Published: August 20th 2012August 20th 2012
Time to teach means remembering the basics of English grammer (or relearning them!)
It's been difficult to get access to my blog, for some reason it says I am an unknown administrator (surely there is no one else wanting to second guess what I am doing and write my blog on my behalf?) so as a result I'm a good week behind where I should be. I came to Laos for a month to spend as part of the GVI program, teaching English to children and novice monks in Luang Prabang. Not knowing much more (well anything more) than that, I arrived at 9am on my first Saturday and met the other 10 volunteers who were starting the same time as me. Ranging from a stay of 2-8 weeks, we are a mixed bunch of ages and nationalities, and from day one it's been a wonderful group to be part of.
My teaching timetable means I teach a young class between 8:30am - 10am at the 'school' across from our guesthouse (choice location means I don't have to be up early at all), along with Poppy who is a 19 year old girl from England and very sweet.
We have instigated 'letter of the day' and 'today is' at the start of our class, and quickly realising that there is no way the kids can stay focused for more than 60 minutes learning a language that isn't their mother tongue, we have included an art and craft piece to the last 30 minutes of the lesson. This has been really well received, and it's rewarding seeing them put their learning into something physical they can show their families or leave displayed in the classroom.
My evening class is out in a 'village', so a tuk tuk takes me to a hut with 20 excitable and enthusiastic Laos children, and I teach this class with Maria from Mexico who is as energetic as I am. As a result we kick this class off with a song (last week it was 'Charlotte's song, inspired by my 3 year old niece), and build on it each day. So this week we are going to do Old MacDonald and hopefully by Friday I will remember all the animals. We have had lots of fun thinking outside the square with this class, as at the back of the hut is another volunteering
class with much young children (mine range from 7-14), and last Friday we took them outside to demonstrate the word faster (running race), louder (yelling the word loud, and then the word again but even louder) and bigger/smaller (two balls). On Friday the girls of the village had made us both a gorgeous (albeit small) frangipani garland and we wore then with pride on our heads like an angel's halo.
After this class we then have a novice monk class, and as we identified that the group of girls at the back were behind the rest of the students, I have set up a reading bench, and I now have a queue of children wanting to come and do some 1:1 reading so that they can practice. My brain is in overdrive remembering how different teachers (and my parents) inspired me to learn, and what made a class or lesson fun and memorable. Hopefully the inspiration will continue for the next few weeks, however a universal fact is that all students LOVE stickers.
To teach we wear the traditional sinh and a blouse, and it is quite a sight seeing up to 18 volunteers wandering around in the local Laos attire (however many locals are now just as happy in jeans and a t-shirt). We are teaching English but as they learn the language we need to explain the word as a verb, adjective, comparative verb and a whole range of other concepts I had completely forgotten about. So I am a student as well over this month. I can not describe how rewarding, fun, interesting and grounding the volunteering is, and it will be an experience I will draw from for the rest of my life. The Laos communities are so grateful for our help, and the smiles on the children as they learn something new the only payment you need.
When I'm not teaching I'm relaxing, eating wonderful Laos food, and enjoying the range of different experiences Luang Prabang has to offer - so more on that the next time I'm allowed access to update you all on my Asian adventure home.....