Michelle Bainbridge is a student at Edge Hill University and she was placed at a rural mountain top project in Thailand, here Michelle talks about what she did on a daily basis and how she became involved in the local community.
A day of teaching at the school I was placed at begins with an early morning wakeup call from the local farm animals. It will either be the cock-a-doodle-doo from one of the many cockerels or the squeal of the pigs going to market. As I walk down to the bathroom, the view of Doi Chang (Elephant) mountain still takes my breath away, even after seeing it every day for 6 weeks.
The children begin their day at 7:00am and each child has their own individual chores to complete before the school day starts. So it is not unusual to be greeted with a “Good morning Teacher” or “Sa-wat-dee” on your way to the bathroom. The school day begins at8:00AM with all of the students lining up outside to complete their morning ritual of singing the schools song, morning prayers and 5 minutes meditation.
My favourite part of the day is when the children sit in the hall waiting to see which class room I walk into, which ever class I walk into the students let out a great big cheer.
The children are split into two teaching groups Prathom and Mattayon. Prathom are aged 5-15 years old and really enjoy being active in lessons. I found the children learnt more when the lessons had a mixture of games, drawing and colouring and singing that way they are never bored which can lead to them becoming quite mischievous. The same applies for Mattayon just try and alter the games to suit their age and interests.
A typical teaching day should be four one hour lessons, but be prepared for this to alter. You may be asked to stand in for a teacher who is off or busy or your lesson may be cancelled due to pre-planned activities, such as science day or English competitions; be prepared to get involved. If your lessons are cancelled there is plenty to keep you busy like a trip to the nursery to help teach the younger children and you can teach the teachers basic English.
Lunch is served at 11:30am the children eat in their classrooms and the teachers eat in their house and like all meal time there will be a variety of food available for you to choose from. There is a tuck shop also available which I found useful to buy little sweets as rewards during lessons. When the school day finishes at 15:30 and the children have gone home it is best to get any preparation for the next day out of the way. Although the school is fully equipped with computers, internet, printing etc there can sometimes be technical difficulties due to the weather and queue for the photocopying machine in the morning.
At around 18:00 its time to help prepare the evening. All of the teachers will make their own special dish so be prepared to try lots of unusual but delicious meals. Thai people like it when you eat so if you try a meal and you don’t like it then just say and they will not make it again. This is where learning some Thai comes in handy “ a-roy-mak” means something is delicious and “im-laa-ou” means I’m full. You will use these phrases a lot. Once meal time is over the rest of the evening is yours. I split my time between my room and spending time with the teachers, talking and singing on the karaoke machine (brush up on your ballads).
What clothes to bring
If you are located in a school that is up in the hills the weather is very unpredictable. In one day the weather will change many times from thunder and lightning to 36 degree heat. During school time the clothing you wear must be appropriate (no low cut tops, miniskirts, skimpy shorts) at night time it is a bit more relaxed but it is still inappropriate to wear skimpy clothing especially for females. You will need:
- Waterproof jacket
- Good walking shoes
- Long sleeved tops for the night (protect you from the mosquitos)
- Long trousers for the night (protect you from the mosquitos)
- Several tshirts
- Shorts (to the knee)
- Slippers (to wear in the house)
- Cardigan or jumper (It can get cold of a night)
If you embrace all of the opportunities that are presented to you here I promise that you will have memories that you will cherish forever. This is a wonderful place full of amazing people. I hope you fall in love with it the way I did.