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15 Jul 2012

Child Friendly Schools and another TV appearence

I now have less than three months to go before I finish my placement which makes me feel sad but also excited about the prospects for the future (that start with four months of travelling to five countries I've never been to before!).  Technically this should be my busiest time as I now have experience and relationships with the schools but sadly that will not be the case as the schools close at the end of July for the long summer holidays.  They will open again in October, about three weeks before I finish.  There will also be a big holiday in the middle of October so that will slow things down as well.  It is a frustrating feeling but things always crop up and there is a lot to do in terms of handover for the volunteer that will replace me.

   A grade 2 lesson: this little boy did no work the whole lesson but stared at me constantly!

As a result of the imminent holidays and the start of the rainy season, the last few months have been filled with many ups and downs.  People say that about the life of a volunteer but you don't really fully understand it till you get here.  The highs and lows are pretty extreme compared to life back home.  Since January I've been doing a project with four of my schools which focuses on child-friendly teaching methods.  The project requires a certain amount of self reflection which does not come easily to Cambodians so sometimes it has been a struggle.  A little bit of rain means the teachers don't show up to workshops that have been planned for weeks and that makes it hard to stay motivated.  

Teachers from grades 1-3 discussing child-friendly teaching methods

 And watching example lessons on DVD.....

 The teachers then discuss what child-friendly methods they saw in the lessons and how they could adapt these for their own lessons

 As part of the project, we recently started doing peer observations.  It was great to see how much effort the teachers put into planning their lessons and how different the lessons were from when I first watched them nearly two years ago. Many of the activities we had discussed during the project could be seen but used in different contexts.  When discussing the lessons the teachers were much more confident and able to focus on the learning taking place, not just whether the picture of the King was on the right wall or not. Some of the teachers even talked about how they were ensuring the children were being made to 'think', not just copy off the board.  All this reflection, discussion, sharing and exchanging ideas has hopefully helped the 23 teachers and school directors that have been working on the Project see how easy it is to make teaching more active and child centred, even with few resources.  

Watching a Grade 2 lesson

The lessons on the DVD show classrooms with the tables laid out in groups of six so some of the teachers have started experimenting with group layouts for their classrooms.

Last week I was invited by an education NGO called NEP to attend their launch of a report about teacher motivation and to talk about my experiences of working with teachers in Cambodia.  They also asked me to invite a teacher I work with who could share her experience.  The launch went well and my short presentation seemed reasonably well received.  The only minor hiccup of the day was that there had been some kind of misunderstanding between my translator and the teacher who attended with me as she had no idea she was meant to give a presentation! This caused a bit of drama when her name was called over the loudspeaker to come up and speak in front of 100 people and she kept shaking her head.  It all worked out in the end though and the launch was reported on three TV channels and three newspapers.  Yes, that's right, I made the national TV again!!  My presentation isn't in it but you can see me at minutes: 1.08, 1.24 and 5.35.  The launch was in Kmai and English so we're wearing headphones for the translation, in case you were wondering.


1 Jul 2012

We made the Phnom Penh Post

Following our appearance on national TV we have now appeared in the lifestyle supplement of one of Cambodia's two English language newspapers, the Phnom Penh Post.  I didn't actually get interviewed so please hold fire with any piss taking about the quotes in the article.  I was a bit sweaty but I think that the 'wet t-shirt' description is taking things a bit far, sounds like some kind of spring break debauchery was taking place when we were just planting some trees!

(Click image below for full size.  Online article available here.)