I’m a student of ELT but also teach Nepali language to the foreigners in Nepal for the last four years. English is considered as a foreign language in Nepal, while Nepali (my native language) is a foreign language to my students. In my university, I study how to teach English as a foreign language to Nepali students, while I also teach Nepali to the foreign students! My students (those learning Nepali) share the similar background with Nepali students learning English- both learn a foreign language. In this backdrop, I thought of sharing my experience of collecting students’ feedback for improving my teaching skills, which could be a useful resource for EFL teachers and practitioners.
I consider myself as a very hardworking teacher, but I don’t know how my students perceive me. I would literally do anything to make my students learn language. I can recall times, where I had set myself off the limits, pushed myself too hard to design lessons to make my students learn in an easy way. For instance, once I went as far as transcribing a student’s spoken discourse in order to find out what kind of errors the student produced so that the errors could be diagnosed. However, sometimes when I would try too hard, I felt that the students didn’t care very much. Sometimes, when my students wouldn’t get the expected results, I would think them of not paying heed to my hard work, which would eventually make me sad.
Sometimes, we are tuned to listening to only our praises from students that we have a hard time thinking of our teaching methods in critical way. We may want to get periodical feedback from our students, but we ask the feedback in an authoritative way that they’re compelled to give some pleasing feedback because they fear to tell their real feelings. Therefore, it’s hard to elicit the true feelings and feedback from them. Hence, I wanted to try out collecting feedback in a logbook (a simple writing copy). For this, I made a commitment that I would step out from my comfort zone and be ready to get any feedback, both positive and negative. However, my students would often consider giving feedback as an assignment and wouldn’t show much interest in it. So, I formulated one or two short questions and asked them to keep their answers short.
At that time, I was teaching Nepali language to an American and a Danish student separately three days a week. So, I separated the first section of the logbook for American student and other section for the Danish to write their feeling and feedback with date at the top to track the progress. I tried out this strategy for a month to the American student and for two months to the Danish. After that, they took a break due to their other priorities.
I started with simple questions for both. Sometimes, I changed a bit depending upon the lessons. The questions were like ‘How was today?’ ‘What did you learn today?’ ‘How well do you remember the last lesson?’ In this way, there would be a question each day and the students could write their responses as short as they wished. Sometimes, they would elaborate and some other time, they would just write one-word answer. For instance, to the question, ‘How was today?’ the Danish wrote Very good. And the next day, she wrote her reflection as, Good. Helpful to chat over the new words. Also good to try to explain the movie. A good challenge. Also some words stick to my brain others not. When lot of new words other words go somewhere behind so good to practice use of your words.
These comments were a way good feedback for me as I could know what they thought of my teaching. It also provided a way for the students to express their achievement and frustrations regarding language learning. This gave me a lot of insight about my teaching. I came to know that, in second language learning, we talk about exposure a lot. We say that if we give students a lot of exposure in the target language, he/she will learn better. But Danish student’s comment tells that there shouldn’t be a lot of exposure at once because too many words made her forget the former words. She emphasized the need of more practice with the new Nepali words.
Other day, responding to the question ‘How was today?’, the Danish wrote, Very good. I think we are doing so many different things know that I know I will lose something though. Love all the things we do but we could dwell more with the things. For my brain’s sake. Her English may not be highly comprehensible, but we can clearly understand what she is trying to say. Her feedback made me realise many things about my teaching methods. On that day, I had planned my lesson in this way:
Conversation for 30 minutes: she would explain a Danish cartoon in Nepali. The new words she learnt would be recorded and taught for the next 15 minutes,
Chat again for 30 minutes or so,
Read the passage and do comprehensionquestions for 45 minutes: read the passage I had designed in Nepali and attempt comprehension questions.
When I reflected on the lesson plan, I found that I had tried to incorporate a lot of contents in the lesson of that day. My intention to plan this way was to give a variety to her, so that she would not feel bored. However, after reading the comment I realized that though I spent a lot of time on lesson planning and designing activities, the student wasn’t benefited because the contents were overloaded.
Likewise, the feelings and the feedback from American student were also equally useful for me. One day, having asked, ‘how was today?’, he wrote, it was okay. I was tired so it made focusing difficult. This comment took out a lot of burden from me. I had tried to make him understand some Nepali words and he was simply not able to grab them. In this comment, he clearly wrote he was tired, so he couldn’t focus and that had nothing to do with my teaching strategy. And I was relieved to some extent.
From some of the excerpts from my feedback logbook and my reflection above, you must have already thought how such practice can help us to find out what’s working and what’s not in our classroom. This exploration can help us to plan, re-plan and review our teaching activities and strategies. Maintaining logbook worked well for me and I’m planning to develop this strategy in my classes in future too.
I think that feedback logbook can be used cautiously in large classes too. Firstly, we should encourage students to limit their writing from one phrase to few sentences. Or in place of writing in the logbook, sometimes we can simply ask them to write in a paper anonymously, fold and give that to us. This will build their confident to write freely and truly. Secondly, we can reduce the frequency in the large classes. Instead of doing daily, we can go for fortnightly, monthly or even bi-monthly. Moreover, it shouldn’t be assigned to them as a homework, they should be given chance to write voluntarily in the classroom.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
*The Author: Somy Paudyal is an M.Ed. student of Central Department of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu.
