TED: Rita Pierson – Every kid needs a champion!

Inspiring 8-minute talk from educator, Rita Pierson. I agree it is imperative as educators we build connection and relationship with our students. We need to inspire them, encourage them, and speak into their lives with respect, humility, grace and truth, no matter the child. Every student needs to have teachers who tell them they are somebody even if they don’t believe it within themselves. I continue to learn and grow as I seek to do this every day with my students. Fabulous TED talk!!

Flipping the traditional classroom script: Building a global classroom

Listen to Salman Khan speak at TED about how his inspirational, engaging, step-by-step videos has reinvented learning and ‘how we do’ education.  Furthermore, he discusses how we can build a global classroom.

I was introduced to Khan Academy in 2012 and have used many videos in the classroom – WOW!!  With the ability for students to move at their own pace, whilst being monitored and coached by teachers, everyone is learning without being left behind or stunted in their learning because ‘one size does not fit all’.

What do you think about the clip and Khan Academy?  Have you used Khan Academy in your classroom or set it as homework?

There is a link to Khan Academy in my Links Roll – feel free to check it out.

Learning ‘th’

I did not realise before coming to Thailand that the ‘th’ sound in Thai language is pronounced as ‘t’.  This made a recent phonics lesson fun as students and class teachers pronounced ‘three’ as ‘tree’.  So a lesson where I thought we would practice speaking together followed by an activity or two was thrown out the window and instead the focus was on practicing ‘th’ words.  We had fun, especially when ‘three’ was then being pronounced as ‘free’.  This then changed the dynamics and we all (students and teachers) were listening to and understanding the difference between ‘th’, ‘f’, and ‘t’ and then practicing more.  No longer does ‘Thursday’ sound like ‘Tursday’ and now ‘three’ sounds like ‘three’.  ‘Tree’ is ‘tree, and ‘free’ is ‘free’.  I’m glad with ongoing review students and teachers continue to pronounce ‘th’ as ‘th’ instead of ‘t’ or ‘f’.

Reflection: I now understand why Ubon Rachathani is pronounce ‘Ubon Rachatani’!  I was saying it correctly yet didn’t connect the ‘th’ sound to all words.  Also, giving ESL students the time to practice speaking English – mistakes and all – is imperative to ongoing development and understanding.  If we choose, we can learn from our mistakes – just as I keep doing with speaking Thai or Isaan!    I appreciate how the English language is put together, yet definitely being creative and clear is most helpful when conveying this to speakers of other languages.

Outdoor classroom: Exploring

Ubon map

Click on map to make it easier to read.

A hot sun in a royal blue sky and a blowing wind greeted Eg, Jui, Gunner, Melissa and me as we jumped in the car ready for our day-trip of exploring.  Today was the day I would see the Mekong River for the very first time – yippee!  Driving alongside us were many cars, motorbikes and trucks as it was the New Year holiday weekend.  Bottled water, runners, hat & sunscreen, and the camera all at hand – I just knew today was going to be an adventure of learning more about this wonderful country and experiencing her beauty. As we travelled out-of-town on the Number 4 bridge, which crosses over the Mun River, rice fields, homes, factories, schools, roadside carts, 7/11, and forests greeted us along the way.

Stop 1 Pataya Noi.  Literally meaning ‘Little Lake’.  As we drove in to have a look around and take photos people bowed, from the polite gentle nod to very exuberant bowing and hand gestures, to try to get us to stop and eat at their floating huts on the lake.  We were planning on eating at the next stop so we kept driving to the end, then got out and walked around.  The air was fresh and the sun glistened on the bluey-green water – picturesque!  Jui, Melissa and I ventured across the bamboo walkway to one of the floating huts, which because it is currently winter can easily be done as during the rainy season Pataya Noi is overflowing.  The bamboo walkway was sturdy except for one section when all of us thought we may end up in the lake!  Before leaving two girls happily showed Melissa and me how to welcome cars exuberantly – such fun!

