Regular Column: Teacher’s Confession
Dear readers of NELTA ELT Forum,
I am Umes Shrestha *, one of the editors of this wonderful blog. I am coordinating this “Teacher’s Confession” series where I feature English language teachers and their personal stories of struggle, achievement, good and bad experiences and so on.
Teacher’s Confession: Pabitra Gurung
For the month of December, we have a confession by Pabitra Gurung, who is a teacher from Kathmandu. She teachers primary students and is also pursuing her M.ED in ELT degree from Kathmandu University. In this confession, Gurung shares her story of a child who changed her teaching perception.
My youngest teacher
I wouldn’t understand why on earth a child would not write the spelling of the insect he liked the most.
I was a first year teacher in kindergarten school where I was supposed to teach my students words starting from the letter ‘A’. Well maybe I got it all wrong. I think, I was supposed to make them learn at least three words starting from the sound ‘a’. Whatever it was, I wrote three words in their notebooks, commonly known as “copies”. He wouldn’t write. Initially I held his hand and made him follow the direction where I was moving my hand, gripping his. But I had to look after 24 others, he was the 25th.
Whenever children couldn’t complete their work, it naturally became their home assignment (well, he never turned on any of the assignments, except the colouring work!). I had no idea how to make him memorize the spellings and how to make him write as quickly as everyone else (I didn’t have much idea about internet till I joined KU).
My colleagues wouldn’t talk about the class problems, we were busy gossiping about who wore what normally (I don’t do it now!!!). Then one day, as we had come back from a field trip, to pass the remaining time and make the students sit quietly I asked my students to tell any story they knew. I asked him to say anything he liked. I couldn’t expect a 5 year old to say something interesting but then he started telling a story about why and how we celebrate the festival “Holi”. I was so surprised and amazed by the way he told the story and the names he could remember. A 5 year old boy who never completed nor turned up his assignments and could not read was talking about “holika”, “hiranyakashyapu (and he was as clear as any adult would be)” and the whole story. Others were not interested at all, but I was kept listening to him and looking at him, so he got more excited and started acting it out with all the energy that he had been saving for last 3 months he had been in the class.
That evening, I met with his mother and told her about it. And she casually said, “Yes, his grandmother always tells him stories and he loves it.” From that day onwards I made it sure that he would tell a story twice a day or at least once every day and amazingly he had a story for every day. I learnt so many historical facts from him, sometimes he would get more excited and add his own story, while he was supposed to be talking and writing my ‘A for apple, ant, axe’ (we finished till ‘Z for zebra, zip’).
Once he was telling about lord Hanuman when he said “I look like Hanuman because he came to visit me while I was still in my aama (mother)’s tummy.” I thought, that was why he ran a lot. Another story he related was of lord Ganesha, he said “malai laddo man parcha, tara mero pet dherai kura janera ra sabailai dherai maya garekoley thulo bhako (My favourite sweet is Laddo, like Ganesha but my tummy is not big because of that, but because I’m also filled and full with kindness, knowledge and courage).” I never expected a 5 year old to have that much knowledge and wisdom. I thought that was why he always showed his food and story books (though he couldn’t read!). I frequently met with his mother and told her that she had a gifted child and he needed to have wonderful environment.
First Result Day, her mother came at last, actually when I was about to leave. Her face was not so much excited because we both knew that he did not do well in the “exam”. I might have broken my professional oath, but I literally said she would better home school (I did not know this term back then) him. I said he needed be in some foreigners’ school because at that time, I only knew that foreigners taught in a different way. She seemed so hopeless. I couldn’t make her understand that he was amazing, maybe at that time I added to her tension that’s why from then onwards he would turn up every work, and in the next exam he scored “well”. I wasn’t happy, he would sleep in the class, he stopped running and just would sleep all the time.
Next time when his mother came she seemed OK, I should have been happy but I had nothing to say because I could see the effort she was giving to keep her child up to the standards and was worried if I said anything it would have hampered the child. At the end of the year she invited me for his birthday which was on Chaitra 24th, first I was reluctant but then she insisted and the child also asked me to come. I went there with one of my colleagues. They were the perfect example of upper middle class family and they brought foods that looked amazing and tasted wonderful. Then I met with his grandmother, who held my hand and told me that he talked so much about me and she was happy that I was his teacher and sad that the next year I wouldn’t be. I could see how amazing people they were and how hard they were trying to make everything great for their kids, but because of my lack of information and preparation I thought I make a mistake by telling the things I told, I should have just stopped after saying he was special.
