Some early impressions
Throughout the next days after our arrival, our schedule was packed. First, we visited all three schools supported by the Angel for Children foundation, namely Ban Sikeud primary, Ban Phang Heng primary, and Ban Phang Heng secondary school, where we were introduced to the teachers and the principals. We then unpacked all the English material (40 kg!) that we had brought and installed a new English teaching library and then set to work printing and laminating flashcards.
Then, in the following week, we sat in several classes to get some impressions of English lessons and teaching methods in Laos. Adapting to our new environment was also a key point on the agenda: Our bodies were still struggling with getting accustomed to 34°C. In the late afternoons, we continued arranging all the teaching materials, many of which had been generously donated by publishers, and got all set up in the room for the teaching staff. Gerlinde Engel was so kind as to show us around. For example, she showed us the close-by sewing company “Trio” that she had founded and which offers working conditions that are rare in Laos. The “Trio” dining-hall is where we enjoy our daily lunch: soup, vegetables, different kinds of Láab, curries, grilled meat, lots of rice, and fruits like watermelon, papaya, mango, and dragon fruit. Absolutely delicious!
At the same time, we gave our best to figure out a good schedule for teaching English. As of now, we have established four ways of teaching. First of all, there is the daily teacher training, which is English lessons for Lao teachers (28! of them in total). Second, we observe English lessons of our Lao cooperation teachers at all three schools and offer them methodological and didactic support. At the same time, we partly model-teach their lessons ourselves. Third, the three primary school teachers, Franziska, Laura, and Tobias, work with pre-schoolers. As there is no pre-school English book, we are more free to use our own methodology with this group, so we use “English for Mopsy and me” (an English programme for pre-schoolers) and English picture books. Finally, after the regular lessons end at 3 p.m., we offer daily activities like singing, dancing, and TPR-games (“Total Physical Response”) to establish a playful and positive environment for learning English.
On our third afternoon in Laos, we already started teaching English during activity time at Ban Sikeud primary school and tried the “Hokey Pokey”, an English action song. It was a great success: the children were very curios about the new teachers from Germany and all the things we have to offer and we quickly had a huge crowd singing and dancing with us!
We also attended the daily school routines like physical morning exercises, the brushing of teeth, and the “flag ceremony” held on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. They hoist up the Lao flag, salute to it and good students are praised. In all aspects, the schools supported by Angels for Children foundation can truly function as (future) role models for other Lao schools, which is the ultimate purpose of our project.
At the end of our first week in Laos, we invited the English teachers to our first “Singlish” workshop. Singlish is the combination of singing and English, and a fun and fruitful technique in teaching English. This workshop was a great opportunity to meet the English teachers, to get to know them better, and to bond. Once more, we realized how kind and happy our Lao colleagues at Ban Sikeud primary, Ban Phang Heng primary and secondary school are. Their enthusiasm is truly amazing. Everyone is highly motivated and looking forward to this new cooperation.
On the same day, the chairman of the foundation, Christian Engel, his entire family and Johannes Zeck, the project leader, arrived. They caught some glimpses of the workshop and seemed to like what they witnessed. In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant where we had the opportunity to get to know each other and have good conversation. We discussed and organized the next steps that we hope will make the cooperation between Angels for Children and the University of Education Karlsruhe a great success.
Text and photos by T. Mayer