Teaching English at the Ananda Marga Kindergarten in Albania

by Dada Vedaprajinananda

On September 1st, the Ananda Marga kindergarten in Albania started its sixth year of operation. We have full attendance, 65 children, aged four through six, distributed in three classrooms. A celebration marking the completion of five successful years for the kindergarten was held on October 3rd.

During the past years we have concentrated on improving the instruction of English to the children and for the teachers as well.

When I first started in October 2000 our only teacher was hardly able to speak any English. I started an after-school English class attended by the teacher and others in the community. My English classes have continued for the first five years, and now our three teachers are not only fluent in English, but are enthusiastic in teaching English to the children.

We use English songs from the “Circle of Love” as one way of introducing the children to the English language. During the first week of September when the current term began, I asked the head teacher whether I should come and start singing with the kids again, as I normally do. She said, “Wait till we teach the new children the songs.” I came in one week later with my guitar and the children were able to sing four songs very nicely. They pick up the songs very fast. All the song sessions finish with “Baba Nam Kevalam” mantra singing and meditation.

When they finish meditating, the children usually recite some of their new English vocabulary. A few years ago someone in England sent us some animal picture cards. I often hold up the pictures and the kids call out “sheep”, “frog”, “dog”, “cat” as the pictures are pulled out of the box. Last week they started counting in English, “one,” “two”, “three” “four” and when they started going past ten, I stopped them, because for only one week of school they had already done quite well.

In addition to counting, the teachers give instruction in basic vocabulary such as household items, food items, etc. Some of the vocabulary is combined with mudras from the Circle of Love: such as tree, flower, sun, everyone, God.

This year we hope to go further with the English instruction using teaching materials that were donated to us by the website <www.GenkiEnglish.com> . This website is the brainchild of Richard Graham, an English instructor in Japan who has devised a unique method of instruction that uses songs and dance-like movements. The movements are shown on a video CD, and the songs are available on audio CDs. We started using this method during the closing weeks of last year’s session and the results were very encouraging.

To make it easier for the teachers to use these materials, we just added a computer room to the school. We are about to install computers which will not only be available for use by the teachers, but will be part of a computer education course for people of the surrounding neighbourhood, almost all of whom cannot afford to have their own personal computers.