This is just an outline of what’s been going on in the classroom.
(Format adopted from Outram Primary School’s weekly Current Events homework, back in 1990.)
I have a class of 14 students, ranging in age from 16yr, or maybe 17yr is the youngest now – one of them just had her birthday on Friday, to 30yr old. Most are between high school and university or part way through university, though there is one lady who works as a computer programmer for the local education office, and one guy (who happens to be Ko Myo’s brother) who had to drop out of medical school a while back due to some pretty serious health issues and is trying to get back into doing things. They’re a great group of students – all are so eager to learn and participate in everything I suggest we do. (Poor souls). They have appointed two student leaders who are to help me with anything I need, not to mention all the other people of whom I can ask anything at all. Seriously, I can count about seven or eight people who are my allocated helpers!
The lessons are taken from a draft copy of an Elementary level course book produced by The Curriculum Project in 2012. It’s an English language course for adult learners from Myanmar. So far it seems to be working well. There is a good range of activities included, though I’m still trying to decide if it’s too easy for some of them. From what I can gather, they actually have a reasonable knowledge of grammar and vocabulary but they can not use this spontaneously in conversation. While the content of the book so far seems easy, they still struggle to say a lot of it so hopefully the level will be okay. I was speaking with Po Po’s friends and Lei Lei (my house mate who has arrived from Mae Sot to help out with teaching) about their English lessons in school. Apparently it is all taught by memorisation. At the younger years their lessons consist of constant repetition of words and spelling – “bird – B-I-R-D, tree – T-R-E-E” – and then at high school they memorise “essays” to write in their exams. This is encouraged – in fact, there is a book all students use full of English essays to copy. Crazy. I asked if they were ever required to write about their own opinions or thoughts and they just laughed. Apparently, critical thinking is not something that is encouraged in the education system here. Ko Myo has asked me to work on this in my lessons. I think that might be a little way down the track …
Aside from the course book I’m trying to include a few extra “fun” activities that focus on listening and speaking skills. If anyone has any great ideas that work well, feel free to pass them on! J
We kicked off on Tuesday last week with our first lesson, followed by a “party” at a tea house down by the river, where games such as musical chairs were played! The lessons are weekdays from 9am until 12pm. So far I’m pretty glad that they finish up at lunchtime as it’s pretty tiring. We have a really powerful fan in the room which is such a help, when the electricity is on. So far, that’s been about half of the time we’ve been in lessons; the rest of the time it gets pretty darn hot in there.
Our classroom is a tiny mobile phone shop in town. It has the counter at the front and curtains behind that so we can create a separate room behind. The students sit on chairs and have their books on their laps. We just fit seated in a circle. There are also three computers with internet access available to us, which is great. The shop is called the “Telenor Lighthouse”. Telenor is a Norwegian telecommunications company that, judging by the streets around Pantanaw, has the largest marketing budget of the three available providers in Myanmar. The lovely shop staff are so obliging, allowing a white board to be put on the wall for me, providing me with coffee each morning, and clearing out of the back space in their shop (with the fan) while lessons are on. Going forward, I think they plan to offer free computer training to the students during the afternoon.
Well, we’re all just figuring out the “How” as we go…
This coming week is the nationwide water festival, Thingyan, so there won’t be any lessons; instead we have a four-day water fight. Should be interesting! I’ll let you know …