a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Monday, September 21, 2015

Music teacher in Myanmar

Well! A month of school has already passed by! And I've been working at my new job for 5 weeks.  I could have written several posts a week---so much fun stuff to write about---had I not been so incredibly busy and tired!

Wow, I hardly know where to begin! I guess with the first week.

So I had little idea what to expect from my new students. I prepared lessons with routines and activities to give the children a fun and enjoyable introduction to music class while I started to evaluate their capabilities, their English proficiency, their ability to understand me and follow my directions.

We sang our way into music class "Here we go to music class, music class, music class. Here we to music class, let's all sing and dance" to the tune of "Here we go round the mulberry bush."  We sang the most common songs with good movements: Hokey Pokey, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, If You're Happy and You Know it. We clapped rhythms; the children echo clapped first my rhythms and then each other's rhythms around the circle. I played high notes on the keyboard and they showed me they heard "high" by stretching their arms to the ceiling. For the low notes that I played they showed me that they heard "low" by crouching down.

We sang "soh-me" "hel-lo", and "soh-soh-me" "how-are-you?" with solfege hand signs. We danced improv dance moves to a variety of music. And then we sang our way out the door: "Tick tock tick tock, time to go, time to go. Goodbye children. Goodbye teacher".

It was an amazing first week! I could tell right away that these children are incredibly musical, not to mention eager and willing. Every week since, I have been adding more and more challenging activities to our lessons and the children just keep amazing me with what they are able to do. The potential they have is quite exciting.

A routine I learned in my student teaching, and have done with every class I've had since, is to greet each student by name and ask them to return that greeting. "Good morning Poe Poe" "Good morning Ms. Sabrina". It is one small way that I can form a bond with each child. And it helps me learn names. I am good with names, but with 173 different students with quite foreign (to me) names, I still don't have them all. These are some of the names I do know: Su Myat, Ko Shine, Tanaya, Thone Min, Chan Chan, Bone Bone, Hei Hei, Ji Young, Ye Won, Sal Bone, Shlok, Htet Zin, Thiri, Alua, Go Khant. Some of the children take English nicknames to use at school like Brian, William, Grace, Krystal, Candy, Sweety, Leo, Ethan, Roy. Because I have so much more experience with those English names, I can remember them almost 10 times as fast as the Myanmar names. But to help speed up the process of remembering the names I'm less familiar with, I took photos of all the children and wrote their names underneath. Then I studied my photo sheets before each class started.

The children on the other hand learned my name easily and use it frequently. When they pass by my room on the way to another special class: "Ms. Sabrina, Ms. Sabrina, hello Ms. Sabrina."When I am out in the hall filling my water bottle and they are standing in line. "Ms. Sabrina, Ms. Sabrina, Ms. Sabrina." When they see me walking into school, "Ms. Sabrina, Ms. Sabrina, good morning Ms. Sabrina." It is nice to feel popular. :) One of the women who cleans the school smiles at me when the children start calling out my name.

So my life is heavily focused on music but I still get to do a little bit of art. I chose to teach Zentangle for an after school activity this quarter and it's been just so fun! The Year 2 students who signed up for Zentangle caught on quickly. The first three weeks we only used black pen, learning new "tangles".

Then this week I gave them a mini lesson on how I "paint" with colored pencils. I told them I was a "colored pencil artist" and showed them a pen and colored pencil painting I did in my sketchbook.

They oohed and aaahed. :) And a couple said, "I like artists." So sweet these children!! We have 45 minutes for our Zentangle class but the time just zings by. I barely gave them more than about 10 minutes to use color. So just as he was leaving, Leo came up to me and said, "Ms. Sabrina, I really want to finish my coloring." So I said, "Ok Leo, next time we will start with color."

Life feels pretty good right now. Of course there are challenges. For instance, I am still recovering from a nasty respiratory infection that caused me to lose my voice for three days. Our exposure to infectious agents is so much higher here. And my walk to school is an obstacle course. On the sidewalk informal restaurants use nearly all the space and in between the sidewalk and the lanes of traffic runs a river of rain and sewer water. There are no crosswalks so I cross when there is a break in traffic. I walk for the exercise but it is not a pleasant stroll by any means.

There are many, many daily uncomfortable challenges to living in this low-resource country. But the mix of it all makes living and working in Myanmar a rich experience.