I believe that we need some downtime. It is unrealistic to expect to keep going forever. Since January, we haven't had a day off. We’ve had a few snatched hours here and there, but nothing substantial to recharge and come back refreshed and with new resolve to tackle the challenges of this new way of teaching.
The closest break we had was our week off from teaching for the water festival. While the villagers were preparing to feed about 80 people or so that were to descend to the monastery for 4 days, my trainee and I watched a film, which we planned to incorporate into our lesson, and mapped out the whole 6 lesson course on the past tense. I also indulged in re-reading Austen and the Brontes, and my trainee started reading the biography of Nelson Mandela.
My trainee was worried that we wouldn't get enough planning done. However, as I mentioned to him; we don’t teach the students for as many hours as most places in Myanmar, yet our students remember more vocabulary and are able to converse with much greater ease. It is not about the amount of time put into a task, but rather the motivation and desire to complete that task to the best of your ability.
To have a complete break is restful and rejuvenating. Of course, as any teacher knows, a complete break is hard because the cogs of planning are always gently turning. It is quite a skill in and of itself to be able to relax enough to switch off and allow yourself the time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far; and then to have the peace of mind to come back anew with a fresh perspective gained from doing some wholesome activity which does not revolve around teaching, planning or students.
Never far from my mind, I am both pleased and horrified in equal measure that the idea of planning has infected the brain of my willing trainee to such a strong degree. However, it is a necessity to any good teacher, and as one of the volunteer teachers quoted; failing to plan is planning to fail.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer
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