Teaching Abroad – Two fun games

Hello everyone!

This past month has been such a super busy month working with many volunteers! Hopefully one day YOU will join us also! (check out our Wat Doi Saket project) We had volunteers from Australia, England, Canada, Germany, Lithuania and USA. They all taught at different locations, and they all wanted to know about games for the classroom. So, I am sharing a few that were super fun here with Thai students.


This game is great for practicing Yes/No questions with the verb ‘to be’ in present simple.

Think of a category: fruits, places, countries, people….

  • Pick one student to stand facing the classroom with his/her back to the board.
  • Write a word from the chosen category, for example: banana.
  • He is now a ‘banana’, but he does not know.
  • The student standing in front of the class has to ask at least 10 questions to guess what he is.
  • Questions have to be yes/no questions only. Am I big? Am I red? Am I gooey? etc.
  • The class can only reply with YES or NO.
  • The student gets 3 opportunities to guess what he is by asking: Am I a watermelon?

You can make variations to the game, like giving certain amount of minutes to make as many questions as possible or choosing from a vocabulary list that you have been working with in class. You can even make teams and keep score.


This game is super fun to play as a warm up to get the students to feel comfortable speaking in English. It is also a good way to practice asking the correct format for asking yes/no questions. (You can use simple present, past or future, if the class is a beginning level I suggest you keep it in simple present unless using the game to practice a particular tense)

  • Pick one student to sit on a chair in front of the class.
  • The class gets to ask any questions they want, but must be in a YES/NO format, funny questions: Such as: Do you like to eat potato chips with your feet? Do you pick your nose with a fork? Do you eat worms?
  • The student in front of the class cannot say anything but BANANAS!
  • The object of the game is to make the student laugh! If he laughs, then the student who made the question gets to go in front of the class and try to go as long as possible without laughing.

This game sounds simple but trust me when I say: students laugh much sooner than you would anticipate.

Here are a few shots of our volunteers using these fun games in the classroom. I hope you get to try them one day and share your experiences.

josh teaching peter teach

If you have any suggestions or questions about anything relating to ESL, leave me a message and I will happily respond!

Chok Dee Kah! (good luck in Thai)

Be well!

Marcia Somellera, ESL coordinator



Two Blissful Months in Thailand

It has been almost a month since I returned from my sojourn in Chiang Mai. I am finding it surprisingly difficult to talk about my time in Thailand as there was no one place, person or experience that seems to take center stage. Each person, place and experience was so memorable that I can recount every moment of it. My two months were full of life experiences that will always stay with me and all this is due to my chance encounter with the ATMA SEVA website and meeting Programs Director David Poppe via skype!


Arriving in Chiang Mai airport!

My first 3 days were spent at Wat Doi Ku and I could not have asked for a more welcoming place. Ajahn Sirichai is a young, dynamic abbot of a small temple about 36 km NE of Chiang Mai. I was invited to join Sirichai for alms, or the collection of food by the monks that occurs daily around dawn. Giving alms is one of the many ways in which Buddhists can make merit, along with living life according to religious precepts and praying. When Buddhist monks make their alms rounds, laypeople prepare food and water and wait for the monks to approach them with their alms bowl. Once food and water are placed inside the bowl, the monk will place the lid on top of his bowl and recite a prayer blessing to the donor after which the merit-making is considered complete. Phra Sirichai allowed me to make some merit by carrying the alms for him. He also gave me a Thai name, ‘Kaa ja-om’ which has brought many smiles on Thai faces. It refers to the person who helps the monks on their daily alms rounds. It was a delightful experience as I met many welcoming villagers.

Ajahn Sirichai also invited the villagers to come to the temple as he now had an English tutor. That afternoon, three very eager boys came to the temple and we set up class for them in the basement. No sooner had they left, a young woman came to pick up a quick lesson – she was in Real Estate in Chiang Mai and most eager to work with farangs (a Sanskrit word meaning foreigner). While I was in “session”, Sirichai was able to recruit a few members of the local Thai military who were stationed nearby and eager to pick up a few words!

