Challenges and Joys of Teaching

A post I wrote in my journal a couple of weeks ago:

Teaching is always difficult. It may be one of the most demanding callings on the planet, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Every class brings its own challenges. And this has been no exception.

My class of 33 adults at the Omkoi Bible School may not be inner city Milwaukee, but then, my smart-aleck teenagers at least spoke the same language as their teacher! Was I nervous? Absolutely.

I wasn’t sure how the class would be set up when I first arrived, and after a brief discussion with Ekkachai, the pastor in charge of the Bible School, we settled on two classes, divided by exposure to English (none at all and a little bit), to switch off every day. That lasted all of 24 hours. At my first class, one of the teachers poked her head in and asked, “Everyone?” And suddenly all 33 students are taking their seats.

You definately learn to just go with the flow here!

Actually, despite my brief moment of panic the first day, this mix of abilities turns out in the end to be a huge blessing. Yes, I traded off the ability to give my students more one-on-one attention – critical for those few struggling just to sound out the alphabet. But I also gain the eager handful who already have acquired a little English and catch on quickly. They have become my teaching assistants, helping explain to the others the assignment, vocab, or grammar when I am already helping another student.

Of course, my lack of Karen or Thai language skills is a huge obstacle, one that has me determined to learn beginners Thai in the next year. Not every lesson plan goes well. Sometimes they look at me quizzically, or struggle with the target vocab or grammar. But that’s teaching. If something isn’t working (a specific activity, for example), you throw it out and move on. At the end of that class, I go back to the drawing board and try to rethink my approach to teaching that piece.

I build everything in steps, like Legos. Start with the foundation, then slowly add the pieces. I model everything I ask them to do. I’ve started seeking out the Thai words for instructions or vocab I’m teaching so that I can write it on the board. Ironically, this has led to my students teaching me a little Thai!

I am loving every minute. My students are bright, friendly, and have such huge hearts. I am afraid, always afraid, I will not do the job of teaching them English justice in my short time here.

I also work with the children at the childrens home. Roughly 100 or so kids, ranging in age from 6 to teenage. My first day I almost panicked – how can I possibly work with this many children? Not to mention my experience and talent is teaching the older kids. And here I faced the eager faces of little to big. This number of kids was not fully expected.

Another curveball.

So what do I do? Dive in, of course.

Maybe all those years playing teacher in my mother’s elementary classroom while she prepared for the school year and graded papers rubbed off on me. I turn to a wide range of songs, rhymes, and games to teach vocab. They especially seem to like “The Ants Go Marching” (complete with marching motions) and the Hokey Pokey. I despair a bit that I’m targeting the younger kids more than the older, so I’m trying to throw in small pieces of conversation and grammar lessons.

100+ kids with nothing more than a small whiteboard. Yup, I’ve got my work cut out for me! Bring it on.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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2 Responses to Challenges and Joys of Teaching

  1. Natalie Sturicz says:

    Wow! This sounds daunting. I really admire you for taking this on, and I’ve really been enjoying your posts! Can’t wait to hear about it all in person!

    • chronictraveler says:

      Thanks Natalie! I am so excited to hear from you – as much as I love Thailand, I miss you! I’m taking tons of photos, promise!

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