I had no idea what to do, I quit my job because I didn’t want to spoil another amazing human and decided to take every possible training that would help me grow. I re–joined teaching job after 2 years, now it’s been more than 4 years and I am still learning, and every time I see those special amazing human beings I don’t tell their parents to keep them in a foreign school, I try to explain how can we work on “the academic” issues because in everything else he/she is perfect and doing great. Every time I learn about my students’ special talent I try to include that in my planning and do the activities accordingly but it’s not possible every time. And with the primary and elementary the case is different which I would love to share! Every day I learn new things but I can’t let go of my first student who was victim of my knowledge less and unprepared talk.
I have realized that it’s only parents, knowledge, skillful teachers who can help a child grow and be. I learnt my lesson after spoiling 25 lives and I am hoping that I wouldn’t do that again or at least I would try to be the good human who is as excited and humanly as she wants her children to be.
Teacher’s Confession: Sanjeev Rai
For the month of November, I bring you a confession by Sanjeev Rai, an English language teacher currently working at DAV School, Lalitpur. I am very happy to present this confession by Sanjeev sir as he used to be my English teacher while I was studying at Arniko Boarding School, Khumaltar, Lalitpur. He was a great teacher and equally a great musician, and it was a perfect combination of two talents in a teacher. I was very much influenced by him because unlike other teachers who always acted like teachers, Sanjeev sir treated us like friends, talked to us about his favorite music and movies. Anyways, let’s go ahead and read his confession about how he used to be afraid of speaking in front of the mass and how he finally overcame this fear.
Scene – 1
I worked at Arniko Boarding Secondary School, Lalitpur for about 20 years. During my tenure, especially in the late 90s, sometimes, I was to preside the function/school programmes because I was a senior, and at the end of the programme, one who was presiding the programme, unquestionably had to make a speech ostentatiously, but the embarrassment was – during the last item of the programme I mean at the end of the programme, I used to make my way without being noticed into the corner of the canteen and timidly stay there till the programme was over; preferably I used to run away from every programme. The sole reason was ‘I am a bashful guy’. To speak in front of the large crowd was often a Herculean task for me.
In case, I had to utter a speech, I often stuttered, or forgot lines; and I saw students laughing at my awkward situation; the state of being tense and feeling pain inside or the embarrassment deriving from the feeling that others are critically sniggering at me or their wrong assumption on my inability. Flushed, embarrassed and humiliated, I had to leave the stage. Grossly irreverent I used to curse myself for days. I still vividly recall these moments, how lily-livered I was.
Scene – 2
In the year 2004, I joined DAV school. We have assembly to be conducted class wise. It was the turn of our class and the class teacher should read the Morning Prayer as a customary practice. It was Thursday – our turn, Wednesday night, I prayed,” God, let there be rain, a heavy one.” God listened to my prayer; there was really a heavy rainfall, and the assembly was cancelled. A narrow escape, I was happy.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now my intuitive mind encouraged me, therefore, I made up my mind that I would attain the morning assembly, confidently I did and the Principal appreciated the way my students and I presented the customary practice-The Morning Assembly.
I have learnt that it is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen, what they would make a comment.
Teacher Confession – 4
For the month of October, we have a confession by Surya Prasad Ghimire, who is a teacher from Hetauda, Makawanpur. Ghimire is also the chair of NELTA-Makawanpur center. In this confession, Ghimire shares an incident with a girl student where he had reacted angrily and later regretted for his behavior. Thank you, Surya ji for sharing such an honest confession.
Teacher’s confession: Surya Prasad Ghimire
I was very much interested in teaching since my school days. This interest ultimately ushered me to the teaching profession, even though I had done my higher studies in Forestry. I formally started my career as a teacher after I completed my Masters degree in English Education in 1999. During one and a half decades of my teaching experience, I came across many ups and downs. However, as a teacher I have always been very optimistic and enthusiastic towards my profession.
Here is a very regretful incident I want to share in this confession. I still vividly remember the moment when I rebuked one of my students nearly a decade ago. Her name was Sabita studying at Grade ‘X’. She was an average student. I thought she was the most disciplined student in my class. I had never scolded her before since she didn’t give me an opportunity to do so. She was, in fact, an obedient student. Once, I was checking students’ written work in my class. Every body had managed their homework except Sabita whom I asked a couple of questions why she didn’t manage her homework. She didn’t respond to my queries at all. She just remained with her head down. She didn’t look at me. This made me so furious that I scolded her brutally. The class plunged into pin-drop silence. I was almost out of control, but I somehow controlled myself. I cooled down and continued my work.
After a while I heard someone sobbing and turned my head. It was Sabita. Her eyes were filled with tears. She looked very nervous. Seeing her nervousness and tears rolling down upon her cheeks, my heart abruptly filled with regrets. I regretted a lot why I scolded her so cruelly.
