I sing. I dance. I write. I point. I lift. I scream at the top of my lungs. Just a regular day teaching English to a kindergarten class of over 100.
I don’t really know how to describe what it’s like to try to teach English to 100 kindergartners because I think all of you can probably imagine what it would be like–crazy. At any given moment, there’s at least one kid sleeping, at least five kids playing cards, probably around 15 kids drawing, 10 kids talking to/hitting/drawing on each other and the rest of them look up now and then.
I generally have to yell at full volume to be heard over the roar of all the kids, usually to the point where my voice is cracking. We say the alphabet, we learn the days of the week, we learn the names of clothing, we sing songs and we play games.
While it’s certainly fun, it’s also challenging and frustrating. It’s incredible to see how quickly some kids pick up on things and see those who can already read a little bit–it makes me proud! I love seeing how much their little faces light up when they see me write “10/10” on their homework and when I bring a new stamp or sticker to put on it.
It’s absolutely a challenge to try to keep the class engaged and learning all the time. It’s challenging for any kid to pay attention for a whole hour at a time and even more so when there are over 100 kids all playing, yelling and doing things that are way more exciting than me yelling numbers at them.
The worst part is the frustration I feel when some kids just don’t seem to understand. If they do their homework very incorrectly, despite having it explained in Khmer, it’s tough to deal with. On one notable occasion, my co-volunteer and I had written out the numbers 90 to 100 in word form (ninety, ninety-one, ninety-two…) to try to really beat the names of the numbers into their heads. After that it’s “homework” time where they’re supposed to copy what we write on the board into their notebooks and show a teacher for grading. I asked a few of the kids who came to me “What is this?” and pointed to one of the words to evaluate how much they remembered. A few kids knew almost all the numbers even though they don’t even know how to sound out words yet. A lot of them just stared at me blankly or shook their heads. This was so heartbreaking or me–not because I felt they weren’t learning well enough or fast enough but because I felt like I was failing them. This continues to be a huge challenge for me but I try to remember that some of these kids are only three years old and their malleable little brains will learn with time.
Oh, it’s also a little annoying when kids stop me in the hall to ask if I’m a boy. I know it’s because, in Cambodia, boys have short hair and girls have long hair–no exceptions. I usually reply “No, I’m a girl” when I really want to yell “NO! I’M FASHION!”
So, overall, we have fun. They love to sing “Old MacDonald”, play games and the number 100. On Fridays, we show them Disney movies or go play on “The Mountain”, which is just a big hill where the goats sometimes wander. They have a weird fascination with using sticks to poke the leaves off the one tree on the hill but can be easily wrangled in–Cambodian five year olds are no match for my 5″ 3′ frame!!
Until next time, dear Internets,