Speaking at the Speakers’ Club

speakers-club-ku

I always thought that I was a ‘good’ speaker when it comes to speaking in front of an audience. I am teacher and I am speaking all the time… in the class, with the students, everywhere. So I had to be good at speaking, right?

NO!!!

I remember how horrible my first speech was in our Speakers’ Club – KU. It was humiliatingly all over the places. No content. No focus. No interaction. Since then, I have promised myself that I will work on my public speaking and be a confident and interactive speaker and presenter (and yeah an effective teacher).

So yesterday was the fifth time I spoke in the club as a featured speaker and as usual, I was a little nervous about it. A couple of days ago, I wrote and finalized my four minutes speech on the title “The Book that Changed My Life”. I rehearsed it, on timer, for about six times in front of the mirror (Yes, mirror – I don’t know why). I was pretty sure that I would nail it the way I had written it.

I wrote my speech on the structure of Identity, Struggle, Discovery and Result framework (I learnt about this from Kevin Rodger’s video on youtube), and rewrote the speech a couple of times. I added my personal story, which made a point – following the advice of the amazing Craig Valentine (tell a story – make a point).

I have also been self-teaching myself the art of public speaking by watching a lot of TED Talk videos, by listening to whatthespeak podcast and by reading Dale Carnegie’s books on speaking – just to name of few. I have been focusing on improving my movement and non-verbal signals – purposeful movement, confident eye contact and complementary hand gestures.

Despite all these preparations and practice, I still felt nervousness boiling in my blood. During the delivery, I mispronounced a few words a couple of time and I forgot some of the key sentences that I had planned on speaking with emphasis. But what I have improved are pace and pause in my delivery, movement, eye contacts and other non-verbal signals. I have also understood the importance of ‘you’ focused questions, and improved this technique ‘look to one-speak to all’ as prescribed by Craig Valentine.

Lesson: practice, practice and practice. I need more ‘stage time’ (as coined by Darren Lacroix) and I need more practice. I guess being nervous is a positive thing because it keeps me on the guard and stops me from being over confident.

I am working hard on it. Everyday, every minute.

Oh, by the way, the book I talked about was John Wood’s Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. It’s a wonderful book.

Lesson from a puncture-taalney guy

I wanna share with you what this puncture-taalney guy taught me about Nepali way of customer care, and how we (entrepreneurs or business owners or service providers or even teachers) can learn from his huge mistake.

But first, here’s my bike!

So, I had a flat tire last evening. I was around Maharajgunj area for training. I got out of the venue only to see the rear tire laughing flat at me. If you have a motorbike, you can imagine how my face looked like at that moment. Complete hopelessness. Oh, did I tell you that it was raining and the road was completely messy. Anyway, I dragged my bike around searching for a workshop to fix the puncture. After 15 minutes, which lasted for a century, I found one on the side of ringroad.

Initially, I didn’t see anyone at the workshop but since the ‘air-tank’ was still rumbling, I knew there had to be someone. Then this guy appears, yawning, stretching his arms, looks at me and doesn’t even ask why I was there. He looked like Rajesh Hamal, only shorter, thinner and darker.

“Dai, puncture taalnu huncha?” I asked. He was not in a ‘response’ mode yet. He lit a cigarette and then replied with a snappy “Hmm.” Then he took out his tools and started unbolting the tire. He was completely relaxed. He had all the time in the world. But I didn’t. If you had been with me in that workshop, you would have seen an extreme desperation in my face. That could have been 20th puncture for him, it was the only one for me and it was getting late. You see, Maharajgun is in the north, I live near Lagankhel which in the south – if you know the geography of Kathmandu, you will get it. And on top of that, my urinary bladder was fighting to burst out. Murphy’s law all over.

I am not trying to judge that guy because later I felt glad that at least he had his workshop open. But still. May be he already had a tiring day. May be he was not feeling well. May be his wife had dumped him. I am not making any guesses. But, if I’m trying to pay for his service, he better get right at it. It’s not that just because I pay, I take granted for services people offer to me. I still say “dhanyabaad” even when I’m the one taking out the money.

So what was his huge mistake? He just lost a client. And may be, some goodwill.

