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Sue Slater’s Letter from Battambang: March 2012

on August 18th, 2018 at 5:01:04 PM


Dear Friends 

Thank you once again for your ongoing support for the work of Teachers Across Borders (TAB). This year TAB conducted eleven workshops for 285 teachers and school directors in the provincial city of Battambang.

I have returned to Battambang twice this year: in January and March to conduct workshops and also follow up on the impact of TAB’s work in rural schools around Battambang and in the outlying district of Sampov Loun.

The feedback from the teachers and directors in these schools is that TAB’s work is extremely important and for many of them it is their very first, and only, opportunity to attend an extended professional development workshop which focuses on teaching and learning. They state that TAB provides a positive model for what effective classrooms look like and what Cambodian education can achieve.

In the follow up coaching and interviews I conducted it is very evident that the work of TAB is not just about teaching and learning but about affirming and empowering our Cambodian colleagues to have a greater sense of confidence in their abilities.

As a young Cambodian student Laim Len wrote in the Phnom Penh Post: ‘sometimes there seems to be a kind of despondency in some aspects of Cambodian culture, it seems almost a mindset. Often Cambodian people will think poorly of their own capabilities because of a perceived lack of education or wealth”.

So our work is to build relationships with our Cambodian colleagues and through “teachers teaching teachers” build confidence and a bright vision for the future.

When we visited directors and teachers in their schools in March, we saw some really positive examples which directors and teachers said was the direct impact of TAB’s work over a number of years including: 

students working in groups discussing and brainstorming rather than the teacher centred model

students and teachers working together to create a “Child Friendly School” with a sense of pride in the clean and tidy  grounds and gardens 

remote rural schools where, despite poor buildings  and facilities, classrooms were welcoming and endowed with displays of student work and craft 

students  playing games and completing fun activities to support their learning

students using local and inexpensive materials to conduct experiments in Science

directors working with teams of teachers and students to create  school vision  and  student management protocols 

directors sharing their learning from the TAB workshops with other directors in the local cluster

directors working with students to develop a  student representative council so students have a “voice”

trainers from the Train the Trainer program running professional development for staff in their schools on: learning styles and how we learn, Bloom’s questioning and critical thinking strategies 

We heard many inspiring stories of what participation in the TAB meant. 

For one young woman who participated in the TAB Leadership program in 2010 it gave her the confidence to apply for a senior management position and she reflected on the insight the program had given her into her own leadership style.

 “I used to be a manager but now I work in teams in a democratic manner and if we make a mistake it is OK as we as a team can work through it together and improve”

She has subsequently enrolled in a Master of Administration and Leadership course and is delivering site based professional development for her staff on critical thinking for problem solving which she learnt in the TAB workshop.

For one young man who was trained as a TAB workshop trainer, this year; he taught his class the theory of how we learn and the four basic learning styles. When one of the students from his class won the Outstanding Student of the Year award, the student went on to local, public radio and explained learning theory as a way of improving personal achievement.

We were blown away by one softly spoken and shy, rural school female director who with great humility showed us what she had done as a result of several years’ participation in the TAB Leadership program. Each class in her school had developed its own vision and class rules which were on the wall in every classroom. 

Each year the director trained the staff in how to do this and then the teacher takes their class through the process. As well the director had trained each teacher in how we learn and each teacher had taken their class through a process to focus on learning styles and develop classroom posters of what different learning looked like.

We have seen so much that affirms the work of TAB as we work with our Cambodian colleagues in their effort to rebuild the Cambodian education system. There is more to be done but pleasingly after six years in Battambang, a lot to celebrate.

Thank you for the continuing support for this exciting and purposeful work.

Sue Slater

19 March, 2012Sue Slater’s  Letter 10
Letters from Battambang: March 2012