Teaching in Laos

Posted by: Carolein D.

I don’t like children. I normally associate kids with drool, sticky fingers and permanent marker on your brand new couch. The ones that crawl or waddle are usually pretty cute, but generally come with unlimited supplies of snot. I do see the appeal to their big dopey and innocent eyes, but that maternal instinct has never quite hit me (yet). But here I was, teaching English in Laos. Why not. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so let’s roll.

The residence of the local team in Laos is located a good half hour outside of the capital. It is behind a big road with plenty of cool stores with zero tourist influence and all the volunteer projects take place within a few minute bike ride. The week’s setup was that we’d do one afternoon class, with kids aging around three to five, taking place in a decent sized school that continuously has volunteers teaching there. However, in the morning we went to a different, brand new kindergarten that has never had volunteers before. It only has one class of about 25-ish toddlers and a bunch of chickens on the premises. Most had never even seen a pale, six-foot Dutch girl with curly hair and a few excess pounds. Two kids started crying when I arrived, and the rest just stared at me. I’d probably cry too, upon meeting a giant.

I have absolutely zero experience with teaching. Let alone teaching English. Let alone teaching English to munchkins that just learned how to walk. The kindergarten is filled with one to three year olds. Isn’t that the age where you spend all day playing tag with your friends, learn shapes, and just sit around lounging in your diaper? Would English class really have a place in their simple world?

Before the first class, I interrogated the coordinators and some of the other volunteers for tips, but it’s difficult to prepare for a brand new school. You have no idea what the kids are capable of if they even know how to count. You just prepare a few letters, numbers, colors and say a hail Mary. I rode my pink bicycle to school that morning, feeling slightly nervous.

I didn’t know any English games or fun songs, though that was what they wanted. It was evident they needed something happy, or any random thing involving movement to wake them back up and keep their attention. Another volunteer with more experience joined me for the rest of the week and we’ve gotten the hang of it. The kids started to get down the basics and quickly grew closer to us. More importantly, you could tell they were having fun and man, so were we.

As of now, we’ve spent five days giving lectures at that particular kindergarten. Consider the fact that they never had a English lecture before. But, writing this, some of them can already scream out A-G, 1-15 and about seven colors. It’s pretty amazing, since most are SO young that they barely know how to talk in Laos, let alone a second language. Progress, WHOO! I’m so impressed with the speed in which these kids can pick up on any info you throw at them. They’re my cute little sponges.