On my second day at R.E.C, my two students and I had a productive 3 hour meeting in which we discussed the merits of having bi-weekly meetings with the full complement of teaching staff.
This should help to foster an attitude of sharing and feedback as well as keeping plans on track throughout the year. I also highly suggested keeping minutes of these events so that any problems that are faced and overcome can be referenced at a later date. The monk and the teacher who is leading the classes are both excited to begin this process. They have been on the look out for partnerships with other organizations for a while now to help them in changing the local idea that in order to have a successful education you must travel to the city.
Earlier in the day I had looked through the books that my student had planned to teach from. He was planning a three term program for 20 students who are coming from various locations in Rakhine state. The first three months would follow the Interchange 1 English course book, and then the second and third three month periods he will move onto a civics book and then a democracy text book, both in English. The two books look great and will really help to develop the student’s awareness of their country and of civic engagement. However, Interchange is not the best book for Myanmar students as it is very American focused and it’s hard for the students to really relate to. Additionally it isn’t ordered very well and for novice teachers it’s hard to compose a syllabus which makes sense and flows well. Often teachers are afraid to change the order of units in a text book. I had already helped the CEAL teacher to have a more cohesive order of units and I shared this information with R.E.C. However, what they really need is a curriculum which is much more Myanmar friendly.
During the hour boat journey back to Sittwe I was able to quiz my student about what he wished for from an English course as I thought through the practicalities of curriculum building. After visiting the village I have a much better idea of the needs of the community and exactly how they will use their English language. During our long, dusty bus ride, my student asked if I’d like to accompany him and the monk to their first meeting which was as soon as we arrived. I’m not sure of the motives for this offer; genuinely thinking I could help, hoping that bringing a foreigner would lend credibility, or simply having no time to drop me at the hotel and hoping that I would be receptive to the change in schedule if it was presented in the form of a meeting. I knew that Van would be pumped about me attending the meeting and being productive, so without scrutinizing the reasons I readily agreed. Upon our arrival in Sittwe we met with a man from Relief International who is planning to travel to R.E.C each weekend to teach a variety of short coures from Mediation and Facilitation to E-Mail skills and C.V building. He was fascinated to hear about my curriculum plans and listened with much interest, however fluid my idea was at this point. His English was great. Although I felt for the REC head monk, who must have felt a little like I regularly do in Rakhine state when I forget to feed myself and have to feign interest in a conversation I do not understand, all the while hoping that I don’t look too interested for fear of being asked a question that I don’t know the answer to!
Later that evening, my student teacher and I met for dinner. In the short 15 minutes of being dropped at the hotel while he made sure that the monk, who had had no lunch, was safe and fed I threw together a quick outline of the ideas that I had flooding into my head. By this stage we were both pretty tired, but assuring the other that we were ‘fine’ we started our meeting. As we talked, I added more things to my plan in a haphazard manner. The REC teacher had one flash of inspiration and grabbed my exercise book to write the idea down quickly before resigning it back to me, stating that ‘Your English is better for writing.’ While it is doubtless true that my overall level of English is superior, I’m not sure the same could be said for my handwriting as I scrawled names and ideas onto the paper! Fortunately he was able to read it as he photographed the pages in order to present our ideas to various people in various meetings over the course of the next 24 hours.
The next morning, I neaten up the plans from the previous night into a coherent logical sequence and set about creating learning outcomes and an initial lesson plan for the teacher to appraise and tell me that he felt confident to follow. Planning for yourself is one thing, and occasionally my plans have been hasty scribbles on a (clean) Kleenex, but planning for someone else need to be at least slightly co-operative. In the past, NEH has faced the problem that teachers do not follow the plan because they do not understand the laid out instructions.
NEH will provide laptops with Breaking News English articles and audios loaded for offline use. We will also create a three month comprehensive syllabus and lesson plans for our R.E.C teacher to use in class. After 1 month of teaching, we will return to R.E.C for a progress update and make any tweaks in the scheduling or topics that have been planned. Also, we will observe lessons taught by our guinea-pig teacher and update the curriculum or the individual lesson plans based on the feedback from the teacher and his students. If the teaching is successful, the other teachers will return to their villages and implement a similar, paired down version of the syllabus that they have just been students with.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer
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