“You are not an early bird,” Teacher Chloe said to describe my being late out of bed in the mornings while in the village. As she said, I don’t normally wake up early mornings. But mid-February I woke up at 7:27 am with worries of being late for an appointment.
We had arranged to meet at 8:45 am. I was not sure which bus stop I would need and passed one more than I needed. I walked back to the street where the appointment was. I was happy with being on time at the right place and let the administrator know I was out front waiting for him. After about 30 minutes, a man was walking towards the entrance and seemed to be looking for someone. I thought he must be the administrator, and started to ask his name. Before I asked him, he questioned me to check my name. We have never met outside before and we only knew each other on phone as a former teacher of mine introduced us.
I did not know that I had to bring my ID card or library card to get into the building. There was a problem with the security men as I did not bring any identification to enter. A tall man was looking at me very strangely and said to me that they could not allow me to enter if I did not have either a library or ID card. I was stuck at the gate for about 15 minutes talking with them and explaining to them. Suddenly, the tall man let me to go in with a warning to bring my ID card next time.
I was taken to the teacher training course that I was due to attend. I was amazed and energetic to participate in the class as she greeted me with enthusiasm, saying “come come” as I entered. There were 19 young trainees in the class brainstorming about teaching materials by listing on the small board. They kept focusing on different teaching materials; whether they used them in class or not.
As I was there to observe the class, I wrote down what the trainer said and how she organized the class and participants. In October 2015, I attended an NEH Teacher Training course. I was not very into that class. Not because I did not care about the training, but I did not see how important lesson plans were and did not realize the merits of being a useful teacher for the students. I thought that teaching was easy and that anyone could do it without much thinking or preparation.
Although NEH taught us Teaching Theory in Yangon, I learnt far more detail in the village where NEH did intensive training for 6 months. Teacher Chloe always reminded me to concept check the students after every assignment and set of instructions. Additionally, I tried to speak in the class as little as possible because one of the principles of NEH training was that in order to keep the students interested in the lessons, give them more time to practice in the class actively. The ideal split is 80/20% with the teacher facilitating where necessary. I saw the Yangon trainer explaining to the trainees a lot rather than to let them brainstorm themselves or to do concept checking. From my NEH training, I learned that explaining to the students reduces self-effort in thinking about the problem or the case they were studying in the class. I always recall Chloe and Van saying that explaining was like the teacher was doing the work for the students. Instead teachers should focus on concept checking and enabling students more than explaining. The teacher should already know the material and doesn’t need any more practice!
Next, the Yangon trainer grouped students into threes to play a game and gave one object to each group. I participated in this as a student. We named our group “Colour Note”. We had a caterpillar and made a story with it. Then, each group presented their stories relating with the object they’ve got. Each story amused us actually. The trainer planned two activities using the object; one was storytelling and the second was teaching to others with that object. Our group was the first to teach and our representative taught mainly on colours; the second group taught about numbers and prepositions, and the third taught adjectives. While the representatives were teaching, the trainer intentionally interrupted them so that they would be aware of unnecessary questions from students in real classes.
An issue that I observed the trainer facing was when students interrupted the class during careful explanations. That made the class disorganized and disrupted other students rather than allowing everyone to concentrate on the lessons well. However, the representatives did not talk to the trainer too much and focused on teaching the students. That’s the point that the trainer hoped to make; that interrupting the teacher interrupts the flow of the class.
Eventually all representatives played Warm up games very interestingly but none of the games were related to the lesson’s Target Language. This was the same as my warm up in October 2015. During my NEH training, I was questioned, “Why isn’t your Warm Up game related to your Target Language?” Honestly, I did not know why it is important and why it is necessary for the class. What I knew about Warm up game was to make the sleepy students active, awake and happy with class.
After 7 months trained very closely by Chloe in the village, I learned about how linking each and every part of the lesson makes the lesson better. I did not see this in the training here, as the trainer's focus was the interrupting and disruption on other students. I am looking forward to the next observation to see what else is covered by the trainer. It was interesting to me to compare trainings and reflect on different methodology. Thank you to the Yangon trainer and my former teacher for allowing me to attend and observe!
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