By Krista Degerness
My experience as a teacher trainer at Children’s Future International has been an extraordinary adventure of learning.
For the first several weeks, I spent time observing the teachers as they worked with students during fun season. My goal was to determine the efficacy of the teachers’ approach, as well as to identify what potential causes and solutions I could find for struggling students. Many of the teachers surprised me with how advanced and diverse their methods of instruction were. Behaviors and learning differences needed to be addressed as well as instruction techniques and support systems that could meet both the students’ and teachers’ needs.
During trial month, I began training the teachers on differentiated curricula, or what I called “fun learning”. Differentiation is a term that educators use to define a diverse approach of learning and instruction. This includes kinesthetic (active or tactile), auditory (hearing) and visual examples and activities that engage students of all abilities and learning levels. When every single student in the class is engaged in a lesson, the overall comprehension of that lesson increases. When every lesson taught uses this method, students begin to enjoy participating in class. Their attendance improves, test scores and understanding go up, and students and teachers alike enjoy being in class together. Problem behaviors are reduced, trust and respect increases, and a much more effective learning environment is created.
Once the teachers began implementing the strategies in their classrooms, our training grew more involved. We were able to work cohesively to problem solve, adapt Western approaches to Cambodian culture, and work as a team to learn new tactics that could help specific students in each aspect of their development. I returned to the classroom to observe how the strategies were working (or weren’t), and I learned a great deal on what I could do to improve my own training technique. The successes were remarkable; the failures were wonderful learning opportunities.
I have also had wonderful opportunities training several social workers, the house mothers, and a number of other staff members at CFI. In one large-group training, I introduced several methods of approach for more effectively working with students and behavioral challenges. These included using positive language, giving students more supports or strategies rather than taking things away from them, effective communication, establishing mutual respect and expectations between faculty, staff,& students and more. Everyone had a blast during these sessions.
Teacher training at CFI has been a life-changing experience for me. I have grown as a person, an educator, and as a student myself. I have learned a great deal about Khmer culture. I will never forget the people I met here, and I sincerely hope to return in the future to see the progress the students and faculty have made.