Learning to teach in a new place can be daunting- especially if that place is 6,000 miles from home, and the students are unlike any students you’ve encountered in your UK classrooms. During her two weeks here in Phang Nga, Sheemu experienced the ups, downs, and triumphs that make teaching here an unforgettable experience. Here’s what Sheemu had to say about her time with us in Ban Nam Khem.
Sawas Dee Ka! I am Sheemu and I have come to volunteer in Teaching English in Ban Nam Khem School and CDC (Community Development Centre). To begin with, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that teaching here would be different to the UK. As I have never been here before, I consciously kept an open mind, so I did not build up any expectations about teaching or the children.
The first thing that hit me at arrival is the heat! The intense heat that goes under your skin and fries you in spite of all the factor 50 sun screen, and the hat! Thank goodness for the trees that give shade and the rooms which have fans! If you are coming, I would highly recommend bringing an umbrella for the added protection when you are out and about and don’t forget an insulated water bottle!
I travelled with a friend, so I had good company along our long journey from the UK. We reached a day before the programme started to enable us to settle down. I am glad we did that as the journey combined with the heat is exhausting. You need some time to relax and recharge your batteries.
We received a warm welcome from our GVI friend at Phuket airport and he kindly walked with us to our little hotel for our overnight stay. The following day we enjoyed nice breakfast at a local café run by two lovely ladies and then, we left for Phang Nga base. The drive from the airport to the base was pleasant, filled with lots of greenery as we crossed a bridge with beautiful scenes that soothed our tired eyes.
We reached the base around midday, then we were introduced to all the staff followed by a village tour and welcome presentation. The base is where everyone meets before leaving for projects and comes back to at the end of the day for dinner, debrief, and chores.
Learning to Teach
On the first day of work, I was given the opportunity to observe lessons in anticipation for leading classes the following day. Unfortunately, I am not very good at sitting around just watching, so I had to get up and get involved with the class. The students’ response was encouraging, and I began to feel more at ease. I enjoyed the interaction and conversations with the children and I thoroughly appreciated the effort and hard work by GVI staff.
When I started to plan and prepare for the lessons, I was very nervous because I didn’t know how the tasks would be received, but I ploughed through with intention of doing the best I can for the students. The GVI staff helped me a great deal and after the first few moments into class, I was pleasantly surprised as they were totally engrossed in the planned activity. It felt emotionally overwhelming and gratifying at the same time. There, I had an aha moment of ‘I can do this!’
It was great to have met the objective of the planned lesson because it meant that it worked. Of course, it is a blessing to have had the GVI team with me because I could not have done it without them. They are very well informed about the curriculum and the student’s abilities; thus, being a fountain of knowledge and support to new teaching volunteers. They are amazing for planning and preparing for classes and giving any help they can. Thank you team GVI, I am grateful.
Responsible Children Make Responsible Adults
As I arrived at the beginning of the festive season of Christmas, we managed to implement some fun filled lessons to capture the students’ creativity and imagination which were flowing in an abundance. The most amazing aspect is the students here are keen to learn and eager to grow and that means the task at hand is a pleasure. Needless to say, there are a few challenging and interesting characters, but deep down they too want to learn, so if you focus on the activities, they will join in sooner or later.
The most wonderful part is that, it is not just about academic life here because the students go above and beyond their school classes; they have their own community. They get together to help wash the floors and clean the toilets in the school and they do it all with a smile on their face. They are happy to have the chance to attend a school to obtain an education and they are glad to be the caretakers of the establishment in return for the opportunity to educate themselves in the hope for a better future. Their dedication, sincerity and loyalty leave me speechless. What honour and nobility they have shown! They take pride in being the caretakers of their school and they are proud to be students.
They may be seen as having less than others in terms of wealth and materials, but they are so much richer in values, humility and respect. I came to teach English to these courageous and beautiful pupils, but it is them who have taught me that education is not just about grades, it’s about the journey of enriching yourself as a human being in many aspects. I am blessed to have had this opportunity and I take back more than words can convey.