SE Party at Anothai

This past Saturday, the Super English team gathered at a great restaurant called Anothai.  I think it’s probably the first time any of us have been there.  It’s a bit of a trip out there–all the way down to the highway near Big C, near the outskirts of town, but worth every second of the drive!  It’s safe to say we dined on some of the best dishes I’ve had since living in Surat.  My particular favorite was the green chicken curry with roti!  Delicious!  Of course, I was running on Thai time and had the directions.  Naturally, it’s the appropriate time for my phone to not work, either!!  Luckily, the caravan of teachers on motorbikes weren’t too late to enjoy the festivities!

We also welcomed two new team members, Cati and Aleya, to our staff!  They’ll be starting at the International School next week.  It was nice to have a comfortable, relaxed environment to hang out and enjoy one another’s company outside of school.  I know we all get busy with our day to day schedules and individual activities outside of the workplace, but it’s nice how we all come together and support one another.  It’s important we show support for one another while being so far from home.  Next time the rest of the teachers from the International School will be able to join us, as they were traveling back from visits home.

The night concluded with plenty of laughs, wine/whisky flowing, and a good time.  Some of the teachers went to a local pub that’s become popular, Feel Good.  Not sure how long the evening lasted, as I think people were well full and feeling merry!

We’re all looking forward to our next get together–the much anticipated pool party in August!

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CELTA in the Classroom

After the end of last year’s school term, I headed up to Bangkok for an intensive, month long CELTA (Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults) certification course.  It was a stressful month, but I think it’s helped me in the classroom this year.  As a part of the course, each of us taught 8 practice lessons.  The lesson plan was amazingly brutal!!  However, I think it’s helped me see traps in my lessons and how to avoid pitfalls.  Anticipating problems seems like an obvious thing to do, I just never focused on it as much as I should.  Additionally, I think my instructions have become clearer (thanks, instruction cycle notes).  I know I still confuse them from time to time, but I’ve cleaned up my approach.  Even something as simple as a whiteboard/chalkboard plan has helped me de-clutter my board.  With all the areas for points, homework, and weekly items, it’s easy to get messy!

I knew this certification course was aimed at adults, not the P4 class I’m currently teaching.  Never having any sort of certification, I figured might as well take the best one out there and not an online TEFL course that will provide minimal results.  I was amazing the amount of time and energy poured into these lesson plans–not because I wanted to, but because I had to in order to pass!  Filling our a Grammar Analysis Form or a Lexis Analysis form for each lesson really makes one think about aspects our our language–connected speech, pronunciation, etc.

We also had to write 4 written assignments to complete the course.  I do recall a few late nights burning midnight oil, grimacing over every sentence.  These topics varied from the grammatical/pronunciation mistakes we observed of students during others’ teaching practices, analyzing text for meaning, and other things.

While it was a hectic month, I do recommend the course, even to somebody teaching Prathom-level students!

Having fun in science

It has been a fun couple of months teaching Science. The students love to conduct experiments and love being able to see and touch things first hand. It’s a privilege being able to take the students outside in MEP. It’s great allowing them the freedom to walk amongst the gardens whilst looking at and documenting the things they can see. Being able to see, touch and feel real living things really helps to highlight the similarities and differences between various topics. Here are some other fun things we’ve done this month.

Science Experiments:

For each experiment we made a prediction, discussed the methods, and drew up conclusions. Discussing a prediction has really helped the students develop abstract ideas in relation to considering all the possible outcomes.

1) How does a plant grow?

We planted 4 different types of seeds and made sure each plant got sufficient water, air and sunlight each day. Some seeds began to show results after 3 days, sprouting into baby plants called seedlings. The tiny green shoots grew up towards the light and white stringy roots grew down.

  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Papaya seeds.
  • Basil seeds.
  • Zinia seeds.

2) How does water move through a plant?

We took some cabbage leaves and flowers and placed them into various pots of green and red food colouring. After a couple of days the flowers and cabbage leaves changed colour and at the end of each stem were coloured dots. These dots are narrow tubes inside the stem that draw up the dyed water into the petals showing the direction of water flow.

3) What do the parts of the plant do?

A carrot is seen to be the root of a carrot plant.What do roots do?

First we propped the bottom half of a carrot in water and second, placed the cut top of another on a saucer of water covering the top with a glass. The carrot propped in water began to grow extra thin white roots to help it soak up the water. The carrot top we placed on the saucer of water, like a root, soaked up the water, helping the stalk to grow.

We also had lots of fun in science this month making crafts based on the new things we had learnt. Here are just some of the things that worked well including a list of materials used.

  • Life cycle of a plant- Paper plates, circular sectioned template, split pins, scissors.
  • Seed packets- Rice, seed packaging template, scissors, glue.
  • Two dimensions flowers- straws, string, cake cases, leaves, rice, scissors, glue, paper.
  • Leaf rubbing- Leaves, crayons, paper.

Jungle Life

There are two types of places to live in Surat Thani. The town, or the jungle? Last year I lived on a Soi just off DonNok in a fairly big 3 bedroom-shared townhouse. This year I decided I wanted to try something completely new. I wanted to live a little further out of town in the tranquil life of the jungle. Surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife, there are five small places situated over the bridge popular amongst teachers called the ‘bungalows’. The bungalows are a much sought after place of residence; they are quiet, peaceful and relaxing little places. Your bungalow is very much your own space, with a river situated on one side and a pond on the other; the beauty of the jungle encloses you in.

