A Wonderful Week in Mae Sot
I recently had the opportunity and the privilege of working through Room to Grow Foundation at Pyi Chit School and SAW Safe House for a week.
The students at Pyi Chit school range in age from nursery students (3 years old) to 5th graders (11 years old). I worked with 1st-5th grades. Like students all over the world, the students at Pyi Chit love to play games and have fun, but they are also studious during class time. Though the school has some broken chairs and desks, the students share and make sure that every student can see and hear the teacher. They share pens and pencils and encourage each other in their work. Coming from the United States, I was unused to the students active engagement in communal learning.
In the morning, with the 4th and 5th graders, we reviewed nouns, verbs, and simple sentences. When I found out that students love Justin Bieber, I also taught them the correct lyrics to the hit song “Baby.” The students had the refrain down perfectly before we even began, but were having a bit of trouble with the faster verse lyrics. After that I’d spend time with the 2nd and 3rd graders who loved any lesson that involved actions, and with the 1st graders, who loved learning English language nursery rhymes and songs! The children were all polite, generally happy, and interested young scholars–the exact student profile any teacher dreams of!
The teachers at Pyi Chit (unlike some teachers at other schools I’ve volunteered at and even at the university I work at now) always began class on time and motivated the students to perform well. During lunch they even spend almost their entire break coaching the school football team!
After spending the school day at Pyi Chit, I was able to go and visit the SAW Safehouse in the afternoons. The children at SAW are looked after by an incredible number of women and teenage girls. They do a miraculous job keeping the kids from tears and fights, clean, clothed, and fed. All of the kids’ basic needs are more than provided for, but what the kids still want, and what I was able to provide, in a small degree, was a little bit of personal attention. We always spent a little time each day learning new English songs and dances, but the kids pretty much just wanted to perform and I loved being their supportive audience member! I may have heard “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” one too many times, but I thoroughly enjoyed the kids’ impromptu performances of Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” and SuperJunior’s (a Korean-pop band) “Sorry Sorry.” The kids just love having fun!
As an English instructor at ABAC University in Bangkok, I am used to dealing with unenthusiastic students and long, exhausting days. Though my week in Mae Sot was definitely exhausting, I was so impressed by the enthusiasm of the students at Pyi Chit School and the dedication of the Burmese teachers working there. The women who care for the children at SAW Safe House give so much of their time and really do an incredible job raising the children. I was in Mae Sot during my midterm break and though I was technically still working as a teacher, I came away from the week refreshed and motivated to teach and optimistic about the future of these children, provided that they continue to retain their incredible support networks.
Since returning to Bangkok I’ve not been able to stop talking to the other teachers about my incredible week working with these children. They taught me about the universality of Bieber Fever as well as the importance of seemingly perpetual happiness and not letting the lack of material wealth ruin a perfectly good chance to learn or to perform.
I hope to be returning soon! Thanks again for welcoming me!