5 INCREDIBLE IMPACTS OF TIES

Right now TIEs is running a fundraiser to continue our intercultural co-teaching programs, but how can you know if your money is being put to good use? Every year, TIEs conducts exit interviews with our participating teachers. Based on these interviews, we’ve been able to assess our top 5 impacts since we started our Nepal program in 2016:

1. THE STATION METHOD

In 2017, American participant Monica introduced a teaching method in Nepal that became the new hot new thing: the Station Method. Divide the class into multiple groups and give each group a different task (i.e. writing, drawing, speaking, etc.). The groups rotate from one station to the next. It’s a great way to engage multiple learning styles. In a 2018 interview, Nepali teacher Subhadra said she still used this method every day, and that she even taught it to other teachers at the school.

2. CURRICULUM MASH-UP

In 2018, our partner school wanted to upgrade their English language curriculum, so TIEs assembled a team of Nepali and American educators to meet regularly for 2 weeks. We pulled items from Nepal’s Department of Education and the Common Core Standards from the USA. The end result: a mash-up that combines the best of both worlds. It’s a unique list of standards for grades K-8 that our partner school can use to guide it’s English language program. The Nepali school principal, Abha, said that the school would continue this work by doing the same thing with their other subjects.

3. OPEN-DOOR POLICY

In 2017, American teacher Amy and Nepali principal Abha collaborated on a project called “Observe Me”. The idea was to foster an open-door culture at the school. Teachers visited each other’s classrooms during their off periods, observed each other teaching, and learned about each other’s methods. In 2018, Abha said that they still used this policy at the school: 4 times a year, each teacher has an opportunity to observe another teacher (often someone who teaches a different subject) to gain new methods and perspectives.

4. KWL CHARTS

Remember these from when you were in school? Before a lesson, you write what you know (K) and what you want to know (W) about the topic. After the lesson, you write what you learned (L). TIEs introduced this method to our partner school in a 2017 workshop. In our 2018 interviews, multiple Nepali teachers reported still using these. One teacher, Teena, said if you visit her class, you can see her KWL chart on the wall!

5. MORE EFFICIENT PLANNING

Teachers around the world complain that they don’t get enough time to plan their lessons. In 2018, TIEs introduced a method of planning in which you write out an entire week of lessons at one time. The Nepali staff had been writing lesson plans on a daily basis, which can be very time-consuming. In our 2018 interviews, multiple Nepali teachers reported that they would switch to the week-long planning method.

We’re excited to see what new ideas our TIEs participants will come up next, but we need your help! Visit StartSomeGood.com/ties2019 between now and June 12th to support our 2019 fundraising campaign. Your support enables us to continue the work that we do.

Thanks for being a part of the TIEs community!

Differentiating Instruction Across Different Nations

When you walk into Ditta and Monica’s co-taught English classroom in Lalitpur, Nepal, there’s a lot going on. Ditta, a K-2 teacher from Nepal, is playing a flashcard game with a small group of students. Monica, a visiting teacher from the U.S., is creating booklets with another group. Three more groups of students are independently working on tasks including worksheets and illustrations. It might seem like these groups of students are all learning different things, but each activity is a different way for students to practice their prepositions of place (i.e. “in”, “on”, “under”).

Ditta and Monica have established a classroom environment that appeals to the diverse learning preferences of their students.

This method of differentiating instruction, known as “station” teaching, is very common in U.S. classrooms, but was new to some of the Nepali teachers. Monica introduced this method during the 2017 TIEs summer program, and she and Ditta co-planned what each individual station activity would be. Ditta coordinates grades Kindergarten through 2nd, and she is excited to share this method with other teachers on her team. Ditta and Monica will be presenting this method to the entire staff in an upcoming professional development workshop.

But Ditta isn’t the only one learning new things through the TIEs program – Monica has gained some insight as well. English is the second language of these Nepali students, and Monica sees the emphasis that the Nepali teachers place on learning new vocabulary. “In the US, we often assume that kids have the vocabulary,” Monica says. “This experience has made me more cognizant of the importance of front-loading vocabulary.” Monica is toying with the idea of a vocabulary station when she returns to her regular school in the U.S., where approximately 20 percent of the students are English language learners.

Station-teaching is just one of the many cross-cultural collaborations going on in TIEs’ 2017 summer program. See more of our exciting projects by subscribing to our blog and following us on Facebook and Instagram!