Stop 2 Sirindhorn Dam.  Named in honour of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn the dam was constructed, I believe, by her father, to produce hydro-electricity.  The dam is built on the Lam Dom Noi River, which is within the Mekong River Basin.  The royal family has a holiday palace within the grounds amongst beautiful gardens and fountains.  There are guest houses the public can holiday at, when the royal family are not in residence, along with restaurants, gardens and a top-notch golf course!  I was taken by the beauty of Sirindhorn Dam and thought ‘what a gorgeous holiday spot!’  It was a joy to watch many families exploring Sirindhorn Dam and enjoying picnic lunches along her banks.  We relaxed under the shade of the trees eating chicken with sticky rice, and mandarins.  I really enjoyed learning about the history and day-to-day running of Sirindhorn Dam.  A must see place!

Stop 3 Pha Taem National Park.  The foreigner entry fee is 200BHT and is worth it!!  A must see when staying in Ubon Ratchathani.  Pha Taem N.P is set on 340km2 over three districts and part of the land is bordered by the Mekong River.  The terrain reminded me of the dry season in outback Northern Territory where I use to live – sand, rocks, scrub, trees and fabulous views!  There are lodges and camping areas if you wish to stay overnight.  There is much to see and do, yet for our day trip we focused on three areas – Sao Cha Liang (Rock Pillars), rock paintings, and cliff viewpoints.

Sao Cha Liang (Rock Pillars).  Tiered sandstone rocks that look like huge mushrooms!  I loved seeing the rippling on the sandstone and climbing about the rocks before heading up the rock path to the flower field and look out.  Unfortunately, due to it being winter no flowers were blooming…a good excuse to come back in their Summer :)  Delightful sight from the look out into Laos and across the National Park.

Rock Paintings.  Pa Tam cliffs sees four sets of rock painting areas, dated of long ago.  The first two were open so we made our way down the couple of kms of rocky path to view these beautiful paintings of fish, turtle, elephant, people, hand-prints etc – all depicting hunting and gathering life on the Mekong.  It is amazing that wherever you travel and see rock paintings there is a universal similarity to them.  Great to see they are protected from people touching them and the government has erected viewing platforms, which not only gives you a great view of the paintings but also of the Mekong River and scrub.

Cliff viewpoints.  The time has come to see the Mekong River and Laos – yippee!!  This is where you can see the first sunrise and sunset of Siam – absolutely picturesque!  Walking to the edge of the cliff (seriously there is no barrier) and looking down at the river farmland, forest and river was amazing…I felt I could touch Laos!  The joyous chitter-chatter of others was a delight to hear as I took many photos whilst grinning from ear to ear :D    On our way home we stopped somewhere else and I saw merchant boats travelling across from the Laos-Thai villages for market trading.

A marvellous day of exploring and learning ended at a local market situated on the banks of the Mun River.  The sky turned purple and orange with the cold wind picking up as we stopped at different stalls and made some purchases.  I loved learning more about this wonderful country, her history, and exploring her beautiful places.  Looking forward to learning and experiencing more of Ubon and Thailand!  As the full-moon rose and the stars twinkled in the night sky my eyelids felt like lead – a weary yet very content traveller!

I love the fact one’s classroom is not confined to a building; learning can happen anywhere!   ‘Twas wonderful learning and experiencing new things!

Christmas / Christ Academic & Spirit Day

The morning was dark and the stars were twinkling in the sky when I placed my handmade Christmas stocking outside my fellow Aussie teaching colleague’s door, hoping she too wasn’t already awake preparing to skype family in Australia.  Thankfully not!  Upon returning to my room alas the internet was down, oh well, a wonderful time for quiet reflection, prayer and playing Christmas carols whilst preparing for the day ahead at school.  As the sun began to rise and the chant of the monks from the local temple came upon the wind, I gave thanks to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who came into this world as the Saviour/Messiah for all .  The sun was hot as I walked to school in my beautifully handmade traditional Thai dress – a delight for the locals to see.  For my students and fellow teaching colleagues we decided for them to wear four colours – red, green, silver or gold, and for Melissa and me to wear Thai dress.  I was so excited to see the East and West mix!

