Monday, December 11, 2006

Deb - Volunteer Update # 3 (December, 2006)

I was assigned an alternate school at another temple approximately 5km out of town as the Wat Thmei temple is being used for another purpose this week. The new classroom and surrounding area is actually quite pretty (relatively speaking). I must be getting used to the surroundings already as it is still very poor but it is obvious that the people in this area take pride in the upkeep of their small homes (grass huts) and yards.

As with Wat Thmei there are two classes. One at 3pm and one at 4pm. The students are great. They are so eager to learn English and they try so hard.

I still have my morning class with the younger children but the class has doubled in size.
I was loaned a variety of Baby Einstein DVDs which are perfect for learning basic English words. The class became so popular we combined two classes into one for these sessions. It also reduces my preparation work significantly. In the Thursday class I included a Big Bird DVD which was a huge hit - Big Bird SingAlong. It includes the words at the bottom of the screen. The 3rd class (senior) joined in and they all did Kerioke to Big Bird. Quite funny actually.

Deb - Volunteer Update # 2 (December, 2006)

I have completed the first full week of volunteer work. It took a few days to get into the routine. When I attended the first class last Friday the classroom was a small grass hut with a mud floor. To my surprise, when I arrived Monday for the same class a new classroom had been built over the weekend. A cement structure, no windows, but of similar size, again with a mud floor. The grass hut formerly used as the classroom is now the home of the teacher who teaches this class full time.

This class is surprisingly hard to prepare for. They have no books to follow. I spend at least one hour each night trying to think of activities to do with 20 children. Thankfully, some kind folks from the US sent two full suitcases of books, pencils, crayons and flash cards to the Guest House to be used by the schools. Unfortunately some of the material can't be used as it refers to items the kids aren't at all familiar with such as skates, houses, Santa Claus, firetrucks etc. I actually resorted to teaching them how to do the Hokey Pokey last Friday which they thoroughly enjoyed but I'm sure they are still all laughing at my singing skills.

The afternoon class in the Temple is quite a bit easier. They have a book to follow and each day we complete one lesson. Learning English helps them get the better jobs in either the hotels or as tourist guides. Most of the students are quite advanced although their pronunciation is very poor as they have been taught by other Cambodians. Cambodians typically drop the last few letters of each word so the students tend to do the same with English. Example They say 'ri' vs 'rice'. Very difficult to understand.

Deb - Volunteer Update #1 (November, 2006)

Outside the morning school

Students show off their assignments

Inside the classroom

You are #1 !

Volunteer work started Friday November 24th after a month of touring Thailand and Vietnam. My last stop was Siem Reap Cambodia where I plan on volunteering for three to four weeks.

The days start with the tuk tuk driver picking us up at the Journeys Within Guest House at 8:45am for the morning classes. This week I am working with two other volunteers from California. Each of us have been assigned to separate classrooms.

The morning class is in an extremely poor area of town. I was initially shocked at the facilities and the surroundings. There are three small classrooms each approximately 10 X10 feet in size with one entrance door, no windows and no lighting other than the lighting the entrance door provides. The intermediate and senior classrooms have benches and chairs for the students. The students in the junior classroom sit on the floor. Each classroom has a whiteboard.

On my first day I was assigned to the youngest class who range in age from 3-8 years old. Approximately fifteen to twenty children for each class.I was dropped off in the class and asked to teach English for 2 hours. The teachers spoke no English at all. No guidelines, no programs, no books to follow.... Surprisingly and thankfully the kids are extremely well behaved and very polite.

At 11:00 a.m. each day we are brought back to the Guest House by the tuk tuk driver for lunch and a swim.

The afternoon sessions are two one hour classes (3:00pm and 4:00pm). The classroom is located in a temple called Wat Thmei and approximately 1/3 of the students are monks.The Wat Thmei building is quite large, rectangular in shape, and has a classroom on one side. The school has newly painted walls, fluorescent lights providing plenty of light, and four ceiling fans to keep the building cool during the sultry afternoons.The students range in age from 15-20. I was happy to find out that this class has a book they follow - series of stories that we read, have them repeat and make sure they understand the meaning of each word.

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