Most days it takes about 10-15 minutes to drive to school. I usually take the route beside the river driving through many fruit and vegetable stands along with fish market stands each morning. The Thai locals go about their morning business whilst the air is still cool and the sun is still down. With a constant flow of traffic alongside the pier, I find the journey to school a pleasant and easy one to take.

Most evenings after school are pretty quiet down at the bungalows. Being a little secluded over this side of the bridge there’s not really much to report, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s like a small community; there are 8 of us living here this year, 6 of whom, including myself are Super English Teachers at Thida. Each day we have the option of cooking in a spacious open kitchen shared amongst everyone equipped with a burner, a toaster oven, a rice cooker, and a sink. Or, alternatively, a ride into town takes approximately 5 minutes by bike. Everything including food, 7/11 and laundry is well within reach.

After living in Thailand for over a year already, I’ve fortunately had time to adjust to the creepy crawlies. Jungle animals naturally live and usually stay in the jungle areas. I often see monitor lizards taking a dive in the pond or making a run across the path. The other animals to be vigilant are the poisonous snakes and frogs.

All in all, it’s a beautiful and somewhat luxurious life living out in the jungle. Despite the creepy crawlies, I really have no more complaints. The evenings are peaceful and it’s stunning to see the sun fade behind the palms across the pond. The boats along the river can be a little loud of a morning but nothing to really complain about. I look forward to seeing the year ahead out here!

Sports Day!

Once again the event this year was a big one on the Thida calendar. With numerous class disruptions the past couple of weeks, on Thursday we were finally graced with the one and only day that is sports day. You’re probably thinking that with all the disruptions and with two whole days off timetable dedicated to this day, there’s a lot of emphasis on sports and exercise. Great right? Actually, no! Instead the students put more emphasis on baton twirling, marching, cheering and dancing.

In the morning we met the students at the pier where we paraded with our class back to Thida. As pointless as all the preparations seem to us, the parents, students and teachers sure do put a whole load of effort into making everyone and everything stand out. The event is like nothing I’ve every seen before in England. Every child in the parade is dressed from head to toe in poofy, frilly, spangily, shiny and somewhat stunning tailored clothing. Every child, including the boys were wearing a full face of makeup including layers of pale white powder and bright red lipstick. It was like a parade of porcelain dolls.

The sooner you accept the craziness of the event, the easier it is to see the beauty in the old Thida tradition. The students absolutely adore the spot light and the parents love to show off their creative skills in glamming up their child. The students really do look beautiful and they become almost unrecognizable. Despite the heat on the day, the orchestra, the synchronization and the glamorous outfits and decorations all made for a memorable day. Certainly a day to remember. Just a few more weeks before we start practicing for the next one! Bring on Mother’s day!

Club!

Mondays in MEP are a little different to most days. Period 4 on a Monday is filled with a club period. Art club, music club, football club, storytelling club and speech club are just some of the ones we have to offer this semester. Choosing a club is like a big free for all in MEP. At the start of the semester the students run riot to try and earn 1 of 31 spaces in each club. Typically the younger students go with their favorite teacher in most cases meaning the majority ends up being your own class. In Art club this year, I was privileged to end up with most of the girls from my Prathom 1 class, though I also have some new faces who joined me from Prathom 2. Of course the boys all went straight for football club.

Art club this year has been a lot of fun. We begin most classes with an art related activity that later develops into a class karaoke or dance off. It’s extremely entertaining and it allows the students time to relax, have fun and mix with other students in a creative environment. We have so far looked at artists like Roy Litchenstein and Picasso where the students created works of their own, inspired by these artists and working in similar styles. On other days we got a little more hands on and made things like paper chains and animal masks. The students really love to show off their artistic ability in club. Art isn’t a compulsory subject at Thida so it’s great to allow them time to enjoy it.

The project we are working on at the moment is based on Mehndi designs that are used in countries for festive occasions like weddings and traditional ceremonies. We have been looking at the different forms in the patterns, particularly the paisley design and have begun to create decorative hands of our own. The hands so far look great and I look forward to seeing the end result.

Khao Sok National Park

Having spent the last first couple of months settling back into the routines of teaching, what better way to take a well-deserved break than a weekend away in Khao Sok. This national park is by far one of my favourite places in Asia and is one of the most beautiful reserves in Thailand. It’s covered by heaps of evergreen rainforest, huge limestone mountains, peaceful lakes, exciting caves, wildlife and tranquility.

Heading down after school on Friday allowed us to arrive in good time and enjoy our evening out in the jungle. We spent the first evening in jungle huts and took a boat across the lake the following morning to the lake house. Smiley lake house has expanded since my previous visit last February, with approximately 22 bungalows total, the bungalows stretch a long way across looking out onto a breathtaking view of the lake. Despite the weather and the heavy downpours of rain, the kayaks, rainbows, and storms made for a wonderful cool day. After some really delicious Thai food and a few cold ones in the evening, we initiated a bit of friendly competition by playing card games and a few rounds of beer pong.

Due to the heavy downpour that continued through the night, the cave trek was called off the next day, which actually worked in my favour being my second visit there. Instead we took a long tail boat to explore a waterfall. Waterfalls are notoriously slippery but this one was unusual. The waterfall was made of ‘sticky’ limestone rocks with minimal algae leaving a canvas to climb. The gushing water comes down and you go up. Trekking up through a waterfall surrounded by evergreen and rainforest in the rain was heaps of fun and definitely worth the visit.

The tranquility and beauty that comes with taking a trip to Khao Sok is almost unbeatable in my eyes. It is honestly one of my most memorable trips in Thailand. I hope to return and spend more time than a just a couple of days there on my next visit. Thanks Smiley!