Grammar, monks and cute Thai kids

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May 5th 2007
Published: May 5th 2007
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At the moment we are spending the weekend in Bangkok after a couple of very tiring weeks. We are now coming to the end of our TEFL course and next Thursday will go and meet the school who have the great honour of having us work for them for the next 4 months!.

At the Temple school

Last week we had a full week of lessons at the Temple school, learning how to become teachers and about the ins and outs of English grammar and phonetics. The Temple school was actually a cool place to learn, apart from the fact that there were no air con classrooms and thus were baking hot. It was really interesting and we got to learn alot about Thai culture. The school is run by Buddhist monks and they provide an education for boys who cant afford to go to school and/or who are orphans. Basically boys can become monks and notices and live at the monastery. They get somewhere to live and food as well as free education and school books up to the end of high school. Its often the only way boys from poor background can afford to get a high school education. At the end of the school there is also a fund so the boys can go to college and university. They can stay monks at the end if they choose to, or they can disrobe and get jobs. Becoming a Buddhist monk is not like becoming a priest or nun, its not necessarily a lifetime decision. You can become one for as short a time as 3 months, and many men do because it gives themselves and their families good karma. You can disrobe at any time after that, so men do it for many different reasons.

The Abbot at the monastery and the monks were really lovely to us while we were learning there. They gave us fruit and water every day and one lunch time the abbot put on a full lunch for us. It was so kind considering most of the things they own have to be donated from the community. Apparently they have a fund where you can donate money to sponsor a monk's education, so our group are all going to contribute some money to donate as a thank you to them.

We had to do an exam in
Lunch at the Temple schoolLunch at the Temple schoolLunch at the Temple school

Katie and Naomi tucking into green curry
English grammar and phonetics on Tuesday, which we found a bit stressful. We realised that we don't really learn English grammar in England, you just know it, so we had to swot up on nouns, adverbs and determiners, the difference between complements and adverbials and the meanings of all the different tenses. Not to mention learning the phonetic alphabet by heart. Luckily the swotting worked and we both did really well in the test, although I don't know how much of it we will be able to explain in practice...

So they let us out to teach real children....

On Friday we started our teaching practice. We have to do 6 sessions in front of real life Thai kids, practicing the various teaching models. We have done five days of it now. We have been teaching at an English camp run at a small rural school about 40 minutes from where we are staying, by a rubber plantation. There are four classes of kids between the ages of about 8 and 16, with 9-15 kids in each class. There English ability is quite basic, but they have been so keen to learn. It seems to have
Lunch at the Temple schoolLunch at the Temple schoolLunch at the Temple school

Aletia and the Abbot
been the first opportunity they have had to learn English from English speakers, they usually learn from Thai English teachers who teach out of a book.

We both had lots of fun teaching the kids. They are so well behaved and eager. We taught from 9am until 12 with just a 10 minute break and they were still paying attention at the end. I cant imagine kids in the UK doing that! Even when they had to take part in the same lesson taught by four different teachers, they still joined in! We finished in that school on Friday and there was a closing ceremony where they presented us all with bookmarks made of photos of us teaching. It was so nice.

Before we started the course we were interested to know how you teach children who dont know your language and thus havent the first idea what you are waffling on about. The cartoon came into my head of the man talking to the dog and all the dog can hear is "bla bla bla bla bla". I imagined it being alot like that and probably quite difficult. The good thing about this course is that we
Fruit the monks provided us with each dayFruit the monks provided us with each dayFruit the monks provided us with each day

the purple ones are mangoseens. Inside the flesh has the consistency of snot, but is really nice and sweet. The red spikey ones are rambutans and are abit like Lychees. The orange ones have a similar snot like considency to mangosteens, but are smaller and more tart.
have learned that it actually not that hard. The trick is to use alot of other things as well as language so they associate the words you are using to the things. The same way English kids learn English really. There is alot of drawing involved, both nicely coloured in pictures on flash cards and drawing on the blackboard. We also do alot of mimes and actions, plus songs, chants and sound effects. Its alot like being a clown I think. At the beginning of each class you use blackboard drawings to set the context of the lesson, so the kids know what sort of thing they are going to be learning about and set their minds thinking of that. Then you use all the other different mediums to get across the dialogues and vocab. The words you use during the class for directions are supposed to be thought through so they are things the kids need to know. So you use the action for sit down and always say the words "sit down" with it, and they associate the action of sitting down with the words. Otherwise you have to keep the teaching talk down to a minimum. Not
Kris in his teacher clothesKris in his teacher clothesKris in his teacher clothes

doing a mean impression of Johnny Cash
like a scary mime artist, but without all the waffle. Its quite hard to do though, as you find yourself giving them long detailed instructions in English with phrases like "kinda like" before you realise they are staring at you with big eyes and very confused expressions. Its all practice though...

flying visit to Bangkok
On Friday after teaching we took a quick trip to Bangkok. Our friends, Dan and Heather, were in the city for one night on a stopover between India and Hong Kong on their round the world trip. Since they were in Thailand it was important that we got to see them. For those of you who dont know, Dan grew up in Brewood round the corner from me (Kate) and we have known each other for a great many years. Heather is his Canadian wife who he met on his last round the world trip. They are both fab. We met them in a bar on Khao San Road at about 9pm on Friday. Their opening line as they drank bottles of 6.5%!C(MISSING)hang beer was "we havent drunk for 7 weeks!". We did our best to remind them how to drink and we
English Teachers?English Teachers?English Teachers?

watching the closing ceremony at the English Camp where we did teaching practice.
visited many of the nightspots in Khao San. We left them at their hotel at 4am, ready for their pickup for the airport at 6.30am. Hum...I think they might have been alittle tired on the plane....It was amazing to see them and catch up anyway. Its great to see friends when we are here, as it doesnt happen very often. So if any of you are cruising past Thailand in the future, dont forget to let us know!

If you want more information about doing a TEFL course and teaching in Thailand or anywhere else abroad, check out our other blog: What Kate and Kris Did

Additional photos below
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Some of the kids we taught at English CampSome of the kids we taught at English Camp
Some of the kids we taught at English Camp

proudly showing their certificates. The tiny girl in the front was everyone's favourite, she was only 8 but pretty good at English. You did have to bend down to talk to her in lessons though!

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