Connecting to Nangi through The School Inside

Whilst working at a summer school in Europe this summer I learned about ‘The School Inside’. It is a voluntary run online school that connects with learners through Skype to give English classes with fluent speakers of the language. These either supplement the lessons they already receive or are the students’ sole access to English instruction.  One of the teachers I was working with has been volunteering with them for quite a while and shared some of her experiences, which all sounded really special.  I had been searching for volunteer work which fits in with my current timetable and The School Inside sounded perfect so I applied.  

Prior to this I had already planned to visit Nepal in 2017.  It has been a lifelong dream to visit this mountainous country.  I am a keen hiker and feel completely at home in the mountains, which has fuelled my desire to visit.  I always feel that people make a place and I know I would not get to know Nepal properly as a tourist so I had planned to do some voluntary teaching whilst there.

So when The School Inside as me how I would feel about teaching a class of school children in Nepal I jumped at the chance. Through this organisation I learned about The Himanchal Education Foundation and the opportunities to volunteer teach in person in Nangi and I plan to visit and teach there towards the end of 2017.

The School Inside gives classes every day to the students in Nangi and a different teacher teaches each day.  Tuesday is my day and I really look forward to it.  The lesson I teach is 45 minutes long the students attend after their school day.  The students are not always the same and numbers can vary but they are always all very enthusiastic and happy to have an English class.  There is always a teacher with them to help with the Skype connection which we usually need to reconnect a few times during each lesson.  

I usually decide on a theme for the lesson for example – animals, clothing or weather – which are some of the topics we have studied recently.  We start off with some vocabulary games, using the screen share facility on Skype and learn or review the words connected with the theme.  I tend to use games which have been made on PowerPoint or some online language learning sites such as Quizlet.  We review the vocabulary through these activities and build up to making sentences, reading online story books and freer conversation.  I was really keen to introduce songs to the lesson and then disappointed to work out that you cannot share sound over the Skype screen share facility.  My tech expert cousin was on hand with reasons and a solution so the children can have music and lyrics – not just my voice!  I show them a YouTube video, on my screen and then I play the same video on my phone with a speaker attached so they can get the full benefit of the songs.  And they really enjoy it.  They sing, clap and move around to the songs – it’s really lovely and adds a nice atmosphere to the lesson.  

Then of course, as with any lesson plan – you do not always end up teaching it as the students bring different things to the class.  During my last lesson one of the students asked me if it was my birthday today.  I said no, not today and asked if it was one of their birthdays and it was!  So the lesson plan was pushed aside and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in English, clapped and talked about birthdays in Nepal.  This was quite special as the children have been a little shy up to now and it was cool to see that one of them felt confident enough to ask me a question.  I really feel that their confidence is growing as is our rapport and it is amazing to be about to build that up now before I go there to volunteer teach.  

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