I would have enjoyed staying in Doi Ku and getting to know the villagers, but not knowing how to ride a motorbike and being a bit out of the way, I knew that this temple would be logistically difficult to manage. David had already made arrangements for me to stay in Doi Saket, just 7 km SW and a little closer to Chiang Mai with songtaews (shared taxis) leaving for the city every 15-20 minutes (and costing just 20 Baht!)

Me at Wat Doi Saket testing to see if I have good karma!

Me at Wat Doi Saket testing to see if I have good karma!

My first stop in Doi Saket was a week teaching at a local Gov’t school. I had never taught English before but the ATMA SEVA team helped put together lesson plans for each class and it was just a matter of following the guide book. Before I came, I had found several online sites that gave valuable tips on how to teach English as a foreign language. It was challenging as I did not speak Thai – Ad, the English teacher at the school, was very gracious in joining me for the initial classes, which was an enormous help. The young students were adorable; many of them live here during the school year and go home to their villages during the summer. What touched me the most was to see how disciplined and gracious the children were as they stood in line for their bowl of rice, got their own water from a water tank and washed their cups and utensils when the lunch was over. That week in itself was worth the price of my airline ticket. The experience was also a reminder of how it is possible to instill in our children the value of responsibility at a very young age instead of inundating them with electronic gadgets for constant amusement.

I ate lunch daily with the teachers who were a jovial group; unfortunately, most of them spoke no English and all humor had to be translated by Ad. After the school was over, I would teach a class to the teachers. They too were an eager bunch – one must understand that many of the local English teachers do not speak enough English to be able to teach a conversational class. In one assignment, I had them give me directions on how to go from Doi Saket to Chiang Mai, a very real situation they might encounter with a farang. Before the class, they would just wave in the direction where they think the city lies!

Me with all the teachers after English class.

Me with all the teachers after English class.

After my week teaching at the government school, I spent a couple of weeks doing a meditation retreat at Wat Rampoeng, an experience I’d be glad to share if anyone is interested. (I did have another 10 days at a meditation center in Bangkok just before I returned home to Atlanta in April.)  In between, there were trips to a Lawa & Karen village, Mae Sariang, and more, some of which are well described by on-site intern Jamie Shannon here and volunteer Dan here.

My second teaching stint was at Wat Doi Saket where I lived in the volunteer room reserved for ATMA SEVA volunteers. It was another two blissful weeks and an incredible way to learn about life in a monastery where novice monks live and are schooled along with senior monks. The Principal, Phra maha Insorn, has managed the school and the teachers for many years and is very engaged in various community and NGO projects. Because the semester had ended, I did not have an opportunity to teach a regular class along with my friend Natch Tankarp, the Director of the English program at Wat Doi Saket. Instead, I tutored two monks, a layperson who would come from the village and a novice monk who was there from Laos. Michael, a graduate student doing his doctoral research, was the primary tutor and it was a very rewarding experience to work with such motivated students. Because these students speak English, I could teach them arithmetic, geography and other subjects in English that would allow them to utilize the language in daily tasks.

Stairs leading up to Wat Doi Saket!

Stairs leading up to Wat Doi Saket!

I would be amiss if I did not write a bit about daily life at Wat Doi Saket. Without having lived at the wat, I would not have had such a rich experience. Most of all, I would have probably never learned what it takes to go from a novice monk to an ordained monk and what it is like to live as a monk. I did not need an alarm clock as I was woken up each morning at 5am from the sounds of the monks praying and chanting in Pali. Most often, I would go to the mondop so I could feel the energy of the prayers. The wat is located on a hill and there are two ways to access it: via a winding road or by 304 steps straight up that I counted several times.  There was always someone making a trip up or down the hill, but I typically opted to take the steps as I knew I would not have the privilege of being forced into such a good fitness program once I was in suburban America driving my 2000 pound SUV to the grocery store ten minutes away to buy a gallon of milk.