“Thesis” this word always had been a matter of mystery for me since I started master level because every senior I talked
said that the toughest part of the study was thesis writing. They shared their success, failure, complexities and challenges they faced in terms of writing a thesis. When I approached that level, I was at a loss because I could not find myself more confident. However, I have always been prepared and concerned about this matter and became curious from very beginning. More, I often remembered my sister who used to share her experiences of writing a master thesis and energized me as thesis is ‘something especial’ which requires a lot of patience and handwork. Before approaching this level, I might not be more serious about this matter meanwhile a kind of feeling came in my mind like, oh my god, “it is a tough writing”. Keeping those things in mind, I prepared for it .As a result, I reached at its final result. During this journey of writing a thesis I experienced most suffering and stressful time, I feel like that a woman suffered during in labour pain. It was in the sense that I had no option escaping from it because I spent about a year for preparing this thesis and face several problems, challenges, dilemmas and fear since the early days of preparing proposal to facing thesis viva. These several painful moments during the process however made me strong and leads towards its successful completion.
Early Preparation for Conducting Research
I could visualize my classmates and found the same inherent problem like me in terms of writing a master thesis. At that time our concern was on thesis ‘topic’. Though initially, I have no idea about thesis writing, yes! Of course, I have a desire to carryout out research quite differently than other (to be honest, till that time, I had no vision to carry out the research on totally new area and design, I don’t know why but it can from my inner heart my …..).Therefore, I have always been concerned about this matter with little knowledge about thesis writing since the very beginning of master level. Times flies very fast eventually, I approached to the first rehearsal stage of preparing research proposal for the partial fulfillment of assignment of research methodology subject. For preparing this proposal, like other friends of mine, I visited CRC and read out some theses and prepared proposal without knowing the real essence of writing well proposal. Actually, it was in third semester, without having proper knowledge on it I submitted to the Department. I was curious to know the feedback of my work. It is all because I was thinking that this work would be helpful for my further process of thesis writing. On the contrary, it did not happen to me. I neither got feedback from my teacher (initially he promised to return back with feedback) nor he returned checked copy. Feeling little depressed, immediately, after the completion of this project, I went to one of my senior teacher of our faculty and expressed my research interest. I shared my interest on doing research in new topic. Then, he advised me as, “sounds interesting! I wonder if you find the literature of that topic in our own ELT context.” He further added that he however might not be sure either I can …. Being confused, I remained silent because I had no more option instead of quitting it .Thus, I just quitted it and thinking on doing research in quite easier topic than earlier. Eventually, I appeared final exam and worried thinking about thesis topic. After the completion of exam, I immediately visited CRC and brought some theses and decided to carry out survey design research as others.
The Moment Somewhat I understood Area and Topic
The Department of English Education published the notice of thesis supervisor. I saw my name under the supervision of respected guru Dr. Prem Bahadur Phyak. I heard his name and his contribution in English language teaching. But, before that time, I had no formal visit to him. Some days later, he called a first meeting for a discussion. On that particular day, we gathered and discussed on general matters. My friends were sharing their ideas one by one after introducing themselves. When my turn came, I was really confused whether I could tell. Feeling little comforted I tried, but it went difficult for me to speak over there because before that time I never became serious about “area” and “topic”. Though I became nervous, I successed to speak something about topics, I brought. Meanwhile, he understood my intention, made me feel comforted. After discussing with him, somewhat I understood and got little idea on area and topic. I knew the area ‘gender’ but became confused how to carry out the research on it. I returned back home and laid down restlessly continuously thinking on it. But the question “how to carry” had drawn my attention. After a long debate within, I decided to do it and immediately requested to my supervisor for providing some materials related to gender. He immediately sent me a pile of reviewed works. Next day, I downloaded and printed out all, I had. Then, I started to read. I read and underlined the words which I considered most important. I read each article several times but became tired and frustrated when I understood nothing. However, I kept on reading.
Gradually, we were called for second and third meeting for a discussion. In those productive meeting, I learnt many things but felt little uneasy because I was still in dilemma and not sure how to start and what to do later? Meanwhile, I saw some of my friends were confidently sharing their ideas .On the other hand, I found some of them were in dilemma (still) like me. Although I was in dilemma, I observed them and I felt little comforted. But till that time, I could not dare to speak. To be frank, finally, I tried to express my inner intention with my facilitator, ‘Sir, I went through all but understood nothing’. He simply replied, Nabina, “You show your interest on gender. Your issue is great. So, don’t be afraid. Be positive and just spend some more time on it”. This time, probably I felt little more comforted than earlier meetings. In such way, our last group meeting before preparing proposal was end with the discussion of choosing area, population and selecting research design particularly.
Experience of Preparing the First Draft of Proposal
Once I decided my area typically gender, having little knowledge about that field, I started working on it. As I mentioned earlier section, ‘I read but understood nothing’ later appeared as a milestone for me as it motivated me to do the work quite impressively. Keeping the quotation ‘understood nothing’ in my mind, I started to read. I spent about two and half months for reading and generalizing the ideas in my proposal writing. I had done it with paying full attention. Meanwhile, I found, it was as tougher as I thought. At that time, I encountered with several challenges. So, I had frequent visit with my facilitator and getting constructive suggestions for further improvement.
