So after yesterday’s teaching wobbles, I’m glad to report that I came back fighting today ad it was glorious. I love my students, they are funny, forgiving and incredibly motivated. I did a lot of reflecting on what happened yesterday and trying to identify what I needed to do to improve. I decided I need to take charge of classroom management, fun is OK, but hysteria is not; implement a no-Khmer rule; and just be much clearer in my own mind about how games etc run. I also wanted a load of back up material and ideas to fall back on if I had any car-crash scenarios this time round. Well, I spend way longer on preparation of materials than I did on delivery, and I was/am completely shattered after a 5.00 a.m. start to get to the Olympic Stadium for Khmer Dancing Frolics, but I can report the investment in time was well spent, both sessions ran really well, had focus, engagement and I think by taking more control – being the Enlightened Dictator as our Education Manager would put it, both I and the students got much more out of the session.
It’s probably boring now to go through the minutiae of what I covered. In essence, I’ve now created a closed Facebook Page for each Facebook group. This will enable me to keep in touch, learn names, share photos and hopefully provide positive reinforcement of learning outcomes. A slight flaw in the plan is that apparently Facebook as such is now old hat. I should be using facebook messenger to create a group according to one student. Another is not on FAcebook as it wastes too much time. Very commendable. Oh well, it is out there for them as choose to use it, and it filled in a bit of time at the start showing the pictures on it and encouraging students to locate the group and request to join. Only one has so far, but early days eh, early days.
I then did a recap on vocab from yesterday, putting up the bridal party picture and getting the students to fill in all the words themselves. Easier for me, and reinforcing for them. Then we went through all the vocab again with disappearing words. I have one new starter in the second group, but he seems quite strong linguistically thankfully, so we only did a brief recap where I made the group introduce themselves to him and say their age, nationality, that kind of thing. They were very speedy! I had slightly bigger groups today, five and nine. Hooray, it makes it much easier.
I then utilised the giving everyone $400 and taking money back if Khmer was spoken. It worked a dream – almost too well, as they had a tendency to grass each other up, even when I was tolerating a bit of Khmer so that they would have some clue what was going on. I also took charge in terms of separating the two young men in the early group who have got a bit cliquey, and they quite enjoyed the feeling of having been naughty and in a good way it established order but was all very friendly. I did a lot of pantomime eye rolling to indicate my displeasure, which was way better than ignoring, whatever the parenting books may say about ignoring bad behaviour and rewarding good, a bit of comedic disapproval backed up with powerful financial incentives worked a treat.
In the second group I was able to also utilise the group to demonstrate vocab to the newcomer. I had them all up as if at a wedding reception, and tried to find out who would dance at a wedding and who would not. Those that said they’d dance I asked to show me (mixed participation, but they have agreed to show me before I leave Cambodia). One said he didn’t like to dance, but did like to drink, which led to a lively conversation about whether if he drank enough he would dance, but he said he’d just fall asleep. Another said she liked to dance, but danced badly. It was fun, it felt like genuine communication. Yay.
I then used my auto generated Bingo Cards to play, well Bingo. I had to introduce the words and the concept, which I did by putting bingo card up and showing how if I called a word they had to cross it out. When a full line was drawn in any direction, they could shout Bingo, if all were filled it was Full House. In fact it was a mistake to allow diagonal lines but hey ho. It got very animated very quickly – to such an extent that the teacher next door had to ask me to quieten down, which was fair enough and we did. Honestly, I was so relieved to see them so engaged I would have let it run and that would have been anti-social, the walls are thin. In my second session my fellow teacher has an equally noisy group, so that’s fine. Anyway, the upshot was, that all my students ended up with wads of cash. This was motivating, and also comical. They started to reject notes that were torn or had holes in them (new vocabulary ‘ripped’ and ‘torn’ – you can’t use such notes in Cambodia so it was funny and culturally appropriate). We continued until there was no money left. I then ranked the students first to last, according to who had the most money. They were way ahead of me, pronouncing me as being in last place because I’d been wiped out. This was great, as I not only got nice photos for the cover shots for the new Facebook Groups, but also was able to introduce First, Second, Third etc, which was needed as the next stage of this lesson plan is to get them to put the various ceremonies associated with a Cambodian wedding into chronological sequence, and I wasn’t sure if they would have that vocabulary (first as opposed to one), they did, but it was still quite fun. Yay.
From there, we did pronunciation of the ceremonies, recapped on linking the name of the ceremonies to the pictures, and then started to get them to put them in sequence. RAther brilliantly, they all disagreed on the order, and many disagreed with the book, which has confidently said ‘the groom’s processional’ is the first thing to happen, whereas some of my students feel positive it is ‘the monks blessing’. I have told them as I am from England I do not know, and they will need to tell me. I’m hoping that this dissent within the group will generate discussion. Already it seems to, as they adamantly tried to convey why it was wrong.
The sessions flew by with a sort of focused anarchy, if such a thing is possible. I felt really happy with how it went, hopefully I’m back on track. I also still have a missing words quiz and a running dictation exercise up my sleeve for tomorrow, so I really hope that will be a bit less lesson planning for me.
I’m not going to lie, it does feel precarious this teaching malarkey, when it goes well it is completely brilliant, but when it falls flat it can feel personal. I think though my groups are now more established, and I hope that today by getting stuck into the topic and finding it did work (albeit it was slow progress) I’ll gain confidence in using that. I did a lot more repetition, drilling, and getting them to read aloud, but we also had a lot of high energy structured games, the balance felt OK today. Tomorrow of course will be another story, but I quite liked seeing the carnage in the room at the end of a long day’s teaching. It felt like progress. That’s 100 dollar bills you can see scattered around. It feels good throwing that much cash in the air I don’t mind telling you. Less good crawling around picking it all up but worth it all the same!
So tomorrow is of course another day, but at least I don’t have to spend the whole night fretting over this evening’s teaching offerings!