Teacher Nalini Rambharath, 32, is hoping to return to TT after her teaching experience in the US to introduce systems of disciple and the use of technology to the local education system.
Rambharath, who lives in Barrackpore, is currently in North Carolina as part of the cultural exchange programme, Participate. She is one of three TT teachers who participated this year, and one of over 10,000 “global educators” from 84 countries to have participated in the programme, in practice for 31 years, which partners with schools in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
She left TT in August and now teaches Grade II at College Lakes Elementary School. The subjects included Math, English, Science, Social Studies, and Healthful Living for students between the ages of seven and eight.
“I see myself incorporating things that I’ve learned from my home country. Obviously what I’ve learned here, I am anxious to take it back to TT and to try to make some kind of difference.”
She said technology was the main teaching tool at the school with programmes that allowed the students to do exercises, allowed her to control what the children saw on their monitors, and allowed her to monitor the students’ progress so she could assesses their abilities and plan further exercises to help each student. Its usefulness was particularly apparent in the reading curriculum which, she said, was more advanced than TT at the kindergarten level as it continuously monitored the students’ reading level instead of having one test at the end of the term.
She also admired the school’s procedures for discipline. “There are so many systems and procedures in place – for lunch time, recess, walking in the hallways. There is a consequence for everything. Discipline is enforced and most of the children are very well behaved, unlike what some people told me to expect.”
Rambharath said she joined the programme because TT was adapting various aspects of the American education system and she wanted to experience it for herself. “It’s really an amazing experience thus far. There are ups and downs. It’s not an easy road to get things organised and set up a life here but the experience in the classroom, I’ve never had that before.”
Which is saying something because she has been an early childhood teacher for the past 16 years.
In addition, Rambharath completed a Bachelor's degree in Education, specialising in elementary education, in 2014, and a week ago, on November 9, she graduated with a Masters in Education with a focus on curriculum and instruction.
She said the online degrees with the University of New Brunswick in partnership with UWI-Roytec exposed her to new ways of teaching, widening her knowledge and ability. Therefore, she intended to do more education courses while in the US to further expand her knowledge and contribute more to TT when she returned.
At the moment however, she was focussed on learning about the curriculum and routines of the school and trying to incorporate what she learned in TT over the years. For example, unlike what she would do at home, she said the children usually remained in classrooms during school hours. Therefore she often took her class outdoors to conduct a lesson because she found the children were more active and engaged out of the confines of the classroom.
Another thing she did as an early childhood teacher was to play with the children at recess. She said she began doing that at College Lakes rather than just monitoring the students as the other teachers did.
“On my outside time with the kids I would try to engage them, play a ring game, teach them a new song, dance with them. That time connects me with the students and helps me to bond with them so that in the classroom, if a child has problems, it is easier for them to come and tell me.”
As an exchange/global educator, Rambharath was also required to set up a cultural corner. Therefore, on a wall in her classroom she placed pictures and facts about TT including leaders, food, and places. She often taught the children about TT and was gratified to see that they were eager to learn more and taught others what they learned about her country.
Despite her enjoyment of her new job and enthusiasm to learn more, she missed her husband, Vijay Rambharath, and her two children. She said she applied for their US visas and hoped they would receive them soon so they could live with her. She especially thanked her husband for doing all he could to support her passion for education.