My Experience Of Teaching At A Burmese Refugee School

The experience has left me humbled, warm and fuzzy.

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I was on my phone as per usual reading the news and alternately switching from social medias devouring borderline useless information, when a message flag dropped and read “Kish, would you like to volunteer to teach?”

I didn’t think much of it and I was brain slow for that day and said yes. The hours passed by and the more I thought about my ‘yes’, the more I panicked. At the same time, I was also intrigued and excited. I am a lecturer and I love teaching (I am not saying this because I am in the profession but I genuinely do LOVE my job!), but this was a whole new ball game.

First of all, the age group I would be interacting with. Young. I have only taught students 18 to 36 years of age. I would imagine 6 to 12 year olds would be challenging on a whole different level. Would they need naps? What are their energy levels?All these questions ran through my head and I was technically clueless.

Secondly, language issues. How much information can I relay if language becomes an obstacle? Students are smart, but because of language barriers, information is watered down to accommodate to the subject.

Third, how much energy did I have to spare to work a full day? I know this seems trivial, but it is a fact that school teachers have crazy amounts of energy to match the kids.

Let me tell you, my worries were for nothing.

My first class was with the older students. My friend, Ling, took charge like a natural and her confidence fueled mine. She handed the authoritative imaginary mic to me to address the students to explain the activity that was to take place that day and that sort of cemented my stance for the whole day to come. I introduced myself as “Kish” and heard a chorus of “Oooooo, Kiss”, and a series of flying kisses headed my way.

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Guess what? WE HAD IMMENSE FUN! When we came up against a wall of language barrier, we had markers to draw and our crude sign languages to break that barrier down which amassed to giggles and laughter from both sides with healthy amount of confusion.

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The younger students were very interesting to observe. I felt that we were in a real life “Simon Says” scenario. The exercise we did was to draw and design your own monster and create a biodata. I drew an outline of the monster in a shape of a peanut, and they would fill in the physical details of the monster within the peanut. I then outlined a rectangle outside the peanut shape to indicate the piece of paper and motioned for them to copy the peanut shape. Walking around when the exercise started, ALL of them had drawn the rectangle within the piece of paper along with the peanut. I could not stop myself from laughing silently every time I walked passed the kids drawings. They took it so literally!

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All in all, it was an honor and an amazing experience to be invited to teach at the Lautu Refugee School. They are just like us. Albeit more grateful with what little they have and thirsty for knowledge and to learn. The experience has left me humbled, warm and fuzzy.

 

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