiences, but we also asked them to tell us what kinds of opportunities they see for adding/enhancing to what we do. Here is what Umes kindly shared with us.
I think Choutari needs to diversify the contents to be able to reach to a wider audience of teachers, educators, students, policy makers and most importantly, common people. I grew up in a very visual culture and many of times, ‘reading text’ seems very demanding. At least for me. But thanks to the technology and the internet, it is indeed possible to have contents in audio and visual formats too. I love the idea of podcasting and video interviews too. Hopefully, I will be able to contribute with podcasts and bring a little bit of variety.
Laxmi Prasad Ojha
Laxmi Ojha is a lecturer of English language education at Education department, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. He has been teaching English at the campus for a couple of years. He is also currently involved in the editorial board of Journal of NELTA. Besides teaching, he is interested in blogging and here’s his response that he sent us from the current team members’ attempt to gather some information about our new colleagues:
I learned about NeltaChoutari from NELTA colleague, specially Prem Phyak sir. I like the diversity of content it offers. Most of the entries are written by practitioners and are insightful. At the same time, it has maintained a balance to include scholarly articles to cater to the need of people working at policy level and higher education. I like to read Choutari mostly to be aware of the indigenous practices that teachers around my community practice. The writers have got a platform to share their ideas and practices. They get a sense of satisfaction and feel like they too have some ideas worth sharing to a wider audience. The readers get a variety of classroom tips, practices and feel that they can implement it. Moreover, they can read, join the conversation and forward their own views on various issues. This gives them added skill of critically seeing others’ practices. Sometimes, the readers get advantages reading issues relevant to their classroom setting.
Regarding skills and abilities, here is what Laxmi had to share in response:
I think I can continue the momentum that Choutari team has created over the past few years. I can take this blog to a wider audience. As most of the English language teachers are produced by Department of English Education, where I teach, I can bring in more audience and ask them to actively read and comment on the issues posted. This will create extra space and discussion that Choutari desperately needs (I feel so). We do not have many people emphatically promoting the blogzine on a regular basis. I will be able to so do, as I have been doing in the past. I am interested in the area of teachers’ professional development and working on this blogzine will be similar to that area. I have a good network among the NELTA colleagues around the country and can bring them in to write, read and comment as well.
The current editorial team is doing a wonderful job, yet, it feels like they have not been able to achieve the level they really wanted to. The pace of development of this blogzine has not been very remarkable as in the past (to be frank). I have been engaged in some teacher training programmes and can contact the teachers that I have trained to come up with some reflective essays to share with other teachers.
Santona Neupane is a scholar pursuing her Masters degree in Education specializing in English language teaching (ELT) from Kathmandu University School of Education. She is an English teacher in a private school in Kathmandu. Her areas of interest include reading, writing and trekking. Here is what Santona shared with us in response to our first question:
I learnt about Nelta Choutari from my Tutor Laxman Gnawali . Particularly I like how Nelta Chautari has been a platform for professional ELT practitioners to come together to learn ELT practices and share their experiences with each other to help them grow. I love English, teaching and reading and I want to share this love. And Chautari is perfect platform for that.
Her skills and strengths include: the “passion” to teach alongside her love for a good literature and willingness to learn and search for knowledge.” She has extensive experiences and skills to help Choutari become a more dynamic place:
I have the experience of assisting the administration and teacher training team of an international school and teaching secondary students in a private school in Kathmandu. I have had limited exposure to both International and National schools however I think my limited exposure can be a vital addition to the conversations.
I like how ELT practitioners from different stages/levels are dealing with various aspects of teaching English at the Choutari. It is even more encouraging to see lots of contributors writing about different areas in the ELT arena with respect to Nepali context and local resources.
She enjoys participating in interesting and thought provoking conversation. “Crawling into bed with a mug of coffee and a good book makes me happy, however sometimes a good movie can also be an alternative”, she adds.
Jeevan Karki is an English teacher at Graded English Medium School (GEMS), Lalitpur. His areas of expertise include creative writing, translation and documentary making. Jeevan is also interested in teacher training, content writing and editing, photography, and theater.
He is involved in www dot MeroCreation dot com, with a vision to take the literature and creation of Nepalese young minds to the international arena and ultimately to make the strong presence of Nepalese literature/creation in global literature. He is more interested in working with a shared vision to give young minds global access to share their creation, get immediate feedback, and read others’ creation critically to widen the horizon of their creativity and creation.