By Jamila Xiong: Former BABSEACLE Intern from La Trobe University, Australia
Coming back home to Australia, I cannot help but think back. My time with BABSEACLE saw me assisting with the 4th Trio for Justice, coordinating the 2012 Magazine and involved with CLE teachings at the University of Phayao. Among these unforgettable and most valued experiences, I fulfilled some community service hours by initiating weekend English lessons at Wat Sai Moon (Myanmar). And what an unbelievable experience it was. Community service it may be but it also presented me the opportunity to get to know and embrace the Burmese culture.
Initially I was told that the temple wanted English lessons for the children and so it came as a surprise when I was told that adults were interested in taking classes as well. It made me even happier: I was contributing to the community, making potential changes to someone’s life, learning more with each lesson taught and hence, fulfilling personal goals. What was there not to like?
Being able to teach both adults and children in the one day was challenging but definitely a privilege. Dang, a BABSEACLE staff member, played a significant role as translator and other interns and volunteers also assisted with teaching. I recall sitting down with Dang as we prepared the week’s lesson plan, pondering over which games were best to incorporate into the children’s lesson to ensure they remained focused and active. As the children varied in age, the games could not be too difficult so as to leave the younger ones struggling or too simple to the extent that the older children would become bored.
On the other hand, teaching the adults required more attention to detail as they sought not only an increased vocabulary but also correct conversational English. For these lessons, I had to be ready for questions and ready to improvise and alter the lesson as they may express on the day an area of interest they would like to cover. What I loved most were their honest ‘good morning teacher’ and ‘thank you teacher’ at the beginning and end of each lesson. Although it differed from the educational environment back home, it was a cultural bond with meaning.
Teaching at Wat Sai Moon was an experience like no other. Just as they are grateful to me, I am grateful to them. Through these lessons, I was able to gain a better understanding of working alongside a translator. I came to be more wary of the fact that body language is vital, that short sentences were better for ease of translation and that briefing each other about the lesson’s content was never a waste of time.