Finally, I prepared the first draft of proposal and visited to my supervisor with little excitement. I handed this draft piece to him to observe my first attempt of writing a proposal. On the other hand, I noticed that my facilitator focus was on my writing ability than the particular topic (It is because, in our earlier meeting, he used to say that not to worry about topic. It may change according to the demand of the study during any of the phase of working). He spent sometimes observing it and commented on my writing skill. As I remembered his first question as, ‘why did you start with definition in your writing, Nabina….?” however, I did not have answer of it. I was really surprised and suddenly said to him, ‘Sir I found the same writing culture when I observed some theses and I did the same here’. (He laughs).Later, he had kindly awoken me. I got an exposure. During this discussion, I started getting more and more ideas related to language, content, related literature review, organization skill and methodology. It was the time he opened my eyes quite widely. On the other hand, I was embarrassed in front of him it is because I found myself in the very beginning stage of writing. As a result, I had to change my concept paper i.e. proposal for next time.
On that day, our discussion summarized with introducing new word ‘identity’. Though, I fascinated by the word became worried thinking on my investment in preparing earlier proposal. Again I returned back home and stayed restlessly. I was really in dilemma what to do again. I immediately emailed him. He provided pile of articles related to teacher identity. During that time, I faced the same problem as earlier (but not exactly it was) as I did not have many ideas on teacher identity because it was totally new area than earlier for me. Meanwhile, I tried to read quite widely. I spent some weeks, losing my sleep, hunger and ignoring many more. Then, after reading some complex articles (In the sense that, I have not such habit of reading such article by heart, instead I read some just for reading, assignment purpose) about teacher identity, I consulted several times with my facilitator as it was really hard for me to make even a general concept on it. Having discussion with facilitator about the issues related to female English teachers’ professional development and more importantly as being a female ELTpractioners, exposure to the difficulties other working female(teacher) have in their personal and professional life, I started fascinated more by the term “identity”. This time, reading turned out quite enjoyable. But on the way to working, I felt bored and became somewhat redundant as I could not frame my ideas properly. During this phase, I had a several visit with him and expressed my problems as, ‘Sir I went through all articles but could not organize my ideas properly? He kindly advised me ‘you can’ but please does it passionately.
I then determined and followed his suggestion, continuing my job of preparing proposal. Since that day, the word “identity” sounded in my mind (is still). After all, I spent another one and half month for preparing next proposal. During this phase, I worked hard despites the difficulties I faced. As a result, I successed to write all the parts except introduction. Again, I spent some more days for preparing the introduction part. During the whole proposal writing, I found that writing introduction was most challenging and time consuming in comparison to other parts. Finally, after a several draft, it was submitted to proposal defense. After the successful completion of proposal defense I did required correction by following the suggestion provided by the research proposal evaluation committee for further improvement. Since the days of submitting research proposal to the department even today I feel that starting writing had impacted in my several writing draft so it can be appeared as strong basis for writing present proposal for me furthermore, it extends my horizon of knowledge in the interested area and got the chance to be familiar with the recent practices and trends in researching and academic writing.
Journey of Data Collection and Interpretation
My journey of data collection started after the phase of facing proposal viva. Regarding data collection, I was worried thinking on how it would be going on and whether I could find the expected participants. During the phase of proposal writing, I talked with some female ELT teachers whom I knew but later I found them being confused and trying to escape by remarking time limitation. So, I became worried and went to Pokhara .In order to fulfill the requirement for my research, I visited several public schools of valley. I asked help from my family and head of visited school to provide information. After the several days’ attempt, I met participants who were willingly taken part in my study.
After a phase of planning. I provided them a written consent letter for getting ethical approval. Then after having agreement with them, I conducted my first interview in August 2017. I met with my participants individually for narrative session. The interview was conducted in different places, time and context according to their own comfort than mine. At the very beginning, I started the first interview session by asking more open ended questions, to make them feel free with me. So, I started the conversation with more general questions like what are you doing now? How do you feel right now? etc. I was inquiring in such a way for exploring their present experiences and more importantly, I did it for rapport building. Gradually, I entered into their personal and professional life. At the same time, I audio- recorded their each interviews.
A month later, to explore more about them, I again needed their help. So, I had a telephone call with each participant for our second meeting. We again fixed our meeting for follow- up interviews. Gradually, this happened in first week of September 2017. In this session, our visit was on different places like their own home, school’s premise, coffee station and so on. At that time, we largely discussed about their personal and professional life. I mainly focused on the hindering and supporting aspects of their personal and professional life as it was the major objective of this research study. This time, we became more close to each other. So, without hesitation, they openly shared their stories though I noticed, they repeated the past events and even shared the events which they remembered during our ongoing conversation. (Feeling more comforted) In the same way, they even added new stories which they never shared to others. Listening to their unique lived voices, I lost myself with their lived stories and became nervous. At the same time we laughed and cried together. In this way, they not only shared their lived experiences, I also shared my growing interest on carryout out research on this area and growing journey of becoming a teacher. We talked for hours as there were no certain boundaries and fixed time. So, after having the interviews, I provided the question for written narrative. Despite their interviews and written narrative, I have a frequent visit to them on social sites. Furthermore, I observed their activities, facial expression as they were significant factors to explore their hidden reality of becoming an English language teacher. In such way, I collected pile of raw data.
