The Best Part of Teaching is Everything Else
Teaching is a fun profession in Thailand. The excitement stems from mostly one thing, all the non-teaching time. It may sound strange but monthly there are activities that a teacher has the opportunity to participate in, in place of actually teaching English. It’s a way to have fun with the students, increase friendships with the other faculty, and mostly, have some good old fashioned fun-in-the-sun.
Thailand is one of the few countries that provide many learning experiences, at school, that aren’t classroom related. The Thai culture is based around balance in work and play, learning cultures and not just language, and physical activity. And the best part is, none of those require classrooms, books or structured lessons. Instead, the students, teachers and parents spend time having fun TOGETHER.
One example is last Christmas. On the last day of school, before Winter Break, our school held a huge Christmas assembly. This is where all of our students participated in songs, dances and accepting of gifts to understand an important Western holiday. The students loved it, and so did the teachers! The English Department dressed up and the kids went absolutely nuts. Of course, There was a Santa Clause, a Mrs. Clause and a few elves that played about under a beautifully homemade Christmas Tree.
This was a perfect interactive, object lesson for the students and they really understood the Christmas spirit. All 1400 of the students took turns taking pictures will all of the dressed-up characters and it made them see their teachers act silly and be funny. This made them feel closer to the faculty and actually increased their willingness to participate in class, after the break.
Another example of fun activities the school participates, is Sports Day. All week (and often times, all year) the students practice physical activities and prepare to compete against each other in all sorts of sports and games. It’s started with a huge ceremony. Some girls and boys get all dressed up to preform dances and everyone participates in a parade to start the day. The teachers are spectators that cheer and eat all day. It is so much fun! Everyone loves Sports Day…Everyone!
The best part is the allowance of exerted energy. Teachers and students play side-by-side, and now teachers are on the students’ turf. The tables are turned and often times the students get to show off and teach the teachers a thing or two. What a great way to build trust, comradery, and get to know the parents as well. It is much easier to get a child to listen in the classroom when they know you are buddy buddy with their parents.
There’s another extracurricular activity that is an extremely inspirational experience for everyone involved, a day that really exemplifies that sharing is caring. It’s a day where all the students and teachers bring extra food to school for homeless and displaced children. It’s a special day that reminds everyone that no matter how little we have (And in Thailand, we all have very little) there are others that need items that come easy to us, like food. All the food is packed on a truck and distributed to children throughout the province.
On this special day of sharing, the students gather together at the beginning of the day and listen to inspirational talks given by their school leaders. Then they sing songs and offer praise in gratitude for what they have and hope for what their fellow children will have. It is not a spiritual celebration, rather a celebration of the spirit of giving. There is nothing more humbling than watching students, who have very little, give with all of their heart to others.
These are just a few of the activities that take teachers and students out of the classroom, and they are all wonderful learning experiences for everyone. Thailand is about balance, it’s a little work, a little play, a little bit of food (A lot of food) and a little bit of relationship building. Arguably, all of it is vital and equally important. And all of the activities can enhance classroom time, reinforce scholastic lessons, and be the meat of future lessons.
When used properly, the English Teacher can enjoy some well-deserved time to be silly, as well as plan great English lessons around such days. Either way, students and teachers agree on one thing, they best days at school are the ones spent outside the classrooms.