We decided to put our students into groups. The first day of the workshop we made name cards for the desks and I “coded” the tags with numbers, colors, letters, and shapes. It was great because every time we played a game or worked in groups we could say, “odd numbers over here, even numbers over here,” “orange group here, blue group here…” You get it. And they thought it was kinda cool. With between 40-60 kids in most of their classes they need some creative ideas for grouping students quickly. We put them in 4 groups of about 4 and gave them a fresh egg. We told the groups that they would not only have to make a container to protect their egg (because we were going to launch it from the second story of the building!), they needed to name it (makes it seem a little more important and I was just curious to see if they would all name their eggs “Bob” as my class of 4th graders has named nearly anything I’ve asked them to designate with a name)! The parameters were simple: they were able to use any of the materials they could find in the classroom (not a lot going on in there, btw) and anything outside. Also, they needed to really PLAN their container as a group and talk about the best way to protect it. Here is where I really needed a Khmer Rosetta Course - there was giggling and some clear debate over the best way to take on this task. Fun was quite evident! The translators couldn’t translate fast enough…and I always wonder if they’re telling me everything. I can imagine the students are saying “she’s so chatty…I wish she would just stop talking and let us get to the task!”
After about a 1/2 hour, we had some creative carriers and names: Ostrich, Heart (Love), Apple, and Strange Egg (my personal favorite). To me, they all looked pretty durable - I wondered if a few Mail Boxes, Etc. and UPS stores were in the future of some of our students??
I took the class downstairs as Debbie prepared to launch. There was quite a ceremony with each of the eggs - team members describing their thought process and why they chose the materials they did (lots of paper and tape - we ran out of our one roll pretty quickly), and different shapes were engineered by each of the groups. In the back of mind I wasn’t sure if I wanted them all to be successful or perhaps at least 2 out of the 4 break? One by one Debbie launched an egg…there was gasping, giggling, and wonder, but they all seemed to “make it.” Then Debbie came down and we went one by one to each egg. Sadly, the following eggs did not survive the launch: Strange Egg, Apple, and Heart (Love) - leak and drips were found as the carriers were picked up and/or cut open..:-(
But, what about Ostrich - it survived!! The container was mostly cardboard they found from an old box stuffed in a corner of the classroom (in a bit of a 3D rhombus), packed with bits of paper and wrapped with tape. Pure genius! They were really excited and so were we - excellent teamwork by all! We gave each of the winning team members an egg to take home…..and they were thrilled!
A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to have a meditation session with a monk. At least I tried to meditate. We pulled up to a beautiful pagoda in a small village just outside of town for our 1 hour meditation lesson. Our very articulate, soft-spoken monk explained that in order to reach a peaceful, more enlightened place we must quiet our “monkey mind.” (It’s like this guy was peeking inside my brain!!).
I listened…I sat…I breathed…and then the ABBA song “Dancing Queen” started playing in my head! Seriously, Tracy…get it together. You’re in Cambodia, sitting with an actual enlightened human…quiet your brain! Nope…now my foot’s asleep…I’ll just shift a bit. How do people do this?? Okay, breathe in, breathe out….. getting quieter… Nope…back spasm. Opening one eye just to check on the others, maybe get a thought on a better position, I surveyed my neighbors. Everyone seems to be doing this. Alright, I can do this… Breathe in a little more deeply this time, slowly breathe out… let go, empty your mind. Suddenly, I’m wondering if I turned my cell phone off, and then I start imagining a cell phone ringing and hope that it would be pulled from the orange robe of the monk sitting in front of me…
And this is how I continued to “meditate” for nearly an hour. Once we finished, finally stood up, and then walked outside the pagoda, our monk pulled out his cell phone and made a call!
