MEP Olympics Camp

This past Saturday was the first ever camp for MEP (Mini English Program) students. Basically all the students came up to school on Saturday morning, played crazy games, sang songs, and participated in competitions for half the day. Camps are always a lot of fun. The students always get SUPER excited, and it’s fun to see the students in their street clothes (no uniforms). I, along with the other Super English MEP teachers were in charge of planning the camp, and we are happy to announce that the camp was awesome!

The theme of the camp was “The Olympics.” At the assemblies we taught the kids fun songs like “We Will Rock You” and of course we HAD to dance to “What Does the Fox Say?” We also played some awesome “Minute to Win It” games. My favorite was a game where 1 student from each team had to move cotton balls from the floor to a cup using only a straw placed in their mouth. Funny stuff. We even got to play in a fun match of student v. teacher soccer and I’m pretty sure the students crushed us.

For the stations, the students were split into teams and each team earned points at the various competitions and stations. At the end of the camp the points were totaled up, and the winner ended up being the P2 “Care Bears” team. Did I mention they came up with the best team names?

The camp was a lot of fun and the students all really enjoyed it. We were all really happy that it went so well, since we were in charge of planning everything and it was the first ever MEP camp. I’m sure the MEP camp next year will be even bigger and better!

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A Day in the life of Regular Thida Classes

by Mike Rogers

I am not a morning person. When my alarm clock goes off at 7 my first thought is inevitably of the snooze button. This gives me 5 more minutes until the clock rudely interrupt whatever path of thoughts I have gone down, which most of the time is figuring out exactly when the next time I can get back to bed for a longer sleep is. In the states what got me out of bed was the knowledge that a hot cup of coffee and a shower were only a few minutes away. Here those to things have been unceremoniously replaced with a bucket shower, and iced coffee which is approximately one half instant coffee, a quarter creamer, and a quarter sugar (This actually isn’t so bad, bucket showers are surprisingly refreshing and more effective than I would have expected). The alarm clock time is the darkest part of my day. I tell you this, not to scare away other morning people, but rather because from this point on the day tends to improve pretty consistently.

My day begins at New Thida, the home for Anubans (kindergarten), and Ps 1 and 2. The students range from age 5 to 7, this means that these kids represent some of the highest concentration of cute in the world. I usually roll into the parking lot around 8:00 with some breakfast in hand (usually sticky rice with sweet shredded pork on it from a roadside stand on my street) and the fore mentioned iced coffee. I settle in to my seat, take a breath and begin to eat and drink, only to have my revelry disturbed when Tristan, the highly experienced teacher across from me, abruptly stands up at attention. The King’s song has begun playing. I leap out of my chair and spin into position facing the flag and the hundreds of children gathered in the center of the school. The song itself was written by the King (or so I am told. Apparently he is an extremely talented jazz musician), and is a catchy, short song that all of the children sing in that spectacularly off key way that only a few hundred 5-7 year old children can achieve. It is endearing to say the least. The flag is raised during this, and if you are particularly lucky, than it is Exercise Wednesday, and once the song has been sung upbeat music is played and the Thai teachers lead the children in a bizarre calisthenics routine. Many of teachers are about as involved as a high school senior a week after they have been accepted into college, half raising their arms, and looking as though they are mentally closer to my home than the school. A few though are really into it, pumping their arms exaggerating their leg kicks and generally rocking out in a way that seems to elevate the involvement of the children around them. This makes for quite a spectacle, and usually does an excellent job of driving away the last remnants of the alarm clock hangover. Soon the calm down music is played and the kids line up and find their way to their respective classrooms, which means I need to finish eating and get myself to class.

I am the Clark Kent of super teachers, I teach the “regular” classes, meaning that rather than seeing kids on a daily basis, I see my classes once a week for one hour. At fifty kids a class and twenty classes a week I see roughly a thousand children every week. No two days of the week are the same, I have mix of grades that I see, and a definitely a mix of kids. It’s a great way of being kept on your toes, walking to every class you are trying to remember whether this is the class where by minute 40 only one kid is paying attention (the same kid every week) or whether it’s the one where the Thai teacher has managed to corral them sufficiently that you can actually accomplish a full lesson plan. Lesson planning is easier as a regular teacher, I have wide spread of classes, P1, P2, P3, P5 and P6, but really I only need one lesson plan for each of these levels. There a couple classes that have distinguished themselves as either spectacular and needing a more challenging plan, or, shall we say, less advanced and in need of a more basic plan. But for the most part, only one plan is needed for each grade level.

