Work ethic and routines

Goodwill is only the first step to make an effective teacher. You also need to build up strong working habits.


When we conduct a training session for the young teachers, we emphasise big or generous ideas, such as constructivism or critical thinking. They sure are important considerations, and require serious explanations.

But when we follow up the teachers in the field, we find out that their difficulties depend much more on very basic work ethic and routines. I’m not questioning the goodwill of the Cambodian people. You’re not reluctant to perform the required tasks, unlike the French who go on strike for nothing. What many Cambodian teachers lack is habits.

Here are some common issues I’d like to discuss a little bit:

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Even if they like you, they can become violent.

It’s normal to have difficulties with students during a career as a teacher. Those who pretend to never have any discipline issue are probably liars. But there are teachers who are never overwhelmed because they are ready to act. Don’t underestimate the possibility of failure. Your lessons cannot be interesting all the time for all the students. And the students cannot pay attention all the time in all the subjects. Don’t feel ashamed because some students misbehave. Don’t be ashamed because you have tough times. Act!

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Amis d’enfance?

Que reste-t-il de nos journées d’école?

Dans la cour d’une école, au milieu des platanes,
Les enfants jouent en chœur.
Les rondes et les bonds, les cris, les coq-à-l’âne,
Les chants pleins de ferveur,
C’est la joie distillée, très belle Marie-Anne,
Qui coule dans les cœurs.
Le maître dit: « C’est bien. » Continuer la lecture

De la dictée

Qui veut tuer son chien l’accuse de la rage. Mais pourquoi vouloir le tuer? L’histoire récente de l’école française est émaillée de procès iniques. La dictée est peut-être le plus décrié des exercices traditionnels. On n’a pas encore osé le supprimer tout à fait, tant sa pratique est ancrée dans l’imaginaire national, mais on l’a dénigrée, découragée, réduite à l’inefficacité. Elle est tolérée comme un lien symbolique entre les générations. Mais tout se passe comme si on ne la conservait que pour ne pas fâcher un électorat réactionnaire, ou par une sorte de nostalgie mal placée. Il y a dans les attaques contre la dictée le même mélange de bêtise et de lâcheté que pour le redoublement.

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Giving explanations

After my first series about games in pedagogy, I would like to share some trivial considerations. An army seldom collapses from a very tough battle, or because the enemy has been very smart, but rather from a lack of supply. In most cases, disease is deadlier than bullets. A lesson does not fail from a lack of fun and does rarely fail because the teacher hasn’t worked enough. It fails because of very common and uninteresting issues, such as a broken LCD projector, a lack of rituals, bad weather and so on. A teacher suffers much more from chatter than from true violence. There is no glory in it, but it hurts all the same. In my next articles, I would like to discuss those seemingly boring matters, because they are essential. So let’s get started with


One major rule: keep them simple.

The trick is that you’ll probably make the lessons more complicated by trying to explain them. First, make sure that the students are in good condition before you give an explanation or a set of instructions. Partial explanations are confusing as well. The main strategies to give an explanation:

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Games for Language lessons

These are short language games, with little or no preparation. To be used as a starter or as a reward at the end of a lesson.

General precaution: As most of the games are known with many variants, it’s always a good idea to check the rules before they get started.

A few tips to make the activities entertaining:

  • Speed
  • Speed
  • Speed
  • Rewards of some sort. Glory is better than candies, and much cheaper.
  • Only a few minutes in a row. If the result is not perfect, it’s better to play the game again a few days later than to prolong it until the students are bored. By the way, it’s also much more effective for memorization to space the repetitions a little bit than to try to memorize everything at once.

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How to make a lesson look like a game?

Or learn to loose and have fun!

Some teachers believe that they just have to put some pretty colorful coating on an exercise to make it fun and transform it into a game. They’re just wasting their time. Look at the African children. They play football on disgusting waste grounds, with balls made of scrap. Their playgrounds are muddy, full of garbage, often smelly. But the waste grounds have one major advantage: there is no adult. As modest as those pieces of land may be, they are the property of the children, at least for a while. They become magical realms, thanks to the power of imagination. What does this have to do with education? We must ask the question, as we do no longer believe that the sidewalk is a 1000 feet high cliff. We’ve lost the magic power to change a stick into a flamming sword. Therefore, we must find some serious excuse to justify our plays with the children.

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Is it a good idea to play at school?

When I was a high school student, I had teachers who tried to recover their authority with educational games. I didn’t like them. They were bad players as well as bad teachers. However, at the same time I learned a lot of things during the great games I played with the Boy Scouts. So, what was wrong with high school?

I doubt that they’re playing in order to increase their attention skill. They play. And it’s enough!

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What is success?

Success is relative.

You succeed when you reach your objectives, whatever those objectives are.

If your objective is to please your guest, making a good cake is a success. At school you can be successful in doing an interesting presentation or in writing a very smart essay. You’re always successful in doing something. You can’t be successful in general.

The objectives of the students do not necessarily match the objectives of the school or the objectives of the teacher.

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