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A Cambodian adventure in teacher training
Oundle School, Northamptonshire, Classics teacher, Catriona Harrington spent three weeks volunteering with LRTT (Limited Resource Teacher Training) in Cambodia. Her role was to work with a group of twenty-nine other educators from all over the UK and the US to deliver a training programme for the Cambodian teachers, many of whom had received little or no teacher training, and some of whom may not have even been able to  nish high school, let alone progress to university. This is her story...
Two of my passions are travelling and teaching, so when an advert
for LRTT (Limited Resource Teacher Training) appeared on my Facebook feed about a year ago, the prospect of combining both of these interests by delivering training to teachers in a developing country immediately made me want to apply.
Each fellowship lasts 3-4 weeks and there are a number of countries you can apply to throughout Asia, Africa and Central America. The only initial requirement is that you have QTS. I decided to apply for the Cambodia fellowship; I had been to Asia twice before (Thailand and Vietnam) and
I knew that Cambodia was far less developed than the countries I had already visited, and also that it had had a troubling history which I was keen to learn more about.
The application process was straightforward and quick; you just  ll in an online form and write 200 words on why you think you would be suited to the fellowship. Then, you receive an email to arrange
a phone interview. Preparing for
Catriona at Battambang, the top of the killing caves. “We went on an excursion there on the  rst weekend. The person next to me is my observation partner Lul”
what is essentially a job interview
at one of the busiest times of
the school year in the lead-up to Christmas is slightly daunting. In the end I decided I would approach the interview as if it were just a conversation about education, something which we as teachers obviously discuss on a regular basis. The interview lasted 30 minutes and was with a Team Leader, one of the people in charge of organizing the fellowship and making sure you are safe and comfortable during your time in the country.
During the interview I talked about my views on education, what I love about teaching, how I had got into the profession, and my passion for social justice. The only question that slightly threw me was ‘Have you ever worked with limited resources before?’. This was when I realized
I had no idea what the reality of teaching with ‘limited resources’
was like; clearly my experience
in education so far has been very privileged: I have worked in two independent schools and taught ESL to kids on summer camps - I have never lacked resources. So what does ‘limited resources’ actually mean? We might complain if we have to wander to the stationery cupboard to re ll the printing paper or get annoyed when the photocopier breaks  rst thing on a Monday morning. But limited resources means there is probably no paper to put in the printer in the  rst place, and there may not even be a printer, let alone a photocopier. Can you imagine teaching a lesson where
a lot of the students can’t afford books or paper? I certainly couldn’t! Despite this, I got a call a few days later informing me I had been accepted onto the fellowship: my passion for travelling, teaching and
making a difference had impressed the Team Leader. I was thrilled, but had no idea what to expect and how I would be able to begin to help these teachers who have received little or no teacher training, and deal with daily challenges which I had simply never encountered.
When I was offered a place on
the fellowship in January, my Cambodian adventure felt like
it was still a long way away (I wouldn’t  y out until the end of July). However, the Team Leaders did a fantastic job at preparing us for the fellowship: in the months before we left, we had to complete three ‘E-Learns’, each focusing
on a different aspect: we had to research the history of Cambodia, the state of its education system today, re ect on our strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, and do extensive reading on volunteerism. I particularly enjoyed researching and writing about the latter point, as it really made me aware that plenty
of organisations accept anyone and everyone to come and do volunteer work, and don’t make a lasting, sustainable impact with their work. This is something I have since discussed with my own students who might be thinking of taking a gap year after school. The fellowship also seemed far less daunting because LRTT organized several meet-ups with the UK-based fellows (some applicants are also from the States or Canada) to socialise with the people we would be spending three intense weeks with. There was also a training day where we were given training on what we would
be doing and how we would be delivering our own training sessions to the Cambodian teachers.
The months leading up to July passed startlingly quickly and before
I knew it I was on a plane travelling to Cambodia with 5 other fellows.
I was one of 30 other teachers on the programme who had all come from different backgrounds to make a difference to the Cambodian education system. The age range of the teachers also varied greatly: the youngest fellow was 23 and and the older teachers were in their 50s. Getting to know so many people
so quickly and beginning to plan training sessions when I felt like I had only just got off the plane was a little overwhelming, but it meant I had little time to feel homesick or daunted by what I was there to do.
One of the most valuable things that I took from the fellowship
was discussing teaching with educators from so many different schools: I was fascinated to talk with and compare systems with
the American fellows; there were fellows who teach at schools who are in special measures in the UK, local primary schools, grammar schools, comprehensives and independent schools like my own. When planning the conference sessions for our Cambodian teachers with my observation partner Lula,
a primary school teacher from
North Carolina, we each talked about our own strategies for areas such as behaviour management, group work, teacher re ection and lesson planning, and I learned so many new ideas from her that I couldn’t wait to get back to the classroom to try them out. The fellowship reminded me why I love teaching and it gave me a new lease of energy leading up to the new academic year.
During each week, we would spend two days observing our Cambodian teachers teach several lessons. This was followed by planning days so
  Further information about LRTT visit www.lrtt.org
The NGO schools in Cambodia are always in need of donations, and you can donate either money or resources by visiting their websites: www.khmerchildfoundation.org
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