I reflected upon myself, asking many questions regarding this incident. I felt even more embarrassing when I didn’t see her in my class for a couple of days after the incident. She didn’t turn up as usual due to my unkind remarks. I should have encouraged her to do the task instead of scolding and embarrassing her in the class. She was neither troublesome nor notorious in the class. Why did I scold her so cruelly for simply not doing the homework?
What a shame! I must confess and regret for whatever I did to her. In fact, this incident still rattles and startles me when I ask my students to show their homework.
Teacher Confession- 3
For the month of September, we have Kishor Parajuli from Hetauda to share his confession. Parajuli teaches in a government school as well as in a college. He is also the Secretary of NELTA Makawanpur chapter. Here is Parajuli with his confession on how getting a low score in English exam motivated him to learn more and to become better at English eventually.
Teacher’s confession: Kishor Parajuli
English is a very difficult subject for most of the students who pursue their education in the public schools. It was no exception for me because I was also admitted in a public school and had only started learning English when I was promoted to Grade Four. English was a hard nut to crack for me. My father was a teacher at the private school and had a good knowledge of English. Though he helped me, I was not improving. As all the subjects were taught in Nepali, I didn’t get any opportunity to communicate in English. But I used to do many translation exercises and got them correctly.
During those times, English was taught as any other subjects. We would listen to the explanation given by our teachers, most in Nepali and then supply answers in English. In grades Nine and Ten, making a lot of unceasing endeavors to jot down the answers sought by the questions was the most frustrating moment for me in course of my learning English. Though we were not required to speak English, we had to do much writing in English as our examination would make a decision of our fate on the basis of our writing ability. No creative answers, but the ready-made ones. We would mug up the answers provided by our teachers and vomit those on the white papers. I also did the same. Sometimes I would make enormous attempts to write on my own, but would fail. I would get stuck in the paucity of proper words and sentence structures even if I knew the grammar rules. The teachers were indifferent to inactivating creativity. Just learn by heart and tell the answers. Therefore, English was a bitter pill to swallow for me.
I secured 50 percent mark in English in my SLC examination, and that was the highest mark among my classmates. I had a mixed bag of both pleasure and sadness. Pleasure in the sense that the mark I obtained was the highest mark in my class and sadness that I got only 50 marks to recognize myself as the highest scorer. I could not proudly say to others about the score I achieved in the examination. Though I scored about 90 percent marks in both mathematics (compulsory and optional), I decided to excel in English and developed my alacrity to explore more in English and secure more in the coming days. I started reading English newspapers and magazines very intensively, put my thoughts into paper in the form words, gave focus on writing myself rather than mugging up. With efforts my English improved, and that motivated me. And I felt that I could do well. If my low score was not the highest mark in my class, I would have never been motivated to enhance my English. I thought that I excelled thirty more students in my class.
Now I am a teacher of English in a public school. My students perform weaker in English but I understand their problems when they are not able to express fluently and accurately in English. I share with them my story and encourage them that they need to have ‘I CAN’ attitude to improve English. They should not feel inferior and should keep trying till they achieve success. Yes I confess that in the beginning of my teaching career, I used to beat students but now, I never scold them for not being able to write well and for their mistakes, instead I help them overcome their hesitation and unwillingness to learn English.
Teacher Confession -2
For the month of July, we’re sharing a very insightful confession by Saroj Mandal, a a school teacher in Lalitpur. Mandal is currently studying M.Ed. ELT at Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is a very joyous person with a charming personality which students love in their teachers.
Below is his confession regarding how he misjudged and mistreated a student.
As a teacher I am very much enthusiastic towards my profession. In fact, I feel genuinely happy only inside the classroom. In 2014, I joined a secondary school named Model Academy, Lubhoo and was very excited about my job. As a fresher I used to spend a lot of time preparing the subject matters. For me, the best moment was to see smile on my pupils’ face. Though it was difficult, I tried my best to give equal attention to each student. In reality, I was re-living my school life through my students.
Almost all the students were making progress in their study except one girl named Suman. Although she was one of the top students, she was performing very poorly in English. I was dismayed because as a teacher I was not getting what I expected from her. I called her and asked about the reason behind that. Her unreasonable answer gave me lots of evidences of her laziness (that’s what I thought).
One day during assembly, her younger sister gave an excellence speech. That day I couldn’t help myself (I couldn’t control my frustration) and therefore I scolded Suman in front of her younger sister and some of her other friends. I also challenged her to be like her sister.
