I was away from the village for 8 weeks. During those 8 weeks, our trainee taught a grand total of 8 classes. This is down from the 24 which I wanted and expected.
It is not as regular as once per week. Sometimes it was the allotted 3 times in the week, other times it was a 2-week hiatus. From our experience, things rarely go to plan in Myanmar.
Time here is fluid in a way that I didn’t know was possible until I had lived here for some considerable duration. Planes are late; roads flood and classes are cancelled indefinitely never to be re-scheduled. People occasionally wear watches, although I think it’s a ruse; something which on the outside looks good. It is referred to but not adhered to. They know when the sun rises and sets; when the cows need feeding, but it appears the idea of 3 pm or 5 am is not familiar.
For children, a schedule is of utmost importance. Eight classes in eight weeks is not enough in my opinion; however, I could imagine that if times were tight it would be better than no classes. The problem is this notion of teaching a lot in one go and then teaching nothing is useful to neither the teacher or the students. Fortunately, the children have retained a lot of the information that we taught since January. They still point at their nose to convey an "S" at the end of a word, and are still confident to correct each other’s errors (as seen in the photo). We worked hard to build a team which trusts and feels comfortable giving constructive feedback, even for something straightforward like forgetting the subject-verb agreement.
The trainee now claims to like teaching which is a huge relief. It is something that I always suspected would come to light however presumptuous that might be of me. I can see the clear benefit of a break away for the trainee to analyse his own feelings on the matter. Additionally, the break away from both teaching and from me have allowed the information to sink in deeply and be processed.
Upon our return to the village, I am heartened to see our trainee's lesson plans which are well-scaffolded and student-centred. I am pleased to find that my pearls of wisdom on teaching have not been disregarded even with only 8 practical applications and a bout of heat-stroke to contend with. It shows me that my time here was not wasted and that with the right encouragement, a firm foundation can be planted even on unstable ground.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
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