Excitement filled the air as children, teachers and families arrived at school.  “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Christmas” was the greeting of the day along with Christmas carols and songs blaring over the school PA system. I knew within myself today was going to be marvellous even though I did not know what to expect.  Mostly everyone was dressed-up and smiling from ear-to-ear.  A week prior I wrote an English note to the parents informing them of the event; wonderful to see so many families come.  I was told it was the best parent turn-out ever for an event and they hoped this would continue.  I introduced my student’s concert item “Happy Christmas to you” (Peter Combe – original video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttrPJx9K0GY ) to the entire audience with excited parents bustling their way to the front with cameras and iPads ready to capture their adorable children perform an entire song in English.  With great gusto students and teachers sang and danced as I led from the floor returning a beaming smile to theirs – how proud I was of their effort and enthusiasm!  Personally, Peter Combe’s Christmas Album (http://www.mmusic.com.au/p/273323/peter-combe—peter-combes-christmas-album.html) is a family tradition and I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to share this Aussie children’s icon here in Thailand.

We did not celebrate Christmas per se, instead the day was called Christ Academic & Spirit Day for this is a Buddhist nation.  Even so, I was struck that Christ was written on the banners and certificates awarded to classes for best decorated rooms.  The day celebrated student achievement and participation.  Subjects and classes had stalls highlighting student learning and understanding; the vibe was electric when I walked around to view them myself.  As the day progressed to the afternoon, with the sun high and hot in the sky my students enjoyed a little bit of a movie, a Christmas Party, a run around the playground, and finally a brief quiet time before parents collected them at the end of the day.  WOW an absolute jam-packed day full of sharing learning with others and celebrating together.

Personally, during the day/evening the internet came back on so I was able to skype family in Australia and share in their joy whilst sharing my own – how truly special to have this kind of technology to connect with people throughout the world.  Christmas was a joyous celebration, yes different to what I am accustomed to, yet not diminished in any way.  As the sky turned black and the stars twinkled in the sky Christmas ended with viewing “Love Actually” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0314331/), giving thanks and praise to God in prayer, and listening to Christmas carols.

Merry Christmas and to you a blessed 2013!

End note: Originally I had requested to not be at school on Christmas Day (non-mission schools operate on Christmas Day) yet in hindsight (such a wonderful thing!) I am so very grateful that I was at school because I enjoyed every moment, despite tiredness setting in mid-afternoon; seeing delighted families together enjoying the day’s celebratory event, viewing the variety of stalls showcasing student learning, and being with others to share why Christmas is so special to me and to hear and learn why Christ Academic & Spirit Day is so special to them.  If I wasn’t at school on December 25th I would have missed these learning opportunities and never got them back.  Such a marvellous day!!

Sunrise

The province of Ubonratchathani is the easternmost province in Thailand and is the first province of Thailand to view the sunrise.  As I love sunrises and sunsets, I have woken early to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation a number of times already.  This morning I finally got my camera out to take some physical lasting images (very basic digital camera) from the window of my room.  Such a wonderful way to begin my day!

I am looking forward to being on the Chong-Mek border to experience the first sunrise of Thailand shimmering across the Mekong River in the near future.

How was your sunrise experience in your part of the world this morning?

Notes from the first 5

It has been 5-weeks since arriving in Thailand – time seems to be flying by quickly! Each day I make either mental or written notes so thought I would share some of them here (in no particular order).

1. Bells and Music.  Every weekday at 5:30am the first of countless loud (very loud) bells ring to begin my day with the final bell of the day ringing at 5:30pm.  On the weekend the first bell rings at 7:30am (body clock still wakes early – a bonus: I’ve seen some beautiful sunrises).  The bells and music indicate when to wake up, eat a meal, time to arrive at school, time classes commence/conclude, break times, and time to leave school for teachers.  I have grown accustomed to the bells and music yet it doesn’t stop me from disliking them.

