With some trepidation I settled into my viewing position at the back of the room. Van accompanied me, while the trainee adopted a leaning position by the door. Without exception, the presentations were terrible. Only 2 of the 20 had rehearsed, and only 1 had notes, and even then she looked as though she had had one too many beers and was gripping the table to steady herself before her legs gave way and she made contact with the floor. Hardly any of the students made eye contact with anyone else; preferring instead to gaze distantly out of the window or stare into the empty space 6 inches above the heads of their audience. Some students took the tried and tested tact of staring directly at the teacher at all times.
Many of the students rocked. Either from side to side or back to front. They forgot to breath, they folded their hands across their chests and they played with their hair. The effect was the same; one of nervousness and unease. There was no appearing relaxed in the scenario and I honestly thought one person would cry, vomit or possibly need CPR over the 3 minute duration of what appeared to be a nervous breakdown in front of my very eyes. I did actually feel sorry for that teacher; however, I mostly felt a great sense of overwhelming disappointment and worry about whether my move to the village had been the right choice. In the two weeks of teacher training we had seen great advancements in the actual teaching, but the students were as weak as ever. In fact, there really isn’t much difference between grade 7 English and that of grade 11, or even, more worryingly, the volunteer teachers. Van and I have spent some time contemplating how we wouldn’t want to go to school here either. We came to the logical conclusion that if these pupils learned nothing over 5 years of instruction, then there is very little reason for them to attend the crowded, cramped government school conditions. Of course, one thing at a time and we can’t launch a petition to ban all school teaching because we consider it to be a waste of time. So, we continue changing what little we are able.
The day after the presentations had been butchered I made the executive decision that we needed to go over the rubric and, by process of repetition, drill it into the teachers' heads that they need to stand straight and still, smile, and breath while delivering a practiced speech which involves an introduction and a viable conclusion.
After the break, Van performed two speeches which the students evaluated in accordance to their rubrics. The bad was deemed very bad inclusively while she earned herself three ‘excellent’ along with a score of ‘good’ for the correct performance. The students’ turn had then come to give a paragraph in front of the full compliment of 20 people. There was much improvement from the previous day. However, they had not written the speech and thus it was not clear to me as the teacher that they understood the full planning and rehearsal process. They were tasked to re-write their speeches to be performed in Thursday’s class. The instructions were clear, straight-forward and concept checked. I had planned to deliver the instructions myself, but the trainee volunteered himself for the job. Unwilling to allow him to go it alone, I sat at the back of the class making live corrections as we went. It was just as well that I had not taken the opportunity to rest as the trainee defaulted to explaining rather than guiding and checking. It waits to be seen what the students produce on Thursday. I am not above hoping for miracles, but I am doubtful. It is becoming evident to Van and I that the volunteer teachers are really only in class under sufferance and without the strict pressure from the head monk, there are many things that they would prefer to be doing.
The presentations were much improved from before.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer