Over the last few weeks, significant improvements have been put into place at our learning center. Let me say as a short introduction on how important it is to focus on sustainable improvements, which will stay once I will return to Switzerland. One of the best ways that I have identified is to coach local staff. For this, you need to build friend- and good working relationship which takes time but the rewards are worth it!
One of the great successes are improved teaching methodologies. By preparing detailed lessons plans which focus much more on student activities rather than traditional teacher-centred methodologies, students became more active and enthusiastic. The students particularly like small competitions and teamwork. Encouraging them to speak in front of everyone and not being afraid of making mistakes is key to success. A lesson I have learned already after four months is to improve what is already in place rather than introducing radically new stuff. The use of tablets also helps to introduce modern technologies.
Concerning the IT offerings of the center we have successfully installed a new cyber café software on the same model as the one Alex and Ruby have installed. It allows a better monitoring of the IT-income and a centralized control over all computers in the IT room. Moreover, it offers improved security. Following a debate on IT security during the bi-annual staff workshop in Siem Reap (link to article about the workshop), the IT room has been equipped with brand new protection software for internet and computer security. Since this seems to be a concern for users as well as for the community as a whole, we will keep putting that aspect forward when advertising for our IT-room.
In case you haven’t already seen it, the “Bridge to the Future” song has been added in the collection of videos from our learning centres! We recorded it again with music in the background and you will see it very soon. Other improvements include rearranging all the audio files in the tablets and creating new teaching activities for the smaller children.
One of the very important events of the last few weeks was the pilot impact assessment. Impact assessment means that we want to measure the impact the BOOKBRIDGE learning centers are having in the community. Drawing a picture of the community, debating positive and negative impact types, as well as discussing new ideas of addressing certain challenges were on the agenda. A crucial aspect to my mind is the interaction with the community. The occasions of doing this are not very numerous, that’s why these occasions are a good opportunity. Parents, teachers and students joined the assessment in the library!
During that weekend, we were visited by Constantin, the new fellow from Takeo learning center. I showed him the initiatives, the successes and the challenges here in Tonloab. It was very helpful and nice to share my experience. Connecting with other fellows not only via skype but also on the ground is crucial. I also had the opportunity to co-teach a few classes. The students asked a lot of questions to Constantin and it was wonderful to see their progress since I first got here in August, not only in English but also with their self-confidence in speaking it!
So what are the next steps? I will continue co-teaching and find out new innovative exercises to try out with the teachers. I will help Vannak and the learning center to formulate and implement guidelines for children safety and first aid. My focus will also be to do more marketing for the IT-room by focussing on the secure and educational aspect of it.
It is such a pleasure working here and I am still amazed about the enthusiasm and perseverance of the learning center staff. I know already that I am going to miss them when I’ll go back to Switzerland!