The past couple of days have been an interesting exploration in the school for me. We have come to the conclusion that there are very few resources for us to use. As a result, instead of copying or using the school’s paper, I use my own personal funds to pay for paper or write out copies of the worksheets. By cutting the sheets into eighths, we are able to supply our total 80 students with one worksheet a piece with just 10 sheets of paper. More often than not, they end up not valuing the effort (i.e. it ends up on the floor or in a waste basket), but at least they had the opportunity for a written exercise.
Currently, there are three volunteers. Fatemah, Alie, and I have been working with the children the past week. We have decided the best way to keep the children’s attention span is to split the hour-long class three ways, in short-form 20/20/20. This 20/20/20 structure allows us to give them a positive incentive, normally a game or drawing, last. Generally, the structure ends up being composed of three things:
1st 20 minutes: Drills (Using vocabulary, songs, and chants, we have the children repeat what we say orally)
2nd 20 minutes: Written exercise (Using the new vocabulary and reviewing the old, the children write down what is on the board. When they finish, they are allowed to move on to the game or creative project for the day)
3rd 20 minutes: Game or drawing/coloring project utilizing the new vocabulary
What’s even more successful to regain classroom control is if we can split the class into groups. Instead of being 3 teachers to 20-25 students, one teacher to 6-8 students is easier to work with. Today, we rotated the students between the three teachers. Tomorrow, we are going to see if one teacher can rotate the group through all three activities. Sadly, Fatemah and Alie are both leaving Koh Tao this weekend. I have heard from one of the in-country coordinators here that a new volunteer should be here Monday. Without the new volunteer, I am scared that I won’t be able to both teach and control the class at the same time. The true test of my effectiveness and how much respect I have earned with the children happens the minute I become a solo teacher.
Also, I will check back with P’Jin about the tutoring schedule at the end of the week. I’m hoping that I have a full tutoring list. I am really excited to see what I can help them learn in a smaller situation. All for the hopes of bridging the gap between the students who have potential to be challenged further and the students who really need the outside help.
Outside of school, I enjoy the culinary experience. Absolutely positively awesome. Last night, three of us went to a Chinese hot pot restaurant. I have never in my life seen anything like this. In some ways, it could be compared to French fondue or Japanese shabu shabu, but basically, you make your own food. I will put pictures up of the food soon. I’m also learning that my immune system is not sure about Thai pathogens. I have been sick a number of times in the past 3 weeks and I continue to have iffy, sometimes nauseated moments. Here’s to hoping that goes away soon!
Overall, I’m truly enjoying the new challenge of teaching in this setting and exploring Thai culture. Somehow, the most applicable advice comes from the Thai motto- Mai Pen Rai (pronunciation: My Pen Rye). Basically, this translates to “don’t worry about it”. Plans and structure aren’t everything to the Thai. I go into every class having a plan, just like I go into my life. The reality is that one must adapt to whatever the situation at hand might be. In the classroom, that might mean modifying an original structure to the current situation of caffeinated and sugared up children. In life, that might mean adjusting your view of reality. An example of this would be last week when a centipede bit me on my way back to the guesthouse. Looking back on it, it’s kind of hilarious because a random, kind Thai gentleman went to his backyard, ground up a leaf, and pressed it into my calf. His generosity became my saving grace that night. Ultimately, between “mai pen rai” and the Thai principle of saving face with patience, switching roles to teacher, as opposed to the student, will probably teach me more than I have learned ever before.