A Back to School Wendy

This is the third week looking at the projects that we, Starfish Volunteers, do here in Surin. I wonder what we will be looking at this week? Well the answer to that question is…………………………………………



Teaching is actually the first project that was set up in Surin and has been doing incredibly well ever since it started. We have worked with several local schools to improve the language skills of students in the very youngest class to the very oldest. If you read my previous posts on teaching you will have seen the photos of Taryn and Ben teaching at our previous location of Ban Beung Bow Oon School, well we have now said goodbye for now to that school and have moved onto our new location at Kor Goh Rayong (I have no idea if that is how you spell it in English but that is basically what it sounds like)


The reason we moved to another location this year was that we have worked so very hard with Beung Bow Oon and have set them up with a finite plan of how to teach English better; this meant that we could leave the teachers to it and go and help another school. We did have a very fun few last weeks with the kids at school, especially at the huge English Camp that we put on where a lot of the students spent their last few weeks in Primary school, this meant lots of tears from both the kids and from us as well. I have never felt so blessed as I have saying goodbye to a very smart girl in P6 (Year 6) called Quan, she was in floods of tears as she didn’t want us to leave and she didn’t want to think she wasn’t going to see us ever again. We had had one volunteer teaching continuously for three months who had built up a very strong bond with the children, he was having to fight back the tears when saying goodbye to the students that he had worked so very hard to improve the language skills of. You can see the amazing progress that Henry and the other teachers made in this Youtube video that they made for a class project. Just click the link or stay tuned and I will post it here as well ūüėÄ

So moving onto our new school!! It’s located around half an hours drive from Surin and is the center of learning for nearly 500 students, that’s 400 more than our previous location; the volunteers¬†definitely¬†have their work cut out for them!! This school has so many students because it isn’t just a primary school, it also teaches up to the age of 15 so has very different teaching environments to experience and enjoy.

The youngest students are still learning their ABC’s whilst the eldest students are able to do much, much more. It is incredible to see the difference that is made from a few hours learning English a week over a series of years. I know I always had that sinking feeling whenever I had a German class as nobody ever wanted to go as it seemed so pointless; there is only one country that speaks German and chances are, I am not going to move to Germany so it all seemed like a waste of time to me (Still got A’s in all my exams though so I must have been paying some kind of attention!!) English here however is not the same as learning German or French, here in Thailand, if you can speak English you have access to a whole new life. Jobs pay more. You have the chance to learn abroad. You can even work abroad. Speaking English is so incredibly important to the people of Thailand, even in small villages with no more than one hundred people, the children are still taught English in the hopes that one day they may be able to develop theirs skills enough to get themselves a well paid job.


The kids at the school in the Elephant Village, a school with no more than 80 children in it

One of the most sort after jobs in Thailand is being a tour guide. To be able to qualify for a tour guide license you MUST be able to speak English fluently and this only comes from hours and hours of dedication to learning English. Not only does being a tour guide mean that you can travel around all of Thailand and see the amazing country that it is, but it also means that you have access to a world of¬†opportunity¬†that so many others don’t have, you have the¬†opportunity¬†to make decent money. I have spoken before about how low the average monthly wage of Thai people is and the difference between that to the wage of a tour guide is HUGE! A tour guide at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, can make ŗłŅ1000 in an hour, that is around 25GBP or 40USD; that’s a lot even in the Western world so think how much that is to Thais.

They can only get jobs like this though from learning English and this is where you come in. We need volunteers to come to Thailand and help teach children English, believe me when I say you don’t need to be a teacher to teach; I’m not a teacher but I have still taken classes on my own and gotten great results. You just need to be enthusiastic and want to teach.


Wordsearches are like sugar to the kids!

So a typical day at school starts at around 8-8.30am with volunteers being picked up and taken to school, around about a half an hour drive. Once there, volunteers have a briefing about what class and topics they will be teaching for the day, if they will be doing it with other volunteers or on their own and then you are off, off to mould the minds of the future!!

