One by one the children enter the room. “Namaste didi!”, they greet. Downstairs the electricity is being installed and outside the afternoons are getting chilly, so we sit in a bedroom these days. Apart from two beds and two chairs there is no furniture yet. We all take place on the carpets and blankets spread out over the floor. We practice some speaking with the verb ‘to have’. Panku, the youngest, can start: “I am a notebook”, he says guessing. “Is that so? Are you a notebook, Panku?”, I ask. Panku frowns, doubting his answer now. Then he realizes his mistake. “I háve a notebook!”, he says. “Very good.” Cheerfully he laughs along with the others.
Not long after we came to live in Pauri, a mom in the neighbourhood asked if we could give her children tuitions. Karan and I already had this idea in mind and so we said yes. All of a sudden we had children sitting in our porch six times a week, all with a notebook and pen on their lap.
What we do
Now we have five enthusiastic children ranging from 11 to 17 years old. Karan and I take shifts in teaching. And we enjoy it so much! We purchased a whiteboard; this way we can do a lot. The sessions are interactive as we practice in speaking, listening and writing in English. We always close with a game such as Pictionary or Hangman. And sometimes we do a different activity such as drawing, using the computer, painting stones, clearing waste from the land or outdoor games.
The (school)culture is somewhat different from Europe. Classes have at least forty students and it’s a matter of listening quietly to the teacher. Emphasis is mainly put on repeating information. There is not a lot of space for interactive learning and collaboration between students. Nor for daring to ask questions. Discovering and thinking independently are not encouraged that much. Personal guidance is also difficult with so many children, so few of them go to extra tuitions after school. After I came to know more about the personal school system, I got to understand the children better that come to our tuitions. No wonder that they have difficulty with English conversations: although they get a lot of teachings in English, they hardly practice the language proactively. They don’t ask questions and take little initiative. When I ask them to draw their dream house, I often receive five times the same drawing.
When I draw an underwear with Pictionary and one of them guesses ‘underwear!’ they can’t stop giggling.
Meanwhile I am very happy to see how these children already developed with our support. They think for themselves more, dare to make mistakes and practice. When I propose them some options, they show their preferences. Besides learning we have mainly a lot of fun. When I draw an underwear with Pictionary and one of them guesses ‘underwear!’ they can’t stop giggling. And when they say they want to come even on a Sunday, Karan and I see that as a great compliment. And are so grateful for the difference that we can already make here. Yes, a lot is possible! Without furniture, but with a notebook.