"MUAHHHHHHH", screamed Kevin, a volunteer in our English team of four and suddenly, a non melodic, but extremely loud choir, consisting of our approximately 40 fourth class students, arose to scream with him. Not only, because we were playing "Simon says" and the game in itself is fun, but because the game allows them to be who they are, cheerful, energetic, crazy, loud and playful kids, or rather, animals. Lions being released.
"Simon says" works as follows:
A volunteer screams into the class room: "Simon says, be a lion!" or "Simon says, be a mouse!" And if the kids have learned the vocabulary of our unit, in this case, animals, they try to mimic whatever Simon told them to be and do. This way, they do not only sit in class and have to copy words from the board, which is great for disciplinary work, don't get me wrong, but not a sufficient tactic for them to actually remember the vocab. Instead, they get to study and learn whole heartedly, with their whole body and more than what you would imagine their whole voice capacity would be.
To teach English by not only being a strict teacher fighting the kids natural urge to move and play, but by finding a balance between the of course necessary discipline, but also the childish playfulness that they scream for without limits, was one of the best, most challenging, educating, frustrating, rewarding and fun experiences of my life. I would do it all over again and recommend it to whomever is interested in screaming out loud like a lion or in whispering silently like a mouse, in challenging oneself and others and in commiting to the craziness of a classroom in a developing country.
What would you improve about this program?
This program could be improved by more volunteers who stay longer than the average length of four to six weeks. I've seen more progress when the volunteers have time to get to know the different kids, their different strengths and weaknesses, manipulative games and actual needs and when the volunteers then as a result, can act upon the given challenges better in a more differenciated way.
Other than that, I think the program does really well and the people commiting to it are incredibly motivated, engaged, solution oriented and reflective of what they do and of what can be improved. They do a great job, especially with the given circumstances and challenges of poverty and the lack of a stable and supportive family background.