Thanks Gina! Love you and wish you were here with me. I’m pretty sure you were Cambodian in a previous life because the people are just like you: thoughtful, sweet, kind, caring, and genuine.. I’m so blessed to have you for my best friend (of over 30 years!). Love you…xoxo
Hi guys! It’s so nice to hear from you. Lucas - I can only say a few words, but I’m trying to learn more. Not quite sure if I could ever really get used to the humidity here, but you just know what to expect, move on, and take 3 or 4 showers a day! And I’m posting more pics now…this year has been much busier and I’ve had very little time to work on the blog so thank you (akun - thank you in Khemei - the Cambodian language) for reading it! Keep checking back. Happy summer break!
We have all been so wonderfully busy, but with little time to reflect here. It truly has been a whirlwind so far…and that’s not a bad thing. Debbie and I are working hard to give our teachers what they want and need to change the lives of the amazing children here in Cambodia. Their desire and determination are inspiring to both of us. An amazing part of the workshop this year is the questioning of what we are bringing to them. Some of the participants ask “why should I do that teacher?” and “how will that help?” This shows me that our participants are using higher level skills and looking ahead to the possibilities of adapting some of the practices we are trying to share. And we are all having fun!!
Today we talked about routines and procedures for everything…from entering and exiting the classroom to having to go to the bathroom to asking a question. One of the biggest challenges we keep hearing is that there are behavior issues - lots of talking and students not always listening (keep in mind that many of these teachers have 60 students in a class). We continue to keep a set routine in the workshop from the way we take attendance, start the day, work in groups, give signals for attention, etc..and they are starting to remind each other if they forget. I think they see it working in our environment and hopefully they will try some of our ideas in their own classrooms. The thing that I’m hoping to leave our participants with is confidence…to take a bit of what we give them and adapt it to fit the needs of their students. And then be willing to keep tweaking and changing and letting the students drive the instruction and take ownership of their classroom.
One of the highlights today was playing “Cross the River” with another workshop. It is a team building game that everyone enjoyed. The idea is to work together to figure out a way to get across the “crocodile filled river” on very limited logs (paper). And of course, our team came up with a cheer - knew those cheerleading days would come in handy at some point! “Happy, happy yes we are, happy team we’ll go far!!” They were laughing and giggling, having a great time. I wanted to do the splits…but in the skirt I was wearing I just didn’t think it would be appropriate! Another game they are loving is “Simon Says.” I’m calling it “Teacher Says” because I could never figure out who Simon was anyway. It’s hilarious and they are getting really good at it. There’s one very sweet young teacher that I want to pack up in my suitcase and bring home that is really competitive - super cute! We lecture for 15-20 minutes and then play a quick game or sing a song…great time. We had a community circle at the end of the day with the cutest “TRIBLE” I found here at the hotel (little stuffed animal) and they all shared their favorite part of the day and how they were feeling about the workshop - all positive, just thirsty for more, more, more…. :-)
In the afternoon, we took the students (who were able to attend) to the Angkor Museum. It’s truly stunning - could’ve been at the Getty or LACMA (but really better in many ways). The fact that this museum exists here is incredible and the displays dating back over a thousand years are stunning. Only 3 of our students had been to the museum before our visit…it’s expensive and simply not a priority. Tomorrow we will play a game to reflect upon our visit….
More later…thanks for stopping by…..
After teaching I had the opportunity to visit a unique place here in Siem Reap - a floating fishing village. To be honest, I was a bit anxious and apprehensive about going on this tour as I had heard so much negativity about it. It was an exploitation of the children here. It was simply put on for a tourist attraction.
Ok, to be clear, there were many tourist buses parked in the lot when we arrived to board a boat on Tonle Sap Lake. I was told that children would be jumping on board the boats with snakes - that they would then hoist upon my shoulders with hope of receiving some monetary compensation for their efforts.
Along the way one woman (really merely a girl) catapulted herself onto the boat in hopes of making a soda sale. Unfortunately for her we had all managed to grab our essentials in time to prepare for the tour.
(more later…too tired :-(/ )
Today was a great day. Debbie and I always seem to get it together just in time to actually teach our workshop! We spend so much time thinking about the best practices and pedagogy to bring to the workshop we sometimes forget to just keep it simple! We had a lot of fun today. Teaching should be fun and at times, I know I get so caught up in the minutia of trying to stick to the curriculum and get the “content” to my class, I forget that none of it is important if they’re not ready to receive it.
