I started my first week at Satreeprasertsin School (don’t worry I don’t know how to pronounce it either) this week where I teach Mattayom, essentially like high school back home. Thankfully enough, I wasn’t thrown right into teaching full classes, which was very relieving for me. The school is currently on its three week holiday between semesters and this week consisted of students coming to school to be tutored and mentored for a big English competition yesterday that 12 schools in the area competed in. There were numerous events taking place ranging from, but not limited to, public speaking, skits, Scrabble, Q&A, and a spelling bee. My job for week was to help tutor and mentor one student, Mint*, to prepare her for the spelling bee.
As you could probably imagine being tutored on spelling words, not to mention spelling words not of your native language, for 5.5 hours for three days can be very, very boring, but Mint did not complain one single time. She came in each morning and greeted me with “sawadee ka Teacha Kelsea” accompanied with a wai (a bow), which is the common respectful greeting in Thailand and then we spelt…all day long. These words were VERY rigorous and in all honesty I had no idea what some of them even meant or how to pronounce them myself. We broke words apart, we put them back together, we sounded out words, we worked on our “L” and “R” sounds (very difficult for Thais), we listened to pronunciations on youtube, we wrote them on paper, we recited them out loud, and for the first time a contestant from Satreeprasertsin School won the spelling bee. Although I was there to assist Mint, I in no way can take credit for the win because it was HER intelligence, HER perseverance, and HER study habits that won the contest. Anything that I asked of Mint, she did and she did it without asking why or complaining. If I sent her home with a set of words that she struggled with that day she came back the next knowing them all. If I told her she could go to lunch 5 minutes early, she told me we still had 5 minutes to study. When it came time for us to go home and I started packing up my things she waited patiently until I gave her permission to leave. She left me truly speechless.
Another thing that has left me speechless are my coworkers. There are roughly 12 of us in the English Language Department at my school (besides a teacher from Poland I am the only white teacher) and EVERY single one of them has come up to me and congratulated me on MINT’S win. The English Program Director (I actually have no idea what her title is I just know she is basically my boss) even came up to me thanking me, congratulating me, and telling me about it being the first time one of our students has won.
After the contest was over all of the students and teachers went to an Asian BBQ/karaoke were we stuffed our faces, laughed, and sang together. The loving environment at my school is overwhelming.
First impressions in Thailand are HUGE. They stressed this over and over and over before we arrived in Thailand and throughout our orientation. So as I sit here in the teacher’s office that has no a/c , with an army of ants crawling across my keyboard, a roll of toilet paper on my desk in case I have to go to the “toilet” (9/10 restrooms in Thailand don’t provide any), with doors wide open letting in a sea of unfamiliar Thai language and humidity from the rain, wearing an outfit I would probably never wear in the States, I feel blessed because of Mint. I am so grateful and proud of her! You are the real MVP! “Numbaaaaa 1”
*Mint on the left throwing up the number 1!