Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pictures... Finally!

Here are just a few pics of what I have been up to the last few weeks:

The first picture is of one of the streets near my apartment. It's a beautiful view :-)

The second picture is of a temple at the top of one of the mountains here. It is tradition for the freshmen to walk up the mountain and for seniors to walk down. Since I was new to Chiang Mai, some of the other teachers told me that I should walk up the mountain, just for the experience. Kim (a Thai friend of mine) and I decided to make the hike along with some of Kim's friends. It took us about 3 hours since the hike was over 13 km (about 8 miles).

The last picture is of a dinner I had at Kim's house. Kim's family is Indian and one night Kim's parents invited a bunch of Kim's friends over to eat. It was amazing! The food was so good. This picture shows just the friends that were invited but there was also another table full of family relatives. I couldn't belive that they cooked for so many people.

Looking Up

I just finished my last week of June at Sau Teet, the middle/high school where I teach five hours a week. It actually went alright today... It was the first day that I didn’t feel like the classroom dissolved into utter chaos, so that was a definite plus :-) I have also been having them do some research about a country of their choice so today was the day they were supposed to put all the information together into little booklets. Although most of the students didn’t follow all of the directions, I felt like they had at least gotten something accomplished. They understood me (in English of course), did most, if not all of the research in English, and wrote a little booklet in English. I hope they got something out of the project.

I still get a little frustrated with some of the students. After I give directions and ask if they have any questions, I tell them to get out their materials and start working. They just give me blank stares. “Do you understand?” I have to ask, and the reply is always “yes.” “Ok so get started!” ...Still no one moves... “Alright, let’s try it this way,” I say and go around to each row of students and explain the directions again. Needless to say, the day gets a little repetitive. I was talking with one of the other American teachers who said that he found the students seemed to work better if they were put in groups. It made sense to me: if I talk to the whole class it is so noisy (traffic outside and fans blowing inside) that it is hard to have all of the students hear me. It’s also hard to get them to listen to me and not chatter to each other or play with their unbelievably annoying all-in-one cell phone-radio-cameras, which each student appears to own. If they work in groups, I can go around to each group and talk to the students individually so they will still get practice using English. I think my lesson plans for next week will go somewhere along those lines.

My university classes are going well too. Two of my classes have just turned in the first part of their first project, which I will start grading today. I’m excited to see how they will do. Two of my other classes will be doing presentations for the next two class periods. I’m excited to see how this will go because I haven’t heard most of my students speak very much English yet.

I just got internet in my room so I will be able to upload pictures onto my blog. I also have skype and iChat so I hope I will be able to keep in better contact with everyone.

That’s the exciting news from Thailand for this week!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My First Two Weeks

I made it to Thailand! I can’t believe that I’ve already been here for almost two weeks already. Here is a quick recap on what has happened so far:

We arrived without any problems and two very nice English teachers from the English Department picked us up and transported us to our temporary housing at the Guest House on campus. The next day, they helped us find apartments and we moved in the following day.

Mark (the guy also from Coe who is working in Thailand with me doing the same job) and I have made a few short videos of what the apartments look like and we had planned to put them up on UTube. Unfortunately we forgot that UTube is banned in Thailand! Oh well, we’ll have some fun stuff to show when we get back to the US I guess...

We just started teaching on Monday and this first week has been a little overwhelming to say the least. There are at lest thirty students in all of my classes (I have five) except one which has around seventeen. The students are great but I have no idea how I will be able to give each student in each class individual attention. Because I am teaching just sections of classes, all the lesson plans are given out and each day is pretty much scripted. That cuts down on preparation time for the teachers because we just have to go over the lesson plans before going to class.

There is also a demonstrations school on campus that was asking new native English speaking teachers to come teach for them. At first I decided against working there because the classes would be for middle schoolers and because I wanted to see how my university classes would be before taking on anything else. Two other new American teachers (Jared and Ben) decided to work there but the school was still short one teacher. After talking with Jared and Ben I decided to at least accompany them the first day to see exactly what would be required of teaching there. Upon arrival around 7:30am, we met the coordinator in charge of finding new teachers. She was pleased that I had come and asked if I was ready to teach that day. I indicated that I had jotted down some ideas but I had no concrete lesson plans. She then said that the first day was just an introduction day and that it was most important that the students just were exposed to a native English speaker. I said I would give it a shot, and a few minutes later, I found myself in front of the whole student body who was in attention for their morning assembly. The two other teachers and I were introduced as new faculty members and I went to go teach my first class of seventh graders at 8:15am.

Overwhelmed could not explain how I felt! I had been assigned to teach five sections of classes, meaning that I would see the whole seventh grade class in one day. Each section has over 40 students! It was so difficult to keep their attention and get them to focus. After the first two sections I was ready to tell the coordinator that I was going to quit after the day was over but she reassured me that I would be ok and that they really needed my help. I agreed to at least give it one more shot next week...