Thailand is very warm in March and April. There is not much AC around and you learn to appreciate the fans that are all over the place.  Evenings are wonderful- things cool down a bit and people are out and about. It’s not uncommon to see a scooter with two adults, a child in the middle and a child in front holding the handle bar – it is uplifting to be in a Libertarian country at such times. There is only one bar in Doi Saket and it actually has the best food that I found in the village; the owner is also the chef and she wants to come to America to open up a Thai restaurant. Her bar has a pool table and a TV showing some soccer games at all times.

I quickly fell in love with Doi Saket village, which is quite small. There is a market where I got my daily fresh coconut drink and fresh fruit fix, along with several roadside cafes. For 30-40 Baht, one can have a very healthy Thai meal. The 7-11 is the 24-hour store and seems to be the center of all activity in the village – a little expensive but not too bad as they have to compete with the street vendors and local markets. There is a pharmacy and the pharmacist and I quickly became good friends, as I would stop there almost every day to have my blood pressure checked. Pharmacists pretty much replace physicians for all routine stuff out here.  Luxuries like a barbershop shave or an hour-long foot massage that are expensive back home can be found here for very reasonable prices.

Sunset on the main road in Doi Saket.

Sunset on the main road in Doi Saket.

I chose to share my experiences in the hopes of helping those who have never lived in Thailand to learn more about the day to day life here. Doi Saket is no different from other small towns and Doi Ku is not that different from other villages in Northern Thailand. On weekends, one can take a songtaew from the village to Chiang Mai and participate in festivals and the many activities that are there. Chiang Mai has some of the finest hospitals in the world should one need to go there and the local pharmacies there are well stocked. To save money, I even had a checkup done at a fraction of a cost of what it would have cost me at home and without a long wait or hassle that I am used to!

ATMA SEVA provided not only teaching opportunities, but also the chance to experience a new culture like a native despite not knowing the language. Other than David Poppe, I was very fortunate to make friends with Natch, the English teacher at Doi Saket. When Natch was in town, we would go out for dinner and I never felt alone. He also introduced me to his family and friends, and without his friendship, I may not have felt at home as much as I did. One has to visit and spend some time in Thailand to really know the Buddhist culture and feel the warm welcome that they seem to have for visitors. There is very little crime in small towns and villages and I never had the feeling that I was getting ripped off. This was my 4th trip to Thailand and 2nd to Chiang Mai and so it was not a surprise and I pray that it does not change despite the onslaught of westerners that now come to Chiang Mai. I am very appreciative to all who made this a very memorable trip and I am looking to make this my annual pilgrimage.

If anyone has any specific questions about my experiences, teaching, living abroad, meditation retreats or anything else discussed here, please leave a comment below!

Hunaid Qadir



Lawa Village – Teamwork in Pa Pae

Hello folks,

My name is Dan Yachnin and I feel very lucky to have been able to spend the past month teaching English in the Lawa village of Papae with ATMA SEVA. I had just finished a year of teaching English in South Korea and wanted to make a few stops on my odyssey back to my Canadian home. This stop has been relaxing, beautiful, and inspiring.


Farewell dinner in Pa Pae. From left to right: Pee Bit (Nid’s sister-in-law), Nid, me, Nid’s mother

I had never visited a community this small and this remote in my life and never imagined that (in a small way) I would ever become a part of one. I tried to picture the village before coming here and tried to imagine what would make it roll. I figured that for the community to have any kind of success and survival it would require the people to work together.  I could not have anticipated how right I was! The village works together as a team in which everybody seems to do their part and everybody seems to show caring and acceptance of one another.

As a teacher, the first obvious example of teamwork naturally appeared in the classroom. I had never really taught this level of ESL students and I admit that some of the work I gave and some of the questions I asked were much too hard for many of the students. Nevertheless, the ones who understood were always keen to help out the ones that did not and were always kind about it. I guess that’s not so surprising. What I found amazing was how nicely the students played what should have been competitive games! Games as simple as memory matching (that were supposed to lead to individual success) became group efforts as students looked around the room for guidance on which card to flip next. This was a sharp contrast to the experience I had in S. Korea where choosing to do a quick, mildly competitive review game before a test risked the onset of tears!

Next was football (or soccer to N. Americans). In the late afternoons when the weather cooled down a bit, the older boys always came out to play football. Once again, there were never any tears and never any pushing. Everyone was happy to play together and everybody seemed welcome to join (though I don’t think I ever saw any girls playing… they are, however, supposedly amazing at volleyball). Where were they getting these wonderful values? Why were they so much more respectful of one another than the students and athletes back home?

Let’s move up the ladder a little further and check out what happened on Songkran. Songkran, discussed in more detail by Katherine here, celebrates the lunar New Year and is of great importance religiously to the Buddhists in Thailand and socially to pretty much everyone.  Many people came back to Pa Pae to spend the holiday with their families and with each other. The younger adults got together to build dams in the river and prepare for a big water fight. The older adults got together to plan a route to pay respects to the elders of different households, which involved very respectfully pouring a small amount of water on each elder. Both groups shared the duty of ensuring plenty of village whiskey to last the day! It was a great holiday and only because everybody was pushing in the same direction.


Villagers working together to build a dam during Songkran

Finally, I’d like to talk about the funeral that I witnessed during my last week. It was a 3-day event to honor the passing of one of the village’s elders and it was a very strong demonstration of how people can come together. Everybody stopped what they were doing for three days and came to pay respects in many forms including candle lighting, chanting, dancing, eating together and staying up every night until 6am so that the body was never alone. It was a beautiful mixture of mourning and celebration. There were countless jobs to go around and everybody seemed to know what to do. People also contributed money to pay for an animal to be sacrificed and eaten for the occasion. A pig would be a small honor whereas a buffalo would be much better. When I woke up, I saw a man with a machete walking near my house. He saw me and signaled for me to come and to bring my camera. I followed him to the site of the recently killed buffalo where about 20 people worked away with machetes to harvest the body. After I had brought the horns over to the house of mourning (about all I’m good for) I saw that there was also a pig and a whole other buffalo that had been purchased for the funeral. This meant more donations and more work that morning to get everything ready for the village of only about 200 people.  Later that day people from other villages came to join in the ceremonies and showed me that there was an extended family to the already giant family of Pa Pae!


A group of Pa Pae men preparing the buffalo meat for cooking during the 3-day funeral event

I cannot thank this village enough for the hospitality it has shown me and the ways that it has inspired me. At a time where I was checking internet updates on war threats from North Korea and explosions in the Boston Marathon, Pa Pae reminded me what it means to work together and solve problems together. I won’t forget that!

Thank you for a great month!




Photography Corner – English Camp in Wiang Haeng 2013

On May 4th, 5th, and 6th the ATMA SEVA team assisted with an English camp in Wiang Haeng, Thailand.  To read all about the English camp, how it was structured, and our general reactions/advice, please click here.

Below are photos from the three days of activities, games, and learning!  Thanks again to Yao and Lawrence who organized and led the camp.  Enjoy the photos!

Photos by: David Poppe



Teaching Abroad – English Camp in Wiang Haeng!

Last weekend, the ATMA SEVA team took a trip up north to Wiang Hang to participate in a 3-day English camp for novice monks and set up our newest on-site intern Maria. The camp was held at Plekwiwek Dharma Center, a Buddhist center attached to Wat Kong Lom, that leads meditation retreats, hosts various camps and seminars, and teaches novice monks to grow and cook their own food, design and build houses and become leaders within their communities. The center is in a beautiful location with outstanding mountain views.

wiang haeng good view blog pic

View of Wiang Haeng from local temple.

