Many of JWOC’s Scholarship students study Teaching English at university, and as part of their development many of them have to demonstrate their skills in the classroom. The lucky few get to go abroad to practice their skills on a new audience. Over the past few years, six JWOC scholarship students have attended their teaching practicum abroad, so we caught up with the most recent, Dany Pem, to understand her experience.
How and why you were chosen to attend the Practicum in Thailand?
For 4th years studying Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) at the University of South-East Asia (USEA), every student has to complete a teaching practicum in order to complete your degree. As a TEFL student, the practicum is very important as we’re trained in how to teach and we can now apply what we’ve leant so far in the classroom. Of the students in my year, 85% conduct the practicum in Cambodia and 15% in Thailand. If a student can have the opportunity to conduct the practicum in Thailand they will gain new experiences and credit, so everyone wishes to do it in Thailand. In order to be chosen to conduct my practicum in Thailand, I have to prepare from my first year at university. First, I have to be an outstanding student with my GPA above 3.5; second, I have to get a passport; and third, I have to save some money for living as the school won’t pay food for you during your time away. Having experience in teaching is also a great addition as you will more be confident; as an adult English teacher in JWOC now for 3 years and a full-time teacher I have experience in teaching both adult and children, so during the practicum I was confident in my ability to use my skills in the classroom.
What were the intended outcomes of the Practicum?
The practicum lasted for just under 2 weeks, from 10th to 23rd March 2017 at Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University. There were 8 Cambodian students with one supervisor from USEA. We were warmly welcomed by the Director of the English department, and allowed to stay in an apartment near by the university (normally students stay in university dormitory) which was very convenient for us. My main purpose for conducting the practicum in Thailand was to gain more experience teaching foreign students. I think Thai students are very competitive, active and polite, so the activities that I should apply must be competitive as well. Second, I want to see how English is taught and learnt in other countries; Thai students rarely speak English in the class, but they love to practice English with foreigners. And third, I wanted to know about Thai culture, it was my first time being out of Cambodia and these experiences are really important for me, especially in a school.
What did you do during the practicum and your time in your time in Thailand?
In order to complete the practicum, I need to complete at least 3 sessions teaching. Unfortunately, most classes were finished and on holiday before exams so there were very few classes left, so we taught in groups and pairs. Before I could teach my own class I needed to observe the associate teacher to learn and understand new ideas and techniques and then prepare my lesson plans two days beforehand. It was my first-time teaching in a pair, at first I found it hard to work together during the planning because the time have for a class is less than an hour, we had to plan any activities that were short and effective. Everyone came up with different ideas, so we needed to agree on the best one. However, everything was smooth and easy during the lesson, we shared roles and helped each other running the activities in a smooth and punctual way. There was lots of involvement from the Thai students; they are polite, enthusiastic and eager to learn. They also like being competitive which make the class lively. I completed 3 short sessions as required, and working in group was great as we learnt a lot of activity ideas from them. I learnt to work in a team and share what my knowledge and experience too.
Besides teaching, we also spent time travelling, shopping, eating, and doing traditional dancing for cultural exchange performance. The culture exchange day happened on the 22nd March. Thai and Cambodian students showed our traditional dancing to represent both countries. And then we presented about Cambodia, including Cambodian culture, tourism, symbols and lifestyle. It is a chance for Thai students to understand Cambodia because one day they might have their practicum in Cambodia, too.
How has the trip impacted you and your degree?
Most of the students want to conduct the teaching practicum in Thailand to gain new experiences teaching foreign students. The most experience I gained came from observing my friends and the associate teacher, so I can apply their techniques into my teaching. Next, is to gain credit. The certificate from an outside country will identify that I’m an outstanding student, so it helps me to apply for other courses and improve my employability. I also got to see new cultures outside Cambodia, to taste new foods and to talk to new people. Even though it was only two weeks, I learnt a lot!