Teacher discovers the magic of Thailand
Children are the same, the world over.
That's what Nadia Khan learnt from a summer spent teaching in Thailand.
“I thought there would be more cultural differences,” said the 31-year-old teacher.
“With my own students at Somersfield Academy, they often start to flex their personalities in primary four.
“I thought that was because they had been with me for three years and were getting ready to move on to the next level.
“But I saw that same behaviour with the children of that age in Thailand.”
Ms Khan volunteered to teach English and literacy through an international programme called Cross-Cultural Solutions.
“I was thinking about going away to teach for a year, or maybe three,” she said. “But I couldn't commit to up and leaving for that long.
“Cross-Cultural Solutions have different programme lengths so I thought I would try it out for the summer. They have programmes, in India, Brazil, Peru and many other places.”
She chose Thailand, because she loves the culture, especially the food.
“I didn't realise how much I loved Thai food until I came back to Bermuda,” said Ms Khan. “While some of my fellow volunteers complained about having to eat Thai food all the time while they were there, I loved it. I miss it now that I am home.”
The children may not have been different, but the school was.
“There were 2,000 students,” she said. “It was on a huge campus that was on either side of the road. We were located on the outskirts of Bangkok.”
There was no air conditioning or white boards.
“There was only a ceiling fan that wasn't very effective,” she said. “But the teachers managed to keep the students' attention without any fancy gimmicks.”
But she said discipline in the school was a shock.
“I was really surprised to see one of the teachers slap a student for not paying attention,” she said. “A lot of the other volunteers also witnessed this. It is common in Thai schools.”
She found her students, aged 5 to 9, respectful, friendly and enthusiastic.
“We were told that during times when there is a native English speaking volunteer, more children come to school,” she said. “They are very eager to learn English, because ultimately people in Thailand who know English do better in their careers.”
Ironically, she sometimes struggled to find people at the school who spoke English.
“There were two or three teachers who spoke it,” she said. “I took this for granted until one day when I couldn't find a class.
“I wandered around trying to communicate with people with hand gestures. I did eventually find it.”
During her free time, she was able to explore Bangkok, visiting historic sites and trying her hand at Thai boxing, Thai massage and elephant washing.
“One day I went with a group of volunteers to wash and feed elephants,” she said. “I did this with an organisation that wants to encourage positive interaction between Thais and elephants, so there were no whips or harnesses involved.
“I was washing a baby elephant, but it was still really big. It was a bit intimidating at first. At one point it kicked me, by mistake. It did hurt. It was a reminder of the power of the animal.”
When she returned to Bermuda, last week, she felt changed by the experience. She will be sharing information about Thailand with her Somersfield students. She also hopes to start a pen pal chain between the two schools.
“The letters will be very simple, as the Thai students are not very proficient at English, yet,” she said.
She hopes to do another Cross-Cultural Solutions programme, next summer, but more close to home.
“My mother has a birthday coming up and I will be travelling with her next summer,” said Ms Khan. “So I won't be able to go back to Thailand next year.”
She studied at Mount St Vincent University in Canada and has been teaching at Somersfield for nine years.
For more information see: www.crossculturalsolutions.org.
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