This is an update for you on what happened in the first week of the native English speakers' initiative.
It was, as might be expected, a mixed week in terms of how the sessions went. Where you were able to meet with your Sri Lankan teachers and the internet connection was good, the sessions were very successful - and we had extremely positive feedback from the teachers, who are very appreciative of the time you are giving them.
Some of you managed to meet your teacher(s), but their internet connection was poor, so it was difficult to maintain a flow of conversation, although we still received positive feedback from those teachers.
Thursday was a bit of a washout, in terms of terrible weather in Sri Lanka, although we had very positive feedback about Frankie Walsh's session with Miss Pavithra (apparently, Gobi tells me, she was able to use a mobitel connection, which was okay even in the terrible weather conditions).
I had a very mixed experience personally! My Tuesday session went well, but my Thursday session was washed out! I tried to cover Tim Westbrook and Michael Wood's sessions this week but was unsuccessful. However, I did manage to cover James Houston's session this afternoon, where 2 out of his 3 teachers arrived - with good connections - and we had a very positive session.
One thing I found very useful in the two sessions that I had that went very well, was to make use of the 'chat' function on Zoom. Sending words and phrases through chat proved extremely helpful in terms of developing new vocabulary with the teachers. I am a visual learner, and it helps me to see things written down, as well as hear them, so do bear this in mind with your teachers.
I have worked extremely hard this week, as has Gobi at the Sri Lankan end, to communicate with you and the Sri Lankan teachers to sort out problems where possible. I would like to thank you all for your patience and resilience with this initiative and give you a photographic example below of what we are dealing with. Whilst we are sat in the comfort of our own homes and our only frustration might be that the teachers fail to turn up, or their connection is poor when they do, please consider how much harder it is for them at the other end! Miss Rathiya, who is partnered with Charles Hayward sent Gobi the two photos below. The first picture was accompanied by a message saying: 'At home we don't have coverage for Zoom sir. If I want to get coverage, I have to go away from home sir. Each day, I attend the classes from there sir.' The second picture was accompanied by a message saying: 'This is my place for the Zoom meeting sir.'
When I received this message, I felt very humbled, as I expect some of you might too. Whilst we are sat in the comfort of our own homes waiting for our Sri Lankan teacher(s) to appear, this Sri Lankan teacher walks some distance from her home to sit on a rock to get the internet connection she needs - not just for a weekly chat with Charles Hayward, but for every single online lesson that she has as part of this 6-month Training Programme with Gobi. These photographs explain far better than any words can, the level of commitment that these people demonstrate, and the lengths that they will go to, to pursue a course that will greatly develop their knowledge of English - and, hopefully, as a result increase their life chances.
There are a few updates to the timetable, so the latest timetable is attached here. Please do look at it, as you may have an additional teacher for your session (we now have 16 teachers in total!) or one teacher may have replaced another one who has had to drop out.
I am ever the optimist, so I am hoping that next week's sessions will run more smoothly than this week's, especially now that we have sorted out a few of the 'teething' problems. Your continued patience is much appreciated, as when this does work well, it has a huge impact on those teachers you are engaging with - more than you could possibly realise.
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