On May 10, we shared our experience we had gathered in the past 12 days with 37 teachers from Excelsior school. We talked about how the kids in the temporary camps responded to our engagement classes and shared insights on how we could improve their learning experience. We had designed a 3 hour session in collaboration with psychologist, Rachana Pandey and some experienced teachers: Safala Rajbhandari, Sarita Bhattarai, Bilquees Banu and Kausalya Khadka. The session was focussed on how the first week of school should look like when schools resume. There were two objectives of the session:
- To allow and encourage teachers to express their own feelings and emotions during and after the earthquake
- To enable teachers to plan the first week of their classes
Here are the activities we did along with some suggestions on how teachers can use it to plan a lesson:
- Improv games:
The session started with two improv games: “Whoosh”, that energized everyone and “Count to 20”, to gain back their focus. All the teachers enjoyed the Whoosh game and mentioned that their students would have a fun time playing it.
Suggestions: The first few days of school can be just playing improv games that will help assess the change in the student’s behavior. After playing some games, we can do free drawing.
- Free drawing:
We asked teachers to draw whatever that came in their minds. Most of the drawings were about a village with mountains, sun, hills, clouds, trees and houses. Some teacher also made some broken houses while some made pigeons and fruits on a plate. Those free drawings were similar to what most of the kids had made in past sessions.
Suggestions: Free drawing is one of the best ways to express repressed feelings. We can learn a lot about their experience and way of thinking if we observe those drawings. Teachers can do frequent free drawing activities, collect the drawings and analyze the changes in the students’ thinking patterns. This can be one of the basis to assess which students need more attention and when they are ready to start learning again.
To make this more effective, the drawing activity can be guided by framing an objective to draw. The teacher can ask students to draw where they were before and after the earthquake, what they would build if they could etc. For younger kids, the teacher can ask them to trace their hand and color it or give them a sketch book.
- Experience sharing:
Since there were 37 teachers in one class, we could engage only 15 of them in the experience sharing session. We started asking simple questions like where they were and what they were doing during the earthquake. After that, we asked about their emotions and reactions.
The earthquake was a big event and our individual stories are a small part of it. We are not alone, everyone shares a part of that big story because we are all connected. The experience shared by the teachers made everyone feel like they were all connected and everyone could relate to each other’s experiences.
Suggestions: Teachers can conduct the experience sharing session in their classes using the following framework:
- Where were you and what were you doing during the earthquake? [For everybody]
- What emotions did you have? [Optional]
- How did you cope in that situation? [Optional]
The first question is general and everyone can answer that but the second and the third questions can be optional so that anyone who wants to share can share. Younger children can respond to the first question but the other two might be confusing. Also we can ask students to draw whatever that comes in their minds. The main objective here is to allow students to express their experiences and emotions during and after the earthquake so that they are calm and relieved. But it’s not always necessary to have feelings, sometimes it’s normal not to have any feelings or emotions or to have multiple emotions at the same time.
- Window activity:
Most of the teachers were already familiar with the window activity, what we did was pose the right questions to help them reflect:
- What makes you feel sad?
- What makes you feel happy?
- What makes you feel angry?
- What makes you feel safe?
- What are your strengths?
We conveyed the message that if they were sad, they could do things that made them happy. They could use their strengths to help other.
Suggestions: The same activity can be done with school students and teachers can pose the following questions.
- I feel sad when …
- I feel angry when …
- I feel happy when …
- I feel safe when …
- My strengths are …
The teacher can ask the younger kids to draw a bubble in the middle with the question and kids can write words in response to the question. At the end, a real life connection should be made to make them realize that others also feel the same and that there are many things they can do when they are sad or angry. Also they can use their strengths to help other. This will make students more confident and happy.
- Story to Art:
We created stories integrating different trauma coping mechanisms and asked teachers to transform it into art. Each team had 3 minutes to read the story and 10 minutes to draw the story on a chart paper. After that each team selected a ‘teacher’ among them who’d explain the story while the rest of the members were ‘students’. After that, the students moved from table to table to go through each story and reflected on how the stories related to their own lives.
Suggestion: This activity is effective to tell the students what they can do when they are in stress, grief or pain. Teachers can create their own stories based on the observation of their students and use the following questions to make them reflect on the coping mechanisms:
- Did you have similar experiences?
- How did you overcome that situation?
- What could have been the better option in that situation?
- Can you apply the same strategy to overcome similar problem?
We asked the teachers to close their eyes and think of all the destruction they had seen due to the earthquake. Then we asked them to focus on one structure that was close to them and they would rebuild if they could. We asked them to imagine how it would look after rebuilding it. Then we asked them to discuss among themselves and decide on one structure to rebuild as a team. We also showed them a demo collage and gave them different cutouts, chart paper, sketch pens, scissors and glue sticks to help them ‘Rebuild Nepal’.
Suggestions: Allowing students to remember the destruction they had seen and encouraging them to imagine one thing that was close to them and how it would look after the rebuild will give them hope. As teachers, we have to assure them that things will be better and we will rebuild our lost homes and heritages.
- Story telling:
After the build was over, we shared a positive story as a model: “The Karkhana team rebuilt Dharahara and today was the inauguration. It was constructed in a new design that was much stronger. Everyone went to its top and saw small houses in Kathmandu. Then the whole team went to a cottage on a car and had a celebration there.” We gave the teachers 5 minutes to come up with their positive stories. Then, all the teams presented their stories behind their collage.
Suggestions: This activity will be super engaging for kids as they love building things. This also allows them to express themselves in a positive way. For younger kids, it’s better to give cutouts (trees, car, circle, clouds, house, walls, roofs) of different shapes and sizes but the older kids can cut their own shapes. Also we can always ask them to draw things or write something about things they have lost or to make a 3D model or make pop-up cards.
We gave a feedback form to all the teachers with the two questions:
- How was your experience?
- How can you use these activities in your classes after school resumes?
After talking to the teachers and reading their feedback, we are really excited that we managed to meet our objectives. The teachers told us, they felt relieved by expressing their feelings and emotions during and after the earthquake. They were super engaged in all the activities and had already started planning their first week at school. These activities will help the students express their emotions so that the classes can start normally.
Also we want to share our experience with as many teachers and volunteers as we can. First they need to relieve themselves from the earthquake’s trauma and then only they can help students to start a normal life. We will be organizing such session throughout this week. If you are interested in participating then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 9802072534.