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Can the Magic of Teaching be Taught?

April 24, 2014

“My students just could not stay sitting. They were competing with each other to answer my questions and coming up to write on the blackboard. While observing their reaction, I knew immediately that this was working!” Amphone Laos teacher

Did you ever have a teacher that could make you sit on the edge of your seat? A teacher that inspired and challenged you in a way that made learning exciting? And have you ever had a teacher that seemed to induce sleep even when it was your favorite subject? Some people believe that the ability to create this kind of magic in the classroom is an innate gift, and you either have or you don't. But thinkers like Christopher Edmin believe that this magic in teaching can be taught. And at Room to Read we know this to be true because we see it first hand in the teachers that we train. This is the story of Amphone.

“I was a very quiet, shy and reluctant teacher. I always wanted to try new teaching styles in order to create a fun learning atmosphere in my class. Yet, I did not know how; and other older teachers would not like it if I did things differently," she recalls. Her shy disposition and discouragement made Amphone wonder if she was "cut out" to be a teacher. "Every day, we, the teachers, only taught and pushed students to go through a lesson aiming only to finish all lessons in the text book before the semester ended.” But despite the pressure to get through the lessons, the students were not learning. 

 

 

“More than half of my students could not read. Many who seemed like they could read were actually remembering the words by where each one was located in the classroom, textbook or on the chalkboard, not because they could read vowels and consonants and decode the words on their own," she explained. Every day after school, the feeling of tired boredom grew stronger for Amphone. She wondered if she should pursue a different profession — until 2009, when Room to Read provided reading and writing instruction training to the teachers in her school. 

The Room to Read team equipped the teachers with materials and techniques that would revolutionize the way Amphone taught reading. After she completed her first training, she experimented with several of the techniques and materials provided by the program, and that's when it happened: magic. “My students just could not stay sitting. They were competing with each other to answer my questions and coming up to write on the blackboard. While observing their reaction, I knew immediately that this was working!” Since then, she has never missed a single training conducted by Room to Read. Six years later, 90% of her current students can read even if they have not seen the words before, because now they can decode them. And halfway through Grade 1, she is now leading them towards reading full sentences so they can soon be reading by themselves. 

Not only did the quality training help put the magic back into learning for the students, it also put the magic into teaching for Amphone. “It is so fascinating to see the radical improvement in their reading skills. It makes me feel so happy.” It was as though she discovered her career without even changing jobs. “Every day is not just another teaching day for me anymore. Each day I see smiles, laughter, and improvement in the students’ learning. I realize, this is what I want the most out of my career in life.”

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