It was a long, hard day yesterday, but so rewarding to welcome our continuing and new students to the 2011-12 school year. The day was incredibly busy, especially for Shally since he had to defend his university thesis in morning! He passed it with flying colors, but there was no time for celebration since we both had to rush off to take care of last minute errands before our first class at 3 o’clock. As usual, I was never able to get everything completed on my never-ending list. There are times when I can have just one single thing on my list, but I can’t even get that done!
In addition to attending Shally’s thesis defense, most of my morning was spent with my printer. I got an early start to get most of our curriculum and daily lesson schedules printed before 8 o’clock – just in case the power was cut. It has a tendency to be cut around 8 o’clock in my neighborhood. However, luck was on my side, and I managed to get all the curriculum manuals printed, as well as the Library Program manual. I also made up our “Getting to Know You” introductions activity for the first-day of class.
I went into BEA about an hour before our first class at 3 o’clock to finish labeling the bookshelves with 15 different genre labels. In most cases, we can get the majority of BEA’s supplies in Siem Reap, but things like those labels on bookshelves in libraries cannot be found anywhere here. As usual, I improvised with key rings. I simply cut of the metal key ring and was left with the plastic “label” that had a paper insert. It was actually the perfect fit for the library shelves. We’ve processed all of our books and have them entered in a database now, and students will be able to start borrowing books from this week. Srey Net, BEA’s librarian, will go through just a bit more training later on today on how to sign-out books to students and how to deal with problems, such as lost or damaged books.
First Day of Classes: Getting to Know You
Once 3:00pm rolled around, it was non-stop for both Shally and I until our last class finished at 7:00pm. We now have four courses this year, Basic, two Pre-Intermediate, and Intermediate. For the first part of each lesson, I ran a “Getting to Know You” activity while Shally took over the last half, which he spent explaining BEA’s policy and course guidelines.
For the “Getting to Know You” activity, it was a straightforward introductions activity. Each student received a handout with six blocks. For each one of these blocks, students had to complete the missing information through interviewing six other students. It was a perfect activity because it could be used for different levels. Basic students could complete it because of the simple question-answer format while pre-intermediate and intermediate could expand the activity by asking their own questions. Once students had completed their interviews, Shally called on volunteers to introduce a student they had talked to during the activity. This activity was especially useful for our Basic course since ALL of the students are new to BEA. They got the chance to experience our teaching methods, such as group work and volunteer feedback sessions.
For those interested teachers, the “Getting to Know You” activity has been uploaded at the end of today’s blog comment. It’s a Word document, so you can change it to suit your own students.
First day of Classes: Course Guidelines
For the last half of each lesson, Shally spent the time going through BEA’s policies and the course guidelines. This is one of the most important parts of our orientation week, especially for our new students. This was done in Khmer to make sure that students had no misunderstandings about BEA’s policies and their course. For many new students, BEA’s policies may seem strict, but as the semester goes on, they realize why we have them. In order for students to improve quickly, they have to attend lessons every day from Monday to Friday, and lateness is not tolerated. When students are late, it has a big effect on the learning of our other students. The late student interrupts them in the middle of an activity, and the group has to stop to help them catch up with what they’ve missed during the lesson. Shally and I promise to always be on time, so we have our students make the same promise.
Most students are very surprised at our building since it is similar to what you would find in a developed country, but of course, minus the dust and geckos. We installed an air conditioner in our classroom last March, and such a classroom is a first for all of our students. One of the reasons why students are able to improve is because they are in a comfortable environment. We no longer have to try to keep them awake in 40C heat!
In addition, students are shocked that all of their textbooks, notebooks and writing supplies are free. Similar to last year, students asked Shally during question time…”well, what do you want from us?” At BEA, the answer is quite simple…”just your hard work”.
For those of you who are interested in our course guidelines, I’ve uploaded the guidelines for this year’s Intermediate course at the end of today’s blog posting.
The Rest of the Week
We had a great start to the new school year on our first day of classes. The students will be kept quite busy for the rest of the week with different orientation activities. On Tuesday, we’ll introduce our Library Graded Reader Program to our students. Graded readers are books of various genres that are specially written for learners of English as a foreign language. They have simplified vocabulary and grammar so that language learners can easily understand the story.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll have the students complete a “Library Profile Poster”. They will design a small poster with their photos that will be put in the library. In this way, students feel that they are a part of BEA and it is also an easy way for guests to “meet” our students.
In Friday’s class for the Intermediate and Pre-Intermediate courses, we’ll go through the guidelines for their Cambodian-Japanese Letter Writing Exchange Program. For this program, BEA students will be paired with 53 of my Japanese students at Aoyama Gakuin University, and they’ll exchange 3-4 themed-letters during the semester. More about this program in Friday’s blog…
The Bayon English Academy (BEA) is an NGO school that provides underprivileged youth with quality English language education in a safe, clean environment in Siem Reap, Cambodia.