Experiences of an old volunteer at Phaung Daw Oo

“Teacher! Teacher !” Grade 5 Students                                                   Foto: Elke Nissen

မဂၤလာပါ။ Hello!

In February / March 2016, I travelled Myanmar as a tourist on a 3-week-roundtrip. We went to all the beautiful, interesting and famous places which you “must” see. We spent three days in and around Mandalay – and I took a shine to this place Mandalay.

Back in Germany, I decided rather quickly to go back to Mandalay, but in a different way. I am a teacher, retired since February 2016, but once a teacher, always a teacher. So I applied to the Förderverein for volunteer at Phaung Daw Oo. And they said yes.

For two months, from October to shortly before Christmas, I was a small part of this huge school in Mandalay. It was such a great, thrilling, enriching, demanding experience which I will never forget.

My work at PDO consisted of integrating the English language into lessons in a way we foreigners from Europe learn and teach English. The NTTC is based – among other things – on the principle of using English in all subjects. That’s why foreigners may be very helpful in all subjects and there in various functions .

I accompanied a young Myanmar teacher during her lessons and offered her my advice for language tuition. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time for this work because my young colleague had to resume and finish her teacher training at university.

In two fifth grade classes, I took over the English lessons from my colleague. About these delightful, difficult, funny, frustrating, enriching and regrettably temporary experiences during these monolingual lessons where it was hard to mutually understand our English I could write a books, in fact several tomes.

In the afternoon, there is further education in English for primary school teachers of PDO (TEAMS), and I was lucky to be able to take over one of these groups. The young colleagues are very well-versed in grammar and in vocabulary, but they lack language experience, especially pronunciation practice. That’s why we emphasized listening and speaking exercises with various incentives and methods, especially those they might use in their primary classes. We practiced very seriously – as long as we didn’t bubble over with laughter.

Lessons in tourism class take place early in the evening. They are organized in packages, and one English package was given to me. I would have liked to have some more preparation time for this work but it was interesting and rewarding anyway. As a classical tourist, I had just travelled the country, so I was perfectly able to place real-life aspects into the conversation exercises. For example, we discussed and evaluated the relevance of the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp close to Kalaw which I paid a visit to in February. This project is financed by tourists. Furthermore, we highlighted the situation at the touristic hotspot Inle Lake by controversial texts and in a heated debate. We foreigners acted as “guinea pigs”, as virtual tourists for this group of future tourist guides on a tour to Monywa, Hpo Wibn Taung, Mohnyin Than Buddhay, and Lay Kyub Sat Kyar. Our students turned out to be real experts already! Thank you all!

Tour to Hpo Win Taung: Tourism class student explains experetly
Tour to Hpo Win Taung: Tourism class student explains experetly

How can I resume what the benefits of these two months in Mandalay were and are? For me, I gained a lot by these two months, in very many respects. For the school, for the students, they sure gained a little by my work, but not enough: Time was too short to really and profoundly understand what the various courses and programs at PDO aim at, how they work and what they achieve, what the teachers accomplish and what foreign volunteers and experts can contribute. More time, more insight, more exchange, more cooperation, more coordination.

I’d like to thank the Förderverein for the chance to work at PDO and my PDO colleagues for their help in many ways. As I said before: It was an unforgettable, in many respects enriching experience, producing a lot of new, future-oriented pedagogic ideas for this very special school PDO.

သြာေတာ့မယ္။. Good bye. Auf Wiedersehen.