Teacher Meghan’s experiences in Thailand

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I believe the core of teaching is the desire for constant learning. In the nine months, I have spent in Thailand, I have learned more than I could ever conceive. I have traveled and met new people who have taught me about their lives and cultures. I have learned how to ride a motorbike, and how to get back on after getting in two accidents. I have learned about teaching Thai children, and about teaching in general. I have learned about Thailand with its wonderful people, rich history, amazing food, and stunning natural beauty. And I have learned about myself. Not once have I regretted my decision to leave my home and move across the world to teach English.

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While I haven’t had any misgivings about my decision to come to this Land of Smiles, I have had several experiences that have challenged me along the way. My first few months of teaching, specifically, were not as straightforward and uncomplicated as I would have liked. Learning how to teach English to students who do not speak English is no easy task. But teaching English when you do not speak the native language of the students makes things a bit more complicated. I have had to learn how to think of creative ways to communicate with my students, and likewise, they have had to work together to communicate with me. At times, this has been frustrating for everyone. Yet as time goes on, I have started to see that this process does have its benefits.

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One of my favorite aspects of teaching is how it transforms the way you think. In order to teach children, you have to in many ways, remember what it was like to be one. In our Coconut Club, the teachers and the generous people who support the foundation spend an extra hour after school with the residential students. With the interest of exposing the students to more English learning opportunities, we plan activities that will be both educational and fun. This school year I have volunteered to be one of the Coconut Club Coordinators, along with my fellow teacher Hamant.  Each week we try to plan activities that will appeal to the children.

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We have days with arts and crafts, cooking, and bingo. So far this year, however, I have noticed that the simplest activities tend to be the ones the children love most of all. It took me a few months to notice this. Perhaps I often take for granted the things I had when I was growing up. Or maybe it took me so long to realize because I have grown up, and the things that amaze children have long since lost their engaging magic for me.

The first day I noticed this was the day we played with chalk. Such a simple thing, I thought, to draw and play games. But the students were mesmerised. They continued playing long after the hour was over. Not too long after this was the jump rope day. Again, I was not prepared for just how much the children would love this activity. At first, some were shy to try, but by the end, everyone was red-faced and beaming with accomplished fun.

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Thursday is our Lego day, which all of the students enjoy. This last Thursday we brought down some dress up clothes that have been donated to our Coconut Club. Many of the clothes happened to be Disney princess dresses. I thought that if they were dressing up like princesses, they may as well have crowns. That day I watched as the little girls and some of the boys dressed up and intensely designed their paper crowns. Like with the jump rope, some of the students were shy to dress up at first. One of my younger students, for example, had been extremely cautious about dressing up. She spent the better part of the activity decorating her crown but by the end, I watched her spinning in circles with her Ariel dress on, her paper crown on her head, and a beautiful smile on her face.

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To watch these children, who have dealt with so many hardships in their young lives, be completely submerged in pure childish innocence has been one of my favorite parts of teaching here. With the eight months left of this school year, I realise I may not be able to make the lives of each of these children much better. While I may want to, I can’t protect them from life’s challenges. I won’t be able to teach all of my students perfect English and ensure they continue their education. Within eight months, I can’t guarantee that each of these children will have a better quality of life. However, my only hope for this year is to try to build their English learning confidence. These students are limited to what they think they can do. Because of this, I want each of my students to feel successful in English class and know that they have someone who believes in them. And perhaps they will be more prone to become intrinsically motivated when they feel like they can succeed.

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