Data Interpretation Stage
Data analysis started after translating (Nepali interview into English) and transcribing lengthy narratives. After two months rigorous hard work, I had prepared myself for data analysis and interpretation. When I stared to analyze raw data, I faced the same problem whether I would go further or escaped from it. Finally, despite the difficulties, I determined and did it. I collected data without having sufficient ideas on how to analyze and interpret them. I again glanced my eyes into the pages of narrative researches which I already have. I turned the pages of these books but could not find anything I needed and again consulted with my supervisor. He suggested me to follow the framework for analyzing narrative data. (To be frank) I actually didn’t know what would be the framework. I consulted several researches and become frustrated. Later, I went through the work of Riesman (2008) for a discussion of thematic approach to narrative analysis and adopted her ideas which I thought more significant for my research study.
Few months later, I informed about my work to my supervisor. Until that time, I just completed fourth chapter of my thesis and visited with him. Few days later, he informed me about my work. On that day, he provided me more valuable suggestions as how to organize the narratives of participants effectively and how to put relevant literature in this part to make the research sound. Although I got the amount of exposure, while preparing this part, I encountered exactly the same condition as I faced during first proposal draft. I know, I am in the journey of research but I become really confused whether I would ‘go’ further or ‘leave’ it. Then, I remained silent for some days and looking for another simple way. However, I could not. I had no more option to quit it because I already spent half year working on it (faced proposal viva before 5 months). I tried numerous times and finally decided to continue. During this phase, I faced several challenges and lived through stressful time. Since interpretation to submission for thesis viva, I had numerous visits with him. Finally, through trial and error, I successed to arrive it’s completion and got its present shape.
Challenging Aspects of My Study in Terms of Preparing Thesis Writing
I discussed about my struggles, dilemmas and challenges I had been facing during this research project in the aforementioned section. More importantly, here I have presented these points as some consideration of my thesis journey. I decided to carry out this research entitled Identity Construction in Female English Language Teachers Professional Development: A Narrative Inquiry without having knowledge on this area, even I did not think that I might to carry out the research on this very topic. However whole thesis journey energized me and finally I arrived to my destination. Though I have no idea originally to this topic, later it went well. As a result, I found the work much more manageable than I thought it would be. However, throughout this thesis journey, I was spending most of my time working on this research project without having proper sleep, hunger, laugh and many more. It was therefore a very challenging (still is) stage and kept me going on and on.
First, I felt quite easy to carry out the research related to female teacher because this research project was partly inspired by my own personal experience as being ELT practioners however researching on female teacher identity construction particularly is challenging issue for me. It was because “identity” itself is a new area and has not been researched in the context of Nepalese ELT scenario. Furthermore, I did not find the large amount of researches on this matter around the world teacher education.Infact, there were comparatively less number of researches, have given due emphasis on female teacher identity construction. So, selecting the area and carrying out research related to identity construction is challenging task.
Second, we know reviewing literature play a significant role to make every research sound and fruitful. However, we did not pay due respect on it. People might say, ‘Once we prepared literature in proposal writing we might think that we need not to review it again’. Even, I heard such argument time and again from my friends and seniors. To be frank, not only them, I was not exceptional in this matter. Before approaching that stage, I have an ideology that it might be true. On the contrary, later, I know the value and its impact throughout whole writing. So, I realized that it is an ongoing process. Meanwhile, another concern of my study was related to proper organization of ideas. It was not only the problem I faced in thesis writing, I am still suffering, writing this reflection.
Third, challenge I faced when I simply could not find the respondents for my research Though I talked earlier( when I was writing proposal)with some female ELT teachers later trying to escape from this research project by pretending for not having time. Then, I became little frustrated and again was searching for required participant for my study. Finally, after my one week hard work, I met some female teachers who were searching a place for sharing their stories. Again, I need to consider other factors like rapport building, conducting interviews, time management, selection of language used for interview and so on.
Fourth idea which I considered is the relationship between researcher and participants throughout the whole thesis process. Throughout this journey, I noticed that in narrative research, the role of researcher is different from other such studies because of the relationship between researcher and participant. As I mentioned in third point, building rapport is the most difficult one in my early days and more concerned with whether I could build better relation to explore their hidden reality. So, I need to view myself both from insider and outsider perspectives. However, I did not forget my role in this thesis writing.
Last but not least, another concern of my study was accurate representation of meaning in terms of what was expressed in Nepali and what resulted from translation into English. Maintaining core meaning and ideas of participants was a central issue for me. Therefore, I was always afraid of possible effect of misleading the interpretation of gathered data. During the whole thesis process, transcribing (took more than 2 month) and translating were most difficult tasks.
In this way, despite the difficulties I encountered, my interactions with participants provided huge insights on exploring female teacher identity construction, their everyday experiences, contradiction, dilemmas, frustration they experienced in their personal and social life. More importantly, I understood the value of shared story in ELT teaching and learning and its impact in educational change throughout this thesis journey.
