Teacher Anecdote – Hem Raj Kafle

“Ay, sir. You must be punctual.”

“I’m sorry, I was stuck on the way. A public bus is sometimes ridiculous, you know. And I come from Kirtipur.”

“No, you can’t have excuses! See, everyone here comes by a local bus from somewhere as far as that.”

“But, not everyone comes as early and regularly as I do, do they?”

“No, you must be responsible. I have the right to say this. If you can’t be punctual, you can go.”

“Oh, so you want me to leave? Do you think I will stick to teaching such imprudent and uncompromising people as you?”

This was a dispute between a B. Ed. third year student and myself in Mahendra Ratna Campus (MRC), Tahachal. The day was 14 November 2000.

I was invited to teach Teaching English Literature at MRC immediately after my appointment at Kathmandu University (KU). It was my choice to be in two university systems simultaneously. Besides, how would I miss the chance to teach a higher level course in literature while, as a full-timer in KU, I was teaching general English at the Intermediate level only?

In MRC I would begin the class with about a dozen students but end it with more than a hundred. So, there always was a flow of them coming in almost every twenty seconds.  Mine was the first period at 6 a.m. The class was unforgettable – for everything ranging from the poor doors and windows, dusty floor, dirty blackboard to the influx of those unfamiliar faces, and the noise inside and outside. I wouldn’t mind a thing assured that minding barely made any difference. I was interested, and excited, because the general response of the majority audience was positive. I was not unwelcome to teach literature though many would still have loved to mention that I was a pure “Arts” guy teaching “Education” students.

On this particular November morning I happened to enter the class a few minutes later than 6 a.m. but apparently much earlier than a majority. That student, whom I had never seen before, interfered as soon as I had stood on the dusty podium. As he dared even to tell me ‘you can go’, my teacherly self saw it futile to stay in. After all, I neither needed to stake my dignity nor would expect any sympathy from anyone.  But I tried to calm myself for a while, waiting for a general response. Other students were silent, perhaps confused, because everything was so sudden.

“I did not expect this. Pity you’re going to be a teacher!” I said this and walked out of the class.

I could fight and still continue because my few minutes’ delay was insignificant compared to the general delays and absences our government colleges are known for. I was in fact disturbed not because of this new comer’s imprudence, but because the rest did not respond. I had an instant feeling that I had failed to teach well, otherwise someone would intervene.

I decided to walk out of the main gate and never return.  But, contrary to my earlier impression, a number of students came running after me, requesting not to leave. They knew I would not only leave the class for the day, but forever. They knew I taught in KU, and MRC was only a part-time place that I could comfortably forfeit. They knew I had not gone there but was invited to handle the course someone had mishandled before me.

“Sir, you should take that some people can be crooks. But wise ones have to be even wiser at such times,” one frowned.

“There’s a motive behind this. Someone wants to replace you. He’s only a pawn. You know it happens in government colleges,” claimed other.

“No, there’s none behind. He’s only trying to impress us for the upcoming Union election,” some others remarked.

I was in dilemma. There was a commotion of a sort. Students were divided in groups, furiously discussing, god knows what. I said to the ones who were requesting to stay, “It is shameful to continue if he doesn’t apologize.”

“But, he’ll regret. Anyway, sir, don’t you think our request is more significant than his apology?  And, he may not come from tomorrow. Such people only come sometimes, just to disturb.”

A group of students had already caught hold of and chided him. He might have apologized with the classmates. He came to me with a sullen face and said he had joined my class for the first time and that he didn’t know me.

Unlike what was expected, he did not miss any class afterwards. He was curious, eloquent, critical and creative — the type of student that helps make a class on literature productive.

It is nearly a decade since. I recently read my diary page and came to know that I had been very angry that day. But if I had reached the class on time that day, my brief service at MRC would have been less meaningful. The student first to stop me from walking out of the gate wrote a text book as soon as he had taken the third year examinations. He acknowledged me as his first source of inspiration and guidance.

I have lost touch with all of my students but this one, the boy who had a row with me.  The truth is: I had begun to like him from the following day.

Nelta Networking

Almost one and a half decades ago, a team of ELT experts and practitioners realized a dire need of a forum for teachers and experts to share their teaching experiences and ideas, and they formed the Nepalese ELT forum, NELTA. That network of teachers now connects several hundred English teachers with one another and with the broader ELT world. As networking is taking new forms—mailing group, social networking, discussion forums, and resource building through professional discussions—NELTA promptly responded to the developments by launching the Nelta Networking initiative which will coordinate and promote networking activities on the web, connecting them with NELTA’s overall professional development initiatives. This blog based webzine, Nelta Choutari, is a part of that larger initiative.

