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Learning in Asia Experiences and life lessons while teaching in Thailand.

...and remember to smile

THAILAND | Wednesday, 24 December 2014 | Views [651]

Science selfie

Science selfie

Over the last two weeks, I learned a lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The source of this revelation stems from the often-unrecognized wisdom that is stored in youthful minds. A twelve-year old student of mine taught me a life lesson that led me to have my best days of teaching since being in Thailand. For this, I am ever grateful and I can only hope to positively impact her life as she has mine.  In order to tell this story, I need to backtrack a bit.

Last week, my seventh grade Science class was learning about weather. I decided to teach them about the causes of wind, so, I took the students outside to observe the weather. I bought jumbo thermometers and we took temperature readings at the school and then at a nearby lake. We then observed the direction of the wind on the lake, looked at some crocodiles and then gradually meandered back to class. In my mind, it was now time to cement what we had learned outdoors. In the students’ minds, it was time to socialize. All I asked of them was for five minutes of attention, which I failed to garner. This led to significant frustration on my part as I thought I had planned a pretty cool lesson, but the students couldn’t respect this enough to give me their attention just for a few moments.


The resentment I felt with this particular class carried over to the following day, even though I was teaching a different subject. We played a game in Health class and everyone had fun, even teacher! As I walked to my desk at the end of class, Mint, one of my seventh grader’s, showed me the peace sign and smiled, so I returned a silly smile and continued to walk to my desk. When I got there, I looked back up at her and using her hands, she indicated to me that I should smile. I did smile back, however I cannot truthfully say that it was an authentic smile. My face was smiling, but behind this smile was the realization that my inner tension and frustration was showing. Even after a fun class, these young innocent eyes could read right through my false smile. Needless to say, I was taken aback by her gesture and once I returned to my office I sat still, contemplating what had just happened.

If a semi-successful seventh grade class on weather class changed my most basic expression of happiness, what does this mean about my overall attitude? What was scary to me was that I had attached myself to a negative experience and transposed those emotions to an entirely different class, to a different day and potentially neglected the learning that took place in my successful class. I was essentially blind to what was unfolding in front of me because of a previous, unrelated experience.

How often does this happen? How often are we blind by anger, anxiety, self-consciousness, vanity etc.? How often do we miss the beauty unfolding before our very eyes because of our personal thoughts? How often are our thoughts and moods results of attachments to previous situations that no longer exist? How can we avoid all this craziness?! Well…it’s simple, a twelve year old can answer: you can smile!

Smiling is a simply elegant solution to you getting stuck in your own head. Try it! Walk around smiling for absolutely no reason and see what happens. How do people react? Do they smile back? Do they look confused at your apparent happiness? Are you still thinking about whatever was bothering you? Try it even if you’re by yourself!

I find that smiling makes me present and aware of all that is happening around me and stops me from thinking about nonsensical and trivial matters that occasionally consume my mind. Smiling is the most basic and primal expression of one’s joy. It is so intrinsically linked to our nature that simply smiling for 5 minutes causes you elicit a physiological response that makes you happier! Smiling makes your body release happy hormones J


A smile is the most accessible and affordable form of therapy, albeit highly under-prescribed and underutilized. It is fitting that I learned this simple lesson while in the “Land of Smiles!”

I started to apply this to my days here and found that it lifted my mood when my mind would drift into undesirable trains of thought. It allowed me to erase thoughts of past classes, past problems, past issues and bring me back to the beauty of the present moment, thus allowing me to enjoy the best week of classes I have had in my two months of teaching! The amazing thing about smiling, too, is that smiles are reflected by the world around you. In taking each moment as a fresh start and smiling, the world will undoubtedly smile a beautiful smile back at you! So smile a bit more this holiday season!!

Happy Holidays! 



Tags: free, happiness, holidays, smile, teaching, thailand

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