My Final Thought, Suggestions and Acknowledgement
After all, the final result made me more energetic as I had been working with ignoring many obstacles, challenges and complexities. To be honest, it was not my earlier goal to submit my thesis on this very topic. But, later due to my strong desire and more importantly the part of motivation which I had from my supervisor, I started my journey of the research in May 2017 within four female teachers who are teaching in basic level at different public school of Pokhara Lekhnath-Metropolitan city. Starting from first stage of selecting area, preparing first research proposal draft, facing proposal viva, conducting interviews, analyzing and interpreting data with finding out conclusion, I passed several joyful and painful moments which sometimes motivated and frustrated during the whole process of working. To be honest, most of the time, I experienced the painful situation and no doubt that I was writing from the level of ‘fear and dilemma’. In fact these dilemmas and fear later made me strong and confident. Most importantly, throughout my educational journey, this firsthand experience enabled me to understand the real value of study from school days to graduation.
Next, during my working days, I observed some of mine friends carried out their theses within limited time and even I heard the thesis, “selling and buying” culture. Yes! Honestly, I am not sure about this rumor but was afraid of it. Instead, I want to say to you all that definitely you have to tackle with many ups and down moments like me during thesis process and you may deserve the result of your hardworking. So, I advised to all prospective researchers not to scare about word “thesis”. You must understand the essence of writing thesis before started writing further. If you do that it will be easier for your further steps.
Further, people I met often told that everyone writes thesis but it does not matter how you write, the goal of writing a thesis is just for getting marks than nothing else. Instead, my stressful time provided me an insights on what is thesis writing in real sense, what is my role as a researcher? Somewhat I got the chance to be familiar with little about thesis writing. Thus, I would like to suggest to all fellow students, you must grab thesis writing as a learning opportunity as you will get the chance to enlighten you and your knowledge on your interested area.
Now, I am at the end of this reflection writing, at this journey I highly indebted to those generous souls whose collaboration makes this journey of knowing mine and others’ possible. Most importantly, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my respected guru and thesis supervisor Dr.Prem Bahadur Phyak, for his sound professional guidance, full attention, timely advice, expertise and encouragement throughout the whole thesis process in spite of his busy schedules and over whelming responsibilities. I am really grateful to him for everything. More, I have a due respect to all research proposal evaluation and thesis approval evaluation committee for their support and encouragement in completing this research study. I have a due respect to Prof.Dr. Tara Datta Bhatta for his encouragement and enlightening ideas on language .Similarly,I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Prof. Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari for his invaluable suggestion. I would equally offer my sincere gratitude to Mr. Laxmi. Pd Ojha for being there and provided suggestion for further improvement. Further, my entire research would not have been accomplished without the help and support of my participants. So, I have a due respect to them who believed me and enthusiastically taking part in this study.
Ms. Nabina Roka is a recent graduate from the Department of English, TU. Her master’s thesis explores identity construction of female EFL teachers in Nepal.
As ELT Choutari enters into eighth year, Choutari editor Ashok Raj Khati has talked to Dr. Balkrishna Sharma, Narendra Singh Dhami, Praveen Kumar Yadav and Dr. Shyam Sharma, to reflect back its seven years journey. They have put their voices in light with the contribution of ELT Choutari to local and global ELT discourses too.
Dr. Bal Krishna Sharma, a founding member of Choutari
I would like to comment mainly on two points when reflecting back the Choutari’s seven years. First, Choutari has been able to groom a new generation of scholars capable of writing on topics they have read about in others contexts or learned in their university classrooms. We did not have a stronger tradition of academic writing in TESOL and applied linguistics in the context of Nepal in the past. The Journal of NELTA was there, but young Nepali scholars did not consider themselves qualified enough to write for the journal. I had a similar view when I completed my M. Ed. In 2003. There still is a popular assumption that only experienced ‘scholars’ write for the journal, and the younger scholars are positioned in the receiving end of the journal readership. Since the starting of this webzine, this assumption has been questioned, renegotiated and redefined. I can see a whole lot of new scholars turning themselves into academic writers with greater confidence, refined skills, and thoughtful pedagogical tips. Second, the traditional mode of printing and publication in Nepal reached only to a small group of readers, usually with a long time gap. Consider, for example, the NELTA journal we have. It includes a collection of homegrown scholarship, but we have to wait for one year to read about ten or so articles. Webzine like the ELT Choutari has again challenged the tradition, expanding its reach to a wider audience, with a large number of readable articles. This again has promoted a new generation of writers and readers, who necessarily are not the university professors.
Regarding the contribution of Choutari, I was reading the latest issue of Choutari before I wrote this paragraph. This issue largely reflects how Choutari has been able to address both local and global concerns in the field of ELT. Lal Bahadur Bohara, for example, brings voices of English teachers from the far-western region. I was intrigued by Lal Bahadur’s observation that teachers in the region do not only question the Western decontextualized cultural content in English lessons, they also question the so called ‘localized’ content in textbooks and contents written and produced by Nepali writers. This article reminds me of an onion metaphor used in language policy research, highlighting that language policy is like an onion reconciled in several layers, processes and levels. So is the issue of culture: it operates in multiple levels, and national dominant cultures may not serve as a local culture in all the contexts. Lal Bahadur’s blog post is one representative examples from Choutari with regard to how Nepali young scholars have tried to raise and redefine the ‘local’ in language teaching, questioning and challenging some dominant traditions in our field.
