After a teacher-led but pretty calm and successful lesson, Van and I gave feedback to our second trainee. The next day we returned to a disappointing scene.
The lesson was very similar; with no corrections based on the feedback and with more screaming in unison. The feedback was apparently useless. At one point, some of the children were even covering their ears to prepare for the onslaught of yelling. They had been placed into three groups and set to work on creating one of three sentences: question, negative and affirmative. In place of assigning a leader or jigsawing the groups, all of the members simply hollered the answer; each trying to compete to be the loudest.
This is the teacher whom I believe had the most raw, natural talent. He is gentle and patient with the students. He is calm and has a manner which soothes over-excited little ones. He is sensitive and empathic. There was no stick though with which to beat the children. This is of course a categorically good thing. Van was scared by the presence of a stick-welding fanatic that she glanced in the assembly hall during our Thanlyin teacher training.
We are learning that the teacher’s English is simply not sufficient for us to be able to give feedback in English and that our other trainee needs to translate for us for the feedback to be effective. It is a steep learning curve for us all; Van enjoys feedback and constructive criticism and feels it should be done as soon as the activity is over so that the information is still fresh. I understand this feeling; while I agree that keeping it fresh is important, I also feel that the second trainee has a delicate disposition. It is this disposition which makes him a natural teacher, but which makes him vulnerable to too much feedback.
Gauging the atmosphere and feeling of the young teachers is a fine art. Later that day, we felt that some feedback could be tolerated so we plunged in; showing videos and explaining the accompanying feelings. The problem is that our second trainee seems to take feedback personally; he is something of a burden to his large family and he has been trained to feel like his thoughts do not matter and he is a waste unless he is working and bringing in income. Feedback needs to be handled carefully where this gentle soul is concerned as too much negativity will be seen as personal and might break his shy, isolated spirit. We must progress slowly so that we don’t do more harm than good.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
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