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Teaching in a Buddhist Monastery in India (by Anna Greenwood)

I am teaching in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery school in India. The area surrounding the school is rural; we have fields of ginger and coconut trees. The school is provided for the monks that live in the monastery and is entirely funded through the monastery. I see the students for one class a day. There are no out of school activities; these students study Buddhist subjects both before and after school.

The students range from 12 to 20 and ages vary widely in each class. They are often from poor backgrounds and large families. Many are a long way from their home country and have not seen their families for many years. Parents are not involved in the children’s schooling; each monk student has a ‘teacher’ who teaches them daily life. The classes I teach range from 13 to 19 students (and the school dog that occasionally joins us) and English is compulsory. In India, English is typically used for teaching, and classbooks are written in English.

I am here for a single semester and there are very few visitors to this area, so speaking English is the students’ main interest in these classes. There is a text book which we follow, and I use TEFL methods to pre-focus on a reading text as well as comprehension questions to practice. I have less than one year’s experience. There are a photocopier and printer at the school office, and in the classroom we use chalk and blackboard. Students sit and move around during class. I also use craft materials, and regular dramas related to the course work to practice speaking the language learnt. Classes are 45 minutes from Wednesday to Monday. There is one day’s holiday on Tuesday. The students have little time for homework.

I took the TEFL course one year ago in Nepal, and found work in schools. The TEFL course used practice sessions in local schools and I made contacts this way. Some teachers in this country are unqualified, others have B.Ed.. I would like to do more drama with the students. Also I would like to talk face to face and share with other TEFL teachers, however there are none here. I use the Web for plans and ideas and I find this resource extremely useful.

The students are motivated to learn and spend all day studying both inside and outside of school. The monks are sincere in their efforts and manage their own classroom behaviour. They live and study together and there is a simplicity and cohesiveness in the classroom.

 

Anna Greenwood took the TEFL qualification last year in Kathmandu and has been working mostly voluntarily since in Nepal and now India. Her main experience is in Buddhist monastic schools in the two countries. She finds the work very rewarding and is encouraged when she hears the students pronouncing words in ‘BBC English’ and when she sees them enjoying writing and speaking their own dramas.

 

8 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    What a great story, Anna! Thank you for sharing a glimpse into a teaching environment I could never have imagined.

    I’m so glad you shared your story with us!

    Barb

    1. Anna says:

      My pleasure Barb! I’m happy to share this experience.

      Anna

  2. Anna says:

    As well as teaching I enjoy writing and here is a piece I’ve got up on Travelmag’s web site.

    http://travelmag.co.uk/?p=4261

    There are no teaching tips or classroom management stories – just a ‘day in the life’ story of the students here to enjoy.

  3. @Jessica_Dubois says:

    Anna,

    Wow, what an experience you must be having! I would love to do something similar one day.

    I am teaching at the moment in central Australia in an Indigenous community which is challenging but really interesting and rewarding. While I do work with a small team of teachers (there are 9 of us at our school), we still live in a remote location so like you, having other teachers to talk to face to face isn’t as easy as it would be living in a city. The ability to chat, reflect on your teaching and bounce ideas off of each other is so important. I have found Twitter to be really useful for this and through developing a PLN, I am constantly hearing of and learning new ideas for the classroom. Are you on twitter? I’d definitely recommend joining up.

    Thanks again for sharing your story – loved it! Keep smiling :)

  4. Grace says:

    Hello Anna,
    I was very touched and inspired by your story. I am currently in Gujarat province of India doing a study abroad program with my university and after my program is finished, on June 19th, I am planning on traveling north. I am Buddhist and am very interested in spending time studying in a Buddhist monastery and volunteering as well. I am having difficulty finding options online and decided to respond to you in hopes that you would be able to give me some advice. I don’t have any TEFL experience, but I love teaching. How long are you teaching at the monastery? Could there be a place for me to lend my services there? I am a native english speaker from America, but I speak very little Hindi. If you have a chance to email me back, I would really appreciate it! Thank you,
    Grace

  5. Ven Sumedh says:

    The result are based on traching/training of Indian monks in 2010,2011, 2012, 2013-
    based in five training programme conducted at Maha Bodhi Society Sarnath, Budh Vihar Pareechha and Prachin Budh Vihar Alha Ghat Sipri Jhansi during 2010- 2012. Monks from Maharastra, MP, UP, Bihar, Delhi were included in the study. 70% monks were educated up to 8th and below standards. About 27% monks were found in the education range of 10th to graduate or postgraduate level. Howerever, many monks completed their Ph. D. in various subjects. More than 50% monks were not arware about sutta chanting, pachvekhana and details of dhamma study. The rest 50% monks were in the process of learning of pachvekhana, sutta chanting and other dhamma activities. The help of trainer teachers from Myanmar, SriLanka and India was found very much useful. Most trainers as well as trainees monks recommended training of Indian monks as high prority in comparison to participation in other activities.

  6. Stephen McNally says:

    Hi Anna, i just finished reading your article about teaching english in Buddhist monasteries in India and Nepal. I was all set to go to Bodh Gaya and from there
    i was planning to make my way to a place called Maratika in Nepal,both holy sites in the Buddhist tradition, when my mother took ill and passed away quite suddenly, leaving me with no choice but to abandon my plans for the time being.
    I will be sitting my TEFL course in January and teaching in a monastery seems like the ideal way to study the dharma and get teaching experience so any more
    relevant information would be most grateful. with love and thanks, Stephen Mc Nally

  7. aparna (sonam) says:

    Dear Anna,

    Where in India is this? I’d be happy to help. I am a university teacher in Dehradun.