Mar 8, 2016
Thai Plum Village, English Class: Day 1
Location: Thai Plum Village
174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong (district), Nakhon Ratchasima (province), Thailand
Day 1 English Class
Finally, after 11 days at Thai Plum Village, I got to teach my first English class. It was for 8 monks who would soon be going to Germany and needed a crash course in English. 3 monks had to work on their visa and couldn't make it to class but we were joined by a nun who also wanted to sharpen her English skills.
I first introduced myself, talking about where I come from, how old I am, my hobbies and my reason for coming over to Thailand. It was a measured introduction. After, I asked them to raise their hand if they understood what I said. It was my way of determining their English comprehension.
I had to make them introduce themselves the same way I did in front of the class - just to build that confidence in them that it's ok to talk English in front of people. While listening to them talk, the glaring need was for them to pronounce the words right and connect those words properly using the right articles, prepositions and conjunctions. I would stop them at every sentence to show them how the sentence could be made better and how the words should be pronounced. That was the scope of the first class.
A French chef who once was the pastry chef to the Sultan of Brunei once told me that he got to be a good chef after making 2000 mistakes. That gave me an idea. If Vietnamese people don't speak up English for fear of making a face-losing mistake, why not re-orient them that making mistakes is actually the coolest thing to learning? That they cannot be good English speakers until they make 2000 mistakes! The benchmark for learning then would be the number of mistakes. The more mistakes, the more they would have learned. They have to keep talking English in order to rack up 2000 mistakes. Being shy was not an option.
Phonemic vs Long/Short Vowels
I was urged to teach them pronunciation using phonemics. After scrutinizing its methods, I concluded that using phonemics to teach English is adding a needless layer of difficulty. For instance, "car", "ball" and "about" all have 'short A' but they are represented by 3 different phonemic symbols. Why not just use 'short A'? English is not a phonetic language like Vietnamese. I taught them the long and short vowels - and this significantly simplified the process for them.
I told them that my 2 primary objectives in teaching the class was to dispel the fear of mistakes and to get them to talk. Of course I would teach them grammar and spelling, but my focus was in getting them to talk. Vietnamese people learn English in school - they already have English inside their heads but they can't express it verbally. The Vietnamese teachers themselves don't have a good command of English, and that inefficiency is inherited down the line. The students are afraid to speak up because they don't know how to put the words together to convey their thoughts. First, I had to assure them that it's ok to make mistakes and second, I had to get them to speak up.
What I noticed was that my students were all smart, assertive and highly educated - at least the few I had a chance to interact with. I teach them something new and they easily pick it up. When I ask them to write something on the board, the penmanship is university grade. Even on their notebooks, the handwriting is impeccable. Unlike students from the Philippines who are essentially docile (tough-talking activists who turn into sheep in the presence of a teacher), these Vietnamese are respectful but speak their minds, even suggesting to me how things can be run better. I value their input and implement the sound ones accordingly.
I had an afternoon class as well, attended to by the nuns. The following day, my morning class ballooned to 11 monastics and my afternoon class grew to 5 nuns. It was overwhelming and exhausting talking for 2 straight hours during my morning class, but at the same time, fulfilling. I will teach four days a week. The rest of the days together with my free time will be devoted to teaching yoga at 4pm daily and monastic practices - morning meditation, walking meditation, evening meditation and chanting. As good fortune would have it, I'm also learning Tai Chi from one of the monks who is attending my English class. Life doesn't get any better than this.
The following people like this:
(Mar 11, 2016) 'Our' (Plum Village Sanghas/Philippines) first volunteer teacher GIGIT...gets started in Pak Chong, Thailand. Metta Gigit!
(Apr 1, 2017) There is an e-mail concerning Plum Village, Thailand I'd like to share with you. The first 'test' year of the teaching program ended this month...total of 4 teachers were sent from Philippines. Before sharing the e-mail though...a question. Would you have interest in a return teaching stint under the same conditions within this year? I don't need an absolute YES at this point. Consensus was...they loved you there.
(Sept 9, 2017) I am nothing if not persistent. Any way...you might consider two month stay for July & August teaching at Plum Village, Thailand? (They)...still RAVE about you. I guess it was your no pressure yet calm and balanced approach with your students...from what I gathered. You made quite an impact. You are still 'the legend' in Plum Village, Pak Chong
Next stop: Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics
Thai Plum Village International Practice Centrewith direction coming from Bangkok
GPS waypoint: 14°33'25.4"N 101°31'45.0"E
174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand
Thai Plum Village International Practice CentreLocation: 174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand
Blogs on Thai Plum Village
- Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016
- Yoga at Thai Plum Village Mar 19, 2016
- Pond Picnic with the Monastics Mar 14, 2016
- Sentence Expansion Mar 12, 2016
- Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics Mar 10, 2016
- First Day of Teaching English at Thai Plum Village Mar 8, 2016
- Cyber Monk Redefined Mar 6, 2016
- Thai Plum Village, Day 6: Plum Village and Vipassana Mar 2, 2016
- Thai Plum Village, Day 5: Visa Snag Mar 1, 2016
- Plum Village, Day 4: Picnic with the Monastics on Lazy Monday Feb 29, 2016
- Plum Village, Day 2-3: Getting Settled Feb 27-28, 2016
- Plum Village, Day 1: Arrival Feb 26, 2016
How to Get to Plum Village from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi AirportYou are encouraged to arrive at the Center Friday afternoon between 2-4 pm
- Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Plum Village by VAN
the trip all the way to Plum Village, Pak Chong costs Baht 500 and takes 3.5 to 4 hours. Take the 11am or 12 noon van to ensure you arrive at the center before 4pm.
How to Get to Pak Chong (Proper) from Bangkok by trainignore this if you plan to go to Plum Village. Take the direction above instead
- If you are arriving Bangkok and would like to proceed directly to Pak Chong without spending a night in Bangkok, best to take a plane that will land in Don Mueang Airport in time for the #71 Train (Bangkok to Si Sa Ket) to stop at the MRT Train Station, Bang Sue, which is only a short walk from the airport. Train schedule at Bang Sue Station: Fri 10:27am, arriving Pak Chong 1:30pm. Express aircon car (Baht 289), non aircon (Baht 198). Duration is 3 hours, stopping right in the heart of Pak Chong. From Pak Chong.
You can also take the train from the main terminal near the center of Bangkok at the MRT Station, Hua Lampong Railway Station. Departure, Friday 10:00am.
Plum Village Cost Index(US$1 = Thailand Baht 35.77 = Php 47.52 as of Feb 28, 2016)
- Baht 500 van from Victory Monument to Plum Village
- Baht 289 Express train from Bang Sue MRT Station (Bangkok) to Pak Chong Train Station, aircon (non aircon, Baht 189)
- Baht 500 taxi from Pak Chong to Plum Village (call this taxi number, Mr. Khun Paisan: 085 772.4519 for the trip to Plum Village)
Things to bring if staying overnight
- mosquito repellent
- not a requirement, but it helps if you bring clothing in the dark brown color in order to blend-in
»» next story: Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics
»» next Teaching story: Sentence Expansion
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