The Monsters

6 09 2012

In the late morning, several times a week, I hear giggles down the street. “Oh no, it’s time!” I think, as the giggles come closer and closer. The children responsible for those giggles ride through our front gate and park their bikes under our house. “Cher, cher,” they yell, using the common abbreviation for teacher. “It’s eleven o’clock, cher.” I don’t even have to check a clock to know it isn’t eleven. If I’m lucky, it’s 10:30, but usually it’s earlier. I’ve realized by now that our 11:00 start time gets pushed back each time we meet.

The kids leave their shoes at the bottom of the staircase and hustle upstairs, by this time requesting their books. Although this is supposed to be an English class, we begin most days by coloring in our health-based coloring books that a group of previous Peace Corps Volunteers put together. The older kids like to read the health messages written in Khmer to the rest of the group, while the younger kids try to figure out how to stay within the lines. I use this time to talk to the kids about their days, reinforce positive health messages, and slowly transition into English. “What color is this,” I’ll ask, pointing to a marker that one kid is using. “YELLOW,” they’ll all reply in English, proud of themselves for remembering. “What is this,” I ask, holding up the page on dental hygiene. “TOOTHBRUSH,” they’ll scream.

The next hour or so, I desperately try to keep the group’s attention while we sit on the porch and study. With an average of ten students, ranging from 4 years old to 10, it can be difficult to find lessons that they all enjoy and can follow. Three or four of the younger students have trouble writing so I use the older kids to help teach. We also sing songs and play games to keep things interesting, but it’s difficult to predict how the day will go. On the days that the lessons work well and everyone is engaged, teaching “the monsters,” as they’re affectionately called in our house, is one of my favorite activities. On the days that the kids come in riled up or refusing to participate, it’s more difficult.

At the end of the lesson, I always feed them a healthy snack. First, I teach them the word in English. “Peanuts,” I’ll say. Or “popcorn,” “apples,” or “bananas.” Then, in unison, all of the kids start clapping and pleading, “Leeing, dai, cher??” That means: Can we wash our hands, teacher? I know it’s the snack they’re excited for, but I consider it a small victory that they’re all cheering and clapping when they ask. If nothing else, I’ve gotten them to associate washing hands with yummy foods.

To end class, we all wash our hands in the standard basins and sit down to enjoy our snack. Then, all at once, after they’ve eaten every last piece of food, they mount their bikes again and disappear, always asking, “Will we learn again tomorrow, cher?”

For more pictures of my friendly monsters, look here.

Katie

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3 responses

6 09 2012
Holly

Katie this in inspires me in so many ways. Also as I present on GAP later this month a piece of this story is going to be part of my presentation. I get to send one of my “people” around the globe to teach! Thanks for being an inspiration!

10 11 2012
The End of the Monsters « TimKat's Travels

[…] week, I had my last class with the so-called monsters. To celebrate, we played games, I gave away prizes, and we gorged ourselves on snacks. It was the […]

31 12 2012
Celebrating the Highlights of 2012 « TimKat's Travels

[…] and lead a training that would kick off a childhood nutrition program, I started teaching “the monsters” and I got to share some of what I learned with the new volunteers at their […]

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