Monday, February 22, 2010

The First Day of the Week

Today was slightly intense... and hot.

This morning, I took over Karen's beginner class for her as she's traveling. The first hour I sat in on the English class and helped out the Khmer teacher who spent the hour teaching the kids about the alphabet, again. One full hour repeating over and over questions about "What letter comes after B?," "What letter comes before G?," "What letter comes before K?" The kids answered these one by one until they could no longer possibly make a mistake. I was kind of torn between wondering if the kids really needed to learn this type of lesson or if they could have avoided it entirely, considering that on the wall there is a huge chart labeling everything you could possibly need to know about the ABC's. It's sort of unclear how these lessons should be crafted and what they really need to know to get by. Should they be learning strict grammar? Punctuation? Pronunciation? Vocabulary? Or should they be learning to communicate on a basic level, such as "Hello how are you? Where do you come from? What do you do?" type of stuff. I'm undecided about how they should learn, and it seems like every volunteer or teacher has a different method. Plus, the kids tend to not pay much attention and forget it all the following day anyway. Repetition seems to be the answer, whatever the lesson actually is.

During workshop hour, two Australian women dropped in to help out this week and made little cars running off balloon engines with the kids, who seemed very excited about them. In the meantime, I gave a lesson on photography to the older kids who I've been working with for the puppet show. It was quite a beneficial lesson for them this time, because we got to analyze each one's images and shooting preferences. We got to focus in on what their unique photographic style is, which I'm hoping will really help them narrow down for tomorrow's shoot. One kid loved to take pictures of kids' silly faces that we then put into black and white. The only girl in the class, Sreyline, likes to do natural close-up portraits of people who are smiling or laughing. Another smaller kid, Rattana, likes still life and is much more creative and abstract with his shots. It's very interesting to see the array of pictures these children all took in the same locations. I'm hoping that having discussed their current work with them will help them in their future work. We also took a look at some travel photos and portraits of other great photographers, such as Steve McCurry, to give them more inspiration and show them what's actually possible to shoot in their immediate environment. They loved going through the photography, I think it definitely inspired a few of them. One kid told me the other day that he wanted to be a photographer like me. It was really sweet - I would be honored if he actually did become a photographer one day - the likes are scarce around here.

The third hour, I discussed pronunciation with the smaller kids, mainly focusing on the difference between "CH" and "SH" sounds. We read a text that I wrote, "The Animal's First Storm," that I'm pretty sure they didn't understand much of, but were pleasant about learning anyway. My favorite little kid in the class is this little bitty bald girl who I first thought was a boy: Sompeas, who has recently lost her hair to a razor due to excessive lice issues. She is super adorable and shy and is always staring at me for recognition. She totally melts my heart.

I biked to the Peace Café for lunch to get a little rest in their big round cozy chairs under the fan in the middle of the pretty garden and had a super healthy fruit juice I had been craving since New York. On the way there, I got lost. And more lost. And then found! I had decided to take a different route, hoping that my iffy sense of direction would lay off this time, but it didn't and I ended up biking through a little village within a village, in and out of dirt roads that didn't seem to take me anywhere that I recognized. Thank god, after winding around for another 10 minutes, all of a sudden I stopped at the corner where the loud pop music is always coming from, just down the block from Globalteer. On the way home earlier, biking down the chaotic street from school having just let out, I passed that same corner again, and this time to the tune of a Gloria Estefan classic... It was definitely out of context and made me think about my mom who people used to say looked like her in the 80's.

In the afternoon, the same lessons were repeated, but with different classes. The second group of beginners were extremely rowdy and could not sit still or focus for the life of them. I was losing a little patience and had to whip out my mean authoritative personality to get them to 'chillax'. That didn't happen at all and I think the pronunciation lesson I had planned was slightly too advanced for them as well, which I hadn't realized. Now I know - repetition, Erica, repetition. "Chair/share," "This/Sis," done.

At the end of the day, I was rewarded with the kid's singing Queen's "bicycle" song, which was written on a large piece of paper on the wall for some reason. I have no clue how that actually got there or who decided to slip in some classic American rock in this very antithetic culture, but hearing the kids recite "Bicycle, bicycle, I want to ride my bicycle" in a strict monotonous manner made me totally chuckle inside. All I could think about was the actual melody to that song - which is already pretty funny to begin with - and wanting to sing or play it for them because they of course have actually no idea what the hell that song is. Wasn't that song about being high? Or maybe it was just written when they were was high? Maybe I'll bring in my iPod tomorrow...

Tonight, one of the volunteers, Gavina, is celebrating her departure tomorrow to Australia. It shall be a fun evening, I'm assuming.

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