Last year on January 1st, InterestEng. became involved in a project called The School Inside. It began with five teachers, twelve students in Afghanistan, and Skype. The School Inside now has some 40 teachers in 12 countries reaching out to nearly 200 students in 8 countries, teaching English, learning love—and loving a bigger world. The writer below, affectionately known as Travelin’ Kaz, is from Ireland but presently living in Spain. She began as a School Inside tutor for children in the mountains of Nepal. She is now the first teacher from The School Inside to “leap through the screen” and decide to go to Nepal to teach the children in person.
WHILST working at a summer school in Europe this summer I learned about The School Inside. It is a volunteer-run online school that connects with learners through Skype to give English lessons with the help of fluent speakers of the language. These lessons either supplement the lessons they receive in school or are the students’ sole access to English instruction. One of the teachers I was working with has been volunteering with The School Inside for quite awhile and shared her experiences, which all sounded really special.
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, all of which fuelled my desire to visit. I feel that people make a place, and I knew I would not get to know Nepal properly just as a tourist, so I had planned to do some kind of voluntary teaching whilst there. So when The School Inside asked me how I would feel about teaching a class of school children in Nepal I jumped at the chance. Then, through The School Inside I learned about The Himanchal Education Foundation and the opportunities to volunteer teach in person in Nangi.
The School Inside gives classes every day to students in Nangi. A different teacher teaches each day. Tuesday is my day and I really look forward to it. The lessons are 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. We usually need to reconnect a few times during each lesson but, when you realize where they are, it’s almost a miracle to think we can connect at all!
I usually decide on a theme for the lesson, for example—animals, clothing or weather. 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 made with PowerPoint or online learning sites such as Quizlet. We review the vocabulary through these activities and build up to making sentences, as well as reading online stories. I was really keen to introduce songs to the lessons. 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 using it as the students bring different ideas to the classes. During my last lesson, one of the students asked me if it was my birthday today. I said, “No, not today.” Then I 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 then talked about birthdays in Nepal. This was quite special as the children have been a little shy up to now. It was wonderful 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. It is amazing to build that up now before I go there to volunteer teach. —Kaz
The video below tells the amazing story of one man’s determination to bring the internet to Nepal. Now, even the most remote regions are connected. The school in the video is the school where The School Inside began to tutor students a year ago and where Kaz will be.