I was taken to two classrooms to greet the grade 8 and 9 students; some of whom I met last time I visited. I’m sure that I must have seen all of them, but as only some of them introduced themselves, those are the ones I most remember. The grade 8 girls giggled as they reminisced about playing in the river with me a little over a month ago. Once again, my student teacher was great at translating and encouraging the students to speak with me.
The tired blackboard wobbles on the bamboo stick that it is strapped to and the thin bamboo walls ripple in the evening breeze. The bright sunshine is setting over the empty paddy fields illuminating the class when the children chant in unison as the volunteer teacher neatly chalks up the solutions to the questions set in the government textbook. Although there is no active learning as I would like to see it, the children are, to my surprise, all engaged and all of the 20 students happily shout out the answers to the questions. Apart from stolen glances at me, the children fully concentrate on their book and their teacher. They recite the answers as the teacher writes it up on the board, and only after an explanation from the teacher do the pupils copy down the text from the blackboard into their books.
I see that the volunteer teacher is more confident instructing pupils in his native tongue, but a lot of his gestures carry over and his penchant for saying sorry is still evident. I am a little sad to see that the promise that he showed in Yangon and again in encouraging the children to converse with me did not seem to translate into the math class. I wonder if he has compartmentalized English instruction with active group learning while other subjects are still in the rigid traditional style.
We return to the grade 7 students who are having some discussion over some questions in their textbook. The volunteer teacher then holds up the textbook to the correct page and spiels off the answers to the children. There seems to be some slight disagreement over the answers from a few of the children, and I am heartened to see that there is some engagement with debate and criticism of the given answers even if it is minimal.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer