A good teacher is one of the prominent figures in society. It is believed that whatever the teacher teaches is correct and true. So, the teacher is a role model in a society whose character can be imitated by numerous people. Therefore, a teacher should always have a positive attitude and have a person of spotless character. Similarly, talking about teaching is a dynamic profession where the teacher should be very energetic and adopt new teaching strategies as per the need of the situation, demands, and level of the students. Teaching English and being an English teacher is a challenging job in this ICT era. It is one of the most complex, and sensitive tasks in the ELT context of Nepal.
Here, I have narrated my own real story of teaching experiences as an English teacher in a rural area of Nepal, including what and how I have faced the ups and downs during my ELT periods. Our society is heterogeneous. I am from the Magar community of Tanahun district where our Magar communities want their children to be in the army. Similarly, my family also wanted me to join the army. More amazingly, one of the incidents directed me to become an English teacher where I stand today.
Self-observation and reflection
After completing my Intermediate Education Level with a major in English, I initiated my teaching career being an English teacher at one of the community schools in Tanahun district in 2072 (2015). I was appointed as a private teacher and paid 2500 RS. in a month. During the winter vacation, I came home from Prithivi Narayan Campus as usual other students did. Once early in the morning, around 5:30 a.m., the head teacher who taught me in primary school came to me. I was shocked to see him at my house so early. We talked for a long time, and even after a long conversation; I couldn’t guess why he was there. Eventually, being more honey talks, he requested me to teach English in that school that has been running basic level 6- 8 grades. I was in a dilemma with my teacher’s proposal whether to teach in that school or not, as I had to continue my higher education on one side, and on another side, my parents couldn’t afford my higher education without doing any job. Finally, he suggested me to continue my further study, both teaching, and self-studying. After the selection process, I was appointed to be a lower secondary English teacher, from where I completed my primary education. I felt very nervous at my first teaching. So, I uttered the words with stammering. Now I recall how many times I stammered, ‘Don’t make noise’ It might be more than 30 times in a period. How poor my first class was. By reflecting, I think teaching years are not valued until we provide positive transformation to the students.
Being a novice teacher, I used to depend on textbooks. There was Ajanta’s dictionary in school which I frequently used to consult. It made the ELT classes more comfortable for me. I had to teach all the periods except the tiffin time. In the remote part of our school, there were only blackboards and chalk in the name of teaching materials. I rarely used instructional materials like; cardboard, cutter pictures, word card, and other local materials. I used to follow the Grammar Translation method to teach English. Later on, I employed the communicative language teaching method where the students could get ample opportunities to engage in pair work, group work, role play, simulation, and some project-based works, etc communicating in English. After that, I could teach language skills using cassettes and pictures, focusing on the students’ needs and interests as well. I was satisfied with my teaching as my students had improved their English slowly and gradually. I received very positive responses from my parents. I wish I could improve the existing ELT situations in favor of students’ dynamic learning process. Regarding that situation, I myself reflected on how I had studied English at the secondary and campus levels.
By demand of time, several approaches or methods came and collapsed and now are existed in ELT. Similarly, I have got a chance to improve my teaching assumptions and philosophies. I have participated in different ELT trainings. Especially, I’ve learned the modern post-method approach, including with critical thinking approach that highly affects the ELT field. I have learned how to deal with multi-lingual and inclusive classes. The training in which I participated made me conduct the class in a child-friendly environment. In the present day, I intelligently tackle the issues/challenges in my teaching profession. Obviously, numerous pieces of training and having a master’s degree reformed me to design, construct and apply teaching materials and lesson plans and provide feedback to needy students. When I myself started being up to date, renewing, and reflecting on the present ELT approaches, methods, and techniques my performance is being improved with students’ results in English subjects.
The successful teaching class
It was a day in the month of Magh 2075 (2019), as usual, after the assembly time, I went to class ten. Afterward, I had a well-prepared class and commenced the lesson by telling a moral story. I provided the time to guess what the topic was on that day. Then, students could easily guess the topic of the day that they were going to have. At first, I divided students into nine groups having five students in each group. After that, I instructed them clearly what they were supposed to do with the cardboard paper. Then, I distributed the cardboard paper and a sign pen writing the phrase ‘Once upon a time…. It was given to the first group to write some relevant sentences about the moral story. Then, respectively that paper was relayed to each group by adding some new sentences to develop a story. Finally, the last group was given the task of writing the title and moral of the story. Providing clear instructions, each group developed the related sentences for the productive stage of story writing. During that period, I facilitated going around the groups. I provided necessary feedback to each group’s members. I observed each group’s members actively involved in the given tasks. Actually, it was the most learnable and effective class I have ever had. From that day, what I reflected is that every ELT teacher has to teach with a good lesson plan and employ the appropriate learning strategies, activities, and techniques to obtain the learning competencies.
Issues of teaching English in rural schools
I have faced many issues and challenges during my ELT teaching in rural Nepal. First, the issue is in ELT is the English medium of instruction (EMI) in the rural area of our school. EMI creates a kind of obstruction in teaching English and other subjects in my classes. Many teachers couldn’t teach the English language. So, it created a great puzzle for the students cum other teachers. Similarly, there is a great issue of policy making and implementation in the context of ELT in Nepal. Another challenge is teacher training implementations in the classroom. The main challenges of training teachers to teach English effectively remain in place.
Though English teaching in Nepal is not a politics of knowledge, it is a useful subject for bureaucracy and profit-making incentives. The issues of ICT, internet, and computer usage in ELT and outdated teachers are prominent issues in Nepal. Therefore, the changing position or roles of teachers should be focused on digital competence in this era of globalization and technology. In this way, the issues of the mother tongue-based, and multi-lingual approaches need to be addressed properly in the ELT context of Nepal. The economic, cultural, educational, social, and family issues of the students are the prominent issues in the ELT in Nepal. The teaching methods are the issues that I faced in teaching English. Lack of internet access in the remote part of Nepal is another challenge for English language teaching in Nepal. In my remote part, there are no rich resource materials, textbooks, curriculum, and teaching materials, which makes it difficult in teaching. We do not normally see students when they engage in writing in the classroom where students might need some help from teachers. Some of us do not appreciate students’ efforts and steps towards putting what they want to show through small compositions as creative starters. Furthermore, the issues related to ELT teaching in Nepal are the lack of proper supervision, monitoring, and teacher support. I think the issues should be addressed scientifically.
Objectives of teaching English in Nepal
In my experience, the objectives, goals, and paradigms are always shifting and changing due to the demands of the times. Despite this, the goals of ELT have been changed from focusing solely on developing language skills to fostering a sense of social responsibility in students. Now the objective of teaching English is shifted into communicating, collaborating, and exchanging ideas effectively with others who speak the English language. The students should be enabled to use all four language skills creatively, critically, fluently, and accurately to solve real-life problems. Furthermore, the ELT teachers make the students respect each other’s cultures and religious festivals.
Road ahead in Nepal
I have been teaching and learning English for more than 17 years. What my experiences taught me is that the ELT system of teaching in Nepal is slowly promoting and expanding its different aspects. The curriculum based on the communicative approach is gradually shifting into interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and Transdisciplinary approaches. Therefore, the objectives of teaching ELT in Nepal should address every challenge or issue related to the students, ELT teachers, and curriculum in the present world. It is the era of rapid development of ICT and the Internet. For this, ELT teachers should have sound knowledge and communication skill of digital competence. The traditional perspectives of teaching English in Nepal have been changing the rigid feeling of native speakers, and monolinguals’ gradually faced objections. Non-native English teachers promoted multilingual practices in their classes. I think the government or the concerned bodies should focus on promoting multilingualism awareness. A new kind of training structure, policy, and implementation should be emphasized. The salary, payment, and other terms of facilities need to be addressed. Education policy should be reformed. Different kinds of ELT conferences, workshops, training, counseling, etc., are required. The concept of ELT globalization must be interrelated to each ELT teacher in Nepal. The education system, including examination systems, must change into a scientific system of examination that exists meaningfully in the present world. Students should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. There can be the training of teachers as well as student motivation. Similarly, ELT teaching in Nepal aims to achieve sustainable development. ELT teachers should improve the learning achievement of all students. In my opinion, what students learn in the classroom results from what a teacher makes students do in the classroom. Thus, the above-mentioned clues should be emphasized to improve the ELT in Nepal.
Being an English teacher in the Nepalese context, what I experienced is that the role of the teacher should function as a resource person to inspirer. Similarly, he/she should have a sound knowledge of current ELT pedagogy. The teachers should have self-reflective practice. The teachers need to make our students clear on how English has been used and how we should use it in the era of globalization. ELT teachers need to be action researchers in their teaching profession. The chief responsibility of an ELT teacher is to create a suitable and conducive learning environment where the children perform their tasks easily and freely; construct knowledge, and show their creativity. Thus, an ELT teacher should have all kinds of practical skills and knowledge and extend helping hands to the students to solve problems via cooperation, collaboration, and creating an effective learning environment. So, my teaching reflections guided me to be an inspirer updated ELT teacher for the betterment of my own professional development for the successful career of the students.
About the Author: Mr. Jham Bahadur Thapa is an M.Phil Scholar in English Language Education at the Graduate School of Education TU, Kritipur, Nepal. He has been teaching from basic to higher levels at different schools and colleges for a decade. His area of interest is Multilingualism, Narrative Inquiry Research, and Teacher Professional Development.