Another article from the same issue that connects the local with the global is by Sujit Wasti. Sujit aptly uses the metaphor of McDonaldization by sociologist George Ritzer to take account of the impact of globalization on the local, including language and the environment. This was fascinating for me because ELT has not paid much attention to the discourses and concerns of the environment in pedagogical contexts. It makes sense to address the concerns of climate change and environmental degradation, which are equally local and global, in our policies and practices.
When the local voices and issues are narrated and circulated to a global audience through the internet on ELT topics that matter to people around the world (e.g. critical pedagogy, teaching tips, ELT humor, literacy, and many more), this is as an evidence that Choutari is both local and global.
Narendra Singh Dhami, teacher at Khimti Project school, Kirne, Dolkha
I have been reading the Choutari Khurak since its first issue published in 2009. I found that the blog posts are very useful resources for me and my fellow teachers. As its name suggests, it offers different tastes and colours on teaching strategies and activities as well as theoretical insights for professional development.
We have formed a group of five teachers in our school to discuss on the posts of each new issue of ELT Choutari. We often save the published articles from the website and discuss on each post among us. We also apply the best strategies and current trends of ELT approaches mentioned in our real classroom teaching situation. Some articles are truly inspirational, some are insightful to new teaching strategies and some are really research based too. The Choutari teaches us on how to grow professionally in the remote parts of the country. And, of course, Choutari has broadened the horizon of ELT discourses in such remote area where it is quite difficult to get textbooks in time. The varieties of posts in each issue of Choutari always reenergize me to improve my teaching practices. I shall be much glad to read some posts on child psychology and motivational stories in the days to come. I am so grateful to the editorial board for providing me an opportunity to reflect on ELT Choutari.
Praveen Kumar Yadav, an editor of Choutari
As ELT Choutari enters into 8th year, we would like to thank our valued contributors and readers for their continued support. The ELT journey without their support was never possible to accomplish seven years. The ELT Choutari today has won acclaim for its commitment to contributing to discourses focused on various issues related to English Language Teaching and Education.
Generally speaking, the past causes the present, and so the future. Looking into the origin of Choutari, the web magazine was started as a wiki collaborative project in January 2009 to supplement the ELT conversations that have been going on for many years within the mailing list of NELTA. In order to make accessible to such ELT conversation by the rest of the ELT community outside NELTA (here’s what one member wrote in the original “about” page), ELT Choutari was initiated.
First initiated by Ghanashyam Sharma (Shyam), who was accompanied by Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Bahadur Phyak, this networking initiative had six core moderators (Sajan Kumar Karn, Kamal Poudel, and Hem Raj Kafle joined later) from 2009-2012. Then, this initiative is being continued by a team of young ELT practitioners and scholars. They believe that we can develop very useful and probably most relevant intellectual/professional resources for the Nepalese ELT community and those interested through a discussion forum like this.
So far, more than 500 posts has been published by ELT Choutari, followed by more than 1000 comments over the past seven years. Our journey over the past seven years did not remain smooth. Our journey began with challenges, continued with the same and they exist even today. For instance, in the beginning of our journey we embraced challenges when internet and blogging was much exposed in Nepal and ELT community. Even today, challenges are ahead as we look for ELT enthusiasts to come and joins us for the mission.
Amid challenges, we chose to remain optimist to see them as the opportunity for us, just like Winston S. Churchill’s saying, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” We are driven by our courage and willingness to change. We never pretend that nothing has happened or we are not ready to move ahead.
Dr. Shyam Sharma, a founding member of Choutari
I think Choutari has made unique contributions to Nepali ELT discourse. The community had a great journal, and we also had an active listserv; but we wanted to provide colleagues a place to share ideas that was more public/open and interactive, where especially younger colleagues could contribute their ideas and experiences and run conversations. Many scholars who chose to run this blogzine also had the opportunity to practice publication and leadership skills while serving the profession. This publication has slowed down a little bit, but I am confident that new scholars will take the baton forward. In fact, I also hope that more venues like this will emerge and make new kinds of contributions to the field of ELT in Nepal.
The few colleagues who started this journey would have never imagined that hundreds of scholars, including scholars from around the world, would contribute to this venue–nor that new local voices would join and develop like they did. Thinking about how we started the initial conversation (by putting some of our email conversations in the more open platform of a wiki) is just humbling. The first set of editors (Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma, and me) took a few important steps in the journey, but we never imagined the many new areas that new colleagues would go on to cover, new ideas they would implement. Just the number of posts and comments and the generation of ELT scholars at home who have participated in the conversation through Choutari is truly inspiring.
As a reader, I urge other readers to read and share the good work here, to contribute as writers, and to consider leading the venue. And I thank the colleagues who are running it today and tomorrow.
The process of teaching learning does not finish after delivering a lesson or course, whereas the learning point for a teacher and teacher educator starts after that. In the cyclical process of teaching learning, teachers need to make a self inquiry at the end of the class or day and look forward to refine their practices. We as a teacher need to look back and ask ourselves, what went well in our class and what didn’t. Why a particular thing worked and why the other thing didn’t, and what could have been done. This process of self- inquiry and critical thinking is termed as reflection.
