I spent more hours sitting in the bus

Seriously, my trip to Chiang Mai really felt like a weekend trip on the bus. 

I left on Thursday with a choir made almost entirely of Indonesians.  There were, of course, the occasional "aliens" to the group such as I.  We were going to visit the International Children's Care orphanage as well as the Chiangmai Adventist Academy. 

We arrived early Friday morning and I headed straight to bed.  Woke up about an hour later and decided to go scout around the orphanage grounds.  Children's voices were ringing loudly, and in a distance I spotted two little figures hiding behind some shrubs.  I walked towards those figures and there were two little gangly girls, who, upon seeing up, giggled and made a dash back to the main building.  That pretty much sums up what I did with the kids the weekend.  They'd see me, giggle, and run.  They'd make a good audience in my class here in Muak Lek, Saraburi since nobody laughs when I open my mouth (to tell jokes).  I guess I'm physically funny?  I know, some of you may disagree. 

Observing these kids, I really must say, "SHAME ON ME."  These kids are up at 6 am, memorizing their memory verses to the deans, before having their meal.  Then for the next hour or so, you see them scouring around the orphanage compound tidying up the flower beds, sweeping away dead leaves...outdoorsy type jobs!! All of which I do not do, not that I can't do it, but I think of myself as more of a home boy.  And these kids are really really young, I don't think any of them are over ten years old!

My way back to Muak Lek was spent (partially) thinking about these kids.  I think of how much they're missing out, but in reality, they're not!  In education, we often feel that we need to offer them certain courses to meet the demands of many stakeholders.  We often do this because of an oversight - which is the failure to see whether what we offer to them is really what they need.  These kids I was with don't need the gadgets Bangkok kids are using because the context they are in does not require it.  Are they missing out?  I don't think so!  I'd say we're the bigger loser.  These kids are in a sense 'closer' to earth.  They find joy in nature and their surroundings, and the people around them....


Umlaut is a linguistic phenomenon that affects the vowel quality of a syllable, think of diphthongs.  It is also used to refer to a group of Old English nouns.  Which group?  It's the group which changes the vowel when pluralized. 

I find this fascinating.  You may think otherwise.  But Honey Badger don't care.

I have always wondered how it is like to teach a student-centered classroom.  I think the most student-centered situation I've allowed myself to be in is during class discussion, or when students talk about their research topics.  Other than that, it's pretty much me navigating the classroom.  Little did I know that I actually have student-centered classes.  Not in my day job.  But in my night job - when I moonlight as a piano teacher!

It's strange that it took me so long to realize this.

I spent about 15 years of my life learning the piano.  Through the process, I've had five piano teachers.  I spent about ten years with the first two piano teachers.  These teachers made me go through a 'syllabus,' which at that time was pretty much normal because everyone else was going through the same thing.  Little did I know that I am missing out on so many other beautiful music.  Why?  Because I was stuck to John Thompson.  Not to say that John Thompson didn't have nice music.  It did.  It tried to be diverse, but failed miserably.  I don't remember anything from those books because I was not involved in choosing the songs.  I could skip a song only if it's too hard for me to play. Otherwise, it was pretty predictable.  I finish a song and move to the next one.  I don't take time in reading about the composer, trying to understand the music.  All I was focusing on was to finish the syllabus so I can move on to the next one. 

I promised myself that I will teach piano differently from then on.  I want my students to think of who they would like to study, what type of music they would like to learn.  So far, so good.  I must say.  It's a totally different approach, if compared to my first two teachers and my Korean neighbor whose house rings with Hanon or Czerny or the Entertainer.  I want my piano lessons to be student-centered.  I want my piano students to be brave enough to explore the whole realm of music!

Where Have You Been?

After a chat with a dear friend about blogging, I was reminded that I have and own a blog.  It's sad that I haven't written much at all this year. 

I'm sure all you teachers out there have your teaching woes.  Today's classes, unfortunately, turned me into a honey badger.  If you don't know what "honey badger" refers to in pop culture, please by all means youtube it. 

I had only one class today, a two-hour class, which was ENGL4434 History of the English Language.  There are 37 Thai + 1 Lao in this class, and none of them is interested in this course.  At the beginning of the semester, I've thought of practical ways to make this class seem appealing to them.  Instead of just talking about complicated aspects of Old and Middle English, as well as tantalizing dramas, e.g. King Ethelred who left England for Normandy, and leaving his wife Emma behind; King John who fell violently in love with another man's wife-to-be, I decided to incorporate essential skills which they will need after graduation.  Skills which I have incorporated so far are critical/analytical thinking, and summarizing/paraphrasing. 

Now, the teaching woe I have is not the issue of making the class practical, instead, it is my management of the classroom.  I have taught Thai kids for a number of years now and they don't seem to have a lengthy attention span.  I always find myself being completely ignored, or drowned by the chatter of Thai.  This morning, I found myself in this situation.  It had only been ten minutes since I entered the classroom and the students were already rowdy.  I told them to keep quiet, then to listen to me, then to stop talking, then to SHUTTUP!  At this point, I told them that if anyone talked again I will kick them out of the class.  They kept quiet.  The shouting definitely got their attention. 

Now that it was so eerily quiet, realization dawned and remorse sank in.  I felt bad, stupid, and apologetic.  I lost my temper.  I can justify my actions by saying that in the end, I'm only human.  But, it's a little ironic that I have so much problem managing this class yet I am teaching, in another class, how to become (English) teachers.