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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teaching - What's working well

Topic: What I’m doing at school that seems to be working well.

I just finished teaching my third day of classes (17 hours of the 20 I teach each week) and I like it! I just made up my mind that I would try to do whatever they asked and observe what happens.

The vice principal wanted me to teach every 10th and 11th grade class in the school. I said okay.
This means that I teach 15 different groups of 40 students.

Class / Grade 10: 5 classes get me for 2 “hours” (hours are 40 minutes long)
3 classes get me for 1 “hour”
Class / Grade 11 7 classes get me for 1 “hour”

All the students get 4 “hours” of English every week. I team teach with their regular teacher for either 1 or 2 of their 4 hours.

So in Class 11, I’m the guest lecturer who gets to do fun things, play games and sing songs and engage them in English conversations while the teacher helps to translate what I am saying and doing. We’re both fine with this. We don’t have text books yet. Once we get them I’ll take whatever topic we have for the week and set up the fun conversational stuff around that topic. My co-teacher for grade 11 classes has only been at my school for a year and is more into establishing routines and giving lectures so it works out well that I get to do the engaging, brain stimulating stuff. She did insist and I learn 2 very long Arabic prayers that I begin and end each class with. Okay, sometimes I forget all the words, but the students help me out.

The Class 10 English teacher and I team teach the 2 hour sessions with her starting with a basic topic and then every 10 or15 minutes or so switching off so that the other one takes over the class. The kids love it and so do I! We get better as the week progresses because we then know what the other one is going to do next and can do a better lead in for them. She suggested we do “introductions” for this first week. Sounds great to me, because in class 10 we don’t have text books yet, either. So sometimes I introduce her, sometimes she introduces me, sometimes we introduce ourselves, sometimes we have the students do the introducing, sometimes we both just make it up on the spot. And we have fun with each other! For the 1 hour sessions, we condense it down to mostly the conversational part, with me doing most of it.

I said that I wanted to teach a song to each class – to help with their English pronunciation. (Ha. Ha. I love to sing! That’s the real reason I suggested singing.) So far all 17 of my different classes have learned the chorus to: It’s A Small World After All. And they like it! They don’t think it’s dumb! After they sing it through well, saying “world” instead of “word” I change it around and make them remember when to skip some words. Then we do races to the board to see how many hobbies they can list and then they have to guess which one is my team-teachers favorite hobby. When ever they ask how old I am I make them guess and begin with a question: Am I 15 years old? Then I say older or younger depending on what they guess and by the time we’re done, they all know what older and younger means. (Most don’t know when we start the age guessing game.)

I also taught a class of English for teachers. Every week for 2 “hours” the students go to “Personal Development” English club, sports club, health club, journalism club, sewing club, religion club, etc. I was really looking forward to this but the vice principal told me that every other week I would hold mandatory English Club for Teachers during this time. (On the alternate weeks they go to mandatory Religion Club for Teachers.) In keeping with my motto of: Try to do everything they want and see what happens I said Okay. So last night I went to the grocery store and bought 25 or so different small snacks and drinks that had English words on the package. We began the session by letting every teacher pick out a snack and read the English aloud (into a microphone that I was asked to use and I carried around the bag of snacks and the microphone to every teacher who was present at the teacher meeting). The teachers liked getting the snacks and the requirement of reading a few words of English was worth it! I had 100% compliance! This is while they wanted to do their chatting and smoking and getting ready for the rest of the days activities. I had copied a page from the manual Lukasz had – that Peace Corps copied for us – describing what words are hard to say if you are a native Indonesian and Javanese speaker. I chose the page which started with “This bed is bad.” We read them aloud and I would pause and make them repeat. I had chosen this page because the last example is sacks and sex. When their attention started to wane I held up 2 sacks and had them say ”sacks” which they all promptly pronounced as “sex” I laughed and told them “Please, please do not ask for sacks, you may get something very different.” We went around the room and each one asked for sacks or sex. Some of them said “socks.” I have no idea if they really can say it correctly but they honestly were trying. I think I may have even inspired them to try using some of this English in other situations!

I ended the session a little early. The vice principal liked it! The pronunciation was challenging even for him and the others who can speak English and the simple reading of English words was challenging for the non-English speaking teachers.

Then I rushed off to find where English club for students was being held. English club was packed. The room has 40 seats and I counted 120 students! The 2 English teachers had taken the manual. If you read my post about suggested topics for English Sessions you know exactly what they had planned to teach. By the time I got there they had selected a club pres, VP, sec, asst. sec, treasurer, asst. treasurer and had talked about visiting our sister Madrasah School in the city 30 minutes away and also a possible trip with them to Bali. (I have no idea if this is possible.) Anyway, I began speaking to the club, before they opened the book of suggested topics for English Sessions and brought up the idea of doing a TV show with commercials and news and a “Take me out” dating program and other things. I hadn’t talked about this is advance with them. They did translate a little, but they told me they thought this would be way too difficult for our students to do. I told them that I had seen a similar program at a big school in Malang and a little tiny school in a rural village and that both groups could do it – of course at the village school the English wasn’t very clear, but the students had fun writing the scripts and we would get to censor or correct the English on the scripts. And it meant that the kids had to do the work, not the teachers doing everything. Well, I have no idea if the kids will get to do this fun stuff or not. But keeping with my new philosophy of: Go with the flow. Watch and see what happens. I gave up trying to have my way. If it works, fine. If we do English club out of the English Sessions book, fine. If I wind up missing almost all of English Club for students to do English club for Teachers, fine. The 2 teachers of English club for students already know my style of teaching and who knows what will happen.

And tomorrow I have the day off! Yes, every Thurs. there is no English taught at my school. The vice principal who is also the 12th grade English teacher is in charge of the curriculum set it up so that English teachers get every Thurs. off. AND – okay, I know I’m spoiled, but since he let me make up my own schedule, I figured out a way to teach all my classes early in the morning from 7 till 2 each day AND get Saturday off too! Yahoo!

I want to go to the little play school next to where I live and offer to teach the little kids songs and games in English. It may work. I have been going to church at the school and know the head mistress and I saw that they have a new poster saying that they teach English! How could they refuse a Free Native Speaker who wants to come and entertain their kids? But going with my new plan for life: Whatever way it turns out will be fine - I’ll just show up, offer my suggestion and follow their lead.

I’m thinking “Follow the Leader” “London Bridges Falling Down.” “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” And maybe I can get my High School students to write simple English “books” for these kids. I stop every time I see a little kid and practice a few English sounds with them “Baa, baa, baa” “Da, da” etc. It’s just so hard to stop being a grandma!

This Saturday my grand daughter in America will be 3. I can’t quite type these words and keep myself from crying. I love you, Kira! I know you can’t read this yet. But maybe someday you will read all about Grandma’s adventures and know that the hardest part about going to Indonesia was leaving you and Talon behind!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Colleen!

    I feel like I'm right there with you and the children. What a blessing you are to them, what a blessing they are to you! I feel blessed just hearing about your adventures, your willingness to, "Try to do everything they want and see what happens ."