I had been warned that yesterday’s school was a bit “posh”, well relatively speaking, for the schools we are working with. So today I asked to go to some of the poorer schools. I wanted to see this because when you do reach a certain level of poverty then the learning begins to suffer from nutrition and home life factors which is something I saw in Thai schools.

You could see the contrast straight away with today’s first school. The street it was in was just like Pompeii. But not Pompeii in its heyday, Pompeii as it looks now. Rubbish was collecting outside the building and there were flies everywhere. They also hadn’t started school yet so there were no kids for me to teach. And there were no computers for me to put the GE software on, so after an introduction we left for the next school.

On the way we passed through Jubilee Hills, which has to be one of the poshest places I’ve ever been to, where all the Tollywood (yes, Tollywood with a “T”) stars live. But it’s right next door to the next area which is the poorest I’ve seen here. The streets were barely wide enough for a car, with an open sewer and goats feeding off the rubbish left out in the street. We had to walk up to the school and the buildings were basic to say the very least. The classrooms were more like stables than a school.

But a school isn’t the buildings, it’s the people. Although there was a huge variation between the skills of the different teachers, they were all trying. Even though they didn’t have the GE lesson plans or CDs (not to mention CD players) yet they were doing lessons based purely on what they had learnt last week. Some of them were great, and some not so. For example they had been taught phonics last week, where you introduce one sound at a time. But one teacher was simply reciting the alphabet with the Jolly Phonics gestures. In one class I was getting the kids to talk to me and the teacher was saying “Oh no sir, these children are too young, they can’t speak”. To which my reply was “What’s Genki English rule number 1?” then we got the kids talking. It did feel like I was in Japan though!

So that was quite tough and I was thinking it will be really difficult to make sure all the teachers, and not just some, are up to speed and doing the best for their children. Part of my job here is as a motivator, to keep everyone happy and genki. And on the car in the way back I was thinking “How can we put a positive spin on this?”. But we do have a system in place with 5 staff members who will go round checking on the teachers and giving feedback. We never expected the teachers to get everything from day one, if they did we wouldn’t be needed, and this is part of the challenge. Just to make sure the staff members could give the correct feedback they came round to my room in the evening to try teaching a new GE lesson just from the lesson plan. And you know after 30 minutes I had no worries at all. They were well on the ball and knew exactly how to do this, how to correct things that need correct and also how to let each teacher do things in their own way. I’d also finished the lessons plans and all the master CDs by this point so after being really stressed all week, on my final night I was really happy about the future. They are going to be able to do this!

I guess seeing the villages this morning also made a difference, because I have no place moaning about having to sit behind a computer for hours on end when the parents of these kids are doing real hard toil for many more hours to pay for their kids to get an education. The schools have decided to use Genki English so if the teachers can put in all the effort they did last week, then I’ll do all I can, and make as many material as I can, to help them.

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...