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Hello there teachers,

Volunteering is an increasingly popular thing to do as people think more about contributing to the world rather than just taking from it. As we grow from a child to an adult we come to realise that there is more pleasure in giving than in receiving. Having returned from ESL volunteering in a government school in Nepal, I can report, not surprisingly, that it was truly enjoyable and satisfying. All teachers, whether volunteering or paid, have this opportunity to give on a daily basis through their work.

I’ll post comments over the next few days exposing some of the ESL teaching challenges that I faced and how I responded to them.

In the meantime, to set the scene, imagine a school with no electricity, no glass in the classroom windows, dark walls and ceilings, no heating and plenty of dust! One day it poured with rain so several pupils and some teachers used that as an excuse not to come to school. Children with no teachers were left in their classroom all day, in the dark, freezing cold, in just thin uniforms with no coats!

The ESL teaching technique in the school for the younger children was based on repeating the same words or phrases over and over again after the teacher. The children have no opportunity to think for themselves, simply sitting at their desks, repeating the same sentence for 35 minutes at high volume. It would be comic if it wasn’t tragic!

When I took a class of seven year olds they could hardly believe it as they learned through games. Their faces were lit up with smiles, they were so keen they kept standing up to have a turn and forgetting to sit down again. They responded so well we were able to put on “Ready Steady Go” (short ESL play for beginners) in a single session. Bear in mind that I speak no Nepalese so games and meanings had to be explained through demonstration only, and this worked perfectly.

Another class I took of mixed 4 to 6 year olds was a similar experience and it was a sheer joy to be teaching them. I wished that I could have done more and I vow to create the time to do so. Their enthusiastic faces and keen desire to learn are printed on my mind as an indelible picture that literally warms my heart.

Speak soon