When I taught students at Royal Education Centre (REC), I took notes of the reading passage in the government textbook and created clouds filled with the main facts in different colors and stuck them on the wall. Then students went around and led most of the activities by themselves after I gave instructions. But, I know the students from this village are totally different. Thus, I was thinking about how to teach the lesson “The Wheel” from the Grade 10 textbook. I realized that I could use things they know in order to illustrate how rollers were used 5000 years ago. Even today, people from these rural regions are using rollers to move boats from the land to the river.
After having taught for two weeks, our local teacher trainee decided that we should test the Grade 8 students knowledge of the new material.
After an early breakfast at a teacher’s house, we went to the 7 am meeting where the villagers were sitting under the trees near the monastery.
One of teachers from the village frequently phoned me to warn that I should come earlier as the sea waves were bigger in the evening. The coordinator from Arakkha Foundation came along with me to the village at around 12 noon. As soon as the boat generator started to run, I could feel the breeze blowing through my face. I saw many fishing boats and was very happy to see new people from a different township. The village is located in Rakhine State at the coast line bordering with Bangladesh.
After a teacher-led but pretty calm and successful lesson, Van and I gave feedback to our second trainee. The next day we returned to a disappointing scene. The lesson was very similar; with no corrections based on the feedback and with more screaming in unison. The feedback was apparently useless. At one point, some of the children were even covering their ears to prepare for the onslaught of yelling. They had been placed into three groups and set to work on creating one of three sentences: question, negative and affirmative. In place of assigning a leader or jigsawing the groups, all of the members simply hollered the answer; each trying to compete to be the loudest.
I watched a class on TV. It was about mood and was mainly led by the teacher. She talked to the students in English first and then translated it into Myanmar language. In my perspective, when a teacher constantly leads the activities, there is less student involvement and they soon become quiet and fed up.
The old adage 'teach the students not the plan' is one which holds true. Despite the fact that when a local volunteer teacher asked me if I thought lesson plans were important and me answering yes unequivocally I also understand the need for flexibility within the plan. I do not generally plan many lessons in advance because I need the overall context to be strong and to flow from lesson to lesson in an organic way. That way the students absorb the language through association and find that they can use it in more than one context.
Our teacher trainee said that he previously thought that teaching was easy and straightforward. Now, he worries each day that he hasn’t planned the lesson correctly and he worries that he isn’t doing a good job of teaching. While I worry that he will be overloaded and break from the pressure of overhauling everything he has ever known about education. I also worry that I will not be able to demonstrate what I want done to an effective level.
With the grade 9 students, if the lesson is engaging, they are motivated to learn. They like talking to me and they are quick to copy phrases I use. They have been presented with a foreigner in their village, and their English textbook has essentially come to life in front of their eyes. However, the teachers we are working with are in that tricky age bracket. They are young enough that they are still under the government of the head monk and their parents, yet they are old enough to be finished with school and to accept that they probably won’t be starting exciting new lives outside of the village any time soon.