The room that we have class in is in a newly built hall. It keeps fairly cool and has a lot of windows that can be opened up to let a cross breeze through. The floor is made of a cool red marble material and there are four big pillars. It’s a curious thing in Myanmar that most people keep the plastic wrapping on new electrical or expensive items, and the windows are no exception with their sticky logo plastic surrounding the frame.
The monastery grounds are very calm and peaceful with a number of chickens, rabbits and three geese having the run of the place. It is surprisingly quiet considering the volume of traffic on the road outside. There are often young monks trimming the grass alongside the pathway and I have witnesses several clean up missions in the various ponds on the grounds. There is a large trough filled with water with various bars of soap which is used to wash before lunch at 12 on both Saturdays and Sundays.
I seem to have a slightly variable number of students on the course; owning to other commitments such as final year university exams, taken on the 26th October. My core group consists of two teachers from REC which is a monastic school in a remote village in northern Rakhine state, bordering with Bangladesh. There are a further three students from Yangon Institute of Education, which awards four year degrees in education. It seems to take a rigorous, if somewhat stale approach to methodology.
My students are well aware of the terms associated with language teaching, and know the difference between acquisition and learning, and that listening is the first passive skill in acquisition, with writing being both the last and an active, productive skill. However, they still seem taken by the idea that children should learn with fun and adults just need rigorous, methodical instruction because they have extrinsic motivation for learning. My suggestion that adults learn better when the lessons are fun was met with some astounded faces before one student slowly and quietly voiced the opinion of the masses that they disagreed with my unwittingly polemic stance.
In stark contrast to my Thanlyin group, I only have one female student this time! This lends itself to frank discussions about the nature of minorities in a classroom and how to treat them with regards to grouping and partner work. It is important not to allow minorities to feel disenfranchised and splitting them for group work will often have the undesirable effect of making them the outsider in any group, especially if the minority student(s) are of a lower level than the majority. My Rakhine students are very sensitive to the feelings of outsiders, as there is contention over the government school curriculum which focuses solely on the largest ethic group in Myanmar, the Bamars while excluding history from the other ethnicities, including Rakhine.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer