I started a new job last week. It is something I have never done before, but felt led to do. Being a teaching assistant in an autism class with 3rd-5th graders has never been on my radar, but after returning from Thailand, I felt an urgency to find a job with meaning-something that would make a difference in my community. The opportunity arose and I decided to take it.
While spending time getting to know the kids at my new workplace this week, I have been reminded of the little ones we taught at an English camp in Thailand. I quickly fell in love with the Thai students, just as I have with the kids in my new classroom. Learning to communicate with the students at work has proved similar to communicating with those we met overseas. In both instances, language has been a barrier. In both instances, repetition and visual cues have been the key to success.
The last 2 days of our Thailand trip were spent teaching at a school on the outskirts of the city, down a dirt road betwixt farms and banana trees.
I won’t lie. The English lesson was laid heavily upon my husband’s shoulders (we were a teaching team). I have never taught English before, but Matt on the other hand had taught English many years ago during a 6 month stay in Mongolia. That elected him as obvious choice for “instructor” in my eyes!
Thai kids are taught English in school. But it looks a lot like when we are taught Spanish in school. We learn the basics, but could probably never carry on a conversation or survive were we to be dropped off in the middle of Barcelona and left for a week. How do we break those barriers? How do we communicate with someone when words aren’t always an option?
We were greeted by teachers, a few translators and lots of students. Randy and Edie, who head up the organization that put this whole camp together, welcomed us with open arms.
Our team communicated with the students through songs, skits, props and visual projects.
My husband and I opted for the “gymnasium” route. Already sweaty from the tropical weather, we thought a game of “Red Light, Green Light” couldn’t add much perspiration to our already soaked clothes (we were sorely mistaken!)
The kids loved it. We gave prizes to winners and sang when someone crossed the finish line.
Another advantage our team had was music; Matt plays guitar. We taught them about families. We made diagrams of family trees on the chalkboard; how brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews were connected. My brother-in-law wrote a song with a simple chorus that says, “I have a mother, I have a father, I have a sister, I have a brother-and we all love each other. We all love each other.” Once the kids learned the words “mother”, “father”, “sister” and “brother” in the visual lesson, they were able to sing along with the chorus. I loved that we were able to incorporate LOVE into the lesson alongside “family.” It’s a small and simple concept that can never be reiterated enough in a country where children are sold into slavery on a daily basis.
In reciprocation to our silly songs and English lessons, we received many, many smiles. (After all, we were in “The Land of Smiles.”)
Teaching at this school was such a unique learning experience. It really was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I learned just how much we can express through a simple smile, the thankful acceptance of a gift or a pat on the back. I had no idea how much it was preparing me for a new job that was months down the road. I love the way God blesses us in the NOW, and then blesses us again in the future, with the same thing, but in a different way. He’s good like that.
For more information about the Bridges to the Nations and how they are helping children obtain an education (among other things), go to their website: http://bridgestothenations.com/index.php