Volunteer Diary #1
Ana Patladze, Elene Glonti & Nutsa Jorjikia
From Tbilisi, Georgia. Currently volunteering at Shanti Nikunj School in Basantapur, Kathmandu.
We walked into the classrooms- our nervousness under a cloak of make-believe confidence. We were standing in between a group of scrutinizing, starry-eyed children. In our full consciousness, we had chosen to be where we were, to volunteer with COMMITTED to teach English at this government school in Kathmandu and yet the unfamiliarity shook us. A little bit anxiousness was inevitable- we had thought and agreed. For the first time we found ourselves on the other side of a classroom. With heads held high and shaky knees, we approached the students only to realize that they were more shy and edgy.
On the very first day, we got a heads up of what was to follow. The kids were timid- so timid they barely said their names with assurance. We started lessons with them but their lack of participation was obvious and baffling. They were hesitant to ask questions and cautious in their attempts to cover up their lack of interest. After a challenging and straining first few days, we saw small but significant progresses. They seemed to like the fact that classes with us was different, that they could speak out, that they were not merely to nod Yes and No. There were lesser blank stares and more raised hands. There were mouths waiting their turns to speak and dutifully completed assignments.
"Who is Huckleberry Finn?" "Why are people trying to hurt Anne Frank?" "Sherlock Holmes sounds mysterious." "Why is Widow Douglass the way she is?" echoed in the classrooms. They struggled to voice their thoughts in English and we battled to understand. Some of the students stunned us with their wit. Opinions about what freedom is and why Finn was a rebel started pouring in, they expressed concerns for Anne Frank, and asserted disagreement with Egeus' pride over Hermia's will. Of course, it didn't come easy! We explained over and over again, slowed our pace, held on to our patience. We introduced concepts of "thinking outside the box" and "reading between the lines".
Two weeks since we started "teaching" the students at Shanti Nikunj Secondary School and learning as "teachers" ourselves, we are in love with the experiences and challenges that await us every day. We know now that some of the students take us more dearly than we ever thought they would. It has been the most unnerving and gratifying two weeks of our lives.
*Originally written by Ana Patladze, reproduced with permission.