Gradually I stopped caring about her performance. One day, I assigned my class to write about their “mentor”. While reading their stories, I came across Suman’s paper too. Below is what she had written:
I have grown up in middle class family. My father is an army and my mother is a housewife. From very beginning of my school, I wanted to be a designer. I haven’t told my father about it because he wants me to be staff nurse and earn lots of money. So, I have decided to give half time in nursing and rest in designing. I know he do care about my future but I don’t want to spoil my life for that.
My father loves my sister because she always get first position in her classes. He behaves her very politely. Maybe she deserves it because she has got a sharp brain. He forces her to take part in ITF and SCOUT but he didn’t allow me to join even morning coaching class. He never understood my psychology, desire and aim, why?
Those glimpses are still fresh in my mind, when I was child and my father used to scold and beat me even for simple matter. He always wanted to impose his army rules and behaves like an animal. Yesterday, I felt asleep while reading then he hardly beat me up on my head and coerced me to do 65 times up-down. He used many dirty words and slapped me 3-4 times. I cried one and half hours without speaking even a single word and slept. I don’t know, why is he doing such a thing to me?
I have grown up now. I can understand what is best for me. In fact, it is his angry, scary face and big red eyes which is stopping me to use my own creativity. Whenever I try to use my mind he disturbs me. I like designing dresses in paper, copy and wall. I have made some fabrics too. But he always scolded me by saying, “you bloody fool! Don’t you know that your exam is coming soon? So, you have to practice math.” While practicing math, in case I asked him about a problem more than one time then again he scolds me. Sometimes, in evening class, when teacher left us lately, then also he scolds me. I have to cry at least once every day. Whenever I think about my life I want to commit suicide. I don’t know who will be my mentor? Do I have to struggle throughout my life?
When I read it I cried and felt guilty for whatever I did to her. I must confess that I deeply regret scolding Suman and comparing her with her sister without knowing about her. Just like Suman, there must be many students who are misunderstood by parents and teachers and they must be waiting for their “mentor”.
Saroj Kumar Mandal
Teacher Confession 1
For the month of June, I am sharing a confession by Ushakiran Wagle with you all.
I have known Ushakiran Wagle for almost four years now. We had met at Kathmandu University, School of Education while I was studying M.Ed. in ELT (she had already finished her Masters). Since then, I have known as a very passionate teacher, an avid researcher and a very helpful colleague. She is also constantly seeking to develop herself professionally in the field of education and training. I feel very happy to feature her in this Teacher’s Confession series and I hope our readers will find bundles of motivation from her experience.
Here’s Ushakiran Wagle and her confession:
Being a student of English language was the most frightening experience I have ever had. My Dad didn’t enroll me to a private English medium school where I could get exposure to English. Therefore, I didn’t get an opportunity to speak English during my childhood. However, my father being an English language teacher always encouraged me to learn English from the day I was promoted to Grade four. I emphasize Grade four as it was when I first learnt the ABCs of English.
During these past 18 years of learning English, I have had a myriad of experiences. Some of them still frustrate me and some of them keep motivating me.
Generally a Master’s level student is expected to be able to put forward the ideas that they have in front of a mass. But in my case, I was not able to do so due to insufficient English speaking exposure. I used to form the idea in my mind in Nepali language and translate that into English. Till the time this process happened I sounded as if I was stammering. Once one of my tutors asked me a question in my Masters class but I was not able to respond instantly. After that incident, he started to believe that I had a speech disorder.
This was the most frustrating incident that happened with me right at the beginning of my Masters study at Kathmandu University. But gradually the very incident motivated me as well. Yes! I felt guilty that I could not speak but I knew that it was not my fault either. It was frustrating because my tutor, instead of supporting me and helping to speak in English, asked me a nonsense question. I was hoping that one day I would be able to speak fluently with other friends and people around. But alas! My dream was about to vanish. However with a little positive vive came in my heart that I needed to show them that neither I nor any of my family members had speech disorder. So I continued practicing speaking English. I gave presentations, I listened to how the teacher pronounced each and every word and I made my ears and the tongue accustomed to the English language.
I can say now that had I not been questioned by the teacher about my capability, I would never have had a feeling of justifying myself and would never have been able to speak the way I do it now.
When my students tell me that they are not able to speak as they are not from English medium school background, I proudly share the story of my life with them. This incident, which was very frustrating for me at first, always motivates me as well as my students to move further to accept the challenge that we have.
(*Mr. Shrestha is a M.Ed. ELT (KU), M.A. MCJ (PU) graduate. He is a co-founder of #PresentationStuffs http://www.presentationstuffs.com. Besides, he is working as a faculty at Ace Institute of Management and King’s College in Kathmandu. A tireless blogger, Mr. Shrestha can be found with his write-ups in his personal blog http://latebecame.wordpress.com/. He is a Life Member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). )