by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki, Directors of Buddhist Relief Mission
Noel Coward sang that only Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun, so it may seem strange for English teachers to choose to spend one month of the hottest season in India, but for some, the experience is well worth the heat.
Mid-March to mid-April is the term for an exciting Intensive English Course sponsored by Buddhist Relief Mission and Young Buddhist Student Literacy Mission and is held at Bodhisukha School, which is in a monastery in Northern Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal. The first course, with two teachers and 25 students was held in 2006. The second course, with four teachers and 45 students, was held in 2007. The third course, in 2008, had 50 students and three teachers. Although there was no course in 2009, we are getting ready for the fourth course in 2010. We need new teachers..
The syllabus, which covers all four ESL skills, is cooperatively developed by the teaching team, and each member is free to teach according to his or her own methods, incorporating favorite lessons from his or her professional dossier. Each student receives a grammar text book from which teachers plan lessons, but they are by no means restricted by this.
The students, most of whom are Buddhist monks (A few upperclass boys from Bodhisukha School and several lay devotees of the monastery participate, and in 2007 there was one Buddhist nun.), are so disciplined and so eager to learn that they spend almost 100% of the hours during the month in study and preparation. Even at the end of the fourth hour of instruction, they are ready for more. This has been a unique and exciting experience for all the teachers who have taken part in the first three courses.
Classes are held from Monday to Saturday, two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Evening sessions are informal and include discussions on social issues and various videos. The evening sessions are led by the teachers on a rotating basis. (For the most basic students, the Principal of Bodhisukha School, himself a Burmese monk, offers an additional one and a half hours of grammar instruction.)
All instructors are provided full room and board during the course. Lodging is in an air-conditioned room, but it is basic. Food is mostly Burmese and vegetarian, though non-vegetarian dishes are available. The classrooms have ceiling fans, but everything is dependent on a dependable supply of electricity. The voltage is not stable, and the electricity stops completely for at least one hour every day. This is, after all, India.
Buddhist Relief Mission (BRM) is a very small non-profit organization incorporated in Michigan. BRM cannot offer any remuneration to teachers, but, since it is a 501(c)3 organization, BRM can provide a letter certifying that all expenses, including round-trip airfare, were a donation and are deductible from US Income Tax.
This Intensive English Course, which is free from any testing and grading, can be a unique and exhilarating experience for any ESL teacher. For anyone interested in or open to learning more about Buddhism and how it practiced, the course would be particularly exciting.
Buddhist Relief Mission invites professional ESL teachers, as well as others with some ESL experience, including students, to apply for positions in the 2010 course. Please send your resume to <email@example.com>.