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 ~

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Newly Qualified Teachers

I've just returned from eating out with a group of trainers from the college. Such an invitation would have worried me a year ago. What if I don't like the food? What do I order? How do I eat it? Now I'm confident that most khmer food is delicious. Foods that would make my stomach crawl such as spiders, crickets, eggs with baby chick (yuk!) and chicken feet to name but a few, are rarely on the menu. They are sold mainly by street vendors. I'm quite skilled with chop sticks now but a lot of food is eaten using a spoon.

I'm not sure what we were celebrating today, staff don't eat out every Saturday – maybe it was just the end of a busy week.

This week we continued with the monitoring of Newly Qualified Teachers, those who left our college last July, some of the first trainees I worked with. Previously I had travelled out with college management. This time, to visit more distant districts, trainers went in pairs by motorbike. I rode pillion with my translator and we visited 2 NQTs in rural schools about 15km out of Sisaphon. Fortunately, we had no rain so although the roads were very bumpy, they were not slippery.

We were greeted warmly at both schools and I was pleased to be able to report on one good and one very good maths lesson. The first school was in a very bad state of repair. The teacher said that when it rains he has to stop teaching as so much water comes through the holes in the roof. It was obvious by the light in an otherwise dark room! The second school was beautiful. Again wooden classrooms but well looked after and the grounds were full of trees, flowers and shrubs. No litter. This is generally a problem in Cambodia but the bins at this school were used properly. The new teacher was very happy in her work and demonstrated a range of learner centred methods and impressed me with her Teaching Aids. The college can feel proud of having trained this young lady. When asked what problems she faces, she told us that last year the school was flooded during the rains and that she had travelled the 5km to work by boat! Her other problems were no teachers book to support teaching and lack of money to make teaching aids.

Here are a few photos. If you click on one, you can see them enlarged (if you hadn't already worked that out!)
Grade 4 classroom
Using the environment to teach about angles
...and this classroom has plenty!!
Children used twigs to make angles
Chalkboards ensure every child participates
The teacher reinforces the answer
School tuck shop
Children reading in the library during break time
Each child puts a straw in their class pot (red for girls) to keep a record of library use
Homes next to the school
View behind the school
 On Thursday, all trainers gathered for a meeting to share experiences. Some had travelled to Poipet, others to equally distant districts of Banteay Meanchey. All had found it very interesting as the situation is very different from that in the town. New teachers face problems with lack of resources, one school had no chairs or tables. Some teachers teach more than one grade at the same time, having to cover a totally different curriculum for each. Children drop out of school, move to Thailand or take long absences to help parents in the fields. In rural areas it is impossible for teachers to find study materials to develop their own subject knowledge or resource their lessons.

All new teachers reported that they needed more help with classroom management, working with less able pupils and in the preparation of teaching aids from locally available materials. This year we have been doing a lot of work in both these areas so it was good to hear that we are on the right track. Next week I will meet with the Director to think about what else can be done in the light of what we found out. I am lucky to be working in a college where staff want to work towards improving the situation for trainees.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

World Environment Day 2012

June 5th was World Environment Day and the college had been given funding to hold an event to raise awareness of environmental issues. Due to election fever, we held the occasion on Monday 11th and trainees really surpassed themselves.

2nd year trainees had been challenged to a competition between the four classes. The best song/poem, the best poster, the best teaching aid from recycled materials and the best outfit (male and female) from recycled materials. This was the first time such an event had been staged at PTTC and I don't think anyone was quite sure what to expect but the results were amazing. When they first heard of the fashion element, trainees were unsure what was meant. I found some examples on the Internet to show them. The clothes trainees made outclassed most of those and they modelled them like professionals.

Posters were described and trainees displayed good knowledge of the environmental issues depicted. Teaching Aids too were described, saying what they were made from and how they could be used in effective teaching and learning. Songs were performed by individuals or pairs.

The whole performance was watched by 1st and 2nd yr trainees and staff. Although it was a competition – and judging was fair!!! - there were no losers. Everyone enjoyed snacks of fruit and pastries, the afternoon was declared as free time and nobody complained about the noise pollution as the dancing began!

A very educational day for all concerned. Not only did it promote environmental issues but also teaching aids and how learning can be fun.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Teaching Practice

It's been a while since I wrote a blog. Not that there hasn't been anything to write about but just that I've had a lot on my mind. As I hit the one year mark I began to consider a lot of things I'm missing at home and I started to think about what I will do when I return to Britain. Life as a volunteer has changed me. My priorities are different, as are my expectations. I've seen people smiling in the face of real hardship yet others cheating the system while their neighbour, quite literally, starves. The problems here are obvious, solutions not so obvious...

I'm still thinking!!!

So, in the meantime I'll continue to report on some of my activities here. During February and March I was busy supporting 2nd Years on Teaching Practice, May and June, 1st years are on TP. My role has not only been to observe and give advice to trainees but to recognise common challenges and bring them to the attention of college Management in order that they can be addressed with Trainers.
 One thing 2nd Years impressed us with was the use of Teaching Aids. I was pleased as this is something I've been trying to encourage. Trainees worked hard to produce appropriate resources. The trainee below was all set to teach about solid shapes to Grade 2 using a poster. I found out in time to advise real objects. She chased round the school looking for appropriate items then really enjoyed teaching the lesson.
Getting ready to teach capacity.

Real objects to teach about solid shapes
Trainee teaches with confidence
Participation by children is encouraged
The biggest challenge, to the surprise of some of my colleagues, has been classroom management. Trainees have found it very hard to control the behaviour of the children. The problem is low level disruption, children chatting, playing, eating and generally not listening to the teacher. It's made worse in some schools by wooden classrooms where there can be a lot of noise from the class next door. Teaching Methods themselves are very noisy with a lot of chanting and repetition. Trainees found it hard in some cases to make themselves heard. Class sizes vary from 30-60 children in a class which is an added problem with very mixed ability.
Using Flash Cards to teach Khmer
 Encouragingly, the college Director agreed to have meetings with trainees to discuss their difficulties and to offer suggestions for improvement. Trainees were advised to be firm and to make children aware of and obey basic classroom rules. Child Friendly Schooling is new and the cane only recently abolished (in theory!) I was also able to discuss the problem with school Directors who have been very supportive, one has even posted school rules in every classroom and is encouraging his regular teachers to be consistent in applying the rules.
Moving round the room to check children's work
It is encouraging to see how these young people have developed in the year I have known them. They work hard under difficult circumstances and are always smiling. I have now been to visit 2 of the Districts where trainees will teach and our observations show that the problems faced by schools in town are not reflected in rural schools. Classroom discipline is not a problem. Other challenges arise however. For me, the important thing is that trainers at the college are more able to evaluate the lessons, trainees have been given a voice to express their concerns and everyone is working together to improve the quality of teaching.
I arrived to observe a lesson only to find the door locked from the outside I entered through the window as everyone else had done!.

Trainee assists children in making a box