Disconnect to Connect

Back from a week in Northern Thailand where I took twenty-one 10th and 11th grade students on a week long journey into manual labor, teaching, and self-reflection. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and the first order of business after arriving at the lodge was to disconnect. As promised I made the students turn in all electrical devices. Cellphones, iPods, etc. The only thing they were allowed to keep was a camera. Nothing with earbuds, nothing that could distract them from each other. I made the theme for the week Disconnect to Connect and then challenged the students with the following:  By the end of this week have one meaningful conversation with every other person here…..including me.  It wasn’t a big task…after all we were going to be spending every waking moment together over the next 5 days. Four of the days consisted of the same schedule. Half of the students would teach English to the students in K-5 while the other half built a new cafeteria for the kids and school. Wednesday would be a team building activity that included building your own raft and rafting down the Maekok River and hiking to a hill tribe village. I had an opportunity to talk with the principal of the school (via a translater) about living in Northern Thailand. Basically there are hill tribes in Northern Thailand some of them Thai others refugees from around the region. Cambodia, Burma, Tibet, and other parts of Asia as well. The Thai government allows these tribes (villages) to operate in Thailand but does not officially recognize them as Thai citizens. Unlike in the U.S. or other countries where if you are born in that country you are a citizen of that country, Thailand does not follow this same rule and therefore some of these tribes are generations old and yet not Thai nationals.  Because they are not Thai nationals they do not receive any funding for things like education. For example, the school we were working at (Mae Sa Lak School) there were 160 students K-5, however only 50 of the students were actual Thai nationals, meaning the school only got funding for 50 students to teach and educate 160. To put this in perspective…the Thai government gives the school 10 Baht (32 cents USD) per child for lunch. So instead of having 500 Baht ($16.25) to feed 50 kids. They get 500 Baht...

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Videos that speak to the heart

There are days like yesterday when everything comes together technologically that allows you to create some of the most amazing artifacts. Yesterday The Thinking Chick (my wife) sat down at around 2 o’clock and started working on a video that she wanted to create about her recent Operation Smile trip to Surin, Thailand with 9 middle school students. 8 Hours later she had created what I truly think is an amazing video capturing students feelings and reflections about the trip. I was so proud of her. I didn’t help her out except to make lunch and dinner and keep her water glass full (still 90F here in Thailand….ug). About two hours into creating the video she looked at me and said “This is kind of addicting” to which of course I just smiles and refilled her water glass. I don’t think we stop enough to really think about the power of the tools and the ease of use we have at our fingertips. Using iMovie ’09, a program that she had only about an hour of time playing with, she was able to manipulate video, audio, pictures, and words to create a heart felt video. I just marvel at her ability to see the movie in her head and then figure out how to put it all together on her own. An amazing testimonial to the power of the tools and my talented wife. Of course that’s one thing….to have an adult take the time to sit down and create a video like this. But then Owain, a student that went on the trip, decided that he too wanted to share what he took away from the trip. So using Movie Maker on his computer at home, and in less than a day created this video. He sent the link to my wife in an e-mail that simple stated: It’s nothing special, but it’s how I see it personally. Nothing special? Other than here was a student so touched by his experience that he felt the need to share it with the world. He didn’t do it for a grade….because we don’t grade students on things like this. He didn’t do it because he was asked to, he did it because he was moved to. This is what happens when we stop talking about technology and just let it be. Let it be what we do, let it do...

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Thai Teaching Cert: Module 6 Art, Drama and Music

Characteristics of Thai Visual Art: For our Thai Teaching Certificate which all teachers at international schools must complete we were entertained by some puppet masters for our Art, Drama and Music module. Buddha Art: Thai Musical Instruments Shadow Puppets: The Puppet Show: We watched a performance by a group of puppeteers who used what they called a “Three Person” puppet. It takes three people to control all aspects of the puppet, and the people that control the puppet move with the motions that the puppet makes. They become one being, and with their movements so fluid you soon forget about the three people behind the puppets and focus in on the motions of the puppet itself. Their movements were so life like and it was a great demonstration of Thai puppetry. In the end it’s great to learn about the arts of different cultures, their music, their ways of life. Just another benefit of being an international...

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Thai Teaching Cert: Module 1 Society and Wisdom

(No, we’re not taking these in order) Buddhism in Thailand No belief in a god that created the world Buddhist believe do good things, be good person, and you will be rewarded Experience enlightenment to break the cycle of birth, disease, death, rebirth Teach patience and give consideration to everything you do to be a good person Monks believe should not eat solid foods after mid-day. 250,000 monks ask for food each day. Giving of food to a monk is considered being a good person. Meditation is to clear the mind and think clearly so you can become calm and wise Many young men become monks to finish their schooling, then quit being a monk and go back to their villages to live. Some are monks for a few months, others a few years, others a lifetime Reading: Individual Life Cycles Thai baby becomes “someone” after its name is chosen. By 8 children start to take on their “role”. Girls household chores, boys guarding the family buffalo. Children attend government school taught standard nationwide curriculum. Acquire varying degrees of literacy and study Buddhist and Thia history. Youth of 15 or 16 are already regarded as fully mature adult laborers. Graduation from school and marriage at around 20. Most village males go into the monastery, usually for the duration of one rainy season (about 4 months), to make merit for themselves and their parents; in some areas, a man who has never been a monk is avoided by marriageable girls, who regard him as a “unripe person” (Thia: Khon dip) Girl’s entrance into adolescence is a gentle one. Courtship is extensive and “whirlwind courtships” are exceedingly rare. Most young people select their own marriage partners. In many parts of the country, it is the custom for the groom to move in with the bride’s family, avoiding friction between mother and daughter-in-law. After marriage first child usually comes during the first year. Reading: The Family Extended family, consisting of several generations living under one roof. Home is usually a simple wooden house raised on posts. There is little privacy, which is not as highly regarded as in Western societies, and the communal life style instills a strong sense of social harmony in which tact, compromise, and tolerance are essential. The father is regarded as the leader, but the mother plays a significant role in the family finances and instruction of the...

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