By Lira Low Roberts
We first started documenting Qi volunteer Wang Lin's experiences on the Qi Blog a week ago. Wang Lin is now in her second week at the Mechai Pattana School in Thailand, and recounts the past week's events at the eco-friendly, free-for-all school in her own words.
Having spoken with some visitors this past week, I realized that this school offers students many opportunities. From the Mandarin Chinese class I teach, I learnt to be tolerant of uncertainty and the need to be flexible. The lesson with village kids at a library corner with a white board was also a memorable experience for me.
Opportunities for the Students
I met an English teacher from Pattaya's The Regent’s School. She told me that some students went for an exchange at her school for three days, and in turn she was curious about Mechai's School so she came here. In the afternoon she taught six students speech, because they were selected to go to Malaysia for a 10-day visit with Khun Mechai.
Hong, the girl on the left was one of the students going to Malaysia. She prepared to talk about democracy at the school. Students not only designed the school uniform (what she was wearing), but also decide on the intake of new students and evaluate the teachers. In addition, students can choose projects they are interested in. This term, Hong chose to study about Buddha. She also took part in the Chinese class. I could see that she was very responsive and keen to learn.
The number of students coming to the class varies from 2 to 19, although I was told initially that there would be 2 groups of 15 students each. I guess because Chinese class is scheduled as an after school activity, students may sometimes have meetings with teachers after school, or at other times they are just eager to go home, and hence may not always attend the class. This uncertainty was a bit stressful for me at first, but now I have learnt to handle it with calm. In the case of 2 students, I was really grateful for their presence. That class was highly interactive. I even got to know their favorite actors and singers.
For some reason in the larger class, students like to talk and disturb each other. It is a challenge for me to keep a balance between a lively class and some discipline. I asked an English teacher about this and he gave me some advice that I will try out next week.
Lovely Time with Village Kids
Our original classroom was holding a teacher-parent meeting on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, I was informed of this only 20 minutes before the start of the class. In order not to disappoint kids who rode their motorcycles to come learn, I decided to conduct the lesson at a corner of the library with a white board.
It was easier for the kids to follow if they could ask any words that they wanted to know. For instance, the kids asked how to say “palace” (as Thais really respect their King) and “amusement park”.
So I found that the lack of powerpoints did not matter. When kids are subconsciously aware that you are relaxed and just care about them, they will in turn also be relaxed and responsive. The most enjoyable moment is seeing the sparks in their eyes when they are excited about an interesting new word.
Luckily on Sunday we got the classroom back, so we watched “Kungfu Panda” after our lesson.