The smiling children of Grace House…oh and some Tigers & Rhinos too!

20120610-154619.jpg

With some of the lovely smiling girls in my class

This post is probably the reason that I haven’t written anything for so long if I’m honest. I just don’t know what to say. I feel I will not be able to put into words what an amazing experience I had.

So for starters ( as no one has sent me any new words at all for other ways to say …AMAZING!) here is a quick list of words…that don’t even come close….:

Happy
Honoured
Humbled ( No they don’t all begin with ‘H’ but these keep coming to me!)
Amazed…oh ok I know that’s cheating!
Surprised
Excited
Inspired
Creative
lucky

So, now that’s out of my system, I can now tell you a little about the children in my class- the Tigers & Rhinos!
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the names represent the level of English they are up to. Other classes have other names. The ages in our class were roughly 11 to 14 years old.

20120610-154705.jpg
The way it works is we have two lessons in the morning with one group of children who then mostly will go on to state school in the afternoon, followed by a group who have been in state school in the morning and then come to us in the afternoon. So basically we repeat what we did in the morning. We had up to 30 children in the morning and about 18 in the afternoon.
The Khmer teacher for the Tigers & Rhinos is Pherom and she is the sweetest person I met in Cambodia! More about her later…

On my first day I was to shadow another volunteer until they left and then I would take over the lesson planning etc. His name was Eurof. He is from Wales and yes, it took me a while to pronounce his name right but all the children had it straight off apparently…but then we forget, English is their second language, so what’s a bit of Welsh to them! Plus they could roll their ‘R’s perfectly!
Eurof is the best person a volunteer could ask for! An ex head teacher who is creative, enthusiastic, supportive, full of life and with a great sense of humour! It was so good working with him as he gave me the confidence to go with my ideas and believe in myself as a teacher. We shared some good times with some very creative lesson plans from reading stories with animal sound effects to making boats and setting them off to sail on our very own paddling pool!
He always used to thank the children for their ‘Smiles’ and it truly is the thing I will never forget! ( me and all the other volunteers I’m sure but more about them later too!)

20120610-155245.jpg

After my first day i remember having face ache from smiling so much!

I can’t name names but lets just say in our class we had a lot of the typical stereotypes…..the cheeky boys, the clever girls, the quiet reserved shy type.

But, I hate to say its a stereotype but I feel that one type was missing from my classroom in Cambodia -the trouble causer. This just doesn’t happen. The children help each other all the time. They share and they are interested. They are even interested or at least act interested even if they have covered a topic before.
They are soooo respectful. For example; if they were late arriving to the class ( sometimes they could be if they had been looking after siblings or even helping the family by working) they would come right up to you at the front of the class with their little hands put together in the prayer position, bow and say ‘ sorrrry Teacherrrrr’ it just used to make my heart melt and I could feel myself well up for an instant. I would clear my throat and say thank you and they would run and find a space.

The first thing they would do is say ‘good morning’ to us.And boy…did they say it lound and proud…? Wow yes! It went like this but imagine small cute vocies…

“Good morning Teacherrr” they would say this sooo loud…
“Good morning class, how are you today?”
” I’m okay thanks how about youuu?” and then I would try and say something different every day (again learnt from Eurof!) like..
” I’m extremely happy to be here with all of you today thank you!” or ” I’m so very hot today as the temperature is 38 degrees…I’m melting!”
It would normally be something that either made them laugh or just stare at me like I’m mad…either way always a pleasant start to every day!

At the beginning of the class I would put a sentence up on the board and try to put a few words in that were new for them and related to the topic. They would listen to me and repeat together and then in a group. This is the way I’m led to believe the children are taught in the khmer state schools. After i got used to it, It was a pleasure for me. They had such enthusiasm, they couldn’t wait to read it out individually and if anyone got stuck they would all join in and help or just start reading for their friend…you might call this cheating but it was so cute to witness the way they all helped each other. Sometimes we would throw in a tricky word and still they would try. No embarrassment in front of fellow class mates, they are all there to learn!

20120610-154725.jpg

The children didn’t have a uniform for Grace House. They could barely afford to buy one for state school. So they could wear whatever they liked to school. One thing I noticed really early on in my trip is that people in Asia are born into the heat and don’t seem to get as hot as us westerners. This might sound obvious but when you are literally dripping in sweat, walking around the classroom and half of the children are wearing sweaters…you really feel the difference!

20120610-154942.jpg
They wore all sorts of clothes, as children do. The thing they all love in Cambodia and many south east Asian countries I’ve now discovered… Is ‘Angry Birds’ and most of them don’t even know what the game is! They just love them! So I would see angry bird shoes, angry bird tshirts, shorts etc…a lot.
However, the most unusual outfit regularly worn by the children was…pyjamas! Now, no scouse jokes here folks…this was happening way before I went there, it was not invented by scousers who walk around supermarkets wearing their slippers and pyjamas way over in the uk! And of course…this is something I personally have never done…
The children like them. I don’t know if they wear them because they have nothing else or because they’re cheap or just because they like them and they are just clothes to put on? But the children weren’t afraid of colour either, boys too. Regularly there would be a few boys with pink Minnie mouse tshirts on or something similar, playing football with the lads and it’s not even noted at something that is different. It was so great to witness. Equality. No arguing about who is and who isn’t wearing labels, no looking down on each other and it seemed…no envy. I realise these are big statements and I wasn’t even there for that long but still, this is what I witnessed in this lovely community.

20120610-155316.jpg

Yes the boys play football ( even though they have no boots and play barefoot) and the girls chatter together…but when it was time to make an origami heart…they all did so gladly.

Very quickly I realised that the more these children have a chance to express their personalities the better. So I was a big fan of interactive and activity based lessons, giving time for discussion, assisting them with thier conversational skills, teamwork and getting them to make their own individual descisions too.

There are so many things I could say if I had more words ( ah hum) but for now I’ll just say it was FUN…a lot of FUN!

 

 

20120610-154827.jpg

 

20120610-154958.jpg

20120610-155154.jpg