Our 2nd Annual TIEs Program Is Here!

For the next 3 weeks, American and Nepali teachers will be connecting and collaborating through the TIEs Summer Program in Patan, Nepal. TIEs stands for “Two-way Intercultural Exchanges.”

Our goal is to develop better teachers by learning from those who are different from us.

Each party, the Americans and Nepalis, will be sharing their unique strengths as educators though co-teaching, co-planning, and presenting professional development workshops. By working side-by-side, we also aim for our participants to develop their cross-cultural communication, an essential skill in today’s increasingly globalized world.

Thanks to the generous people who supported TIEs’ crowdfunding campaign in 2015, we received enough funding to run our summer program for the second year in a row. Last year, in our inaugural program, participants gained new ideas about using low-cost materials, building a positive school climate, and conducting project-based learning. We’re excited to see what new insight this year’s participants find!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting bios of each of our participating Nepali and American teachers, as well as blog posts to share the collaborative projects they’ll be working on. Follow the story of the TIEs’ teachers this summer by subscribing to our blog and following us on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for being a part of TIEs’ journey!

-Tim Kobus, Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers

A Trust Fall In Nepal

Teachers in the US generally don’t step outside our classrooms, even though it would be nice to take an occasional bathroom break, grab some materials, or have a quick one-to-one with a student in the hall. Without the watchful eye of the teacher, we fear that our classrooms would devolve into chaos. But at Bhassara School in Nepal, the teachers feel confident leaving the students to manage themselves if need be – a class captain monitors the group while students quietly work on their exercises. According to Erica, an American teacher visiting Bhassara through the TIEs program, “The amount of trust that the staff puts in the students is really special.”

Erica says she has been very impressed by the autonomy that students have here. The morning assemblies are student-led. The kids are part of a committee to plan and run school events. In her view, these things create a school-wide culture of trust and leadership.

In the US, it can be scary for us to give students this kind of independence. But Erica sees how it benefits students: “They rise to the challenge and I think that it allows a lot of character strengths to develop: leadership skills, event-planning, the ability to collaborate with a committee, critical thinking skills.”

Erica is excited to bring this concept to her own classes in the U.S., saying “I definitely want to carry with me the idea of taking a deep breath, letting go of some of that control, and trusting that the students can do incredible things on their own.”

Perhaps when it comes to micro-managing our students, we should consider the words of the movie Frozen, and “Let It Go.”

Follow our blog to hear about more lessons learned abroad in the TIEs summer program!

 

Written by Timothy Kobus, Founder/Director – TIEs with Teachers

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Finding Inspiration in a Foreign Nation

“Thank you miss for teaching us!”

Students at Bhassara School in Laltipur, Nepal, stand and say this in unison at the end of every class period. According to Amy, an American teacher visiting Bhassara though the TIEs program, the students’ joy of learning here is “undeniable.” She sees it in the way the students greet the teachers with hugs and enthusiasm, in the respect they show in the classroom, and in the gentleness with which the older students interact with the younger ones.

While much of this respect for learning may be culturally-rooted, Bhassara has certainly put things in place to foster such a positive learning environment: they begin mornings with student-led assemblies, their curriculum features a character education course, and they have a schoolwide meditation session every Friday to get students calm and ready to learn.

Can you imagine how good it would feel to teach in this kind of setting? For Amy, a teacher with 20 years experience, it is a source of renewed motivation: “I feel like the Nepali students show more respect, which in turn makes me feel very motivated to increase their engagement. It makes me want to work harder for them.”

In the US, a lot of teachers only dream of having a class like this. But perhaps the lessons learned here can be applied to US classrooms. “Maybe at home I need to re-invent myself,” Amy says. She is excited to try some of the same methods that Bhassara uses for building community in her own classroom.

Amy has found motivation and inspiration abroad. What would you find? TIEs would like to invite any teachers reading this to spend a summer visiting a foreign school. It just might recharge your teacher batteries!

