My fairly lacklustre attempt at study involved designing a research proposal which explores the differences between the approaches in to early literacy development in Australian schools and the home approaches of non-native speaker migrants. In particular, it attempts to build a bridge by training parents and carers in home reading to their pre-school age children. Actually carrying out the research is another thing entirely and, although it would be a worthwhile project, at present my motivation is not great.
The other activity this year was teaching students who have gained entry to university on the condition that they meet the requirements of their pre-entry Academic English course. The courses tend to begin with a necessary brow beating about plagiarism and then focus primarily on the conventions of Australian academic writing. As you can imagine, the pressure on students to pass is immense and this is often transferred to the teachers. I found the attitudes of some students in one particular class of Chinese students towards the end of their ten weeks difficult to accept and wished I had been warned that this is a common phenomenon at some universities. Anyone who watched the ABC Four Corners program “Degrees in Deception” will be aware of these issues and of the “race for cash” in Australian universities. To help explain to those outside Australia, the courses are frequently operated by private organisations attached to the universities and, of course, high failure rates would discourage potential future students. This means that the pressure on teachers comes from not only their students but also from the organisations.
Fortunately I am in a position to make choices about my work, so two days ago I arrived back in India to resume voluntary teaching of Tibetan students in McLeod Ganj. As I have written before, McLeod Ganj is a place of learning and I have enrolled in a Tibetan language course at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives starting on Monday. On the same day I will also commence teaching English at a non-government organization called Tibet Charity.
Hopefully my suitcase, which should have arrived with me on the plane flight from Delhi but instead is still at Delhi Airport, will be back with me soon. If paperwork counts for anything it will, but this is India.It’s good to have Air India on my side but nevertheless I really hope I don’t have any more nerve wracking, windy, bumpy trip to the local airport for more form filling. Inside my case are my teaching clothes and materials and everything else for my three month stay that didn’t fit into my hand luggage.
So, after registering at the library for my Tibetan course, I went in my now well worn non-teaching clothes to meet the Director and the Education Coordinator at Tibet Charity and have been armed with copies of the Oxford New English File (1996) teacher’s book and student’s work book. I will supplement these with some texts and materials of my own and am looking forward to getting started.
Tonight is the monthly staff dinner so I will be able to meet the other teachers and have a chance to chat. This means that on Monday I won’t feel like such a stranger.
So, with little sleep, unusually warm weather, a messed up body clock and no suitcase, the strain of being in India is wearing me down a little. On my repeated hectic trips to and from the airport, I see traffic chaos, hungry looking cows and piles of garbage (presumably dumped because it’s a cheap and easy form of disposal). And then is the constant piercing sound of car horns. I also see some of the best of humanity here and am honoured to be living close to the Dalai Lama’s residence, Tsuglagkhang, in a location overlooking beautiful mountains and forests.
It’s going to get better.
Addendum Sunday 20 September: My bag is has been delivered by Air india with many apologies. Everything in it smells so sweet.