Tag Archives: Wattoei School

Mental Work vs. Physical Work

The longer that I’m here in Sing Buri switching between the orphanage work and the school, the more time I have to consider the differences and value of the two forms of work. Both the orphanage work and teaching at the school are signficantly tiring in their own ways. Both are signficantly rewarding in their own ways. Both are important to the local community.

Working at the orphanage, I have learned to become a mason. I help with a few other volunteers to build a wall that will protect the children. Because the children are on school vacation currently, there are only two kids to play and work with there. We mix cement with a spade by hand, pour it into buckets, and sit for hours discerning the shape of the wall. If it is too concave or uneven, the whole thing might fall. All the small pieces of cement and stone built brick-by-brick must be considered for its individual importance.

There’s an odd form of mental meditation that happens whilst staring into the red and gray in front of my face. With sweat streaming down my face, I finish a few rows and return to my spot after lunch. After the work is finished, I can feel the aching from my back as a testament to leaning over a vat of cement while mixing it and then bending over the wall to check each brick for correct placement on the half-built wall. My legs are covered in remants of cement dust, my hands with ant bites, and my feet with more particles of half-dried cement.

In complete contrast to the physical work of the orphanage, teaching at the Wattoei Summer Camp means more mental and intellectual work trying to find the right way to reveal a whole new world of language to the students. The summer camp consists of about 30 children from the age of 7 to 14. With such a wide range of skill levels, the lessons have to be just enough to make the oldest ones learn something new and not push the inexperienced younger ones too far. Each day, I make a rough outline of what I would like to do with the class, but because I know they will show the cracks in their knowledge, what we end up learning about is more up to the day’s revelations. Before I started teaching here, I never though it involved this much improvisation. I always have a few educational games in my back pocket to help them review or master a concept. Each day is an hour-long lesson followed by a range of controlled practice through team or partner games.

By the end of my day, I am thinking more about the details of how I use language and how I can make it easier for my students. My brain is reeling with “maybe I should try this” or “maybe I should do that”. I walk away knowing that the children are really learning and look up to me. I feel like there is an immediate return on the investment I make at summer camp because Birs (one of my students) might hug me at the end of the day.

Just in the examination of the two tasks alone, one can see how my days are so different here. Both teach me so much about who I am and what I am capable of doing for the community surrounding me. Despite the fact that I don’t speak enough Thai to express it, I think they know that I’m really trying to do something good. Ultimately, if each metaphorical brick of my wall is placed correctly, that’s all that I could ever ask for.

Note: My computer charger broke this week with some kind of electrical issues, thus I do not have any pictures for the time being. I ordered a new one from a store in town, but we’ll see if it is actually working/authentically an Apple product on Wednesday...

Same, Same but Different.

Teaching in Sing Buri has been a completely different experience this week as well. I began teaching at Wattoei School, helping as an English teacher. Because the kids are at the end of the term, they weren’t terribly serious about their lessons, but we still had a good bit of fun with language practice. Next week, I begin teaching at Wattoei’s English Camp over their break. Because of Buddhist holidays two days a week, I will only teach 3 days a week. The other two days I will spend working at an orphanage/boarding school doing construction and renovations.

At Wattoei School, the teachers are very curious about my story. I shared pictures of family and friends with them at lunch trying to build friendships. Toe-Wee-Cho is the main teacher helping to guide me in the classes. The students are much older. Generally, I teach students between the ages of 11-14. Their English is better than the younger children that I taught in Koh Tao, and generally, we can play more games and do creative projects because they’re more eager to listen. Even with their longer attention span, there’s no way that they can sit down for the whole 2 1/2 hours that one class has with me in the afternoon. After about 2 hours of language practice, I go out with the kids to the playground for hopscotch, a game of duck, duck, goose, or jump rope.

Wattoei had a going away party for one of their teachers on Tuesday as well. The students were moved to tears while bringing cards, bowing to her, and giving her hugs at a school-wide party. The sense of respect in Thailand is far more visible than I’ve ever seen it portrayed in the States.

The students saying goodbye to their teacher...

At the party, the school provided karaoke, sang by the teachers of course. They asked me to sing with them; which I hesitantly obliged the request. They brought up “Hotel California” and in front of all the kids, I attempted the Eagles cover. I think after that they started seeing me as more than just another volunteer, but rather someone who could have fun with them too.

Another one of the teacher singing a traditional Thai song for the kids...

The food for the farewell party was amazing. There was Thai-fried chicken, som tam (papaya salad), laab kai (boiled ground pork with spices. All so incredibly tasty and made lovingly, batch-by-batch in a mortar and pestle made from wood.

This is one of the teachers making som tam:1- grinding garlic, chili, lime juice, fish sauce, 2- folding in fresh green beans, and 3- finally folding in massive amounts of shredded papaya and carrots. I think I’ll be dreaming of this stuff when I get home.

The orphanage construction work is completely different from teaching. I spend most of the day working with other volunteers to paint, lay bricks for a fence around the school, or do general cleaning around the building. From time to time, the kids come up to us while we are working, so we’ll play with them for a bit. It’s nice to have such varied work all week- from alone to group work and mental labor to physical labor. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures from our orphanage work this week, but I will continue with that this upcoming week.

When I left Koh Tao, many people told me that heading north was going to be starkly different and would be more “real” Thailand. There are many shared points and different points between the south and the north, but I am glad that I get to help and experience both as if I were a local. I miss my friends from Koh Tao quite a bit. There I spent much more time with Thai people, but now, I spend more time with the other volunteers at the center. All forms of kindness that I am lucky to have in my life. One of the coordinators at the center loves to repeat a local Thai phrase when describing all things: “Same, Same, but Different.” I find more daily that this joking statement is actually a disguised truth.