A typical lesson is about an hour long, some classes are doubles so they are two hours and you can be teaching anything from colours and shapes to animals and numbers. There really is no end to what volunteers can teach or they way that they teach it. We follow a curriculum given to us by the government and the school and we have the help of some amazing language teaching books as well, so don’t worry you aren’t expected to think up your lessons the week before and you certainly won’t be left to fend for yourself! There is always a member of staff available to translate to the students but at Kor Gor Rayong we try to speak in as LITTLE Thai as possible; the best way to learn a language¬†after all¬†is to be completely¬†immersed¬†in it.


Some children work better outside of the classroom

At the beginning of each lesson, students will introduce the class, greet the teacher and then even ask how you are! How very polite! You will then commence to teach your lesson, you can do this in any way you like. If you think that your students are better suited to learning directly from a book then teach them like that, if you think they are more the kind of students that need to be up and moving to remember something then you can take them out of the classroom to do that; this is especially useful and a very effective tool for learning with the younger students as their attention span is around about 15 minutes. Not only does it keep students engaged by mixing up the way in which they are taught but it also makes them excited to go to lessons to see how they will be learning about animals this week, it will leave them remembering more after having a lesson where they got to touch and feel the things they were learning and not just look at words in a book.


Kay undertaking the most competitive game of ‘SimonSays’

I won’t lie, teaching can be challenging at times, especially teaching Thai people English. They don’t have the same sounds that we have an visa versa so getting a new to speaking English, Thai person to say the word ‘three’ without it coming out like ‘tree’ can be frustrating as it may take a half our but there is no better¬†sense¬†of satisfaction as when you hear them say it perfectly the next lesson. Teaching isn’t something that always shows its effects in one lesson, it may take a week of lessons to teach one topic, it may take a month of lessons but you can see the progress these students make the longer you are here; which is why I can’t¬†recommend¬†people enough to stay here for as long as possible. If a volunteer comes for two weeks they make a difference to the overall learning of the students but they may not see the rewards whereas a volunteer who comes for a month or hopefully a term, will see the amazing progress these children make when they are taught by people who WANT to see them progress.


Our first three volunteers at our new school

Everyone remembers that teacher at school that was just amazing, made them want to learn and actually made learning fun; for me I was lucky enough to have several of these teachers and to know that you can become that teacher is a very overwhelming feeling. I know that I will remember Mr, Offord or Mrs. Antoun until the day I die and to think that you can be that person for someone else is wonderful, I know that I will always remember Quan from our old school beacuse she was such a great character and she loved learning and I HOPE she will always remember me as the teacher that taught her origami at an English camp and would always make fun of the fact that she had a crush on another teacher. Memories like that are made by the effort that you put in. You don’t know how much of a passion you may start for learning in the very youngest students, or even creating the idea that a student who previously didn’t do so well is actually much better than they think they are, and with the right amount of dedication can do anything they want to do.

I know that you will do an amazing job when you come to teach at our new school and I will hopefully get some pictures of our first week, which starts today. I know that the volunteers we have now will be doing an incredible job and will right now, as you sit and read this, be teaching a child one more thing about English, and then another, and then another, and then another until they have as much of a love for learning as we do for teaching.

Yes we do get naughty kids, and their will be times that you will have to discipline the kids and this can be hard. It is very easy to leave out the naughty children as it is too much effort to teach them but these children are often the ones that need the help the most. Don’t be scared to assert your dominance in a class by chastising a student, in Thailand this is often done by putting the naughty child into a situation where they are incredible¬†embarrassed¬† for example I have made students do the Gangnam Dance if they refuse to stop talking in my class. It is a funny but effect way in which you can get children to realise there are consequences for their actions; which are often hilarious for other members of the class as well as you.


These faces mean you won’t ever have a bad day!

Just know that teaching is one of the most rewarding of projects and I have never left a day without a smile on my face, the children have an incredible ability to improve everything about your day just by managing to remember something you taught a week ago or even by remembering your name; I always loved when students were able to remember my name, it really does make you feel as though they care.

If you haven’t already signed up for our teaching project then you can do so here at the¬†Starfish Website, if you want to see what other projects we do then take a look at the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page or the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page, these are filled with photos and tales of all the projects we do.

Alternitively you can check out my Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram pages to see what I am up to and which project I am working on that week.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto




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