The monastery, probably like any boarding school, runs on a pretty regimented time-table. The boys have classes everyday except Saturdays and throughout the day have only brief breaks. Tea-time was my favorite part of the afternoon. Nepali chia is different than Indian chai but really just as enjoyable if you like a lot of sugar in your spiced tea…which I do! The afternoon tea-break lasted for a half an hour and the boys were instantly jived to run out of the classrooms, grab their soccer balls and hackey-sacks and make full use of the large cement court-yard.
Most of the younger boys and myself would perch ourselves on a small patio area near the courtyard to enjoy our steaming hot chia while watching the older boys play sports. Classes were started and finished with the loud clanging/banging of a gong near my tea-spot and after several days of being so startled I spilled the boiling tea on myself the Class III boys ringing the gong would give me an emphatic “move Meeeeess” (Miss) before striking the small gong with all the force their 14 year old arms could yield.
When I first started at the monastery I really just continued teaching the boys lessons out of the books as Louise had been instructed. But, as they say, variety is the spice of life, and I quickly asked for permission to branch out from the very basic reading comprehension style daily lessons. Lobsang was very positive about me using any sort of creative games or lesson plans – stories and games were ideal for the younger boys while the older monks had great comprehension but a lot of grammar questions. Helen came to my monastery to co-teach one day and suggested a lot of great games that she learned while working in Guatemala for two years.
There were two categories of games -the educational variety and the reward/fun games. It’s a testament to Helen’s creativity that they loved the educational ones just as much as the others. A big problem I was facing with the younger monks through level four was a lack of comprehension. They had wonderful reading skills but they weren’t understanding 60 percent of what they were saying. To combat this we slowed the lessons waaaaay down and focused on total comprehension of the lesson. Because my Nepali language is really basic we resorted to pantomime and gesturing to illustrate points and lessons. The biggest hit of my time there was a really simple game: the boys would read a story and then we would pick out all of the new vocab and assign relevant gestures. For example, for the word “tap” they would have to drum their fingers on their desk, “whisper” was easy and but other words necessitated a bit of imagination stretching. Once the gestures were assigned I would randomly tell a story that included the vocab -every time I said a keyword the team that did the corresponding gesture first received a point. They got really competitive with the game and it was a huge hit -plus super easy for me and it drilled the vocab into their heads so that was a double plus.
As far as the non-education games were concerned – these were easy I just had to think back to my hours spent in R-Club after-school care throughout elementary school. Everything from Simon Says to Mother May I scored me major points plus Helen’s addition of Red, Green, Yellow kept them massively entertained if the gong was late in ringing -and Class IV just always opted for Hangman!
Also, everyday before classes and meals the boys would line up and chant a two minute prayer…here is a short snipet of morning prayer outside of the classrooms:
I really loved the energy and feeling that suffused the grounds during their chants – it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside even though I didn’t understand a word…I think prayer is one of those things that transcends actual comprehension :)
Two of Helen’s little nuns:
Here are a few other of my monks: