A wider perspective

The first week of school has passed and in its passing I have a better grasp on the scope of my 2 year long project for helping my 2 counterpart teachers with their English and teaching skills, creating a sustainable Phonics program for each grade and quite possibly revitalizing the school library.

First, a few interesting observations about the Thai school system:

  • students all wear uniforms and must have their hair cut a certain way (otherwise a teacher will pull the student aside and cut the hair correctly right then and there)
  • the first week was spent having students clean the school yard and classrooms, and not much learning; teachers gave review lessons while schedules were still being ironed out by the Admin team
  • Thai teachers dress very professionally – currently every school teacher (and government employee) wears black every day to show respect for the late King Rama IX
  • also, I attended a teacher meeting for many schools in the area that involved a lot of sitting and listening to a lecture about how teachers can become better teachers while many teachers talked to each other and looked at their cellphones

IMG_8530

  • teachers roles at school are as educators and second parents, who show quite a bit of affection for the students and serve the school in many capacities: buying food for cooking at lunch, serving the food, eating with the students, running the student store and making sure the students are hygienic/properly dressed

*please remember that my observations are of one school in Thailand, a small sample size of a large educational system and therefore my comments definitely do not reflect the whole picture. Here is a great article by a foreigner who really sums up the issues in the Thai educational system: why-the-thai-education-system-is-running-so-poorly-the-main-problems-and-possible-solutions

I only taught 1 quick lesson on numbers to a group of 2nd graders my first week. The experience was enough to know that we’ve got a lot of practice to do and that the students are enthusiastic about active learning.

IMG_8512

I spent most of my time cleaning up a building that is labeled as the “Library” yet has been a storage space for years. I had to find some way to get the students to help the organization without throwing, tearing or jumping on the books, so I made a little competition…

And they succeeded 🙂

I will be helping co-teach English classes from elementary (Pratom) to middle school (Matayom). I also will need to start learning the names of my 300+ students with creative name-tags posted on a murals of the ocean like my counterpart Kru Doll created.

IMG_8513

IMG_8514

The test scores at my school are low with students not only struggling to meet national standards for English, but for the reading and writing of their native Thai language. I hope to create a safe place for learning languages in the library and ultimately to encourage reading and writing for enjoyment. Spent my Saturday repainting the inside of the building and I am looking forward to decorating the room with learning materials this week (Monday and Tuesday are no school due to more teacher meetings).

IMG_8561

IMG_8586

It’s been a slow start to the year, with a lot of work ahead, but then a slow pace is the Thai way of life and the much needed work is reason I volunteered here. Work isn’t a burden when you love what you do 🙂

Advertisements

In a cabin by the sea

Before school started, I completed my first solo adventure around Thailand.

The first leg of the trip was Consolidation (a Peace Corps practice drill in case an emergency breaks out in country). I learned how to get a Krabi by public transportation and rewarded myself with a large pineapple mai tai while being treated to a one night stay at a large resort.

Then, another volunteer and I headed back to Surat Thani, found a cheap hostel and went to watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at the cinema. By 5 am the next morning I was at the airport on my way to Bangkok for some eating, shopping, and the next day took a 5 hour bus ride and a 1 hour ferry to Koh Mak (an island in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Trat, near the border of Cambodia).

Here I stayed in a beautiful mansion with 12 girls and met up with the other Peace Corps volunteers for the annual MayCation (a celebration including a Cinco De Mayo fiesta and feast and a chance for the 129 group to meet with the 128s).

IMG_8440IMG_8439

I lounged hard, swam in the warm shallow water, and cooked an epic Italian meal of three different types of pasta while drinking a wine bottle I paid way too much baht for – my favorite way to relax.

IMG_8398IMG_8415

Then I stayed 1 night by myself in a cabin by the sea before heading back to Bangkok and my flight back to site.

I indulged in my favorite eats at the family restaurant right next to the Island Huts and I fell asleep and woke up to the sight and sounds of the ocean outside my window.

I took a walk in the sprinkling rain, smells of wet dirt and rotted fruit, and later returned back to my cabin under a firefly lit path. I sipped on a lime, coconut and rum mixture on my porch, to a playlist of beach tunes. I was on my own private beach.

IMG_8401

The isolated experience by the sea after a fun reconnect with volunteers was a recharging and healing experience. Now if only I could live in that cabin for the remainder of my service…

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing

there is a beach. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that sand,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”

doesn’t make any sense.

 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

        Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

        Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the shoreline

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

        Don’t go back to sleep.

 

The excerpt above is from a poem “A Great Wagon” by Rumi, with only the bold words changed (field to beach, grass to sand, and doorsill to shoreline) to fit the setting of my story.

A world in motion

A moon

A piece of earth

Reflecting the sun’s glow

And orchestrating the tides

Tides

Molecules of water

Thinking they are separate

And yet colliding as one

Light

Reflections of energy 

Refracting off other objects

And projecting abstractions 

Reality

Illusions of control 

Believing we are sovereign 

And yet lost amongst shadows 

Everything 

Matter in motion

Creating serene chaos 

And a world desperate to see clearly