I am never going back to his workshop again. I know it’s not in my area and chance of having a flat tire again near his workshop is very very slim. But still. I am never going there, nor will I recommend anyone to go there. Even though I also know for sure that my not going to his place won’t ruin his business.

But this is not only about that puncture-taalney guy alone. You have probably met similar people in restaurants, shops, stores, or offices. The waiter in a restaurant who looks at you as if you are interrupting him. The shopkeeper who speaks to you as if he has to pay to open his mouth. The receptionist who doesn’t even look toward you when you ask for information. The government officer who deliberately keeps delaying your work. The teller in the bank who keeps talking with a coworker even in the presence of a customer. And, the political leaders? I don’t want to even talk about them. This phenomenon or attitude is like our national characteristic installed in our genes.

So, what do I learn from this? I am a teacher aiming to be a great teacher trainer some day and besides ‘teaching’, I am also trying to build and maintain certain goodwill. In other words, I am building my brand. To be honest, I’ve acted like that puncture-taalney guy several times (I am certainly not beyond criticism) but now I will always keep this incident in my mind. Because every time I act like him, I actually destroy my dreams. And so do you.

If you agree with me or find this blog useful, just shoot me a comment! I would love to hear from you.

ENG 101 ENGLISH I

adv-bus

I have never seen, both as a student and as a teacher, such an impressively misguided course which somehow resembles our country, our government, our educational system, our everything at the moment.

On one hand you have this book Adventures in English (one of the most widely used English books in Bachelors level) which contains short stories, poems, essays on themes of ancient tales, anthropology, education and on the other hand you have a book titled Business Result which has been essentially designed for in-service professionals looking to improve their basic communication skills in English. So you have core literature which requires critical and analytic thinking on a fairly intellectual level and elementary business English which requires school level grammar and texts but focuses on non-student context.

Both books look awesome on their own but so do elephants and hippopotamus. The horror is they are merged into a single course and look like elephantomatus – an awkward ugly beast which stinks so much that one can doubt if the Pokhara University people were thinking straight.

I read the Adventures in English when I was in Bachelors – many many years ago. I had really enjoyed reading the book. I was happily surprised to see the book once again when Pokhara University revised its BBA program. And really, I enjoyed using this book in the class this semester. But I don’t see the rationale behind merging another book in the same course. If they think that both books are essential, they can simply keep them in different semesters or as different subjects. That’s quite easy. And that’s practical for teachers and students. I can’t forget my students’ face with the most epic WTF expression when I showed them the sample question provided by PU.

I don’t really get the course designer’s point but I want to end this rant by quoting a line from Laxmi Prasad Devkota’s poem ‘The Illiterate’ from the book Adventures in English.

The myopia to the race!

Does the government care about education at all?

I am not surprised by the government’s recent announcement* that it has proposed a ten-year plan to run classes in English medium in all community schools. It says it wants to improve the quality of school-level education. Good job! I am not even surprised that the government has finally made public its desire to “increase attraction towards community schools”, which is absolutely wonderful. I am just a little bit surprised by its broader educational vision that equates ‘instruction in English language’ with ‘providing quality education’.

The proposal, according to the Ministry of Education, has been developed to bridge the gap between private and government schools, however it is quite clear that the government assumes “English as the medium of instruction” in private schools as the sole reason for that gap. And there’s a greater predicament for the government teachers. The ministry wants all the existing teachers “to undergo a test to see whether they can teach in English medium or not, otherwise they will get a choice of retirement along with some incentives”. Again, the assumption; to provide quality education, teachers must be able to teach in English. Everyone already knows the quality of government school English language teachers is very unsatisfactory and now the government wants other subject teachers to teach using English language. This is absurdity on a new level.

It obviously shows that Nepal’s government lacks a solid understanding of what quality education really means. (Hello ministers, hello policy makers.) And at the same time, it has apparently given in to the pressure created seen and unseen forces (globalization, standardization, donor agencies, success of private schools, people’s belief about English language, technology, internet, and so on).

I think the government should completely stop comparing the state run schools with the private schools and just focus on how to make education more accessible, practical and useful to the general people. Most importantly, the government should believe in itself and expand that belief into the public. Unfortunately, we see almost all government employees (from the ministers to the peons) send their children to private schools. Bitter truth: no one really trusts what the government plans and does, not even the same government employees who draft the plans.

