Today I taught the head monk here at R.E.C in a class alongside the other teacher trainee whose English is weaker. This is my first experience of teaching a monk. I dare say it’s his first experience of being taught by a foreigner, and I would bet my bottom dollar that he has never before experienced a lesson in which he engages his brain in a manner similar to that of children learning their native language.
I taught for the third time ‘there is, there are’ with plural and singular nouns. Next lesson we will move to plurals, then to these, those, a few, some, any and so forth. Prior to the 90 minute lesson I had only heard one sentence uttered in English from the monk; “She’s taller than me!” in surprised tones at the end of my first visit when we had the obligatory group photograph taken for posterity. The digital age has made this task much easier. One student lost his father at 12 and only has one photo of him due to the cost of taking and printing a decade ago. It’s no wonder that Myanmar students are obsessed by selfies when you consider that this village alone lost 8 people in one year and around a quarter of the volunteer teachers have lost someone in their direct family line.
To my great relief the teacher trainee is finally starting to remember his “s.” It gets tiresome to keep reminding a pupil and I know that it is detrimental for their self-confidence, but sometimes a teacher just gotta do what a teacher’s gotta do, y’know? The “F” becomes a “P” I have noticed among Myanmar students. My one trainee had a novel way of dealing with this; making his students hold a piece of paper to their mouths in order to exhale. However, despite not treating my monk student differently than I would any other student, I did think that it might be a bit familiar to stick a piece of paper in the face of these two students. I guess that my trainee has grade 8 13-year-old students while I’m being faced with a shy 22-year-old graduate and a 30-something head monk; slightly different circumstances one might say.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer