I heard a student whisper, “Our teacher is coming.” One curiously looked back at the doorway and unexpectedly saw me. It's been about 2 months since we left the village due to the conflict in northern Rakhine State, but now are glad to be back.
On that day, I came to observe a class and how the local teacher taught. Of the 25 students, only 11 girls and 8 boys attended. This is not surprising though. When we were teaching in the village, our class had the highest attendance rate. But, what was surprising was the difference between the boys and girls. While the girls were proactive and responsive, the boys were silent and drowsy, looking down at their books. Why were some students engaged and others bored? Was the teacher thinking about this too? Actually, the teacher was only talking to the girls, and ignoring the boys. His back was faced towards them and he was blocking their view of the board. While the teacher spent most of his time explaining, the boys would often lean against the wall and talk to their friends. One even threw a glance at the clock on the wall, waiting for class to finish. Only one boy tried to listen, but the teacher didn't pay attention to him either.
Before we left, these students were motivated and active (as seen in the photo above), and now it's disappointing to see how they've changed. The fact that this teacher was ignoring the students was killing them. It was killing their interest for learning and curiosity.
The boys are lazy and don't try hard like girls, the teacher claimed. However, I think teachers need to think of different ways to engage their students rather than blaming them for their poor performance. Of course, it is difficult for anyone to reflect on his/her own teaching, especially new teachers, but not realizing how they're affecting their students, it's hard for teachers to improve.
"The fact that this teacher was ignoring the students was killing them. ... I think teachers need to think of different ways to engage their students rather than blaming them for their poor performance."
Teachers need to pay attention to their students, ask for their feedback and learn about their interests. Teachers from this village might think these are very small matters and not really necessary, but students' feelings are important and they need to know that their teachers care about them and love them. This should be the first priority for all teachers.
If teachers and parents don't provide more support, then the situation will get worse. Only 9 out of 28 students passed the last English exam and very few have passed the Myanmar exam. At most, I think 6 or 7 students will pass all subjects exams.
"Teachers need to pay attention to their students, ask for their feedback and learn about their interests. Teachers from this village might think these are very small matters and not really necessary, but students' feelings are important and they need to know that their teachers care about them and love them."
There is also a gap in the parent-teacher relationship. The teachers here do not talk to the parents about school and vice versa. Teachers don't seem to know why their students are failing; they do not self-reflect or assess students' or parents' opinions. On the other hand, parents do not know how to teach, and forcing their children to study is the only thing they can do. This all leads to frustration for students and teachers and misunderstanding between parents and teachers.
Yesterday, I asked some parents, and one said that teachers needed to be more benevolent and have a long-term vision for their students' learning. Also that after we left the village, the school did not run as effectively and properly as when we were there.
NEH Local Teacher Trainee
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