I am not claiming that private schools are not money-grabbing opportunists (they are registered as private limited companies for dog’s sakes) but simply blaming the private schools for government’s failure is just a pathetic excuse. If the government wants to implement English medium in public schools, it should do it not because it feels threatened by the private schools but because it believes that by doing so the quality standards of education improves.

Or may be, just may be, the government just doesn’t want to improve the quality. Because once it does, the foreign money would stop coming in. Education is very political, just to quote critical thinkers. The government will thus let private schools create social inequality and at the same time it will play passive, act dumb, point fingers and blame others.

* Link to the news:
http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=67499

Pecha Kucha: Problems faced by EFL teachers

This is me presenting a pecha kucha show during the Hetauda phase of Nelta International Conference 2014. The title of my presentation was “Problems faced by EFL teachers and the solutions”. I presented a few outlandish solutions as quick fixes.

This was my second time doing this show (along with my tutor Laxman Gnawali and my friends from KU, School of Education) and it was a great fun ride. The best part was many people mispronouncing ‘pecha kucha’ as ‘pachaak puchuk’ or ‘pyaacha kuchha’.

Here’s the presentation file: Pecha Kucha – Umes Shrestha, 2014

Welcome to Nelta Choutari March Issue 2014

Umes Shrestha:

This is my first work as an editor of Nelta Choutari blog. Hard work pays off, eventually. I want to thank all the contributors and team members for their support.

Originally posted on Nelta Choutari:

EDITORIAL

Umes Shrestha
(with Usha and Jeevan)

Dear Readers of Nelta Choutari Blog Magazine,
We took an extra week to publish this issue, but the time has been worth it!

As we present the ‘NELTA Conference special issue’, including an amazing set of blog posts based on the 19th International Conference, we are excited by many things. We have continued our tradition of the special issue after this important event for Nepal’s ELT community. We are also proud to see the emergence of new venues of professional conversation, most significantly the “official” blog started by NELTA (www.neltaeltforum.weebly.com). We see such development as the community’s dream coming true, because there should be more venues of professional conversation, some run by individual scholars, others by groups, some less structured and formal than others, and so on. We remain an independent community of bloggers who strive to publish the voice of…

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Fiction: Motti didi ko bhatti – IV

blood-knife

One evening, to her surprise, Maiya found her English sir in the bhatti, gulping down rakshi and chewing choyala baji. “Oh ho, good evening sir”, Maiya greeted him the way she greeted him in the school. “Welcome to our little bhatti. Eh aama, hamro English sir”, she called out to Motti didi, stressing on English.

Motti didi was busy cooking buff chowmien for other customers. She turned her head towards Maiya, smiled and said, “la la sir lai ramro sanga satkaar gara”.

He chomped a big piece of bara and swallowed it down with the soup. “Motti didi”, he patted Maiya’s shoulder, “tapai ko chhori ekdam ramri chhey”. The ambiguity of ‘ramri’ hung silently in the room as he kept holding on her shoulder, “ekdam ramri chhey”.

He swallowed one last glass of rakshi and staggered up on his feet. The sweet jhyaap of rakshi made him slightly silly. “You know Maiya, I didn’t know this was your bhatti”. In a rakshi induced British accent he said, “From now on, you know, I’ll be a regula: costuma:” Her eyes glowed like a star, she smiled and said, “bholi pani aaunus na, you will have my special treatment”. May be it was the rakhsi. May be it was her smile. English sir wanted to hold Maiya’s hands, dance with her and listen to her melodious voice, again and again. An orgasmic sensation erupted in English sir’s head. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

~ ~ ~

English sir had always been searching of inner peace. He tried everything. Meditation was the obvious choice. He found that it was not really his plate of momo. He tried marijuana. It just made him more lethargic. He tried reading Zen stories. They were too short. He tried reading Osho. It sounded so fake.

Teaching was just a way to remain away from home, kill the time and pass the days. The students were always brats. Beating them was fun but it was not allowed in the school anymore. There were rules. And everyone talked about ‘rights’. Once, he had pinched hard on the soft bicep of a girl for not doing homework. He felt a strange emotion rushing through his veins. He had never felt such sensation. The pain. Her muscles. His hand. He found his soul, after a long time, closer to inner peace. A realization dawned upon him – it was the reason he was meant to be a teacher.

