The Shrine of Shah Jalal- Syhlet

Shah Jalal is a Saint from the region of Syhlet, Bangladesh. I was able to visit his shrine in Syhlet, which has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of muslims from all over Bangladesh.

Shah Jalal was buried in Sylhet and his tomb attracts visitors every day. His robes and sword are preserved within the mosque, but are not on display to the public. The guardians of the shrine decide who may enter to view the tomb, and sometimes visitors are turned away if the guardians feel that they are dressed inappropriately. In the evenings, the tomb is illuminated by candles and outside visitors will find a massive pond filled with catfish and a separate tank with gold fish, both of which are considered sacred. 


Inclusive Education

There were many services available for students with special needs in Bangladesh. At Brahmanbaria High School, there are 10 student who are visually impaired. These students receive special instruction in reading and writing in braille. they are provided with books in braille and all of the supplies they need to write using braille. Most of these students also take music and computer classes at Inner Eyes Music Institute for the Blind.

There is also a school in Brahmanbaria for students who are hearing impaired. Students from all over the region attend this school. There is a strong focus on art in this school. Many students have won prizes for artwork they submitted to competitions in Europe. The students gave me two pictures as a souvenir to remember my visit to the school.

There is also a school in Brahmanbaria for students with disabilities. The teachers have received special training in using strategies to meet the needs of their students. While I attended the school, the teachers were using plastic fruit to teach students how to read and write about fruit. Music is also a focus at this school.


Freedom Fighter Graveyard

The people of Bangladesh fought a war of independence against the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971. 
Members of the armed forces, students and people from all walks of life took part. They fought for nine months and defeated the well-trained Pakistani forces to became a free country. The people who fought against the Pakistani army and took part in the war effort are called Freedom Fighters. Many Freedom Fighters sacrificed their lives for the cause of independence. 

While I was in Bangladesh, I visited the graveyard of Freedom Fighter that was located near Brahmanbaria. Freedom Fighter who were killed during the war of independence are burried in this graveyard.

I was able to meet one of the Freedom Fighters, Abdul Karim, who now oversees the graveyard.

There is also a museum where visitors can learn more about the war for independence in Bangladesh.


Teaching and Teacher Workshops

I really enjoyed teaching while I was in Bangladesh. The first day my host, Mustofa Kamal, took me around and introduced me to all the classes. The students were very enthusiastic to have a native English speaker teaching their English classes. They often brought me flowers, chocolate or pens. I taught classes on a variety of topics including: career planning, American culture, interviewing, the value of education, etc.

All of my classes focused on speaking skills. Many of the teachers and students understand verbal and written English very well, but they are not comfortable speaking in English. In each class I taught, every student was given a chance to speak English.

I was able to co-teach with many teachers at Brahmanbaria High School, which was nice as well. Many of them translated the work in Bengali and I encouraged them not to so that students would be forced to use more English.

I was also able to lead a workshop on strategies to Teach English as a Second or Foreign language for teachers from Brahmanbaria High School and some of the surrounding communities. I introduced the idea of scaffolding to teachers, demonstrated activities they could use to scaffold reading, and then had teachers create lesson that incorporated scaffolding into their content areas. Throughout the workshop, I also encouraged teachers to use more English in their classrooms.

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