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

The teaching part...

THAILAND | Saturday, 14 March 2015 | Views [359]

My more recent posts have been of the philosophical, life-pondering variety despite my initial intentions of sharing my experiences teaching in Thailand. So, I’ll dedicate this post to a recap/wrap-up :)

My teaching experience is winding down and I feel like it has gone by SO quickly! I have a hard time believing it’s already March and as I write these words my students are sitting down to write their final exams that will run until the end of the week.

I am so thankful for my experience teaching at Sakolrajwittiyanukul School up in the lovely little northeastern Thai town of Sakon Nakhon. My time here has allowed me to grow as a teacher, grow as a person, learn about a fascinating culture, explore a beautiful and often unseen part of the world and learn from the pure and creative intelligence of young minds. I will bring so many great memories, lessons and experiences home with me but a few stick out.

 

Teachers often say that there are trying days, days you want to quit and just give up, but once in a while you have a day that reminds you why you are doing what you’re doing. I think one of the things that keeps teachers coming back to their jobs is the student’s beautiful ‘aha!’ moment. One of my students that struggles with the English language, and consequently her English Science lessons, often reverts to drawing amazing pictures (usually sad faces on her tests L), when she is supposed to be doing work. In my first weeks teaching I took this as indifference and let it be, but as I grew as a teacher I took it upon myself to get Aom-Am to understand. I do not remember the topic I was teaching, but I remember the interaction so clearly. In Thai classes, there is a culture of copying. One student does the work and then the correct responses travel around the classroom almost at the speed of light to arrive on each student’s paper. I check their work and it is all exactly the same (I learned to deal with this later on). Anyhow, on this occasion, I was working with my artistically inclined student and the boys in the class kept interrupting my targeted tutelage to have me check the work that they so boldly copied. As I glanced at their work to give my nod of approval for them to proceed to play football in the back of the class, I noticed Aom-Am’s frustration at my divided attention. What I had initially thought to be indifference was just a lack of understanding. In that moment I realized that she wanted to learn but was having a hard time grasping the concept. I gave her my full attention and explained the lesson as clearly as I could and these efforts were rewarded with the coveted “AHA!” moment! I was so happy in that moment and so was Aom-Am, it was as if a fog was lifted and we celebrated with a fist pump and a high five. To my delight, she drew quite a bit less on the next test.

There were a few more moments like that during my time teaching, including one of my students that was failing scoring the highest grade on the test after I dedicated time getting her to understand the difference between scalars and vectors.

My teaching style and attitude changed so much from when I first began teaching. I feel as if I became more sensitive to the needs of the students, their moods and energies and I was thus better able to manage my classes. I go with their flow instead of fighting to have my way.  The results of my dynamic approach were great! Students that were quiet initially would answer questions, and better yet ask questions! They wanted to know why? How? What is this and that? As a teacher, I feel like being asked questions is one of the most fulfilling aspects about the job as it confirms the students’ comprehension and curiosity about the topic. Although I must say to feel this fulfillment from teaching that the questions need to be related to the topic of instruction, because when I told the students that I had a significant other I was inundated with questions that ranged from: “will you get married?” to “do you have a son?”

 

Beyond the curious, smiling energy-filled students, the Thai teachers are equally amazing. We call them ‘mamas’ and they truly fulfill a matriarchal role. Their love and care for others is most evident when we share meals, they make sure that we are full and ceaselessly ask to make sure we have all that we need. They make us care packages, give us parting gifts and warm hugs to send us safely on our travels.

 

I loved teaching here so much and will always remember it. Probably the most touching memory I will have from my experience at Sakolraj was on my last day of classes when two students were waiting outside the classroom and told my that they were upset I was leaving because when I teach them they understand. That simple compliment was one of the highest compliments I have received and considering the trying days and amount of effort I put in, I will forever cherish that moment and be grateful for all of the learning that has happened in my short time here :)

 

Tags: experience, gratitude, happy, love, teaching, thailand, thanks

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