Entering the class room is bizarre experience, about half way between the door and the desk on the far side of the classroom the kids will notice you have arrived and one small voice will belt out, “SA-TAND UUUP, PLEEEASE” and the entire class stands, “Gooood morning, TEAAcher”, to which the proper reply is, “Good morning class, how are you?”, and they will say “We are HAPPY, YAAAY, and you?” and you tell them you are fine and that they may sit down. If you “forget” to tell them to sit and just start teaching than in a few minutes you will be surprised to find them all still on their feet. Whoops. A fifty minute class is short enough so that you only need 2-3 sections, less if there are extended games, so planning for the classes does not present any significant challenge. The difficulty comes in holding their attention for more than 5 minutes at a time. This challenge varies significantly based on two factors, the class, and the Thai teacher. A good class can be good independent of the teacher, but these are exceedingly rare. A good Thai teacher means that the class will at the very least be minimally disruptive if not focused. I have some teachers whose presence is enough to silence the most rambunctious classes, and others that actually contribute to the problem by plopping down in the back of the class and either doing their own work or even actually talking to kids while you try to teach. Sometimes all you can do is find the 5 kids who are interested and teach to them.

After two classes there is a half hour break which is usually spent in half dazed conversation with a couple other teachers as you try to regain some of the energy that it takes to engage fifty, 7 year olds. The good news at this point is that there is only one more class before lunch. Lunch is free, and varies in quality, but usually provides something that is at least edible, if not enjoyable. This is a fun time of day, because many of the super teachers have this same time off for lunch, and all congregate at one table. It is time for a word about the structure of New Thida. It was built much like a Mario Kart64 battle stage, the so called “Donut”. On this stage there was a circular track on the outside where the players were safe, except from each other, but in the middle is a pit filled with lava. New Thida has 5 floors, each shaped much like this stage, a path surrounding the center of school, which is a vast open space. It is so vast and open that walking across it seems to initiate some long buried evolutionary instinct that makes you a little nervous. Its like you are at the bottom of a ravine with no hiding spaces for you, but plenty for your predators. During class it is like a ravine, after lunch, it is much more like the lava pit. The children are loose and going crazy from an influx of sugar and you are faced with a choice, the relative safety of the outer path, or the most direct route of walking straight across and being pinched, poked, high fived, aggressively hugged and pulled in every direction by hundreds of children ravenous for your attention. Personally, when the pit is filled I enjoy walking through it, it provides quick but fun interactions with many of the kids, and it’s relatively rare that one of them will either straight up kick you, or grab your butt. But make no mistake; the post lunch pit is no place for the meek.

For the lucky few that have no class in the next block they get to drift across the street and get an iced coffee or tea (for 15 baht, it is probably the best iced coffee bang for your baht in town). It’s a pleasant break from being in the schools and is generally very relaxing. Also, if you couldn’t eat the school lunch for some reason than they serve an excellent fried rice here as well. Typically there is at least some free time after lunch, whether you have a class or not, and at this time I am typically either scrambling to fix lesson plans that clearly weren’t working earlier in the day, or if I am lucky relaxing and checking the various sports scores that were happened while I was teaching that morning.

The break inevitably ends, and my next class is at Old Thida. If New Thida is like the “Donut” level of Mario Kart, than Old Thida is more comparable to the “Block World” one, where there are 4 different large platforms, each with three levels, and small tracks connecting them at the top. Each grade has its own hallway, and each hallway has its own floor, and each floor has at least 16 stair cases that, much like Hogwarts, take you to a completely different part of the school than you started in. Ok, maybe the stairways are exaggeration, but when you aren’t used to the school, or are going to a classroom you have never been to before than the layout seems like it was designed to keep grave robbers away from the Pharaoh’s tomb. All of the class rooms are very open on two sides; one wall is windows, and the opposite wall is fully open to the hallway. I’m told this design element is featured because of the crazy hot weather which happens most of the year, though it serves a duel purpose of allowing as much noise to enter the classroom as possible. In the worst situations the windows are facing the street and the doors the center of the school, so that many days you have traffic noise flowing in from one side, and the pleasant sounds of a school assembly, or a raucous gym class on the other. This leads to you have to speak at your loudest, or, if you will, scream in order to be heard. Classrooms like this however are the minority, even if they are the very loud minority. Most of them have reasonable acoustics and don’t leave you hoarse and tired.

Old Thida is also host to a very different age group, P3 all the way to M6’s, the seniors of the Thai school world. Thus it requires a very different kind of energy than New Thida. With these kids it helps to occasionally walk out into the rows of desks and put kids on the spot, with simple questions about what you were just going over. This has two benefits, first it gives you a decent idea of how many kids are actually understanding/ paying attention, and second nothing really pulls the focus of the rest of the class quite like the possibility that they could be called on next. Inevitably, about 10 minutes into any class the students will start raising their hands to say, or perhaps just shouting out, “Teacher, play game, play game!” To which I usually respond by having them repeat it, “Teacher, may we play a game please?” than considering it for a brief second before either saying, “no”, or telling them if they do well in class than we can play at the end. Their favorite game, by far, is 7-up; a game that I honestly believe they could play for a full school day with out getting bored. At the end of class it is often important to have them do some writing that deals with the lesson rather than having them play a game since they will not being seeing me, or likely thinking about what we learned that day for seven more days having it in their own writing is a good way to cement it in their heads.

By the time the last class ends, 3:30 at the latest, I am usually quite ready to dash for my bike and start pedaling. Most days I swing buy a stand on the way home where a very nice and sociable Thai woman named Nok makes various drinks, the best of which is a mixed fruit shake. No matter how stressful, frustrating, or delightful and surprising the classes were that day there is nothing quite like a fresh fruit smoothie for .60 cents to remind me of some of the most basic charms of living in Surat Thani.

A day in the life of five IEP classes

by Anneliese Charek

Five days a week, I walk from my home to old Thida. A fact that I am very happy with. I enjoy that I am in one place for all of my classes. Those of you who have ever had to travel all around a city to teach different students understand why this is a blessing. I also enjoy this fact, because I genuinely like the people that I work with and the little people that I teach.

My day starts out with those fellow teachers in the ‘teacher’s lounge’. Each morning we wade through a sea of small uniformed students to get to our teacher’s oasis. I usually arrive about a half hour before my 8:20 class. It’s not really necessary, as I do my lesson planning at night, but I like to have some time to get things together and drink the instant coffee that the magic Thida elves stock the lounge with.

When I deem myself sufficiently caffeinated and my things are in order, I head upstairs to my first P3 class. I have three, count ’em, three, IEP third grade classes pretty much in a row. Upon hearing that information one may think to oneself, ‘Wow. Three classes of +50 third graders first thing in the morning? Yowza!’. But let me tell you, I love these three classes of third graders in a row. They make me so happy.

So, I am going upstairs to meet my first class of third graders. Some classes are usually still having their morning prayer/assembly. My class is waiting for me in their room. They see me coming, and start calling my name ‘ANNELIESE!’. The Thai teacher finishes up what she’s doing and I go in to start my class. Almost immediately one to two students comes up to the board to show me a Doramon notebook or Ben Ten eraser that they have. I don’t know exactly why they want to show me, or what they want me to say. Possibly they just want validation that they are in fact owners of something cool. I happily give them that validation. ‘A DOREAMON NOTEBOOK! WOW!’. I pretty much just say what the thing is in an excited voice, they smile and sit down.

If I come in carrying anything, a few students will jump up and take it from me, and carry it to my desk. Then another will prompt the others to say the daily greeting with a ‘Stand up please!’. Followed by, in unison (students) ‘Goood Mooorning teeeaaacchhhh-eeerrr! How are you?’. (me) ‘I am fine students, how are you?’ (students) I am EXXXXCITED (pause) YEAHHHHHH!). Now tell me if that is not the best way to start of a class. Sometimes my ears hurt from the sound of enthusiasm emanating from each and every student.

After the greeting, it’s time to pick teams. The desks already naturally separate the class into thirds, so the BIG task is deciding team names. And this is not a task taken lightly. I ask what they want to be named, and after much deliberation, they come up with some form of the following ‘Team Super Princess Model, Team Ben Ten, Team America’ really, Team we love teacher Anneliese (for which I give an automatic 5 points). Having the teams, and giving out points throughout the class is amazingly helpful in keeping control of the class. There isn’t even a prize at the end. Just the satisfaction of knowing that they are part of the team that acquired more points than the other team. They are serious about points.

When every team has decided on the perfect name, we start class. On of my favorite things to do in the beginning of class is a game of good old fashioned pictionary. But I call it ‘Who can tell me-WHAT IS THIS?’. I write ‘What is this? on the board, and start to introduce the vocabulary for the following few lessons. It’s so simple, but it gets EVERY kid engaged. They all want to guess the right answer. They love guessing, and I love honing my animal drawing skills. If it’s something I know they haven’t heard of, I incorporate hangman, and have them guess letters to get the word correct. Hangman is a game that also is very useful, as it will get even the most quiet student to participate.

After building up some vocabulary, we usually move on to our game. The most beloved section of class. A big hit has been a game I call ‘Hide the owl’. Which takes on other forms such as ‘Hide the robot’ and ’Hide the contents of the teachers’s bag’. I’ll use the owl version to explain. I bring in a ceramic owl, ‘owl’ being a word I pre-taught in the pictionary part of class. One of the goals of the class has been describing places in a classroom, and the use of words ‘under, near, next to in, on’. They are all familiar with this concept, so we put it to use in the owl game. I call up two students. One gets the owl, the other gets blindfolded. The one with the owl, has to hide the owl, something that the whole class ends up partaking in. The blindfolded contestant is then told they have 60 seconds to find the owl. They go nuts. Everyone cheers hem on as they race around the classroom. When they do find it, I ask “Where is the owl?’”, they respond, “The owl is under the desk/in the bookcase/in the box/etc”.

The rest of the class includes using their textbook, doing writing assignments, and assigning homework. These classes usually go rather smoothly. It’s lovely how willing the students are to participate. There are the occasional difficulties though. The girls who chat and the boys who never want to sit in their seat. When 55 kids decide they want to talk and walk around the class- it can be mayhem. Luckily they are all good kids, and all they need is a simple countdown, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ZERO!” to get the point. At the end of class, they all stand up ‘Thankkk youuu teaachhherrr AAAnnnneeelliese!’. They are the greatest.

I have my block of P3 classes then a lunch break. If it’s long enough, I take this time to either: grade notebooks, fill out lesson plans, write monthly reports, or plan some of tomorrow’s lesson. That is the other good thing about being at Thida. Luckily there is not too much paper work that needs to be done. But as with every school, there is some. If you stay on top of it, you can get it all done in a reasonable amount of time. I also spend this break time mentally preparing for the next task at hand – the Matthayoms.

So, something happens to kids somewhere between the Prathyom and Matthayom levels. Along with the baby fat, the sweetness melts away, and is replaced by a thick layer of sass. There is a little less high-fiving and hugging the teacher. Entering some of the Matthayom classes is like entering another world. A world where the games and drawings that the 3rd graders love so much have no place. For these two classes of all teenage girls – I need to change gears.

I start with the M2’s. Classes are structure the same way, I pre-teach and introduce the material, play some sort of game, use the text book and do writing and homework in every class. But here needs to be different-much different. The M2’s don’t really want to leave their seats. So games involving people coming up to the board or running around the classroom usually don’t work. But they do love- HANGMAN. For some reason, this and pictionary still gets everyone’s attention. Anything I can do to spark their interest will help in this lessons. Because of this fact the name ‘Justin Beiber‘ often comes up. When working on adjectives to describe a person-‘What does Justin Beiber’s hair look like: brown? short? cute?’.

The M3’s are similar to the M2’s as far as what kind of subject matter is important to them. The best lessons we have had are the one’s that incorporate girl talk. Besides the Beib, Beyonce and Lady Gaga are often used as examples in class-and it works. They suddenly want to pay attention when they can relate via MTV icons. The M3’s are a good class, and there are many girls in there who are extremely attentive. They also have great vocabularies, and are always anxious to learn even more.

The M2 and M3 classes are at the end of my day. I either finish at 2:40 or 3:30. After all of this I once more go to the teacher’s lounge, work on paperwork or lesson plan, then head home, and get ready for my next day of IEP classes.

Some Basic Do’s and Don’ts

by Emily Nass

Teaching is as unique an experience as the students making up the class. Having experience in the classroom is an invaluable benefit. Something to keep in mind, however, is how distinctive each and every school can be. Several of you who read this may already have an abundance of teaching experience and knowledge behind you. That is wonderful. Others may be starting their teaching career with Super English. Regardless of which you are I hope you will find this article helpful on many levels.

Because teaching in Thailand is such a matchless experience in itself, one can only imagine the small nuances that set each school apart. The following are some helpful do’s and don’ts of teaching at Thida and Suratpittaya. Some of them may seem odd while others seem commonplace. The main objective of this piece is the hope that it will help you gain a well-rounded perspective on the teaching environments when you work for Suer English Language School. At both schools teachers are required to fill out lesson plans, monthly reports and hour sheets.

Thida:

Like many schools Thida has several expectations that are written and well known and several that are simply implied. At Thida you are required to sign in and out everyday in the Teacher Book located in the Teacher’s Office. Secondly if you are at the school for morning classes, standing outside of the office for the King’s Song and Flag Raising will show respect and good manners. For the English Program (EP), teachers are expected to assign some type of homework every day. The homework could range from a written assignment to reading a specific passage. As long as the homework is assigned the school and parents will be happy. Having a good working relationship with the Thai staff and Nuns at Thida is not a written rule but it is beyond a good idea. If you want to have a successful teaching experience at Thida it is very important to cultivate good friendships with your teaching assistants and show proper respect to the Nuns. As the Nuns run the school, and thus your job, it is a good habit to Wai them. A secondly important unwritten rule is attitude. Thailand is a very “face value” culture, and puts quite a bit of pressure on appearance and how you present your emotions. It may sound easy, but even if things are going awry keep a smile on your face and a calm voice.

On that note, when plans are changed do not show disappointment or frustration. The only thing you can plan on in Thailand is that plans will be constantly changed. This is expected and will happen often. The best thing to do is to not let it bother you and to simply go along with whatever the school has decided day to day. Do not complain to the Thai staff or others at the school. We are guests in Thailand even though we are teachers. It is extremely bad form to complain about Thai ways and culture. If you need to complain about something you think is unfair or irritating, save your thoughts for your head teacher after school hours. Do not sleep at school. Though at times you may feel that the only thing you need is a nap, the school is for working and home is for sleeping. If you see a Thai teacher sleeping keep in mind that it is their own choice and not a double standard set for the foreign teachers. On a separate note, do not touch your student’s heads. This is a tremendously rude and condescending act, even when done in good humor. Do not step over anyone at any time. Your feet are the lowest point of your body and should at no point be elevated above or pointing at another person. Lastly do not sit on a table or desk. Similar to your feet it is impolite and disrespectful to sit on anything besides a chair.

Suratpittaya:

Thida and Suratpittaya are very similar on several points. The only differences are as follows: Thida is a private catholic school and is run by Nuns. Suratpittaya is not. In place of the Nuns is a school board that should be respected in the same way as the Nuns at Thida. Secondly, because of the layout of Suratpittaya once the flag ceremony begins you cannot get into the school without driving through the ceremony. It hopefully goes without saying that this would be the worst idea any teacher could have. If you do not get into the school before the ceremony you can park your bike outside and walk in behind the ceremony. Never, I repeat never, try to drive into the ceremony.

Since Suratpittaya is not EP teachers do not have to assign homework. If you want to you can, though keep in mind that you will only see your students once a week and will have around twelve sections of each level. The English Improvement Program at Suratpittaya is a special program for the students who want to receive extra help with their English. You must stay in the office for your EIP hours and be ready with ideas for the students who do come in for extra practice. The paperwork at Suratpittaya includes the small amount of paper work for the EIP program. The extent of this is writing a short description of what you discussed, the student’s names and their class numbers.

Aside from the few differences, both schools require very much the same respectful and appropriate behavior from their teachers. If you are ever in doubt of an activity, lesson, action or method of handling the seemingly chaotic manner of scheduling, ask your head teacher. The head teachers know their stuff and are a wonderful tool for new teachers. So whether you are a new teacher all-together or simply a new teacher to Super English, keep these few reminders and warnings in mind. If you do, you will have a successful and low stress experience teaching for Super English. Which is something that any teacher will say is a good thing.

Fun facts to help you with your future in a Prathom 1 (First Grade) classroom

by Katy Clarke (July, 2008 – March, 2009)

1. Have fun!! Teaching Prathom 1 was my favorite part about being in Thailand. The students truly enjoy English class; therefore it is pretty easy to win their hearts. Smile, make them laugh, they will make you laugh; don’t hold back when it comes to having loads of fun! They do require a lot of energy, so go into the classroom, run around, jump around, and chase them around, whatever it takes! Positive energy, and lots of it, will carry you through an exciting year with these students. Just have fun! Sanuk maak (“fun very” in thai)!

2. Speak slowly and clearly! The slower you speak the quicker they will grasp what you are saying. Patience will help you with this; I can’t believe how much patience I have now!

3. Use repetition with everything you do. Each day was very similar to the day before, and you might think they will get bored but they don’t! Repetition helps their progress a lot, especially with the youngsters. If you repeat your daily schedule they know what to expect and will be less timid as a result. This is especially effective when playing games. The more often you play games (the games they like) the more often the shy, quieter students will break out of their shell and join in.

4. Develop a point system. This is up to you, in my classes we had three teams everyday (the desks are divided into three sections already). At the beginning of each class one student from each team chooses a name- you write it on the board- then depending on how you want to administer points, you write them under the team name. (I used stars, diamonds, smiley faces, hearts, etc. “up to you”).

5. Develop a system for discipline. This will be a very helpful and necessary tool. The students you have are actually pretty well behaved…..of course they all have their moments. Their will be a Thai teacher in the classroom making the rounds and keeping the class somewhat in line and attentive. I used the point system to keep them in line….. they really don’t like to lose points so it helps control chaos to have the points up on the board. If a student(s) on one team is misbehaving, not listening, etc. deduct a point, and all of a sudden the team quiets down. Amazing!

6. Assign writing for approximately 15 minutes everyday! The number of sentences will vary depending on the English level and cooperation of the students, as well as the difficulty of the writing assigned. While they are writing continuously walk around and monitor them…..they are sneaky and some will try and get away without writing…BAD! One student will be on number four and two little chatty girls/boys will still be opening their books!

7. Along with the writing, try to grade their journals twice a week. All you have to do is initial each entry….they will make simple mistakes, and many of the students will make very similar mistakes, therefore grading is quite easy! They like if you sign your name like an autograph on occasion, or draw funny smiley faces, etc. They are easily pleased!

8. They like to play with balloons, chalk, flashcards, etc. Once again, easily pleased. I used a magic bag that I put objects (flashcards, figurines, etc) in according to the subject we were studying. They love reaching into the bag and pulling out an unknown object. Then you can have the talk about the object or whatever you want to do in order to teach them the current subject.

9. On Fridays you do verbal testing. Fridays are very nice; you sit at the desk while each student comes up individually to answer two to three verbal questions. I used flashcards a lot for this. Also, it is convenient to print out worksheets (sometimes two worksheets depending on the class level) for Fridays. Walk into class, pass out the papers, explain the worksheet, explain the subject and expectations of the verbal test, then sit down and start calling the students up to the desk. Easy.

10. Smile, laugh, and thoroughly enjoy the experience! These students are amazing, one of the most fun group of students at Thida (maybe this is biased but I don’t care)! Have a great time getting to know the Thai staff and the other Super English teachers. I honestly wish I was still there, pedaling my way to school everyday, standing for the national anthem and prayer, and heading off to class where the children cheer and yell for you because they love English class so much!

Good luck to you! (Chok dee ka)! Have fun!