Reflection is a powerful tool for our professional development. Templer, 2004, as cited in Harmer (2007) states that reflection is like ‘holding up mirrors to our own practice’, which make us more conscious what is beneath the surface. In other words, it is being critical and reflective to our own practice, which eventually refines our skills as a teacher and helps us understand the process of teaching- learning better.The process of teaching and learning begins with planning, followed by implementation or action and further followed by reflection. The reflection gives us input in the planning for the next cycle. The cycle of teaching learning process becomes incomplete without practice of reflection. If we do not reflect into our practice, we stop learning and eventually stop growing because we fail to realize what is not working and we tend to continue the wrong process or practice. Richards (1990) considers reflection a major component of teachers’ development. He urges that self-inquiry and critical thinking can help teachers move from a level, where they may be guided largely by impulse, intuition, or routine, to a level where their actions are guided by reflection and critical thinking. Reflection develops the practice of self- inquiry and critical thinking in us. Therefore, our actions are less likely to be guided only by a sudden desire and routine, whereas they will be more rationale.
Pre-service or in- service training or workshop is one way of our professional development but in the continuous journey of professional development, the best of all is the self- inquiry through reflection. In the words of Confucius, it is the best way to learn. In his three methods of learning he places reflection at first stating,
“The first, by reflection, which is the noblest;
second, by imitation, which is the easiest, and
third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Therefore, being reflective to our own action not only helps us understand the process better but also refines our professional skills and expertise.
The inception of ELT Choutari is also the outcome of the reflective thinking. Likewise, most of the writings on the magazine are based on the reflection. We strongly believe that this practice should continue, which helps develop the culture of reflection. Therefore, we request our readers to reflect on their actions and write about their thoughts. We will give them space at Choutari.
This issue is also a full package of reflection. Karna Rana reflects on his route to learning English language. He believes that English has been given much more importance than required, which results our weaker competence in content knowledge and life skills. Therefore, we should not finish our valuable time only worrying about a language.
Society of Translators Nepal recently organized the first ever conference in Nepal. In this context, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has talked to Bal Ram Adhikari (Vice- president of the Society, Translator and Faculty, Department of English, TU). The talk not only reflects back to the conference but also explores deeply the relation of translation in ELT pedagogy.
To encourage the teachers to reflect on their practices, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked five teachers from East to West to express their views in the context of English language teaching. In this interactive post, they reflect on their practices in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.
In the series of the reflective thinking and writing, we present another very special and powerful reflection of Sujit Wasti. In the truly unique and thought provoking post, he brings together nature, society, and education in a unique way.
In another post, Lal Bahadur Bohora (who is pursuing his M. Phil in ELE from Kathmandu University) shares his preliminary findings of a research on the area of teachers’ perspectives on the prescribed English syllabus of Tribhuvan University and pedagogical practices at tertiary level in far west region.
Finally, to continue with the Photography Project, the Choutari editor Jeevan Karki shares the photos he clicked during his visits around the country on the theme of ‘People at Work’. This is the third Photography Project at Choutari.
Lastly, I extend my special thanks to Ashok Raj Khati for his continuous support to materialize this issue. Similarly, I would like to thank Shyam Sharma for his support and encouragement in the publication of this issue.
Enjoy reading with reflection and share your thoughts in the comment boxes.
Richards, J.C. (1990). The Language Teaching Matrix. UK. Cambridge University press.
Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. UK: Pearson.
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
In community schools, teaching and learning of English has always been taken as a ‘difficult’ task. Teachers and students confess that it is a difficult subject to teach and learn respectively. As a teacher, do we reflect on our own classes? Do we ask ourselves how are our classes going? Reflection upon our own classrooms certainly assists us to improve our pedagogical practices.
In this connection, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked to five English teachers to reflect on their own English classrooms from different regions of Nepal. In the context of English language teaching, they briefly express their ideas in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.The five secondary level English teachers are: Babu Ram Basnet (Solukhumbu) Chandra Singh Dhami (Ramechhap), Kamal Raj Basyal (Palpa), Durga Prasad Pandey (Dang) and Khagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’ (Bajhang).
Teaching English is not always a fun but it is a very tough job in this part of country. We do not have enough resources, like the internet and other supportive materials, to facilitate English language teaching. Therefore, students do not get enough and authentic exposure in English. I have to read out listening text myself as we do not receive cassettes in time. There are 65 students in grade 10, which is a large classroom in our context. In the same way, the large classrooms are a barrier to many participatory activities. There are many activities to be done and performed by students such as drama, simulation, games and role plays. I am not able to do all these in such a large class which ultimately affect their learning achievement.
Students come from different socio- cultural and economic backgrounds, they usually speak in Nepali language among them. They are generally good in writing but hesitate to speak in English. They have fear to lose face among their friends if they commit any mistakes. So that, I am not satisfied with their fluency in English. To some extent, I am applying traditional method while teaching English. It is often challenging to correct their home assignments in a class of 45 minutes. I use group and peer correction technique several times. I conduct class test in regular interval to know how they are doing. The most challenging part of my teaching is developing speaking skill on the part of students.
