Margot Sherwill from Benalla Rotary club, Australia has been a regular visitor. She created English readers for us, using local visuals and characters. She also introduced our teachers to teaching English through story telling. She also conducted a very successful workshop called “Train the Trainers”, to guide our teachers on how to train teachers from other schools to use Margot’s English readers . This was followed by the generous presentation of a set of readers to each participating school.
Margot has extensive experience as a former school principal, literacy consultant and literacy & numeracy program author. She has been the mainstay of our English literacy program. On her first visit to Samthar, as a tourist, General Jimmy Singh suggested that she writes stories with local content. She came up with a English reader series with local content. It was a monumental undertaking of more than a hundred titles covering the English literacy needs for four academic years for Lower KG, Upper Kg, Class1 and 2. In addition she undertook professional development of our teachers to make them fit for teaching methodology using Margot’s readers, and teaching through stories in class 3 and 4. Her efforts have been rewarded by the overall improvement in English literacy.
Since 2012 I have become mesmerized by the Awake and Shine school revisiting it several times. Each succeeding visit has added another layer to my experience whilst enhancing the learning of the staff at Awake and Shine.
My work has focused on two main aspects:
I have followed a pattern of observing and participating in the classrooms daily and identifying areas where improvements may be made.
Each afternoon I would then meet with the staff to coach and model good teaching practice. The expectation was that the teachers would follow up their learnings the next day.
I have also presented a full day’s professional development to the whole Awake and Shine staff. The program involved administrators, teachers and classroom assistants. The focus was on the improved teaching of English and the structure of an appropriate English lesson.
Awake and Shine School has set itself the aim to teach all children to speak English fluently using a wide vocabulary and correct sentence structure. In order to enhance this, I have completed writting a series of carefully graded English readers based on the students’ experiences in their village. Each page is complemented by full colour photographs - all with local characters. All 145 readers are sequential with increasing sentence length, vocabulary and complexity. The readers will span four years from Lower KG to the end of class 2. These children ‘devour’ books and their love of reading is a joy to support.
Whilst each day we may spend at the school, evenings are spent in the Farmhouse lounge, enjoying the company of travellers from around the world, each with their own story to tell.
Weekends allow time for exploration further afield. We have taken the opportunity to spend a few days in neighbouring Kalimpong for shopping expeditions 'extraordinaire' or further adventures to Darjeeling.
Here the Darjeeling Zoo, the Tibetian Refuge Centre and the Everest Museum are dwarfed by the ever-present, monumental view of the third highest mountain in the world.
My extended family in Samthar remain dear to my heart and I treasure their friendship, company, challenges and all the precious times I have spent sharing with these happy, generous people.