19 February 2010

A Bunch of Bankers

Getting paying students to study with us in our classroom is proving to be a slow process. It will get there, but it's going to take a while.

So, I've begun some part-time teaching. Most of the students are mid-level managers within Cambodia's Acleda Banking group. My contract is to teach them about 'Communicating at Work.' We use a text book that would be, I imagine, used in any number of Western Universities first-year classes, to show the basics of workplace communication. In other words it's kind of dry and boring; more so when English isn't your first language, I would think.

The students' English is 'poor,' said the manager of the company that contracted me.
'They can't speak very well,' Acleda's head of training told me.
And, they both informed me, they often complain about how boring and difficult the subject is and how they didn't like the last teacher that they had been assigned.

Sounds like a plum job, right?! But I took it because it pays well and I'm better off working than not.

On the first day we talked about how we would approach the course. They weren't uninterested in the content of the text but neither were they engrossed in it. And naturally the thought of listening to someone drone on for a one-and-a-half hour lecture after an eight-hour day was most unappealing. For me as well. What they really wanted though was the chance to practise and improve their English.

Their English ain't half bad as it turns out. Actually, it's quite good, written work, excepted. They're motivated too, and they have been jumping at the chance to speak, and actively listen when required. And when working in small groups they use English almost exclusively, rather than lapsing back into their native-language. That is, after time teaching in Thailand, a welcome shock.

In short, they're good students and our compromise of combining lots of active speaking and listening activities with the somewhat dull coursework seems to be working. Well at least, as far as I know. No one's complained directly to me yet!

* Ignore this heavily posed photograph, these students are in the middle of a 'giving instructions' activity.

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