The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. [ or hers :) ] ~Benjamin Disraeli ~

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I was asked to give a talk to 2nd yr students to prepare them for their teaching posts. Next question was 'half day or full day?!' Since a half day is almost 4 hours I opted for that to break myself in gently and planned a practical workshop to promote and demonstrate the use of simple, inexpensive teaching tools. It was my first time working through a translator so was quite strange. I prepared almost every word beforehand so that I could read each sentence for Sokha to translate. It's funny that it seems to take twice as long to say something in khmer as to say the same thing in English.

I don't know how long it took to get the cane out of Cambodian classrooms under the Child Friendly Schools Initiative but it took me only a few minutes to re-introduce it. The college Director was very impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of my bamboo counting stick. I was addressing trainees who will be taking up jobs in rural areas where they have very few resources and no budget. I had asked Sokha where I could buy one and he laughed – 'Buy? They just grow!' By the end of the workshop they had all made a Target Board, Dart Board, Dice or other maths resource to take with them as well as ideas on how they can be used. You can see from the photos that they weren't working under the most comfortable of conditions.

The end of Teaching Practice gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the first year trainees I've been helping as I was invited to the parties. There were speeches (including one from me!), food and finally Karaoke and dancing. Food varies. Some is very tasty, some not so tasty and some I just can't touch!! Intestines are a favourite with khmer people. My first attempt at Khmer dancing was fun after the initial shock. I heard my name being announced and realised I was being asked to start the dancing with the head teacher! It's quite slow, you dance with a partner and there are set steps that are quite easy to pick up. The problem is coordinating your feet with the hand movements. I found it difficult to get them both right at the same time! The etiquette is a bit like ballroom dancing, I had no sooner sat down after one dance when I was politely requested to dance with someone else. Just as well movements are slow as it was very hot.
Speeches at sereisophon Primary School

Cambodian dance at Sereisophon
With teachers from Kampong Swai Primary School

Dancing with trainees at Kampong Swai
As the academic year winds down there is not a lot I can do other than make observations and plans for next year. A Belgian NGO has given us a reading scheme to implement in some of the schools so I'm also familiarising myself with those materials.

Meetings and workshops are announced at short notice. I was given a letter on Friday inviting me to make a speech on Monday. I didn't realise it was for the Graduation of trainees as that had been scheduled for next week. Sokha and I prepared an introduction and conclusion in Khmer and the rest in English. It was nerve racking sitting on the stage with the Director and Education Officers as it's all very formal. Just before my turn a young trainee sang a beautiful poem. I couldn't understand it but her voice was so lovely that the butterflies started dancing in my stomach. I actually needn't have worried. I brought the house down when I struggled to get my tongue round a khmer word then afterwards trainees wanted me to repeat the words 'good teacher' so they could copy my accent. I guess I got the message across!!!

Friday, 3 June 2011

International Children's Day

Several weeks ago, the deputy head of our practice school came to ask if I would do something for International Children's Day. As other volunteers were thinking of story telling I suggested I could tell a story. 'In khmer?' he asked and I confidently agreed!!

Sokha prepared a translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar which I wrote in Roman script and practised but as the time drew near I began to have doubts about a story being suitable for such an exciting occasion. I tried to back out saying I'd do ball games instead but the school was already looking forward to the story.

Wednesday 1st June, the celebrations were due to start at 8.00. The staffroom was busy with teachers sorting out prizes and final rehearsals for the girls making speeches. Children waited patiently around a wooden platform that had been erected for the occasion. It had big holes in it, a huge health and safety hazard, but it somehow made the day seem special.

At 8.30 we filed out and I found that I was on the top table with the Headmaster and Head Girl. The Headmaster made a speech about the history of International Children's Day and what it means then introduced me to make mine. I had expected this and had prepared a few words in khmer but it didn't seem enough so I continued in English and Sokha translated. People were bemused at first to hear the English but then responded with cheers and applause so all was good. Prizes were given to those children who have performed well and to the needy students, it was one way of ensuring they have exercise books and pencils for the next term. I felt honoured to be asked to present them.

Then the games began. First was musical chairs. I was impressed by the way the majority of children were sat watching and cheering as a small group participated. My story was next and I was handed a microphone. It started well, children listened and could obviously understand as they joined in with the counting and called out the fruit names. Then over excitement kicked in as I was giving children pictures of the fruits to hold and they all wanted one – I was mobbed and had to call on Sokha for crowd control!

Crowd listening to story

Creeping closer

Sokha - Help! (notice that he took the photo first!! )

All was peaceful again and I finished with an activity sorting the children with food pictures into groups, healthy foods and those that are not healthy. This worked really well with the whole crowd joining in yelling 'laor' (good) or 'ot' (not) for each item in the Hungry Caterpillar's diet.
Is too much of this bad for you?
The morning continued like a game show. Groups of children competing whilst the rest looked on, the atmosphere was amazing, full of fun and laughter. I've labelled the photos to let you know about the other games. Once they were over, I took the children for some team races while the staff cleared away the stage, not even one child having fallen down a hole!
Pairs of children burst balloons by squeezing them between their bodies.
This was hilarious. Blindfold, children had to peel a banana and feed it to their partner.
Younger children blew the flour away to get at a hidden sweet.
First to get the sweet was the winner but all got a sweet.
More balloon bursting, this time by blowing it up too much. Ouch!
This is a bit like conkers. An egg in a bag is tied round each child's waist with string. The idea is to swing the bag and hit your opponents egg. first one to break the egg is the winner.

Finally there was dancing. A young girl proudly placed an arrangement of paper flowers on a log in the middle of the 'dance floor'. She turned to me and said – in English – 'My class make this'. I was very surprised, she told me she goes for private lessons.

To finish the morning I was invited for lunch with the staff. Sokha had already gone, it is a national holiday, so the Head said he would take me to the café. I was wearing a skirt so had to go side saddle, like the khmer girls. My helmet again gained a lot of attention for being so big. Few khmers wear a helmet at all, let alone a full face one. Everyone was so friendly that I'm really beginning to feel part of the community.