Be very prepared, my friends, very prepared. “It Ain’t Easy” as the song goes. As a professional educator in American public schools with 29 years of teaching experience in grades 1 thru 12, I thought, “piece of cake”.
Keep in mind the fact that, developmentally, an 8 year old is an 8 year old and a 12 year old is a 12 year old, etc. no matter where in the world they live. Smiling, laughing and playing are all part of their nature. The difference between Thailand school children and American school children is the cultural development. The politeness, the kindness and the respect I felt from the school children I met in Thailand is far greater than the American classroom ( a future blog ).
Getting back to the classroom experience, I was given the opportunity by my gracious host, Mr.. Stevesuphan, to observe his 5th and 6th grade English classes ( each class is one hour long ). Believe me when I say my jaw dropped down to the floor as I entered the classroom and saw 45, yes, 45 smiling faces staring up at me and 45 voices in unison saying “sawatdee krap (ka)”. I thought, no way is any instruction going to take place in this crowd. However, as the hour went by, I observed Mr. Stevesuphan conduct the most awesome conversational language lesson I have ever seen.
His voice controlled the classroom. Even through the distractions, me being the biggest distraction as I carried on small group conversations, Mr. Steve had pairs of students give their conversational presentations to the class from the front of the classroom. The nice thing was that everyone applauded for the two conversationalists after each presentation. Everything was based on the positive as I left the class with feelings of elation in my heart.
After a quiet evening and a good nights rest ( wink, wink, Mr. Steve ) I learned that I would teach the 2nd grade class that morning. How hard can that be, I thought, as I mentally prepared a lesson on the ABC’s and some small rhyming words that would show vowel and consonant sounds (hat, cat, rat, fat, etc.). It’s only for an hour, I thought, and that will fly by before I know it. Well, those little ones were a lot smarter than I thought. They breezed through the ABC’s and even sang the ABC song. So much for that being part of the lesson as I glanced at my watch and noticed only three minutes had passed. Panic set in when I realized that I had 57 more minutes to occupy these young minds educationally. Certainly the rhyming words and letter sounds will eat the time away. Nope! These little boys and girls were smart. I began to sweat on top of sweat. I knew I was boring myself, so what must I be doing to these children. Thank goodness the Filipino teacher Ms. Melanie stayed with me in the classroom and even though Mr. Steve said he would not be present, I was relieved to see him slotted very quietly in the back of the room. I was saved by Ms. Melanie as she smoothly transitioned the class into her prepared lesson for the next half hour.
To save some of my dignity I will tell you that for the past 15 years I have been a high school administrator and out of the instructional classroom. But, even though I felt that I tripped and stumbled through the lesson, I felt the old, but familiar joy and happiness in my heart from my days of teaching. These children were beyond my expectations in both mind and spirit.
So, you want to teach in Thailand?
1. Go in with an open mind and a sincere love for children
2. Be very, very patient
3. Know what you are doing
4. Be prepared in your lessons
5. Have a working knowledge of the Thai language and a good dictionary
The rewards are enormous and beyond words.
Thank you Mr. Steve and Ms. Melanie for this life experience. Especially I thank the children.
More at www.ThaiSchoolLife.com