Feedback is a huge area which NEH is focusing on, as without open honest and frank discussions about the good and the bad, it is impossible to change and grow. Therefore, Van and I were very curious to see how the feedback would be conducted; who would write what down and what questions would be asked. We had a brief discussion over lunch, but as eating isn’t the correct forum for serious matters we were content to wait and see the feedback process in action later that day.
Van and I stayed out of the way as the American introduced himself and asked a few questions about the elections that the class had held. There was a president of the class and a vice president to be introduced to and the students seemed to understand the concept of the elections, although they relied exclusively on translation from their local teacher. There were no notes made at the time of the interview.
Upon further questioning; the young American revealed that CISS wasn’t focused on English language, and that he had been shocked at the amount of admin associated with his position, which is quite an undertaking at his youthful age of 26. The school focuses it’s efforts on social change and progressive futures for community change. Generally it is only for Chin ethnic students, but they accept a couple of R.E.C. students each year.
In the evening we were fortunate to be privy to the interview process for the R.E.C students. It seems to be a process of finding motivated students whose English is good enough to study the other subjects on offer. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of concern for motivation in the field of study; they seem to want to just recruit bright youngsters who can then be trained during the program.
It was a pleasant excursion to the forest, but it left Van and I worried at how easy it is here for students to brush off their lesson. Because the teacher is also a friend, there is a distinct lack of authority. He describes his role as a leader not a teacher, because of the negative connotations he has with the word teacher. However, I feel that a teacher should generally be a facilitator, but also a task-master. Without encouragement, few people would chose to study over doing something ‘fun’ or ‘relaxing.’
Even with 4 foreigners present, there was very little English spoken over the course of the outing which suggests to me that the schedule needs to be tighter. I do not agree with the monk that they need 4 hours a day of teaching; I feel that this is unsustainable, and that the quality of teaching is much better than quantity. It takes novice teachers the same time to plan a lesson as to teach it; if we taught four hours per day that would be a full-time job without taking into consideration the grade 8 lessons that need to be taught or the housework that needs attending to. I think that 2 hours per day of well-planned lessons is more effective than 4 hours of unplanned class.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer