musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

English Classes in Mandalay

Back in Mandalay, on my favorite little dirt road, 90th Street, I keep discovering interesting little places each time I visit. Taking walks with Maw Hsi and the kids from the neighborhood has introduced me to fun little shops, home factories (everything from shoes to jade), monasteries, and even language schools. On this trip I found two places in the neighborhood that were offering free English classes in the afternoons and evenings. The teachers were university students or recent graduates, one of whom was Maw Hsi’s daughter. I was very impressed to see so many kids attending these classes, especially after they’ve already had a long day in their regular school. Clearly, they have a thirst for knowledge … or perhaps their mother has threatened them. You know how that goes!


At one little makeshift class — located outside someone’s home — I saw Yan Aung Myo, a boy I knew from previous field trips with the kids, grinning at me from the front row. I always knew he could spell well, and this was evidence that he’s worked hard at developing such skills. At a nearby monastery school the next day I ran into the shy Hein Htet Zaw and his fellow students, all of them furiously scribbling notes in their books. It struck me that there was a lot of writing and rote learning in these classes. Write a sentence, repeat after me, write the sentence again. Blah, blah, blah. Not an ideal learning environment, but better than nothing.


It was good to see these youngsters studying English, and diligently copying everything that was written on the board (even if there were spelling or grammatical errors!), but I yearned to get up there and try and few more interesting speaking activities with the class. But, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to say or do anything in such a situation, so I just nodded my head and smiled. I chatted with Maw Hsi later in the week and volunteered my services for the next time I return to Mandalay. He seemed excited at the idea, so I think we’ll work something out. I look forward to teaching these kids.


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