Dolly Dingle

My wonderful counterpart is a literal Dolly. She stands almost 2 feet shorter than me yet is large in her heart and presence. She has been an instrumental part of my happiness while being abroad and a constant supporting friend and colleague to me each and every day.

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I was told that sometimes Thai people shrink from public affection, yet Dolly was literally and figuratively eager to hold my hand from the first day we met.

My first week of school, Kru Doll was tirelessly communicating with the Paw Aw (principal) and Admin to get my scheduled ironed out. She patiently translated a 4 hour teacher meeting into English.

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In her classroom environment, she has created a colorful, crafty and cheerful environment. Her students adore and respect her and she treats all of them like her own children.

As a Thai teacher she wears many hats – that of a nurse, a lunch lady, a mother, an instructor, an impromptu dentist, and a dance choreographer, not to mention English translator for the other teachers. There are many days when she is exhausted and still she is always willing to learn; she is a student of life.

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When I first arrived at site, Dolly adopted me into her family, taking me to markets, seafood restaurants, picnics by the beach and other adventures to get me acquainted with my new home. Her whole family spent a Saturday helping me paint the library.

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Like most Thais, she constantly makes sure I am well fed, happy and supported.

This past week, she planned and made my farewell party so special, always giving her love.

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2 years have gone by and she’s been there every step of the way. I am so grateful. Thank you for taking care of me Kru Doll. Wishing you all the love and health for your future!

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Ying and Yang

Kru Ying and I may have had our differences in the past, and yet our friendship was inevitable when we found our balance. A Ying and a Yang.

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She is full of witty jokes and I am a good audience for laughing.

She is petite and feminine while I have an athletic build and masculine tendencies.

She is a selfless mother of 3 young boys and a wife to a husband she loves very much and I am a selfish single woman of the same age with less responsibility.

Our classroom management and teaching styles were not always the same, and yet we learned how to respect one another as we both agreed that the state of affairs in Thai education is a difficult bureaucratic monster to deal with.

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She has always included me into friend groups and made me feel welcome from sports day, to teacher day, and just making random days full of boring meetings more enjoyable. We also both prefer hanging with the boys (who can be less gossipy).

I was also lucky enough to visit her hometown in Buriram province with her 3 sweet boys and a very welcoming family in Issaan. I can’t wait to visit again!

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Kru Ying volunteered to drive me away from site to Bangkok this Friday with all of my 2 years pack away to fly home. I couldn’t wish for a better roadtrip family!

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Thank you for 2 years of partnership and friendship Kru Ying! A beautiful woman and teacher inside and outside 🙂

Phonics Training – coming full circle

2 years ago, I wrote about my vision for a Phonics Project.

While I was very motivated in the beginning, the more time I spent at my school, the less I saw my dreams becoming a reality. Too many cancelled classes or other teacher duties, too many students and my time stretched thin, plus student fundamentals too low to make much headway under these conditions in 2 years.

Still, during any free time I would mull over how I would ideally teach Phonics. Each term, I added and created more ideas, creating a system that I hoped would be left behind for my counterpart even if she never used it…

And then, with 2 months left in my service, at the beginning of 2019, I was invited to an informal “Phonics meeting” by my Counterpart I don’t even teach primary Phonics with. When the meeting began, I immediately realized that this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I told the group teachers and supervisors heading the meeting that I knew a good deal about Phonics and they let me share some of my knowledge that very day, only to have a meeting set for one week later where I would walk an even larger group of teachers and administrators through my untested 3 level plan.

Soon thereafter, an official training was planned (2 days, 100 teachers per day, for a grand total of 200 teachers in the local area to train). As the lead, I luckily, after 2 years of sitting on my plans, I had most everything ready except a lesson plan to accommodate such a large group. Being wise to the Thai-way-of-planning now, I didn’t expect to have much input or collaboration or my supplies or seating arrangement suggestions filled, but I’ve become as flexible as Elasta girl when it comes to last minute and changing on the fly; I used that superpower to power through the 2 days training…

 

Training Day 1:

-I was nervous and tired after 2 weeks of traveling and only a few days preparation for the 200 teachers I would be teaching on my own, including a night before editing of lesson plans

– I rushed a bit, looked a little haphazard, losing track of where I placed materials (as I tend to do when I get frazzled), but all in all it went very well

Training Day 2:

-Went much more smoothly – I had materials prepped beforehand, I had already done a run through the day before to gauge how activities went and how to adjust accordingly

-Both days I was bombarded with picture taking – the first day was overwhelming in that I needed to prep for the next lesson, but was getting pulled every way for pictures, and by the second day, although there were actually more pictures taken than the day before, I smiled widely knowing that I had survived

-I know I did well in relating with the teachers right from the start; I told them how I had observed their duties as teachers the past 2 years and acknowledged the difficulties of learning and teaching English; I shared my own Thai language learning experience and impressed upon them the importance of routine and 5-10 minutes daily practice to improve the fundamental skills of phonics in the classroom

Aftermath:

-While I know that I couldn’t have pulled off this training until the end of my service, I wish I had done it earlier because I met so many wonderful Thai teachers, peers and friends, that now with a month until I go home, I don’t have the opportunity to spend more time with them or collaborate further

-I received great feedback including the observation that Thai teachers were not on their phones, they were paying attention throughout (a rare occurrence) aka were interested in the training

-Also, I was given compliments that I spoke English very clearly and that my Thai is very good

-Thai teachers wrote feedback that the training provided practical use in the classroom, and covered almost all topics that teachers wanted to learn (all except singing songs – not my expertise)

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*notice me teaching on the right hand-side and my support staff posing for pictures 55 #priorities

Overall, a great and an unexpected way to end my service. One of the most difficult parts of service is not comparing or wishing your service had been something other than what it was. However, after 2 years of never  being allowed to teach 1 swim class (while there was a pool at my school and swimming classes for PE), basically failing at transferring any skills that really were implemented by either of my counterparts, and wishing I could have been involved in more teacher trainings like the group of volunteers in Satun, it was FINALLY the unexpected culmination of 2 years work actually being put into practice, plus the appreciation of the community around me to trust me with leading such an ambitious 2 day training, that really makes me feel somewhat accomplished after these 2 haphazard years of service to the Thai people.

 

Published in Khao Rai Sub Da issue 400 – PC Thailand newsletter

STORY FROM THE FIELD:

Phonics Teacher Training by PCV Lauren Cono: Last week, over the course of 2 days, 200 hundred teachers in the surrounding districts of Surat Thani attended a training focused on Phonics. This was the perfect way to end my service as I had concentrated most of my teaching efforts with my Primary counterpart on building a Phonics program that could be applied 5-10 minutes every day at the start of each lesson.

The training consisted of pronunciation practice, speaking and listening activities, as well as a run through of a 3 level system to implement Phonics at any school. I noticed that one of the biggest factors keeping Thai teachers from teaching Phonics in the classroom is their own lack of confidence with the English language, especially pronunciation. Instead of training them in the difficult language of linguistics, I broke down the basics of pronunciation into easy language that Thai teachers at any English ability can understand and therefore use in their classrooms. I also provided materials, a weekly guide for each level to implement during a school year, along with suggested lesson plans to create weekly Phonics routines.

There was positive feedback from each day and both groups of 100 teachers. They felt the training was easy to understand and practical enough to apply in their classrooms. They particularly liked the active games like “Cowboy” and “Monster” as ways to practice letter names, sounds and/or vocabulary. Although both my counterparts were participants and not trainers, they supported me throughout. I hope that the community of teachers in the Surat Thani area will bond together and be able to apply this training and later train others if it proves successful.