Disclaimer: These are my views and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Even if I don't move, I sweat.

Yesterday, it was so hot. I didn’t even want to come to school. I called my co-teacher and asked him if there were any students. He said that there might be and if there were students we should teach. Normally, it’s the other way around. I’ve heard plenty of other volunteers who have teachers who just don’t show up. One of the other teachers I work with is like that too. I biked out to school, drenched in sweat, and noticed right off that there were barely any students. However, after a few minutes of waiting, students started to trickle in. Practically none of the other classes were going on, but here we were, ready to teach English. Again, it was dead hot, or as fellow PCV C- says "it [was] hot as balls". I’ve mentioned this already, but for emphasis, wow. I felt like dying (well, let's just say really uncomfortable). The students didn’t seem too happy either. Over the past few months, I have been working on developing gap-fill, shuffle, and recreation tasks with music and English language news reports. My co-teacher V-, suggested that we do a listening activity instead of teaching from the book. I was all for this, although I feel the need to mention that this is not usual Khmer teacher behavior. I mean, personally, V- is the teacher I have felt like I’ve made the most progress with, but generally Khmer teachers are under a lot of pressure from their superiors and get really stressed about “finishing the book” and end up rushing through lessons leaving students in the dust. Just as an example, the other teacher I work with is on chapter 15 in the book, while Vanna is somewhere around chapter 10. Both classes have met the same amount of days, and from my personal standpoint, the students in V-’s class who have been motivated are so much farther along than the students in the other class. Another thing that he’s started doing is presenting all of the vocabulary words in English, although it takes much longer and requires more work on his part than just translating. It’s these little things that I’m starting to notice at the end of the school year that make me feel like my year has been worthwhile. I worked with two co-teachers. Got one of them to improve his English and the other to improve both his English and his teaching.

So, back to the sweltering classroom. I asked Vanna if he would do the lesson with the students this time (I was curious to see how he'd do and the effort of speaking or writing on the board seemed too great). The song was “Imagine” by John Lennon. The answers i.e. lyrics were on one half of the paper and there was a fill in the gap task on the other. I walked around making sure the students weren’t copying from the lyrics and Vanna did the lesson. He was incredible! He was patient with the students, played the track multiple times so that they could do the activity, challenged the students pronunciation. I was very impressed. After class, I told him how great of a job he did, and he told me, “I like doing songs. It’s easier for me as a teacher, and the student’s really enjoy it.” Giving students exposure to songs helps them tremendously with their listening skills, it’s fun, it’s easy, they are able to recognize native speaker accents, and students at various levels can participate together. At the end of this year, I want to get Vanna a speaker, a sim card to put all of the songs and other audio files on, and a folder containing all of the listening exercises I have made and other volunteers have made as well. I'm looking into doing a small project grant, I've never done this before, so, we'll see how it goes.

At the house, everyone is getting ready for the wedding this week. My older host sister is getting married right here at my host family's house. Everyone is a little stressed. Although no one has come out and said this, I gather from the "just ok" responses in Khmer and how busy everyone is.

Short anecdote: Today my "ming" (= host aunt) told me that she was scared I would get hit by lightning. Now I am scared that I am going to be hit by lightning.

In other news, if everything goes according to plan, I will have a part in writing the national curriculum for grades 7,8, and 9. Our group met for the first time this last week during training, and we have the initial go ahead from the higher ups in the education sector here. Again, we'll see how it goes.

P.S. This is not Cambodia, it's Hawaii.

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