We don’t have all of the answers. Honestly, I don’t know if we have any of the answers, but I know that we care. So, today we talked about Maslow’s hierarchy and meeting the basic needs of students, and we talked about Prime Time Learning (explaining that after about 15 minutes they would lose their audience)…they actually got that after I droned on a bit longer than that! But, the most fun came when we played “Teacher Says” (Simon Says) and we played The Game of Pig and our students made their own game charts. There was a lot of laughing and a lot of joy in our workshop today. That’s all I want. I don’t want to over think it…I really want to keep it simple and I want our teachers to feel like they can meet any challenge. The challenges are never ending here in Cambodia, but these teachers care and truly want to make a difference…I think they will.
It was a beautiful morning in Siem Reap. We went walking early this morning along the river. On every corner that we turned there seemed to be an amazing temple. Unsure of the protocol, Debbie and I looked in at a couple, but didn’t explore further. They are all exquisite and spectacular. We decided to ask later about going inside…
A couple of the teachers in the program decided to take a bike ride out to the temples. What a fabulous idea, we both thought…and then, no…we’re feeling much too hot and lazy! We decided on a kick back morning and lunch at a pretty swanky pool (not the true Siem Reap experience), but we reasoned that over the next 9 days of teaching we would be a complete sweat puddle. We headed over to Le Meridian with one of our favorite tuk tuk drivers Vutha…so friendly (I’ll post a pic later). Although we lounged and chilled for a glorious 3 hours, we also worked on our outline and lesson plans for the workshop…a win win. ”Same same” as the bike ride. (Same same is something the Cambodian people say a lot.
As we were tuk tukking back to the Soira Moira for our TAB orientation and meeting with the translators, I realized my camera was missing! Ugh… Vutha quickly headed back to the hotel and luckily it was discovered right where I left it - under my chair!
At the TAB orientation we got reacquainted with some teachers that taught last year in Siem Reap and for Debbie, who has done this program 4 times, she found some friends from years ago. Then we all made introductions…there were so many Swedes this year! I can’t wait to get to know everyone. And they announced they were having a “Midsummer Party” on the rooftop. (Debbie and I were thrilled as we missed this last year when we went to Vietnam for the weekend in between the workshop).
Next, the translators came. We had no idea if our translators from last year, Kongkea and Lika were signed up for this program once again, and if so, were they assigned to us??? Our fingers were crossed and as the translators crowded through the doors..and…there…they…were!!! Relief and excitement washed over me because I knew we would have so much fun…again!
After a brief respite and mosquito repellent reapplication (I have been getting eaten alive), we headed into town with 5 other teachers for dinner. We ended up having a great time at The Red Piano. I had the traditional Cambodian Amok (fish with a red curry sauce) - delicious, but a little spicy for my temperamental tummy..hmmm…
An evening on the rooftop with the Swedes was a blast. More on that later…it’s off to breakfast and then a long day. The vans pick us up at 7:30am to teach from 8-12, back to the hotel for a quick lunch, and I’m sure a very cold shower, and then we have an opening ceremony at 2pm for the Florida School - a first here in Cambodia. The government has approved this school to teach a 2 part curriculum - in the mornings English, but then in the afternoon a full day of math, Science, Social Studies, etc.. in Khmer. This is a huge deal and TAB has been invited to take part in the ceremony!!
It’s 3am and I’ve been up for about an hour. I keep messing with this blog - the background color, the text size, can people respond? can I see their responses? Ugh… I am definitely going to work on taking better pictures. I can’t seem to get a decent one with my iPhone (big surprise) unless I repost one that someone has already taken (thanks btw). And so tomorrow (today) I will use the actual camera that my amazing friend Marci gave to me. Should have brought her - she’s a phenomenal photographer! Meeting tomorrow with TAB colleagues and our translators. Think I will work on our lessons for now…. or read Fifty Shades of Gray…..