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Donna in Thailand’s Travel Diary

Friday, 16 Jul 2010

Location: Nong Plong, Thailand

MapSo, not only am I the first volunteer here, but I am also one of the first foreigners, or "pharangs". The staff and people of the community have been extremely welcoming. The children have been awesome! They are truly making me feel like a queen or a heroine, or something of that nature! I gave one lesson on Wednesday, the day that I was picked up from Chaiyaphum, and have taught several classes on Thursday and Friday (today). So far, I have included one activity from my recent training in adventure-based/experiential education. It went well with a few different levels of classes. The children are incredibly sweet and engaged. They truly want to practice their English.

The differences in school culture between here and in Connecticut are, as expected, significant. First of all, the children wear uniforms. The dress code (a picture) and rules are formalized on a huge poster and displayed in the stairwells. Due to the weather here, the school is really both in and out of doors with continuous movement between the two environments. In fact, there is a sense of one environment - not a sense of in and out. The students operate to a large degree independently. They were trained very well at the start of the year in the expectations, and they independently do what's expected. There are children who are monitors or class leaders and command the students when to stand and address their teachers in unison. There are children who are assigned different cleaning duties, including cleaning up after their teachers eat their lunch (again, the honoring of the elders). I went into one class and when I requested that the children move the desks back and form a circle, several children spontaneously picked up brooms and started to sweep up the dirt (Thai brooms are very cool looking!). They did a remarkably quick and thorough job.

Respect for elders is ingrained in these children. They bow with hands together in greeting teachers and address them respectfully. At home, I know someone who does this and is seen as strange - because it IS strange there. However, here it is the most natural thing in the world. The children know their place and seem much the happier for it!

This is not to say that they are perfectly behaved! They horse around and push, slap, and chase each other perhaps more than our kids do (outside of class). However, it doesn't seem to be forbidden here as it is at home, and they don't overdo it.

In class, they are remarkably kind and caring to each other. They help each other understand and when playing classroom games, ensure that everyone is included and has a turn.

As the novel foreigner, it has been a remarkable experience for me to be teaching, and have a child's head in each window and in the doorways peering in, apparently wondering when I will get to their classes. An experience like this can really give someone a confidence boost! Tik, my young mentor, is a first-class teacher! She teaches English to grades 4-6. Ilana, Matti, and Noah - she is almost a Thai version of your first grade teacher Maya. She is beautiful, warm, animated, structured, and adored by the children. I am fortunate to have her be my guide here.

There is much more to tell; however, I've been invited to a going-away party for a school director and I need to be ready on time (as you know, always a challenge for me)...

More tomorrow! Thanks for tuning in to my Thai adventure!