My classroom in tenth and ninth grades are large, which contains the students with mixed ability. Likewise, students come from diverse socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds. We have a ‘media’ hall equipped with different facilities such as internet, speakers, tape recorder, dictionary and projector. I often make them watch movies, biographies of poets, popular TV show and show activities related to English language learning. For instance, while teaching English sounds, I often download native speakers’ accent for them to practice. I regularly conduct unit and monthly test. It provides me timely feedback on the areas to improve. We have cassette players, charts and other daily use materials. Students sometimes prepare charts in different lessons.
Majority of students try to speak in English in the classroom. I often use group work and drilling. I make them write in group as a process writing. Students also speak in Nepali language particularly when they do not understand reading texts. I encourage them to speak in English even outside the classroom. Students also take part in speech and debate competitions. I use shorter expression. Even if, students have positive motivational orientation towards English, I am still not satisfied with the progress. Many students do not have same pace in learning English and it can’t be. However, the challenge for me is to cope the students with different levels of English language proficiency.
Kamal Raj Basyal Krishna secondary school, Peepaldada-Jheskang, Palpa
There are 56 students at grade 10 in my school which accommodates 29 girls, 26 students from Magar community and 5 from Dalits. Three language use can be observed there in the classroom – Magar, Nepali and English. They are from low income and mostly from middle class families. Their socio-cultural background is not much trouble for me while teaching English as they have positive motivational orientation toward learning English. Likewise, we have whiteboards, electricity, audio-tape/cassette players and necessary charts in English in the classroom. But, we do not have the internet facility in school.
I have found that my students are active in different learning activities in English class where I try my best to use English only and inspire them to use it. I believe it maximizes exposure in English. Next I have generated weekly discussion on certain topics related to the course. In regular interval, I conduct several contests like debate, spelling and quiz in English. Regarding teaching technique, I generally use group and pair work and role plays to facilitate English language learning. I also encourage them to go to library and read books. Therefore, teaching English has always been a fun for me. I am satisfied with their progress. I specially enjoy teaching grammar and vocabularies. However, I often find myself challenged while teaching listening and free writing. So I need to be well prepared to deal with listening and writing activities.
Durga Prasad Pandeya Padmodaya Public Model Secondary School, Ghorahi, Dang
I work in a government funded school having the classes from grade 1 to 12. It has around 87 classes and 5, 000 students. Generally, the student- teacher ratio is one to 50-78 students. Therefore, we teach in large classes. We have irregular internet access and the multimedia projector is only in the audio visual room and students have very less access to them. We also have a smart board but there is no skilled man power to operate it but white boards are available in each room. Teachers make charts and posters for the upper classes and use printed charts the lower/primary classes.
When I reflect on my English classes, my students work very happily in pair and groups particularly to practice speaking skills and some project based tasks. Many of them are found excited and interested to work in group or pair but a few are found reluctant to do all these activities and they prefer individual tasks. I instruct them both in English and Nepali languages. I particularly need to use Nepali as they understand me and are unable to respond in English. They are also not encouraged to converse in English. Another challenge of teaching English is being unable to create English speaking environment in school, which is the result of the low exposure of English in lower classes. It eventually affects their performance in upper classes.
I as an English teacher in this rural area, find myself encouraged in the recent years. Although the classroom is large, we have some minimum resources to facilitate English language class such as tape recorders, computers and other necessary materials. They are taken to computer room to play various language games. Similarly, I make use of laptop and the internet in the classroom. Students prepare charts of CVs, wild life reserve, language functions and so on inside the classroom. There are many different charts in schools, student make use of them in English class in different ways. Many of them use Nepali language inside the classroom. However, I inspire them to speak English. Every day, I ask them a question (as a part of general knowledge), related to English and they enjoy it very much. (For instance, how many words can you make from the word ‘examination’?). I also conduct quiz, debate and speech competition. Regarding the participation of students, they normally work in group and pair. Students are always invited to the front of the classroom to work or present the task assigned. Few students also feel shy to do so.
In the same way, I am selective on using methods and techniques in my ELT classes. Most importantly, I reflect back on my classroom activities to figure out what is working and what is not. Students are found improving the skills of English language these days. It might be the result of increased exposure of English through technology and social media. Another important activity that I do is to visit students’ parents (nearby school) once a week. I talk to them about their children’s progress. While talking with them, I figure out four types of students – outstanding, excellent, good/average and low achiever. The most challenging task for me is to teach and work with the low achievers. Some of them cannot read and write properly. Therefore, it is always challenging to find the strategies to support them.
Choutari team sincerely acknowledge teachers who shared their valuable reflections in this interactive article. They have particularly highlighted the diverse pedagogical practices and issues while teaching English in peripheral parts of Nepal. Now, we request you to feel free to share your thoughts and reflections after reading these reflections here.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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,
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
Would we even spare the time
To ask her for a dance?
Or simply walk away?
And my friendly souvenir to you:
Nothing to pay
When you smile.
So, let’s smile.
Something you gain
So, let’s smile.
Anything makes you pain,
Forget it awhile.
So, let’s smile.
Smile! Smile! Smile!
Pictures used in the workshop:
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:
It’s fast to grow
It’s hard to heal
Is too deep
To come back
Stay in touch to ward off the feeling of loneliness.