Teaching in Laos : A two way street
Let’s be honest, you already know what you will be teaching, the interesting bit is what you will be learning.Yes, that’s right, as a teacher you too will find yourself as much of a student as those attending your classes. So what’s on the agenda?
Firstly, there’s the survival guide to the language of teaching, the basics if you like. If you have never taught before (like me) these are exactly what you need to get started. You cover how to lesson plan, what topics to teach, presenting etc…so far, so much like teaching anywhere else in the world (and incidentally the first few hours of your TEFL training if you go on to do this as a career.) So as you get in front of your classes – this is when the real Laos learning begins… Below are a few of the things my experience has taught me from my time on the project.
- Learning a million different ways to clean a white board without a white board cleaner including, but not limited to; tissues, antibacterial wipes, shirt sleeves, hands and koala key rings.
- Crowd control tactics; sometimes it is more about this before any actual teaching takes place, let’s just say the kids here love coming to school!
- Accepting that sometimes you are not the most interesting thing going on; wasps, cats, dogs, ducks, puppies and kittens…all have caused my classes to leave/return or leave/and not return at all…don’t take it personally, it’s just Laos life.
- The use of blue tac in the heat will reveal patience you never knew you had, or a temper you wish you didn’t.
- Children and young people give the best feedback; good or constructive, they will offer it to you constantly. Take it as it’s given, it’s a pure, unadulterated and priceless reflection of how you appear.
- Drop your expectations of yourself and your class before you enter the classroom; every day is different, every student is different, every class is different. Change is constant. Go with it, it’s exciting and exhilarating, not to mention great fun.
- Nothing is funnier than realising you say certain words with an accent until you hear 30 students repeat it back to you in chorus.
- Take as many risks as your students; every word they write, every word they say, they are pushing themselves and learning from their mistakes. Join them, who cares if you mishear “nostril” as “nose toe”? does it matter that you forget how to spell the simplest of words on the whiteboard? The answer is no. What matters is that you gave it a shot and learnt something, just like them.
- Laughter is contagious whatever language you speak. A smile can make even the toughest moments seem OK.
- There are many different ways to express gratitude; time, patience, enthusiasm, answering a question, coming to class, a hand painted porcelain bulldog and being immortalized as “Princess Chloe” in crumpled art work stuffed into your hand sheepishly at the end of class.
- Finally, a bit of perspective that education is a great privilege. The sacrifices and journeys your students have made to be in your class is truly humbling. The hours you spend together are a masterclass in the art of being fully present in learning, the power of self improvement, triumphing over the odds and the desire to do the very best at what you are doing.
So, be there, give it your all and learn from the students, they are the best teachers I have had.
Written by 3 week teaching volunteer Chloe Wright
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