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 ~

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Something different

A friend of mine has been teaching English at the prison for several years. Some of his students speak good English now. He came to me with an idea. Some of the men will be released in one or two years and would like to teach English as a way to make a new start in life. He wanted me to help them with some teaching methods.

I had been to the prison a couple of times, once to teach English to a group of women as cover for an absent colleague and the other to a party as a Peace Corps volunteer was leaving. My first visit was daunting as I did not know what to expect. I needn't have worried. Cambodian people are friendly wherever they are and always know how to make the best of a bad situation.

So... first I went to meet the group, get to know them and talk with them about the responsibilities that go with being a teacher. It was interesting. The men are very open and keen to learn, their situations are very different.

Last week I delivered the first session about the way people learn and the 4 skills. The drive there was the worst bit! The road to the prison is flooded! I rode pillion on a motorbike as my friend negotiated a route through. In the middle of all the water a street seller had set up his stall. People were taking the opportunity to earn money by transporting visitors to the prison by boat. Others were just paddling through. Sandbags line the entrance but inside the prison is dry.

A year ago I taught the women under a tatty wooden shelter. Since then, some organisations got together to build a nice room and library. It was here that we worked. It was very noisy as we were behind the visiting room. A man sat at the other side of the room knotting a fishing net. Small children were colouring in pictures and other prisoners were just sitting around watching. My students joined in enthusiastically as we sang a song, held discussions and carried out activities. 
I asked my students to order the four cards (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and then give reasons. For some, this was not easy, these guys are not used to thinking for themselves, prison life is very dull. Each group came up with a different answer though so it was a good discussion. They also appreciated how the cards were more flexible than a written list.

A bell rings. Ten minute warning to return to cells. A reminder that this is no ordinary class. Everyone is very grateful for my time, the atmosphere is very relaxed. The doors were locked behind us as we left to negotiate the floods once more.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

English Teaching

Although it's not part of my job, since I came to Cambodia I've been teaching English to trainees. It's part of their curriculum and I've been training trainers at the same time. For me it's the only way I can model effective teaching methods properly as all other lessons are in khmer.

Up to now, English has not been a subject in Primary Schools but with increased pressure from ASEAN to improve the level of English spoken in Cambodia, the Ministry have decided to introduce it. About 5 years ago, a VSO volunteer wrote a scheme for teaching English. She was invited back to update it and we now have the job of supporting its introduction in the schools.

This is a pilot project and will begin initially in Grade 4. In August I went to Phnom Penh with 3 trainers from PTTC to participate in training them how to use the new books. Phonics are used and many interactive teaching methods, games and songs. In September we ran a 3 day workshop for 50 teachers from the pilot schools plus Directors of Education from the districts in our province. Organisation was frought with difficulties as schools were closed, the official letter only arrived 2 days before the training, the materials also just arrived in time for us to sort them out the day before. Despite all this, the teachers turned up and were immediately enthusiastic. Some came from rural areas so had to stay in town, others were from the schools used by the college for Teaching Practice. Some teachers spoke good English, most only a little and a few hardly any.
What is this?
On Day 1, teachers were a bit nervous, especially of the phonic pronunciation of c, a, t. The activities helped put them at ease.Concerns were voiced about the amount to learn. Once it was pointed out that each day of the workshop covers a months lessons in school, teachers relaxed a bit!! We split into 2 groups as there were so many participants. I worked with one trainer in one group whilst the other 2 trainers worked with another volunteer in the other group. Considering this was new to the trainers they did really well and this was a great motivation to the teachers.

Is this a bat?

Teachers were given copies of the flash cards and practised using them. Small chalk boards also play a big role in the teaching methods used.

He has a bag.

Write pen. 
Say n,e, t, net.
Word Shapes
 By the end of the three days, teachers were mostly feeling quite confident to teach. School started on 1st October. Unfortunately the books have not yet arrived so the introduction is delayed. Some schools are not yet open due to floods. I took this photo at one school. The two little girls have their new uniforms and new bags but cannot start school yet ...
Hopefully teaching will start in a couple of weeks and I'll be able to report on the progress. I'm looking forward to supporting the teachers and assisting them with some of the activities and songs.