5 Ways Teachers Can Improve Racial Equity

One of the founding principles of TIEs is that teachers benefit by collaborating with educators from different backgrounds. We can learn about different histories/education systems, foster an appreciation for diversity, and better prepare ourselves to teach in today’s diverse US classrooms. However, TIEs recognizes that travelling abroad to co-teach is a privilege and an opportunity that not everyone can afford. Therefore, we are making it a priority to share resources/ideas that all US teachers can use right now to become better ambassadors of racial equity.

In response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and others, TIEs is calling out to teachers to recognize that we are in a position to affect positive change, and that we have a responsibility to take anti-racist action in our schools. Here are 5 things teachers can do to get started:

1. Diversify Your Bookshelves
This is perhaps the least that teachers should do. Look at the books in your classroom and the required readings in your curriculum. Are a diversity of voices represented, or does it reflect a mainstream, Euro-centric point of view? Do not deny your students the opportunity to hear the voices/stories of different groups of people, particularly marginalized groups.

2. Use Critical Pedagogy
It is not enough to simply have books in your classroom that tell the stories of marginalized groups, we must plan lessons/discussions around these materials. In particular, use critical pedagogy: “a teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination” (k12academics.com). Be honest about history, and provide safe, structured opportunities for students to be critical of oppression. Look up the work of Paulo Friere, the founder of critical pedagogy.

3. Analyze Your School’s Recruiting Practices
Almost 80 percent of public school teachers are white. We need to recognize that this is a shortcoming of our field. It is imperative that staff demographics reflect student demographics, and that students have role models of color. Talk to your admin about this. Is your school partnering with any alternative licensure programs or attending any virtual job fairs? These practices can help reach a more diverse candidate pool. Look here for more ideas about recruiting diverse educator talent.

4. Start an Equity Committee
Equity work is not a box that can be checked off and considered “done”. True equity work becomes a part of a school’s culture. Form an equity committee at your school to make sure that this work is ongoing. This committee should analyze your school’s curriculum, spark critical discussions about our unconscious biases, throw schoolwide events to celebrate diversity, and provide professional development on equity. Check out the work of Sonia Nieto, a leading voice on equity in education, for more ideas.

5. Use Culturally Responsive Teaching
Do not say “I’m color-blind” or “I see all my students the same.” This mentality denies that students bring their unique racial and cultural experiences to the classroom, and that these experiences influence the way they learn. Instead, use Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): an approach that uses students’ backgrounds as an important source of their learning. Learn the individual learning preferences of your students, and differentiate your instruction to reach kids in different ways. Find ways to bring their cultural backgrounds into the classroom. Look here for more ideas on CRT.

As teachers, we must remember this quote by Angela Davis:

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

Being anti-racist means taking action. The above list are just a few of the ways that educators can start taking action today. What other ideas do you have? Join the conversation here or on our social media pages.

Thanks for reading.

-Tim Kobus, Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers


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:


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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