2. Communication.  As I know communication between anyone, anywhere, over anything can be rewarding, easy, challenging, encouraging etc.  Clear communication is key, no matter what.  Therefore, I’m learning to not sweat the small stuff of not being told something, having the expectation put on me that I will do something, enjoying something more or less than another is okay, or not understanding someone can be worked on (successfully or not).  I am enjoying learning Thai and Isaan to help me communicate better with students, colleagues and parents.  Speaking slower to pronounce words in English or have a conversation that can be understood by another has been eye-opening for the simple fact of understanding how English words are pronounced and the emphasis and tone used to speak the word.  Interesting how going to another country, or living in your ‘home’ country among people of a different language group, helps me be more focused on how my own mother tongue works.

3. Relationships.  Life is built on relationships.  Building professional and respectful relationships with colleagues, safe and consistent relationships with students and families, getting to know new people, as well as continuing relationships with friends and family is imperative.  Drawing people in, giving people space, listening, speaking words of encouragement, understanding where others are coming from, having clear boundaries that are consistent and understood etc are continual life lessons I have been learning, not just in Thailand.  And I have no doubt these attributes will continue to grow and develop within me in all my years to come.

4. Learning.  All people can learn and achieve their best.  As a teacher how can I unlock this thinking within me, my students, colleagues, parents, community?  I see each person as a whole person, not compartmentalised into bits and bobs of “can do this well” “can’t do that” “people say I won’t amount to anything” “so-and-so said I’m not good at this, so I mustn’t  be good at it, so now I won’t do it” “I’m the best, I don’t need to learn this” etc (you get the point).  No matter who you are or where you come from you can learn and achieve in life.  It doesn’t matter your age, gender or ethnicity – you can learn.  I see this each day in myself – learning new ways to engage my students, learning two new languages, learning how to be a better teacher, learning to work in a team with different values and outcome focuses, learning to be a better family member and friend.  I see this each day in my students when they apply and achieve their best, learning to help another person, understanding the meaning of what they are speaking in English and remembering it, learning to understand me (their Aussie teacher).  We will never stop learning if we allow ourselves to be open to the world in which we live.  I have so much more to learn – looking forward to it!

5. Teaching.  Teaching ESL is amazing, frustrating, humbling, rewarding, and amazing (yep!) – all rolled into one!!  I love teaching and teaching ESL is stretching and challenging me in a positive direction.  In the past 5-weeks I have thrown out what I was going to teach and focused on other aspects to meet the learning needs and understanding of my students, sang (heartily) more than I ever have, had students understand why and what they’re learning, had students look at me blankly and not say anything, had students speak English without prompting, had students speaking English with lots of prompting, disengaged students, had students reading an English sentence or short story whilst pointing to the words they’re speaking aloud for the very first time, writing letters, numbers or words and recognising (and sometimes not) what they mean/say/sound like…I really could go on yet will stop there.  I love teaching the students in my set classes and tutoring classes, teaching English and showing different ways of teaching and learning with the teachers I work with, and after offering to teach an English spot at the dorm I’m loving teaching English to the dorm students and staff of an evening.  Teaching is my niche in life.  No matter where I was I would love it so.  One-on-one, small groups, large classes, children, youth, adults – loving it!  The great thing is we are all teachers and the world in which we live is a smorgasbord of teaching and learning opportunities ready and waiting to be shared with others.

6. Smiling.  In an earlier post I mentioned in Thai there are 27 different smiles and I wondered what my smile would mean.  Well, I know over the last 5-weeks my smile (I do my best to always smile) has meant contentment, joy, frustration, confusion, embarrassment, happiness, excitement, what is this?, tiredness, amusement, misunderstanding, puzzlement, friendliness, and thanks.