Half way is still the beginning

July 4

Final day of observations. Once again I see a really proficient lesson on place-value and another in subtraction with trading.

Everyone learns differently and at a different pace. Some of us saw teachers who are still finding their voice. They still have not fully developed an understanding of the best path from their own good understanding of the concepts to the students.

Although feedback in these circumstances can be (and was) a devastating experience, it does allow opportunity. It illustrates another level of skill overlaying those learned for the classroom: the complex web of professional support, diplomacy, tact and empathy that are constituents of collegiality and leadership.

The theme of bravery carried over: you could fully understand that being subjected to such a critique, the temptation would be not to return. But the teacher in question did and in fact ended up winning a maths game that Jenny taught the group.

There air was somewhat cleared with the presentation of the medical bags to the students. I’m not sure who was the most excited, the kids or the teachers. Each drawstring bag of medical gear (toothpaste, toothbrush, etc) was decorated by the students at Glenwood. Jenny was excited to find the student with a bag decorated with a minion from Despicable Me 2. She proudly posed for a photo with the student holding up his bag with an original illustration by Javier of 1M.

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The closing ceremony was intensely moving. Karen spoke our thanks with eloquence and warmth, and there were tears from some of us too. As has become traditional, the flowers with which we were presented were them dispersed amongst the participants in gratitude. We also received scarves.

Outside some hugs and more tears, and a final photo under the Prek Chhdor sign. Kate is a one-woman papparazza as she sorts through our cameras hanging from her limbs like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

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On to the rooftop of the hotel, with wine and cheese and wide wicker chairs. Battambang proffered a cool breeze and a golden sunset and we gratefully accepted.

Our reflection touched on that area of professional respect and good leadership, how to encourage and how to reward it. The intrinsic satisfaction and getting an award pales in the face of the need to feed families, yet linking money with results is always problematic. Peter suggests a reward with study leave, and Anne shares her experiences with similar systems of approbation: what do these things mean in the end? To some extent not unlike the experience of Sir Ken Robinson when he talks to governments.

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Dinner at Daido and perfect moments of beauty. Soft light from candles, wine and pasta and the good company of warm people who had worked hard. Sad to bid this week farewell. Consolation that there is another that starts tomorrow.

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