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A New Year Greeting

Wishing you all a very happy, peaceful and prosperous 2013

This year TEFL.com is supporting English Alive Academy, a school for the poor in Nazareth, Ethiopia. Our sponsorship includes the cost of a teacher for a year as well as a contribution to the school's Dream Room Fund which will refurbish and equip an existing classroom, in desperate need of repair, into a 'dream room' for the class and its teacher.

In a country where 77.8 % of the population live below the poverty line, there is an enormous need for a high quality, subsidised education which enables all pupils to reach their own potential, regardless of ability. All of the pupils' families live on less than 2 dollars a day. 

You can learn more about the school at www.englishaliveacademy.org.

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SKILLING UP FOR MANAGEMENT

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is no stranger to industry and commerce, indeed it is the norm for ensuring that institutional goals are met through staff training. This model is now being utilised more and more in the field of education, including ELT.

At its best CPD is a true marriage of negotiated and agreed goals which equally serve the institution's and individual's best professional interests. At its worst, the interests of one of the partnership are not, or are only partially, served. For this reason we are urged to take control of our own CPD. To continue to strive for the 'ideal marriage' as this should enhance and better facilitate our own development. Failing that, we should keep our own goals very much on track towards their ultimate and timely achievement. However, it is one thing to know where you want to go. It is another to know the most efficient way to get there.

BEP Mobile Teaching Unit, Thailand: World Education Training

Every year BEP trainers help World Education with their biannual week long training for English teachers. So, we put on our thinking caps a month ago on what we could usefully offer. After a useful meeting at World Education, the topics were:

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BEP Mobile Teaching Unit, Thailand: Hands On Training @ 42km School

42km is named that as such as it is 42km from Mae Sot, is a boarding school and is fairly close to the Burma border. It is not one of our regular schools but they asked for a day's training, so the teacher/trainers went down at the week-end and spent the day with them...

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Caroline's Blog: If you're foreign, you're in the photo..

I had the usual friendly welcome from the head and waited to go to the first grade 1 class. It wasn't to be. The teacher was at TBBC for something connected to the rations in camp. Not to worry I would go and see the other grade 1 teacher; not to be either. This new teacher, who had just arrived before the break, had apparently disappeared. I couldn't ascertain the exact nature of this disappearance as I don't think the head teacher knew himself. It looked as if the original grade 1 teacher, who couldn't speak English, was taking both grade 1 classes together. When I say 'taking' I should have said keeping them in the class until the English person, i.e. me, could come and teach the whole two classes.

BEP Mobile Teaching Unit: First Day of a New Job

Despite two weeks of training with the teachers in April, meeting the teachers in camp again last Friday, this being my third time round for BEP, and feeling very settled in Mae Sot, today really felt like my first day at work in a new job, because today was our first day in the schools.To begin with, the route to camp looked different from any other time I have been - the ongoing heavy rain had brought flooding, landslides, replacing tarmac with gaping holes, and the road was barely passable. Then, there was all the other stuff: 3 zones, 3 clusters, 25 schools, 35 teachers, in the region of 1200 grade 1 students and 4 team members. What could I say but 'Good luck' and a mild 'See you later' (trying not to let it turn into a question) as I watched Caroline, Laura and Sam exit the truck towards Zones A and B, holding an umbrella in one hand, and in the other, their list of schools to visit and a rough map - well, a photocopy of a photograph of a painting of a map of the vague position of the schools ...good luck indeed! Our aim this week is to visit each of the grade 1 English teachers in our individual clusters at...

BEP Mobile Teaching Unit: One month in Mae Sot

After one month here in Mae Sot getting to know the place and my fellow co-workers, finding the good restaurants and bars, moving house, and generally settling in, I've finally found some time to sit down and write about my time in the camp so far... After meeting the teachers altogether as a team, dividing our schools and a hand over session from Alice (VSO trainer in the process of developing the curriculum and preparing materials), we were dropped at our respective bamboo gates and let loose. For me Week 1 was mostly spent wandering around Zone A, getting lost and muddy, and attempting to find my schools (succeeding thanks to some helpful residents). I met all the G1 teachers, head teachers and some students and even managed to do a couple of sneaky observations. Almost all of the schools were still teaching the alphabet and, frustratingly, the names of the letters and..

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Living on the Edge

On November 8th 2010 one day after the General Election in Burma, armed conflict between Burmese government troops and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Brigade 5  sent thousands of refugees fleeing across the border from the town of Mywaddy to Mae Sot, Thailand. Some sources estimated that numbers of refugees reached about 20,000. To us in Mae Sot witnessing the situation there appeared to be an endless stream of people pouring across the Moei River (Thai/Burma border) Friendship Bridge or wading across the river itself. 

Cambridge, 'Nam-Jai' and the Cassowary.

Win Tun sat silently eyeing the neatly laid out pencils, eraser and red plastic sharpener in front of him. Two years previously due to  economic hardship he had fled Burma with his family. Now he faced a greater ordeal; the Cambridge exams.

Seated in two rows the Burmese teachers waited for the papers to be distributed by three examiners from the prestigious Newton Grange School of English, Chiang Mai. This was the culmination of three months study. It  provided a great opportunity. It was a 'first'  for them for Newton Grange and for us.

Mae Sot's first official Cambridge exams got underway at 9.30 on the morning of March 19th at the Wattanna Resort,  a very charming cluster of Thai style buildings surrounding a small lake. The resort tried hard to induce a sense of rural calm with leaping carp, tame deer and a couple  of smiling terracotta elephants. A cassowary scratched around in a pen near the main gate. The emu-like cassowary is a menacing bird with a dangerous bony protrusion on its forehead. I remembered from time spent wandering the world in my youth that the hill tribes of New Guinea believed the cassowary to be a dark omen. It's not something you want to remember on a day like this.

Step by Step

I am totally engaged and enjoying my class. I get called to the front to point to the flashcard that has a picture that starts with the initial sound 'b'. I point to the one with the bat.



'Is that correct?' my teacher consults the class.
'Yes!'
'Well done! You can choose the next student, then go and sit down.' 

I smile. I appreciate the praise. I feel proud.



For fifteen minutes, I am a student in a grade 1 English class. My teacher is Win, a grade 1 English teacher in Mae La Temporary Shelter.



Why am I studying grade 1 English when English is my mother tongue?



The reason is that a two-week teacher-training workshop is just about coming to an end. The aim of the game is very clear - to train grade 1 teachers in delivering grade 1 English using the new grade 1 text books. The teachers' final task is to demonstrate sample lessons that they prepared in groups using the new books and we, the trainers - one BEP volunteer and one VSO volunteer - participate, observe and give feedback.

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