By Junior Thinn
I happened to read the following paragraph on one of the internet pages mentioned by The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper. It is as follows…
“Originally established on 12th January 1964 as “The Working People’s Daily”, the Global New Light of Myanmar is Myanmar’s oldest English daily. The Working People’s Daily changed its name to The New Light of Myanmar on 17 April 1993. The paper started printing 12 black and white pages in broadsheet size. On 1st January 2003, the size of the paper was reduced from broadsheet to tabloid still in black and white pages but the number of the pages increased to 16. The process of black and white printing was terminated on 17 October 2012 in Nay Pyi Taw. The new version of the New Light of Myanmar came out on 18 October 2012 with full-colour printing. Yangon saw the colour of the New Light of Myanmar on 5 December 2012 just in tabloid size. For about half a century, the paper was under the News and Periodicals Enterprise of the Ministry of Information. According to the changing situation of the country, it needs to change itself from the old style to a more attractive and people-oriented one. To meet this end, plans have been made to put the paper under a joint venture with the Global Direct Link Co Ltd with the support of Kyodo News Agency of Japan. Now, the paper is changed and its works are in full swing. It tries to expand its field to the Web. We invite your comments and opinions.”
It was just a brief history of the Paper but I happened to take notice of the words which I made bolded on the first line. With the association of those words, I remembered the year 1979 and the gratitude of The Working People’s Daily upon me. You might have been somewhat surprised by it, I think. At that moment, I was an English subject teacher in an affiliated high school in Kyaunggon Township, Ayeyawady Region.
When I graduated, the major I took in the university was Zoology. However, I was assigned to teach at the school was English. I thought there was no connection between the knowledge of Zoology and the teaching skills in English. I denied it at first but as there were only three teachers in the ninth and tenth grades and the other two teachers could not touch English at all, I was forced to accept the responsibility of teaching English.
There were 14 students in the tenth grade and about 35 students in the ninth grade. I was the class teacher in the ninth grade but I had to teach English subjects in both classes. By the way, I will have to tell you about my qualification in English for the matriculation examination. I passed the matric exam in 1973 with a mark of 41 in English. Moreover, I had to take English as a minor subject for only two years: the first and second years in the university at that moment. Here, you can guess my level of English after my graduation.
Let me continue revealing my status teaching English in the affiliated school. There were a lot of challenges for me in teaching English in those two classes during the first week.
Teaching English to Grade 9 and Grade 10 level students was a challenging task for an English teacher like me, as students at this level were often in the process of developing their language skills and might have different learning styles and preferences. Some of the challenges that I faced when teaching Grade 9 and Grade 10 level students included:
1. Motivating Students: One of the biggest challenges for me was to motivate my students. To effectively teach English to Grade 9 and Grade 10 level students, teachers had to find ways to engage and inspire their students, whether through interesting and relevant content, interactive activities, or creative assignments.
2. Addressing Varied Skill Levels: Students at Grade 9 and Grade 10 levels might have different skill levels when it came to English language proficiency. Some students might struggle with basic reading and writing, while others may be more advanced and require more challenging coursework. An English teacher like me had to be able to identify and address these varying skill levels and provide individualized instruction as needed.
3. Developing Critical Thinking Skills: At Grade 9 and Grade 10 levels, students were still developing their critical thinking skills. An English teacher like me had to be able to encourage students to think critically about literature and other materials, analyze and interpret texts, and draw their own conclusions.
4. Incorporating Technology: As it was not a digital age, it was not important for me to incorporate technology into their lessons. This could also be a challenge for some teachers including me who might not be familiar with the latest digital tools and technologies, I think.
5. Addressing Cultural Differences: Students in Grades 9 and 10 might come from diverse cultural backgrounds, which could make it challenging to address cultural differences and ensure that all students felt included and represented in the classroom.
6. Assessing Progress: Another challenge for me at Grade 9 and Grade 10 levels is assessing student progress. Teachers had to be able to accurately assess students’ writing and reading abilities, as well as provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Teaching English to Grade 9 and Grade 10-level students could be a challenge with so many things but it was a rewarding experience. With the right approach, I could help their students develop a love for literature, improve their language skills, and prepare for future academic and professional success, I thought. However, among those challenges, I realized that one would surely be the most important difficulty for me. It was nothing but a lack of skill in grammatical functions of my own. I also realized that it was the first and foremost challenge that I would have to settle. Therefore, I seek the best ways to solve it.
Not long after, a thought dawned upon me. I remembered the English newspaper viz. “The Working People’s Daily” which my dad read daily while he was in our house. At that moment, I often surfed the pages and I happened to take notice of the Sunday Supplement every Sunday which carried grammar explanations for the middle and high school level students by C.T.O. (later I became aware that those initials referred to Sayagyi (U) Chit Thein Oo). These explanations were very useful for my self-study because they are in Myanmar and English. I thought the Sunday Supplement would also give a lot of assistance to my students in Grades 9 and 10.
Therefore, I made an order of weekly Sunday Supplements to the newspaper agent for my students and myself. It made me much exhausted because I had to study the explanations of grammatical functions in the Sunday Supplements in advance at night with a faintly lighted oil lamp. Then, I had to arrange for my students to attend my special classes daily before school began. I put up my plan to my headmaster and he agreed with it easily. I started my special classes in July and carried on it to the end of that academic year without fail.
The school was situated in a rural area and the students obeyed me. I was sure the special classes made my students many benefits. More surely, my English got improved through regular studies in grammatical functions explained by C.T.O. In the following year, I could teach English to the students of Grade 9 and Grade 10 very well.
I have been familiar with The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper since it was named “The Working People’s Daily”. I will never forget the gratitude of Sayagyi C.T.O. and the Sunday Supplement of the paper as they conveyed to me, who was once very poor in English, on the way which has made me much improvement and fluency in the English language.