As we moved into June, YIFA had lots of appointments in schools and nurseries across the city. As the C.I.R, it is one of my main responsibilities to run the so-called “Guest Teacher Programme”, where foreign residents go into schools to teach about their home country and culture. From the end of May through June I was joined on different days by volunteer teachers from nine different countries. It was a joy personally for me to meet and spend time with people from such diverse countries, and I could see what a positive experience it was for the children.
At Yasu Elementary School, following some introductory lessons I delivered about my own country, the U.K, I was subsequently joined by guest teachers from countries as diverse as Morocco, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, and China.
The first guest teacher, Sanaa, gave the students a short presentation about Morocco, before we practiced Arabic greetings, then finished the class by playing a game of UNO. The game of UNO was well-known by the students of course, but it was certainly their first time to play with the ‘Piacentine’ design playing cards common to Morocco. Once Sanaa told me about these cards, I was adamant that we should use them, and actually copied and cut up enough for the 70-strong group of children to break up into small groups and play. I think noticing even a small difference as the design of playing cards can open children’s eyes to differences around the world. I think the children realised that what is natural for them is not necessarily the case in other places.
As well as noting differences, in the schools I really want to discuss similarities between countries. A couple of days later, our next guest teacher, Tahsin, began her presentation by talking about the similarity between the Japanese and Bangladeshi flags, both dominated of course by the red sun in the centre. She then gave a wonderful PowerPoint presentation showing us the interesting and beautiful points of her country; a country the children weren’t able to find on the map at first, but knew all about by the end of the lesson!
I think there were two big things that the students will remember from Tahsin’s lesson. First, she brought a beautiful saree with her to show, and, as I helped her to unravel it, it stretched…and stretched…all the way across the width of the room. It was quite a sight to see the fabric pulled across its full eight metres! It apparently takes over an hour to fit a saree properly, but for the lesson, Tahsin let one lucky girl try it on and wrapped it around her one way or another within a couple of minutes. The second memorable point for the students was watching videos of sports popular to Bangladeshi people. It’s amazing to me that the children had never seen or heard of cricket—one of the most popular sports in the world—before having watched the video now, they’ll be able to explain a little about the sport from now on. Similarly, kabaddi, and its Bangladeshi variation played in schoolyards, hadudu, was something new for the students. I think by learning that there are different sports played around the world, the students get the idea that there are interesting and fun things to learn from foreign people. I hope this will help to give them the motivation to study foreign culture and language.
In the next class, Monika talked all about her home country of India. She really explained well about the size and importance of the country, and I think the students were left with a big impression of the cultural significance of Indian heritage. In keeping with this Monika gave us a wonderful demonstration of yoga, before we practiced some Hindi greetings. The students were fantastic with the greetings, always with a big smile, and the biggest smile was saved for Monika’s beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Arshi, who the female students were besotted with!