Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I-to-I day four: Good morning teacher

22nd February 2011 – (Happy birthday brother)

MP3 track of the day: Another brick in the wall -Pink Floyd

Weather: Hot, especially within my classroom

I got up in plenty of time to eat breakfast (pancakes … yum) before boarding the tuk-tuk and taking the one hour journey, out of the city, towards 'library two'. On the way Sandy (an American girl) was reading, Ricky (a British guy) was listening to his MP3 player and so Kim (a Scottish lady) and I chatted about all sorts of topics as we watched the chaotic Cambodian traffic pass us by. Eventually we turned off the main road and onto a dirt track; I could feel every bump as we passed over these stones - which felt like boulders - and I had to close my eyes due to the dust (mental note: bring sun glasses for tomorrow). I let go of my bottle of water and grabbed hold of the handrail.

We eventually made it to 'library two'. I hadn't seen library two before, however the building was similar to 'library one'. It was a tall, narrow building with two floors; two classrooms were on the ground floor and one classroom was on the first floor. The building was made mainly of concrete and, unfortunately, the first floor classroom, and one on the ground, were open plan making it very noisy. The students were already there, playing on the 'playing field'; apparently lessons start at 7:30am and end at 4:30pm every day. This meant that there were three classes in the morning (which we were around for two) and three classes in the evening (again we were around for two). Kim and Sandy took class C, the less advanced group of the school; Ricky took class A, the most advanced group, which left me observing the Cambodian teacher (as this was my first day) with class B. I left my bag near the fridge; it was on full view for all the students to see, however they dare not touch it or it would mean being expelled from the school. I left my bag and headed up stairs, I sat to the right of the whiteboard and watched the teacher work.

All the students were sat down, as good as gold. As soon as the teacher took the center stage all the students got up and said 'Good morning teacher'. The reply from the teacher was 'Good morning students'. The students would then say thank you and take their seats. Today we were teaching lesson nine and ten. Within the A5 textbook each lesson was a page and so you can imagine that each lesson didn't cover much. For example, lesson nine consisted of the below sentences:

  • This is my father

  • He is tall

  • He has black hair

  • He wears spectacles (why spectacles I don't know, glasses would have been more appropriate. The teacher never used this sentence.)

  • He likes to drink tea

And that was it. I sat watching the teacher drilling the above sentences, into the students, for the two hour lesson. Half of me was listening, the other half was wondering how I could fill two hours with so little and keep it interesting. She got the students to say each sentence individually and together. I have to be honest but I was getting bored, however the students were perfect and just kept repeating what they were asked. Afterwards she got some students to do a bit of roll play; that went down well.

After an hour it was time for a fifteen minute break; all the students went out and the teachers, including I, went to the fridge for a cool drink. After the fifteen minute break a male teacher took over the class for the remaining forty minutes and, apart from turning to me a lot throughout the lesson explaining things, I thought he did rather well. The lesson was varied and the students even got to play a few games of hangman. The guy asked me to take over for the final five minutes with the final game of hangman. I really enjoyed it, picking students at random and asking them for a letter (immediately I noticed a problem in pronouncing 'h'. The students pronounce it 'e'; I thought about the possibility of doing a lesson based on the 'h' sound however I'm struggling for words to use as an example).

This was the end of the morning session; the students stood up and said 'Goodbye and thank you teacher' to which the teacher said 'thank you student', hands clapped in the prayer position. Those students left for home. It was now 11am and I had two hours to eat the snacks I had brought, read a bit of my book and prepare for the afternoon class. In the afternoon I would be teaching under supervision.

It was soon 1pm; the students came in, sat down, and we went through the same introduction. Next I got the whole class to say the date, lesson number and the lesson title. Then I started to drill the lines into them. The students English was pretty good, as I wrote the sentence on the board they were already reading it aloud. We went through each sentence a number of times but still I had more time than content. To spice it up a little we played a few games of 'hangman' (which I called 'beat the clock') before returning to drilling. We also went through 'he' and 'she' (lesson ten was all about the mother) and I got the students to identify that 'she' belongs to women and 'he' belongs to men. I also listened to how each student pronounced each word and there was a definite problem with the 's' sound in 'is'. I drilled that, and other words which were pronounced incorrectly. Fortunately this had taken me up to break time.

As the students went out for break I had a stroke of genius. As we had pretty much covered all the content of the two lessons I would teach them where the accents, in each sentence, were. This is a little harder than it sounds as the accent can change depending on what part of the sentence is important. However this didn't matter; I decided to put the accent were I felt it was most appropriate and I got my whiteboard ready.

Like I said before, my classroom, and the one downstairs, are open plan. The children shout when they talk (it's what they do in South East Asia) which made it very noisy indeed. This was one bit of discipline that I was determined to change. Also all students wanted to answer all the questions, even if they knew the answer or not; when they would put their hand up they would shout 'teacher, teacher'. The hand up is all that I require and so I hope to change this as well. Finally there are a few students who rarely volunteer and so I was determined to make sure that all students got to answer questions, whether they put their hand up or not (however I didn't want to embarrass any student). This action, I hoped, would keep the students attention at a high level.

The students filed back in and I went through each sentence highlighting the accent. I asked the students, in turn, to repeat. Once I had selected a student they would stand up before answering, and then sit back down afterwards. I had a 50/50 success rate with 'accents' meaning that, I think, I can teach it more ... I don't think it's above the students ability. Once this part of the lesson was finished I then tried to get the students to think about the phase 'he likes to drink tea'. I asked my students what they like to drink and I substituted 'tea', and 'he', to the drink they had mentioned and if it was a boy or a girl who had answered my question. It was weird to see that no one mentioned coke, or any fizzy drink. There was little time left; for the last ten minutes we played a few games of 'beat the clock' where I awarded one of my prizes (a pen with the British flag on) to a student who did particularly well (it was a test to see the reaction of other students. None seemed to be jealous and so I think I can continue with the 'prize giving'). The students then say 'thank you teacher' to which I replied 'thank you student'. I left the school and boarded the tuk-tuk.

I didn't talk that much on the way back. I thought about how I had done and what I could improve for tomorrow. I was chuffed to bits with the students understanding that using 'he' or 'she' depended on the persons sex however, due to no real lesson plan, my lesson had been a bit mixed with no clear structure (drilling, games, accents, back to drilling, concept questions). Also I had turned my back on the class to write on the whiteboard (it's not properly fixed to the wall) and I had written some letters in my own handwriting (which I must stop). Overall I would say a 'six out of ten' would be the score I would give myself for today. I needed to do a lesson plan for tomorrow as I hoped that would give me more confidence.

Once back at the guesthouse I paid for the tuk-tuk and headed straight out to purchase snacks for tomorrow and writing paper. I sat down in the guesthouses restaurant, ordered some food, surfed the internet before planning tomorrows lessons. Below you can see tomorrow's lesson plan; if you click on it, it should become larger so you can read it.

I hope you can read the lesson plan, however it's now 9pm and I'm off to bed!

Toodle Pip!

P.S. I got my passport back today with my extended Cambodian visa. All paper work complete


  1. Glad your first day went well, sounds like you managed to enjoy it too, which is important. Next time you meet Melissa you'll be able to talk lesson plans with her ;-)

  2. Yes it went okay. Lesson planning takes a while ... and is quite annoying when you don't actually use it.