The increase of branches and members is always fundamental for the institutional growth of NELTA, but they both need to be tied up with common goals and objectives and thus finally be the part of the mainstream where various features are/can be amalgamated. Along with the rapid growth of the organization, we have now felt that it’s high time that we started having larger and effective networking for the ELT cadres, practitioners and experts within and beyond the country.

The main objective of the networking initiative is to promote professional conversations among Nepalese English language teachers and to connect them to ELT conversations and resources in the world outside. Communication is key to professional development in a variety of ways: sharing ideas for better work, finding professional opportunities, creating new knowledge through interaction, creating and running professional projects, and so on.  So, discussions of all kinds matter. For that reason, I urge you to please contribute to all forms of networking, whether it is in the form of response/encouragement to colleagues who share ideas, by starting new threads of discussion, updating about activities in your branch, or finding and sharing ELT resources through appropriate channels. If we all contribute what we can, we can make a big difference in the careers of teachers of our and future generations.

As we all know, many NELTA members have no access to the web, while some of us have limited access; only a few have more significant access. The networking initiative will encourage and help those who have access to make online discussions and resources available to their colleagues who have too limited or no access. We need to come together to widen the network so we will not only be in touch with the ELT community through the web and also to connect other colleagues. The discussion thus can have various forms with the larger networking of NELTA.

What kind of projects will the proposed initiative involve? We have in mind a list of projects and we are embarking on them on a priority basis. But we need your input and your participation to make these effective, for in fact your involvement is one of the key goals of networking. So please share your thoughts.

  1. NETWORKING WITH OTHER ELT ORGANISATIONS: It’s obvious that NELTA is willing to spread its networking with the other regional teachers’ associations. There have already been quite a few meetings and discussions concentrating on strengthening teachers’ association with the help of British Council. The teachers associations (including NELTA itself) have agreed that they will share each others’ programmes across the region (for the present situation, by region we can understand at least SAARC). For example, we shared our “language improvement course” with Shrilankan Teachers’ Association (SLELTA). There can be many other modes of widening the network and making ourselves resourceful. We can have peer reviews of the conference presentation and orgnaisation too. This might sound ambitious, but in many cases these tasks are affordable, as it might not be cost effective for us to participate in the Indian Teachers’ conferences. Networking and working together may help us get some sponsors too.
  2. NETWORKING WITH GLOBAL ELT PROFESSIONAL FORUMS: This might involve helping NELTA members subscribe to networks of organizations like TESOL, IATEFL SIG, ELTEC, informing NELTA members about opportunities and promoting Nelta with such international bodies.
  3. NELTA CHOUTARI’S MONTHLY DISCUSSIONS will continue to promote professional discussion among ELT practitioners interested in ELT in Nepal, and increasing the participation of the branches will be one of its objectives going forward. As a part of the larger networking initiative, this project will also coordinate with other projects designed to increase branch involvement and get more response and input from branches; follow up key NELTA events and develop issues based on them; involve scholars from outside Nepal; increase global traffic; increase active responders; etc.
  4. BUILDING RESOURCE ONLINE and exploring possibilities for including Nepal’s scholarship in global knowledge databases. This also means making it possible for NELTA members to be able to contribute directly to the process of resource building, at least through sharing experience, discussing issues, informing the broader community about branch activities, etc.
  5. SOCIAL NETWORKING AMONG NELTA MEMBERS: By further developing and expanding the use of social networking media like Mailing group, Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, and social bookmarking, this project will inform members about NELTA activities at the center and the branches. More broadly, this project is also a part of connecting online and offline networking and resource building. We are planning to find out easier mechanisms of strengthening local branch communications. We have been in contact through NELTA Choutari and Yahoo-groups. Now, we need to strengthen and widen our networking through the technology in a painless way. The members may get discouraged from being the part of technologically available networking like emails and web if they do not have access to this. But we are planning to encourage branches and members by training, supporting with online discussions made available offline, and asking them to post branch updates in these forums (by beginning to discuss what mechanisms will be best for doing so).
  6. FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF NELTA WEBSITE: Our current website is a great source of information and resources, and we plan to develop it further as a hub for coordinating all the above activities and projects. Responding to the advancements in web technology, we will be structuring it in ways that branches and members can contribute more directly and in their own ways, especially updating their activities, sharing their resources, learning networking skills, and so on.

Your suggestions and comments are expected and appreciated.

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