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Lucie, an other volunteer from Switzerland and I decided to meet with CERV-Philippines this week to discuss our ideas about our projects. Both of us weren’t feeling challenged enough, and felt a little strange in some of the classes we were teaching.

A boy colouring for the first time

An example: I show up to teach, and there is the regular Filipino teacher there. I’ve arranged to teach for an hour an a half, so I begin teaching, but then the Filipino teacher interrupts me after 10 minutes and says, “Ma’am Jen, it’s okay. You can sit down now.” A little taken aback with nothing to say, I sit down, and watch the class continue with the teacher teaching for 45 minutes. She then lets me teach the kids a few songs for 20 minutes, and then my time is up. The days continue like this, and I ask the teacher if there is anything wrong with my teaching, how I can improve, etc. But she simply says, no, everything is fine, I want the children to be exposed to something different. When I finally brought it up a little more straightforwardly, “I’d like to teach a little longer than 30 minutes,” she says, “Ma’am Jen, I am the teacher and I am ashamed to have you teach the whole time.”

Ashamed? This is the last thing I want for the teacher to feel. I have come to help out and share my ideas for these kids. But when I think about it, I understand. I imagine it can be difficult and very weird to have a foreigner come and teach your class for free. Am I intimidating? Maybe. But I hope not. I think the teacher feels like a “visitor” should not be working. So she is trying to show kindness by giving me a break, and I end up feeling under-appreciated. Of course I can’t express my feelings to her because she’ll feel even worse. Frustrating, this cultural difference.

The teachers here are tired because their classes are huge and there’s 1 old textbook to every 3-5 students, which makes the teachers have to reproduce everything in the textbook onto the blackboard. After years and years of this, the teachers seem to have gotten a bit stuck in their ways of teaching. A lot of it involves memorizing and reciting, reciting, reciting. And a bit of spoon-feeding. I’m a bit of a different teacher. I walk all over the room, ask the kids tons of questions, I’m a little loud, and often silly. I make a fool of myself to keep these kids’ attention. I’m trying to get them to speak out. But what I’m finding, is most of these kids don’t really understand what is going on because of the way all their classes run by memorizing and reciting, reciting, reciting. Change is good. But sometimes it is difficult to initiate change when things have always been done a certain way.

So, I’ve talked with CERV to find a way to change some things. We’ve come up with some new ideas. First, I’m cutting out a bit on teaching other teacher’s classes, because really, it’s not much help. Now, I’m going to start tutorials so I can get back to the basics with the kids who really have no idea what’s going on in class. I’ll be in complete charge of the class. Second, Lucie and I have gotten the idea to make visual aids for the classrooms, like posters, charts, flashcards, teaching tools, etc. It’s a good idea because the teachers will be able to use them, and hopefully they can help the kids learn, and be more interested in the topic, when there’s a picture or diagram or poster to look at. Third, I’m going to put together a song book of English kids songs. I have a CD with me with tons of kids songs, so I’m going to make it very easy for the school to teach these kids the songs after I’m gone. Music is important for every human being.

Hopefully this helps in a more meaningful way. We’ll see.

Other than this, this week has been a little boring. I’ve been sick with a strange gassy, stomach flu and have had to be in bed for a few days. Plus its been raining. But as of yesterday, the weather seems to have miraculously cleared up, and now I’m better, so I’m hanging in Romblon town and spending WAY too much time on the internet! I’ve managed to post photos and put together a photo album on flickr: Check it out!

So things are on the upswing, hopefully they’ll continue that way!

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