Gap Year Awards
Each year, the Exeter branch supports a number of gap-year students who are spending time teaching English. We are pleased to welcome home Hayley Redman, who recently visited Thailand. Her report is below.
Teaching in Thailand
In 2015 I took part in a TEFL internship in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I taught in a primary Coke secondary school in a small, developing village away from Thailand’s busy tourist hubs.
Today is the day! On a rather drizzly, grey Thursday morning I leave London for Bangkok. This is only my second time out of Europe and only my third time flying! At the airport, I find a fellow volunteer who is on my flight and we start chatting about our expectations of Thailand which helps calm the pre-departure nerves. When we arrive into Bangkok, after several hours at an overcrowded immigration hall, we are transferred to Ayutthaya to meet the rest of the volunteers for some in-country training. I am surprised by the diversity of the group, whilst most are 18-30 year-old British girls, there are also South Africans, Italians and Americans to name but a few, and a few volunteers are well over 50!
A previous volunteer who had decided to move to Thailand to teach, following her experience, told us that the kids would love us straight away and be so excited by our presence. Based on experience of the schooling system in the UK, I took her words with a pinch of salt, but as soon as we stepped foot into the school grounds us “farangs” were definitely the talk of the playground (and shortly the talk of the town).
My housemates and I, Emma and Emily, were greeted by the director of the school and the two english teachers, Yot and Kom. They show us to our new pink house (which I am amazed to learn/delighted to find has both a western toilet and shower!) gave us time to unpack before a quick tour of the school before lunch time.
Lunch time was one of the most interesting times of the school week, and not just because it meant tasting lots of delicious Thai food! The teachers have a “top table” and all of the children sit in their class groups to enjoy their free school meal, after brushing their teeth and washing their hands. The best part though is the tuck shop, ran by the children themselves selling items for just a few baht (1 baht = 2p). As guest teachers, we are allowed an ice cream for free each day, but we use this to buy our friendship amongst the teachers who speak little english!
Now, we are well settled into the school life and our local community. I teach three classes, p2, p3 and p4, the equivalent of years one to three in an English school. The classes are mixed ability which makes teaching a little difficult at times! However, I have found the most effective way to help the children learn vocabulary is active games, I think most must be kinasthetic learners!
I’ve found it important to make sure the children are rewarded little and often to keep them motivated. Rewarding for good book work with a game is ideal, and I have been going through so many stickers!
P2 have been learning about families, personal pronouns and contractions. It seems like they have a lot to learn in comparison to the older children as they are still only just getting used to the alphabet as well, but they are making very quick progress. It is evident the effect having volunteers who have english as their native language is, the school has been a part of the scheme for a few years so the older ones have not had the same exposure at such a young age and do take longer to pick things up and they need a lot more help with pronunciation than the younger ones.
Outside of the classroom we have made friends with the teachers who have taken us to visit temples, out for dinner and even karaoke. One of Emily’s student’s dad has a taxi company so we have become good friends with him as he always provides us the best rates and a safe ride into town for when we go to visit the other interns, or our favourite chef, Miss On, who cooks the best vegetarian curries in town!
Happy Loi Krathong! Loi Krathong is a festival celebrated annually throughout Thailand. The name can be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong, decorated baskets from banana trees, which are then floated on a river. Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar.
Normal school lessons are cancelled in favour of preparations for the parade that will take part in the evening for the festival. Today the children teach us – all the songs, dances and most importantly how to make a krathong! Some of the krathongs are absolutely beautiful, decorated with flowers and candles.
In the evening Emily, Emma and I go to watch the festival, however, we end up leading the parade as it starts from our school, much to the surprise of the other interns who had gone down to the river to enjoy the festivities! The children have all dressed in traditional costume for the procession and look fantastic.
It’s the last day at school! I will very much miss what has now become the norm: being woken up at 7 by the children singing and the school band playing at the morning assembly, playing crazy games with excitable children all morning and mainly the school lunches!
It’s a rather emotional day as we say goodbye to all the children, I received over fifty Christmas cards and had a few children spend their small tuck shop allowance on presents for us, which was so lovely. It was so good to see that they had taken note of all my lessons about Christmas!
My time in Thailand was absolutely wonderful, yes there were several tough moments due to culture shock, the heat and having to be Teacher Hayley 24/7 but it was a real learning curve and something I cannot wait to do again!