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Teaching, General Teaching Projects in Sri Lanka by Kimberly Hatzl

My students

After teaching the young monks for a couple of weeks at Welipitiya temple, I had gotten the routine down well. I’d step out of the tuk tuk, walk through the temple gates, take my sandals off and walk to the area outside of a building where we would be holding class for the day. As our class was held outdoors, the sounds of Sri Lanka flooded into our classroom; the sounds of tuk tuks on the road, people speaking in Sinhala, and the mooing of the many cows that lived at the temple.

A new teaching experience

It became a common thing that roughly forty-five minutes into the class, cows would come running from all directions from behind the temple towards the gates followed by a man, who I presumed to be in charge of the cows. One morning as the cows were being herded towards the gates, a couple of them decided that the shortest path to the gate was through my classroom.

Teaching my class

Considering, I was dressed in a saree and walking was a slight challenge, an attempt at to herd cows out of my classroom was not acceptable idea. Instead, I pointed towards the cows and said the English word “cows” and my students responded with giggles and said “e-lah-dhe-nah”. I tried again, I thought that maybe they didn’t understand that I meant cows and I got the same response.

A couple of my students got up and chased the cows out of my classroom and helped the man in charge of them to steer the rest away. In the meantime, I pulled out my Sinhala phrasebook from my bag and searched franticly for “cow”. Once I found it, I showed it to the students and pointed towards the few straggling cows left in our view; they pointed at the cows and said “e-lah-dhe-nah” and showed me the Sinhala spelling in my phrase book.

It was such a great moment for all of us to connect English and Sinhala based on a realistic event that we all could relate to; the fact that a few “e-lah-dhe-nah” had just wandered into our class. The monks thought it was hilarious when I would try to copy how they would pronounce Sinhala words but it sparked a new level of teaching that allowed us to link Sinhala words that they knew to the English words that I was teaching them.

Kimberly Hatzl

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