I have a new appreciation for teachers

*This blog post is dedicated to Donna

Brandon and I have been teaching an English Conversation class for about a month now, to a group of Tibetan refugees.  All are students at Gu Chu Sum (the organization) because they are either former political prisoners or have family members who are currently in prison.

The class is from 4:30-6:30pm, every day except Sunday.  Lucky for us, a couple from Canada showed up and took 2 days, so we’ve been teaching only 4 days/week.  Lesson planning takes a lot more time that I would have imagined, although now that we’ve been doing it for a month, it’s getting easier.  Also, the students’ English is getting better that we can communicate basic things to them.  They all started studying at the beginning of July.

The thing that’s most amazing about this class is their desire to learn.  Despite being in classes from 8am until 6:30pm, they are incredibly good natured, funny, and thoughtful.  Especially for people who have been though so much.  Everyone, it seems, had to make the dangerous, illegal journey through the mountains from Tibet to Nepal.  They have all left their families and loved ones.  I don’t know most of their stories but I do know of 2 who were monks who protested during the March 2008 Olympics protests.  3 of their colleagues were arrested and they fled Tibet before they could get caught.  On others you can see visible scars and can’t help but wonder where they came from.

Singing and dancing is clearly an integral part of Tibetan culture.  Almost every day we take some class time and sing; usually the class nominates someone and they usually succumb to the peer pressure, the repeated shouts of their name and clapping.


Although I don’t know the exact words of the songs, I am told they are very poetic, and speak of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan freedom without calling them out specifically.  The songs give them hope, that someday they will be free to be who they are.

One of the students, Jampa (a student whose English is more advanced and who I have separate conversation time with), sang to us a song that is commonly sung by political prisoners.

My legacy at Gu Chu Sum is the American classic, Bingo.  Every Tuesday, we play Bingo, and the students have a chance to win fabulous prizes, like peanut butter or Pringles.  It’s a hit (more students manage to come on this day).  What makes it most special, is the song they’ve all learned.  I learned it myself by going to Rainbow Bingo at the Senior Center of West Seattle.  In West Seattle, the song is sung by cross dressing nuns.  We’re a little tamer in McLeod Ganj:

Are you ready?
Yes we’re ready!
Are you ready?
Yes we’re ready!
To play Bingo!
With You!

Only 1 week of class left.  I’m going to miss these guys!

One thought on “I have a new appreciation for teachers

  1. Thanks for sharing this Val! It is so heartening to see what you are doing over there. I really like the video too. I think it’s a great idea. How sweet it is to see your classroom in action!

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