It was test planning day. Although the temperature had risen and the students and teachers alike were sticky, sweaty and lethargic, our trainee was ploughing ahead and testing Grade 9 on the first unit of the government English textbook that we have been teaching for the past couple of weeks.
At 3:30 pm, the first of a series of text messages was exchanged, quickly followed by a photo outlining the skeletal plan of the 4-part test. We talked about whether he should print the test or write it up on the board. Both Van and I feel that battling the printer is unwise and wastes time and resources. Therefore, the test needs to adhere to the rigors of fair testing, but also needs to be easily presented on the board. After an hour of back and forth texts, we had a suitable test outline. Next, the student planned the particulars of the individual sections, writing the questions and choosing the passages from the text.
After a couple of days, I received a flurry of texts due to the slow Internet connection in the remote location. Based on the texts, I knew that they were not suppose to arrive at the same time, and yet they had. This adds a new complexity to feedback; even if we want to communicate, it is not always possible at that moment and it is also tough to gauge when the messages have been sent and received. Nevertheless, we have been able to talk daily and will continue to develop our model for effective virtual planning and communication.
As we develop our model, we have to consider how often our trainee wants to talk casually and how often he needs to ask technical questions. At this stage of training, most questions for me are on straightforward technical teaching issues, while Van has settled into an every other day pattern with the trainee on teaching reports and general life in the village. However, I suspect that as the trainee assumes more of a leadership role, he will look to Van for more advice as she is familiar with Myanmar nuances, and has a sharp eye for troubleshooting and thinking outside of the box.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer
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