It’s been one week since I landed at Bangkok International Airport, and today is my first day of teaching a first grade class how to count numbers one through ten in English.
I’m nervous after observing the students during our initial orientation. Why am I nervous? Because I truly want to help and for the following reasons:
- I have no experience teaching younger children.
- The children in our Thai public school have to follow the government’s text book.
- The children have not been taught the basics, therefore how do we help them progress to the next level in the textbook?
- The children learn by repeating and memorizing, and often repeat your questions without understanding that you expect an answer.
- I am a volunteer, and want them to succeed, but how do I get the entire class to pay attention?
- It seems that they listen when you’re loud, but I don’t like to shout.
- We are only here for a short period of time, so we have to continue with the same methods. I hope I remember the correct steps.
Besides being nervous,and wanting to make a difference, there is the added pressure of adapting to living in a communal atmosphere, and sharing bedrooms and bathrooms with my fellow volunteers who are as young as 17, and as “old” as 38.
I love young people, and admit that at first, I kept wondering if they questioned why a woman my age, was in this program.
It took me a few days to realize that I should just be myself, and not try to apologize for being older, or wanting to participate in their activities. I am treating this experience as pre-training for the Peace Corps, where I shall be living mostly with young people for 27 months, as a volunteer in Lesotho, Africa.
I’m pleased to say that I’m adapting to life in a foreign country without the luxuries of home. Brushing my teeth in the shower, only having cold water to wash, and often no toilet paper, but a small hose to rinse off, are some of the things I’m getting used to.
Now my frizzy hair, is something I cannot get used to taming, but that will come with time.
I believe that discovering new places, new foods and new people, make up for the lack of luxuries from home. At least that’s what I keep reminding myself.