Written by Timothy Kobus, Founder/Director – TIEs with Teachers

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A Nepali and an American Walk Into a Classroom…

Elise, an English language teacher from the US, was a little hesitant when asked to co-teach 8th grade chemistry in Nepal. To put it lightly, she doesn’t know anything about chemistry. But she does know how to get students talking and working together. And fortunately for Elise, her Nepali partner teacher in the TIEs summer program is Roushan, who can rattle off chemical equations in his sleep. When these two pooled their respective areas of expertise, the result was something totally new and exciting for the class.

whiteboards 1 Roushan began his 8th grade science class with a short review of chemical equations. Elise then passed out dry-erase markers and mini whiteboards (TIEs collaborated with the school staff to make these from local materials). You could sense the class’ reaction to these materials: “Ooh! This is different!” Elise instructed the students to work in pairs on the whiteboards to balance Roushan’s equations, then hold their boards up high to share.

It might seem like all Elise did was bring a set of whiteboards to the class, but her contribution was much more than that: she introduced a method of engaging students that Roushan hadn’t seen before. Roushan loved it so much that he used the boards in another class period that day. He especially liked the boards as a quick tool for checking student understanding.

This example illustrates the potential of cross-cultural co-teaching. Methods and materials that are commonplace in one part of the globe might be revolutionary in another. And this works both ways. Amy, another American teacher in TIEs’ summer program, discovered a simple yet efficient method for organizing math problems from her Nepali partner teacher, Sabina.

TIEs would like to recommend that teachers hoping to work abroad look for opportunities to co-teach. whiteboards 2

When you step outside the world you know, the littlest of things can have a profound impact.

Even whiteboards!

 

Written by Timothy Kobus – Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers

 

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Teachers from Two Corners of the World United by One Challenge

Two groups of teachers from opposite sides of the globe sat in one room conversing – Nepalis on one side, Americans on the other. While a world of differences existed between the two groups, it was fascinating to hear how similar some of their daily classroom challenges were.

In my experience teaching in the US, one of the biggest concerns teachers have is the pressure that standardized testing places on their classrooms. Teachers often feel forced to “teach to the test” instead of giving students opportunities for creative expression. Listening in on this conversation between TIEs’ American participants and Nepali teachers from our partner school, it was clear to me that the Nepali teachers had similar feelings that their educational system was forcing students to fit a particular mold.

This discussion between the two groups led to a share-session about balancing creative expression and standardized skills in the classroom. Each group offered their own unique insight regarding this issue.

The two groups may have come from opposite corners of the world, but in that room they came together to try to solve an educational challenge.

I recommend that anyone reading this connect with professionals from your field in different countries – it may be refreshing to see a different take on the same challenges you face. And I invite everyone to follow our story of American and Nepali teaching coming together to co-plan, co-teach, learn, and grow together! Keep up with TIEs with Teachers’ 2016 summer program by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media.

 

Written by Timothy Kobus – Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers

 

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Returning to Nepal a Year After the Earthquakes

Nepal lost a lot in last year’s earthquakes: lives, homes, historical sites. But when I visited Bhassara School in Nepal shortly after the disasters, it was clear that the earthquakes couldn’t take this school’s spirit.

Bhassara School is such a beacon of positivity – kindhearted staff, exciting extracurricular activities, and some of the most engaged students I’ve ever been around in my career as a teacher. Now, returning to the school more than one year after the earthquakes for the launch of the TIEs with Teachers program, I can see that Bhassara’s light is still shining just as bright!

One of the goals of the TIEs program is to celebrate and share the strengths of this school. Through this program, three American teachers are coming to Bhassara this summer to learn about the Nepali culture and teaching style. At the same time, the American teachers will share their own teaching methods with the Nepali staff. The two groups will observe each other teach, co-plan and co-lead lessons, and create professional development workshops together.

In the wake of last year’s disasters, I believe it will be an empowering experience for the Nepali teachers to have foreigners come to Nepal to learn from the local expertise, rather than solely to provide aid. But at the same time, I believe that the TIEs program can contribute to Nepal’s rebuilding process by introducing new methods of education.

I invite you to follow the story of TIEs’ summer program in Nepal starting June 24th by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media. Learn alongside us about all amazing things this Nepali school has to offer!

 

Written by Tim Kobus, Founder/Director – TIEs with Teachers

 

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Bhassara School: Shining Brightly After Nepal’s Dark Day

Pictured above is a mural to thank those who helped TIEs with Teachers raise $3,500 on StartSomeGood.com to repair the earthquake damage at our partner school in Nepal, Bhassara Secondary School. The mural was designed by a Nepali monk and painted on one of the repaired walls at the school by the 7th graders.

