In the end, I spent three mornings at Little Blossoms and taught classes in grades 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Here are some observations:
- The children, from grades 1-10, are lovely. I was greeted in Nepali and English every morning by all ages and many had extended conversations with me. There were the standard questions, like “What is your name? Where are you from? What is your surname? What is your father’s name? What is your mother’s name? How old are you?” I was also asked many questions about the United States, if I was married, who my favorite football (soccer) team was, and more.
- The morning assembly begins at 9:30 and involves a lot of directions about lining up in straight lines, standing with hands behind the back, reciting the morning prayer, singing the school song, and team “captains” making sure everyone stays in line.
- The principal introduced me to several classrooms and would usually leave me alone for the period to work with the class. First grade was my biggest challenge, for sure. Imagine thirty students speaking to you at once, crowding around you. Some spoke in Nepali and had to be reminded by their friends that I did not speak their language. It was very difficult to understand the little English they had. Thankfully, their teacher took over the class for most of the period.
- Students were very surprised to hear that I cannot hit my students. Hitting is a common form a discipline here. The eighth graders were sincere when they asked, “How do you discipline them when you cannot hit them?” I witnessed several instances of hitting, twisting ears, and heard stories from students of worse.
- After seeing the photos from a school dance at my school, the ninth graders said it looked like American students have too much freedom. I agree.
- The amount of homework continues to amaze me. Even Sugrit, in first grade, will sit at home for two hours without any break to complete his daily homework.
- Much of the work is based on copying and reciting. The few lessons I did observe were about copying English words into a notebook or exercise book. Teachers write answers on the board and students copy them. Many students just copy from the more advanced students in the class.
- Rulers are essential. Students draw straight lines in their notebooks for margins, to record the class period, to underline answers, and to cross out mistakes. Everything is super neat. The sloppiest handwriting here was neater than the neatest handwriting I’ve seen in the U.S.
- Students here are experts at memorizing. Most of the homework involves copying classwork (which was copied from the board in the first place) and memorizing it. As much as this may be frowned upon in U.S. schools, it is a skill that many U.S. students lack. It is not uncommon for middle schoolers in the U.S. to not know their times tables, for example. Students here know them, though I am sure some are learning them out of fear of physical punishment.
I felt welcomed and appreciated at Little Blossoms, and enjoyed my time learning about an educational system that is very different from the one I am used to.