“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis
The past month has been full of excitement, accomplishment, adventure, and perseverance. I graduated from my TESOL course in Hua Hin alongside classmates that turned into very good friends, and packed up my room in Baan Jaco, which served as my temporary home. Several goodbyes were said, but they weren’t tearful – we would see each other again. Each of us had different traveling plans and start dates, but we promised to create reunions all over Thailand whenever possible.
Our teaching course had its difficult parts, and sometimes we hated Michelle for keeping us longer than the other two classes. But by the time we had to use the practical skills we learned to teach at summer English camp, I’m sure everyone was thankful that she kicked our asses into gear for three weeks. I taught Kindergarten and Primary levels, and I learned the basic concept of winging it in a classroom when all else fails. It proved to be one of the most valuable skills I have to this day, and I couldn’t be more grateful to Michelle for having such a positive impact on my confidence as a teacher.
The ten days following graduation served as the perfect segue into becoming an official teacher, because I was able to get some much-needed backpacking out of my system before settling into my new home. I traveled around three islands (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui) with two girls from my TESOL group who turned into my Canadian soul sisters, and it was the kind of trip that you wish never ends. We snorkeled in crystal clear waters, hiked a few peaks with beautiful lookouts, jumped a rope on fire, and partied on the beach til the sun came up. We met up with lots of friends from our XploreAsia group, and it felt like we had never left Hua Hin. It’s funny how such a short time can spark such profound connections, but by the end of our backpacking trip, I felt like I had made two of the best friends I’ll have throughout my Thailand adventures and beyond. And since we survived a Full Moon party together, I’d say that we’re a pretty unstoppable trio. We met so many dynamic people while island hopping, keeping me inspired to continue traveling after Thailand. My plans are not set in stone, but I have several ideas brewing for potential visits, with family and friends all over the globe.
After a few beautiful nights of detoxing in Koh Samui, we headed to Bangkok for our Media Kids (agency) orientation. Although the orientation itself was very repetitive following everything we had learned through XploreAsia, coming back to Bangkok turned out to be the perfect opportunity to meet up with more of our TESOL group before heading off to our placements. I was excited to have one more night with my roommate from Baan Jaco, especially since her placement is pretty far away from mine, and our last night in Bangkok served as the perfect send off to a fresh start in my new town.
I arrived in Ban Phai around 6pm on a Monday, and I spent the next week exploring my new home with my fellow western teachers. It didn’t take long before we were the talk of the town, because three new “farangs” in one small town is a big deal. We made several Thai friends within days of arriving in Ban Phai, including some of the Thai teachers, and we spent our first week getting acclimated to the slower pace that comes along with living in Isan. On May 18th, I officially became a teacher of English for Communication Development for Kindergarten 1-3 (ages 4-6), and my first lesson focused on Introductions and Numbers.
I was surprisingly calm throughout my first week, and I spent 60% of my class time winging it. I conjured up a list of activities in my head, but I had nothing written down, and I went into my first day hoping for the best but expecting the worst. I was pleasantly surprised by the temperament of my students, and their willingness to learn from me. Even the 4-year-olds seemed genuinely interested in me, even if they had no idea what I was saying (blank stares for days). I countered their stares with songs and games, and the reception was incredibly positive. Since they are so young, I have already come to the conclusion that interactive games and activities will be most effective in allowing my students to retain any information, and I plan to incorporate them into my future lesson plans.
Overall, my first week went surprisingly well, and despite a few bumps in the road so far, the kids are more than enough of a reason to get up in the morning. It’s hard not to smile, even at the end of a long day, when you have so many adorable kindergarteners looking up to you with genuine interest. They wave to me in the hallway and say “Hello Teacher Marta!” and I can’t help but feel valued in this small community. I get several hugs from these tiny people every day, and their kindness and joy becomes contagious. So even at my worst moments, as a teacher or as a person, I will go into each day with a clean slate and a positive mindset. That’s how they do it in Thailand: one day at a time.