From that moment, he just wanted to touch young girls. He would stroll around the class, patting the shoulders, squeezing the arms and caressing the backs of the girls – stealing divine ounce of inner piece. He never touched Maiya, though. It was as if he could sense subconsciously that she was holy, and that she was not meant to be provoked.

Everything changed after their encounter in the bhatti last night.

~ ~ ~

So, there he was again in the bhatti next evening… searching for inner peace.

Motti didi was delighted to see him come again, and so was Maiya. All three exchanged smiles. She quickly sat him on a chair and cleaned the table. As Maiya set the table with a plate of gidi fry and soup, she let him fondle her hand without any resistance. English sir closed his eyes and savored the moment.

The evening slipped away to welcome an unpleasantly cold night. One by one, the drunk and semi-drunk customers paid money to Motti didi and wobbled out of the bhatti, whistling and singing dohori songs. English sir too wanted to get up and go home. But the desire to attain absolute inner peace overpowered his idea of going home. The night thickened, and English sir was the only one left. He could open up to Maiya now. “What’s the special treatment you talked about last night?” He asked Maiya as he slithered his right arm around her hips. “Have some patience sir,” she replied filling in his glass with rakshi.

Motti didi lighted a bunch of incense and suggested her daughter, “Sir lai kotha ma liyera jaa na ta”. Did he hear it right? He was not sure. He felt quite helpless when Maiya held his arm and gently whisked him through the kitchen into the back room. The delicate fragrance of incense followed them.

“This is a surprise”, he pondered and looked with curiosity around the dimly lit room. Maiya breathed into his ear, “Why don’t you relax for a while, I’ll arrange the inner peace for you”. Surprised and confused, he asked, “How do know about it?” without demanding any explanation. “I know what you have been looking for all these years, sir”, she said – the last word ‘sir’ lingered in the air.

One could say that there was something saintly about Maiya’s smile. It was so ominous, so poisonous. She blushed with the same smile when English sir slid near to her, and put his arm around her shoulder. She was waiting for him to make the first move. She turned toward him and gazed deep into his eyes. Her lips hissed, “I want to have you”, her eyes whispered, “I want to taste you”. She kept staring at him, but it was not her dreamy gaze that made him twitch – it was the sharp knife which she shoved behind his back. Muffled grunts and uneasy groans bellowed out of the teacher’s mouth. She twisted the knife… slowly and then hugged him like a mother hugs her new born child.

“Did you just stab me?”

“Yes sir.”

“With a knife?”

“Yes sir.”

Dizziness took over him and everything around him slowed down in a blurry circular motion. It was a very strange feeling, a perfect blend of stinging pain and pure exhilaration. He had never felt it before. He moaned:

“Am I bleeding?”

“Yes sir.”

“Am I going to die?”

“Yes sir.”

“Stop yes sir-ing me?”

“Sssssss… don’t speak, sir.”

She enjoyed their little intimate chit-chat but it was time for the kill. She grabbed a rusty iron rod and jabbed it through his neck. The teacher jerked violently but Maiya wrapped him in her iron-grip. He had never imagined that death would be so slow and so painful. He moved his lips, trying to say something but only bloody gurgles gashed out of his mouth.

Maiya peered into his eyes. There were a few curious yet terrified WHYs questioning back at her. “This is your inner peace, my dear sir”, she murmured into his ear and yanked out the dripping rod from his bleeding neck. His blood squirted all over her body, on the walls and on the floor. When Maiya finally released him from her embrace, he slumped down on the floor and slumbered off into darkness, his wide cold eyes screaming deceit and betrayal.

Maiya felt bad for a moment as she watched her English teacher turn into a lifeless meat. She will miss him, especially his usual rant – Tooooo much halla became, all body keep quite!!! She smiled a little remembering how he used to shout and sweat in the class, and how he used to walk around touching and fondling girls. “Enjoy your eternal peace,” she mumbled and closed her eyes.

When she opened her eyes, Motti didi was already on her knees besides the warm corpse. Lest it might get cold, she too joined in. Tonight, they would slice it up and consume it piece by piece, muscle by muscle.