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Teaching in Surin

Kittipak returns to Thailand

New and returning students attend the second day of classes with "teachers" Tantichot (front row, middle) and his brother (standing over his shoulder)

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Kittipak “Land” Tantichot spent part of his summer break from his famous US boarding school teaching young children in rural Surin, an experience he and his students are unlikely to forget for a long time.

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Kittipak “Land” Tantichot has written many stories for us, but all of them thus far have been about his experiences as a student in the US – until this story, that is.

Teaching in Surin

Kittipak “Land” Tantichot

After six hours in a car, the scenery changed from a city full of skyscrapers and congested roads to mountains and plains of rice. I hadn’t been back for almost two years.

Here, I was back in the northeastern province, Surin, where my grandmother lives. Surin is very different from Bangkok. It’s much more in touch with nature, further away from the modern conveniences that cities provide, and the people are much more easygoing.

The very next day, we traveled further and arrived in a small village in Surin. Everywhere you looked you could see grassy fields and water buffalos, something I hadn’t seen in years. The air was much cooler, and I had time just to absorb everything. I felt a sense of calm and peace, a feeling I would rarely ever feel in the bustling city.

Teaching the children at a local school in Surin.

My mom’s friend, Pa Yung was there to greet us at her house. Pa Yung runs Tkla Farm, a farm that sells organic products and offers free English classes in the evening to local students. She has had many volunteers in the past from many countries to help teach students in the community.

Students from other classes peeking in to see what is going on.

After hearing about this from my mom, I wanted to get involved. I felt that since we were already in Surin, I wanted to help out. Pa Yung thought that my brother and I should teach some classes at the local school in the town. I thought that it would be a great idea and was extremely grateful for the opportunity.

When we first arrived at the small local school, the kids left their classrooms and all stared at us, wondering what was going on. It was nerve-racking at first to have all of their eyes on us, but the kids were very welcoming. They were all smiling, laughing, and waving.

We walked into one of the classrooms to give our first lesson. Most of the kids were very young, perhaps only seven or eight years old. Some of the other students from the other classes even gathered at the door, peeking inside to see what was going on.

After the teacher announced that we were here to help teach the kids English, we could see that all the kids were getting excited. We taught the students useful phrases and had one-on-one conversations with the kids to improve their conversational skills. It was so exciting to see their reaction when they found out we could speak both Thai and English. When we tested these kids in front of the class, all of the students began pushing against one another and they were yelling over one another excitedly. I was very impressed by all of their enthusiasm.

Students enthusiastically compete to find the correct English word.

Students also had the option to attend the free evening class at Pa Yung’s house at four in the evening. After teaching at the school, we went off to visit a friend of Pa Yung’s before the evening lesson. Within minutes a group of kids biked to Pa Yung’s friend’s house to come and get us to teach, calling our names and ringing their bicycle bells to get our attention. I had no idea how they knew we were there.

As soon as we arrived back to Pa Yung’s house many of kids who we had just taught earlier in the morning had returned, and they all greeted us energetically. Some even came from different schools after hearing about the class from their friends. The students rushed behind the house to grab a mat which they all gathered around. One of the them held up the children’s story  Aladdin, and asked us to read it for them. They all listened in enthusiastically, asking for translations every now and then.

Local kids attending the free evening class.

Afterwards, we taught them new English words and introduced to them new games like charades and Simon Says. They especially enjoyed Simon Says, laughing while struggling to follow my quick commands. We played at least ten rounds of Simon Says because they kept wanting to play one round after another.

For the second half of the lesson we let the kids lead the lessons to practice their leadership skills. They argued with one another about what do and eventually agreed to pick partners and try our their new English phrases. It was a very memorable day, full of yelling, laughter, and learning.

After the sun had set, some parents came to pick their children up. Others rode home on their bicycles, often in twos. They were all laughing and joking around, practicing their new English phrases with one another as they were leaving.

All of the kids had a lot of fun, but I’m sure that they received something much more important than that. I’m glad that there are people like Pa Yung, providing opportunities to kids in her community.

You can follow Pa Yung at: https://www.facebook.com/TklaFarm/

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