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.

 

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Time and Travel

This is not a post about Time Travel.

Just Time. And how Time relates to Travel.

Time seems to Travel quickly when one is busy. And Time seems to Travel so slow when there are no activities planned or pressing.

Around this time last year, I was in one extreme, experiencing the slowness of Time….spending as little money as possible, saving for the bpit-term Travel plans in April and having nothing but Time in front of me. Lazy, hot days at my site; I forced myself to bike somewhere every day to keep myself active and interacting with the surrounding community. Still, I spent a lot of time in my room sleeping, or cleaning, or video chatting, or watching downloaded movies. My body became lean and my mind keen from mindful eating and relaxed routine.

This year, I’m only on the cusp of the other extreme, the type of life I am used to – busy.

In the past 2 weeks I’ve Traveled to 2 islands, stayed in 5 different provinces, and used over 10 forms of different transportation options for work and play.

Work:

  • Bangkok for medical appointments, poop samples and teeth cleanings
  • Suphanburi, Don Chedi for training the new Peace Corps recruits (group 131)
  • Surat Thani town to lead a 2 day training with a total of 200 Thai-English teachers

Play:

  • Koh Tao for a solo adventure and my first tattoo
  • Kanchanaburi weekend with my California girls Lucia and Kalina
  • Koh Phangan to chill with PCV girlfriends Tiffany and Audrey

NOW, I am finally back at home (my site) and packing the last 2 years of my life into suitcases and boxes, preparing for my final farewell from my site in the next week.

This constant Travel, and not the luxury of unplanned Time, will most likely be my life for at least the next 4 months.

  1. I Travel to Bangkok after Valentine’s Day to close out of my service (COS).
  2. I will be Traveling to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai with my childhood best friends Chelsea and Jessica for 10 days.
  3. I will return to Bangkok for a last hoorah with my 129 group and wishing the 130 and 131 group the patience and strength to finish out their service in Thailand.
  4. I will fly back to California and stay there for 3 months yet with multiple Travel plans:
    • a roadtrip to New Mexico to pick up my sister
    • a roadtrip up the coast of California to San Francisco and maybe as far as Seattle
    • joining Kevin for business trips to South Carolina, Indiana and possibly Hawaii
    • hopefully one last trip down to San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico
  5. And then, around May or June, I fly off to Okinawa, Japan, to settle myself for the Time being.

I knew when I joined the Peace Corps that it would be a rare chance to experience Time in all its slowness. I will always cherish the weeks and months of isolation from my comforts and responsibilities.

One might say I was Traveling the whole time these past 2 years, but it is my social media who tells this story. The reality is most of my days were as routined and settled as any day back home could be yet without the ability or opportunity for me to fill my time with the usual distractions: friends, family, partying, spending money, driving, or shopping.

The restrictions of my service and site kept me healthier and lonelier when deprived of my usual habits. I learned how to live with less and how to live with myself.

That being said, I will also embrace the Travels ahead no matter how speedy the Time may try to slip by. I will embrace my family and friends with gratitude. I will enjoy my old habits as rare occurrences instead of weekly routines.

I now have methods for keeping me grounded and aware of my mind and body in space and I intend to occupy my Time while Traveling with as much presence and appreciation as I can embody.

Time for more Travel.

simplicity.

simplicity is

a bite of

khaao suai

plain white rice.

 

simplicity is

a smile

shared.

 

simplicity is

this moment.

 

simplicity is

lying down

eyes closed

mind blank

breathing.

 

simplicity is

what it is.

 

simple.

 

 

sometimes I begin to crave after something more; the problem is, that something more never ceases to be elusive and the cravings just grow stronger, leaving the possessed unsatisfied…

sometimes I need to remind myself to live simply enjoy the small pleasures and moments that I have right in front of me because it is all beautiful and it is all impermanent and I am privileged to be alive and healthy and here right now…

if I envision life as a bearer of gifts, then let each moment be a present of the present; appreciation, gratitude – I always come back to these two because they ground me in reality and love, the way I wish to lead my life…