January 29, 2010

On my first week at CWF

The world looks pretty good from here. Fiona (my current roommate) and I just indulged in the best brownie sundaes at Cafe Yejj. I'm feeling quite pleased with the afternoon so far.

I taught classes every day this week, and aside from my apprehension about feeling out lesson plans amidst more experienced teachers, I think the week was a success. My intuitive lesson plan about death and dying, though a bit grim, provided the students a window into how the West handles the funeral process; and in return, I got to learn about the Cambodian rituals. The best part of my plan was making the card for Delma. Students were able to use the vocabulary we learned in their messages, and they were able to tell Delma how much they appreciated her work at CWF. It was very encouraging to see how much the students cared for their teacher, and how eager they were to learn new material.

Because CWF focuses on conversational English, I am trying to figure out how best to introduce vocabulary as a part of conversation. The obvious solution is to get students speaking for as much of the class time as possible. Some students would be happy to just chat for the entire hour, but other students are less willing to speak. The challenge is getting the chatty students to focus on the new vocabulary and to encourage the quiet students to practice speaking. None of this is ground-breaking discovery, but as a fledgling teacher, it's all new to me.

CWF tests incoming students and ranks them in classes from level 1 (very beginning) to 8 (fluent). Students may also choose Advanced Communication or Advanced Discussion if they are looking to continue practicing. My classes are level 4 and 5, which puts their abilities at medium, with lots of variation among the students. Most of my level 5's are business people in accounting and finance, so their existing vocabulary is very tailored around money, banking, and work. My 4's are an endearing bunch, one older woman who works for an NGO, and three university students. The hard part about this group is figuring out concepts that will challenge them but not be too hard (my stereotype lesson was overly ambitious). Today's lesson, Driving in America, went over well. We even had a mock driving lesson and a through discussion of American laws regarding seat belts and child safety seats.

I can tell that teaching isn't going to be as easy as I thought, but I'm up for the challenge because I'm already feeling the rewards. One of my students even friended me on Facebook.