I love the symbolism in this mural, but at first, I didn’t appreciate it.

earthquake damage

I had initially suggested that the sky be a bright blue – something pretty and pleasant for our donors to look at in pictures – rather than the dark grays and browns that you now see. But I was missing the point. April 25th, 2015, was a dark day in Nepal, which is represented in the mural by the sky’s colors. I think it’s difficult for many of us who heard about the events on the news to truly understand the horrors that took place there. Walking through some of the Kathmandu Valley streets during TIEs’ recent visit, I’d swear we were in a war-torn country.

 

 

IMG_1826But the mural symbolizes more than just the darkness of that day. The temple that you see painted in the foreground is Swayambhunath, a cultural heritage site that wasn’t destroyed by the earthquake. The mural depicts this temple shining bright and adorned in beautifully-colored prayer flags, representing the beauty and resilience of Nepal in the face of that dark day.

 

field tripI experienced this beauty and resilience firsthand during TIEs’ recent visit to Bhassara School. Everywhere I looked, the students were highly engaged in learning and extra-curricular activities. I can’t imagine a safer, more positive environment for students to return to in the aftermath of such a disaster. In a town where many displaced families are living in tents, and makeshifts beams have been set up to keep the buildings for keeling over, this school shines as a safe-haven for students and a beacon of the country’s strength.

 

 

IMG_1968In addition, each balloon in this mural features the name of donors to the fundraiser. The bright colors of these balloons represent that each of these donors is a glimmer of positivity and kindness after the darkness of that day.

 

TIEs and the Bhassara community would like to thank everyone who donated to our recent earthquake fundraiser. I’d like to end this post with a popular slogan I saw on many Nepalis wearing on t-shirts:

“We will rise again”.

If Bhassara School is any indication, I most certainly believe this is true.

 

TIEs with Teachers is a project to bring American and Nepali educators to exchange teaching methods. Read about our plans for our 2016 exchange program.

 

Why Every U.S. Teacher Should Visit a Foreign School

People often think of travel as a process of self-growth. But teachers in today’s culturally diverse U.S. schools should also consider how much their time spent abroad can benefit their students back in the U.S.! TIEs with Teachers’ summer program sends U.S. teachers abroad to visit foreign schools (check out our pilot program in Nepal), and here’s why:

Learn new approaches to your daily classroom challenges – Teachers around the world face similar challenges, i.e. bullying or getting kids to focus. But what’s different is our approach to these challenges! Going abroad allows teachers to observe radically different teaching methods, such as the meditation our partner school in Nepal uses to help students focus. It might just be radical enough to breakthrough to that kiddo you’ve been struggling with in your own class!

Experience a healthy dose of cultural discomfort – If you’ve never been a stranger in a strange land, you probably have no idea how your newcomer immigrant students feel when they come to school every day. Although you will never truly know what he or she is going through, you can better support your kiddos during the acculturation process having experienced it yourself!

Improve your intercultural communication skills – Every culture has its own norms for communication, i.e. topics that are appropriate, norms for eye-contact, ways of greeting people. Going abroad is a crash course on communicating with people from a different cultural background! When you return to your diverse classes in the U.S., you will be more aware of communication differences between yourself, your students, and their families – and be able to adjust your communication as necessary!

Better understand the link between culture and learning – Each culture also has it’s own norms for learning – i.e. types of classroom activities or norms for speaking up in class. Observing such differences firsthand will help you appreciate the role that culture plays in learning, and make you more reflective about how your own students’ cultural backgrounds affect the way they learn best.

Celebrate cultural diversity in your class – It’s one thing to tell your kids about cultural diversity – it’s another to SHOW them! Think of all the photos and stories you can share when you get back! TIEs with Teachers provides an excellent opportunity for educators to walk the walk and model the appreciation for diversity we often talk about in our schools. And if you spend time in the developing world, you can use your personal experiences to spark critical discussions about poverty and cultural stereotypes.

In addition to these benefits for your classes back in the U.S., you can also support foreign educators at the schools you visit by sharing your own teaching insight! So consider spending your summer break visiting a foreign school with TIEs with Teachers! We are currently crowdfunding a project to give more American teachers the opportunity to visit foreign schools, starting with a school in Nepal. It’s not just about self-growth – it will benefit your kiddos back in the U.S.!

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