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Published: October 26th 2011
A part of my three week program to earn my English certificate was to complete five teacher practice lessons at real Thai schools. We had only one night to prepare each lesson and make all materials. The five lessons are all with different students each time and the levels were always different. This gave us a lot of hands on practice before we reach our schools. This way we learned to adapt to our students and actually got a feel for how to teach English.
The first school I went to was Ban Sosa, a SOS Orphanage in Phuket. As we approached the school my nerves were very high. I had no idea what to expect and being evaluated made things that much more worse. I had no idea Ban Sosa was a SOS Orphanage until we pulled up. I got really excited because when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life back in March, SOS was an organization I was deeply considering working for in Germany. Funny how things work out! SOS Orphanages have houses with one "mother" in each house. This mother takes care of about 10 kids 24/7 in that house.
It's like a small community with about 12 houses. Some of the kids here are tsunami orphans. I've never been to an orphanage but I really liked this one. The houses were all very nice and there was a lot of space for the kids to play. Here my classroom age ranged from 9-12. We were assigned to do a young learners lesson. This is where we introduce four new vocabulary words and simple sentences for those words. The materials that are prepared are eight flash cards. Four are the vocab words with my awesome artwork depicting the word and the other four are the sentences. So for example, my topic was sports and I used "Baseball" and "I hit the ball". You always start a lesson with a warmer. This can be anything from pictionary to a racing game, I did a game of Eye Spy with previous vocab cards from my peer's lessons. It's just something to get the students moving and interested in the lesson to come. After the warmer you introduce the context, the topic of your lesson. So to introduce sports I introduced them by acting out a few sports and having them guess what
I was doing, so a game of charades in other words. After that I had to make sure I wrote the context on the board to keep up for the rest of the lesson. Once the context is made clear, the next step is to introduce the new vocabulary. I showed one word at a time and repeat four times and then had the students repeat it four times. I did this until l felt that they had the word down and then I was able to continue to the next word. After I made sure the students could identify the word without my help I moved on to the sentences. This lesson went really fast for me because all the students knew their sports! I had this really fun game of bingo set up for my first activity but quickly learned that it was way over my students level. After I tried to explain what I wanted and passed out all the paper I received blank looks from my students. No one had a clue what I wanted. After another attempt at explaining my activity I decided that it was too high of a level for them and collected
playing the football themed game they went crazy for! :)
the paper again. I think that was the hardest thing about these teacher practices, we had no idea what level our students would be at so it was really hard to prepare activities in our lesson that would be appropriate. Over the five practices we learned that what ever level we think they will be at it's probably better to go one step lower. I recovered my lesson with a game of word race. This is how the rest of our teacher practices went but with different lesson structures. Teaching got easier every time and I feel more comfortable in front of the students.
The second school we went to was an orphanage for soccer talented kids, mostly boys. They are brought to this school from all over Thailand due to their soccer playing abilities. The orphanage even has the boys travel around the globe to play soccer! I thought this was a beautiful organization to have. The kids really seemed to love it there. You could also tell that they were very competitive on and off the field! They loved playing any sort of game that would earn them team points! One of the other teachers in my
group had them play this game that she modified to football/soccer terminology. They ate it up! They especially loved when they could red card the other team! The owner/director of the school was so excited to have us pass on his web link about the school, so here it is! www.youthfootballhome.com
The last school we went to we taught at for three days. It was a sort of technical school where the students who attended were learning their future trade. It ranged from computer design to mechanics to clothing design. These students were all about 12-18 years old. This age group was a bit harder to handle than the other classes we had. They all had to sit through six 30 minute lessons that were pretty identical. I felt for them but it really sucked for anyone who had to go last, their attention span was zilch by that point. The school spoiled us though! They gave us breakfast and coffee in the morning and a lunch after our lessons!
Some important Thai cultural things I've learned through my course:
1. When asking someone to come to you or to come up to the front of the
class don't beckon them with your palm up but rather with your palm facing down. If you do it with your palm up (like we are used to) it's like calling a dog in Thailand. Very rude! It's taken me some time to get used to the palm down gesture but I think it's starting to become natural.
2. Be careful of the word Buffalo, in Thai this means stupid. It's not unusual to hear students call each other buffalo when they are joking with one another.
3. Be careful of the word quiet, it can sound like the Thai word for stupid. So as a teacher, I need to be careful when I try to quiet down my classroom. If I use the word "quiet" I need to make sure to say the t at the end. I've learned to just avoid the word all together.
4. Thailand is a save face culture. This means that they will do anything to avoid being embarrassed in front of their peers. This is something to be aware of as a teacher and as a tool for managing a rowdy classroom.
5. Make sure that you never point
Gift from students!
They presented each of us this beautifully crafted flower when we were done with our lesson.
the bottom of your feet towards anyone, this is an insult in their culture. So for example, crossing your feet and the bottom of your foot is facing the person next to you.. This is a no go.
6. How to greet others. You put your hands together (like praying hands) and depending on the level of the person you are meeting is where you will place your thumbs and then you bow. Elbows are always tucked in at your side during any of the bows.
a. Monks or high religious figures- thumbs are placed on the forehead and you bow as low as you can without sticking your butt out.
b. Superiors- thumbs are placed on the nose with fingers on the forehead and you bow midway.
c. Acquaintances, friends, or new- thumbs are placed on the chin with fingers on your nose and you bow your head slightly.
7. Don't ever show anger to Thai people even if everything is going wrong and it's their fault. They don't show anger or emotions and if you do all respect will be thrown out the door.
8. DO NOT STEP ON THE MONEY! The
I meant it when I said they were competitive!
king's face is on that piece of paper! Thai's love their king. Funny side note story on this- Thai banks print out calendars of the king and the Thai people are too scared to throw them away so they have stacks of old calendars collecting dust in their homes!
I feel like there is more but I can't think of them at the moment. These are the ones that are more apparent in my day to day life here in Thailand. I'm also very happy to announce that I am certified to teach English! I passed the course and have been placed in my new home. This is a whole other blog post on its own. It's been a wild ride since the last day of our course in Phuket and today, my second day as a teacher here in Samutsakhon. I've been placed with two other girls at my school and a couple from our course are placed at a school just down the street. I'm happy to have a support system here and I've sure needed it in my first days!
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