The camp was organized and led by friends of ATMA SEVA, Yao and Lawrence, who had run a similar camp with the same students back in March. The theme of the English camp was “Community Helpers” and we played games, sang songs, and lead group activities all focused on people in the community and their job responsibilities. Here is quick overview of our schedule for the first 2 days:

  • 8:00 – 8:30 Orientation/ Breakfast (Choose names, make tags, name games and general introductions to camp. Second and third day made waffles!)
  • 8:30-10:15 Review of theme & new vocabulary (lots of singing and group games)
  • 10: 15 – 12:00 Cooking & lunch (Remember the monks cannot eat after 12!)
  • 12:00 – 12:30 Break
  • 12:30 – 2:30 Station Activities (Introduction to community helpers, job responsibilities and where they work, drawing, matching games and “salad bowl” -see games list below)
  • 2:30 – 3:00 Break                                                       
  • 3:00 – 4:00 Writing activities (Crossword puzzles, what do you want to be and why?)
  • 4:00 – 6:00 Free time & dinner for the teachers           
  • 6:00 – 8:00 Games! (Not all related to community helpers but fun and engaging games)

Since the camp stretched over a few days, versus one day or an afternoon, we had a variety of different activities to keep the novices engaged while still practicing the new vocabulary and keep with the community helpers theme.  Yao took classic nursery rhymes and kids songs but changed the lyrics to fit the theme, had flashcards with the helpers and their job responsibilities, and enforced the vocabulary with pictures and acting games. Even when some vocabulary and phrases felt repetitive, it was the best way for the novices to understand and retain the “curriculum” of the camp.

In addition to helping with the morning and afternoon activities, ATMA SEVA was in charge of planning two 2-hour blocks of games in the evening for the 40 novices. Below are some of our favorite games that worked well with the novices and can be played with larger groups of school kids as well.

Recommended Games/Activities:

novices cooking in wiang haeng

Novices preparing spaghetti sauce.

Cooking – Cooking is a great way to engage all your students, teach about food and foreign dishes, hear new vocabulary, and for the students to learn new skills. Make sure to plan menus well ahead of time to prepare shopping trips, and enough food for the whole time.  During our three days we made: waffles, scrambled eggs, toast, pork burgers, french fries, salad, fried chicken and spaghetti!

Salad Bowl  – Students sit in chairs in a circle, with one person standing in the middle. Make sure there is one chair less than the number of students, just like musical chairs. Each student has a slip of paper with their “group” name written on it that they don’t show others. For example, for community helpers the groups were : doctor, fireman, policeman, etc. The student in the middle calls out a group and everybody in the group has to get up and find a new seat before the person in the middle gets one first. The last student left standing is now it and shouts out a new “group” of his/her choice. Great way to practice vocabulary and we found the novices playing the game themselves well after camp was over!

salad bowl game

The salad bowl game in action!

Human Knot – Students stand in a circle and grab hands with someone across from them (but not their neighbors!) When all the students have joined hands, they must work together to untangle themselves and become a circle again without letting go of their hands! There is no too much English involved but the novices really enjoyed the challenge and cheered when they untwisted themselves!

Hokey Pokey – A classic but it works! The novices loved seeing the teachers be silly and getting a chance to be silly themselves. Plus it is a great way to review body parts. (Hint: We reviewed body parts before the song by using a human model and having the novices identify and stick labels to match “arm”,”leg”.. etc.)

Who’s the Best – Split the students up into even teams (and equal mixes of age and English ability) and let each team pick a name. The instructors create a list of “challenges” for the students to do, and each group chooses one person to come up and do the challenge and the “judges” award points to each team. We even added group challenges for teams to win points together. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. Examples of challenges include: count backwards from 20 the fastest, most pushups, best animal noise, best whistler, and best Gangnam style! For team challenges we gave the teams a word scramble, and to list all the ASEAN countries. The novices had fun with the friendly competition and were excited to play against their friends.  You can incorporate any challenges to fit your theme and can have a mix between English related challenges as well as fun and goofy ones.

No Bananas in the Sky – This activity was added by an ATMA SEVA volunteer with experience teaching at summer camps and was a fun song to sing with the novices. We taught the lyrics: “There are no bananas in the sky, in the sky, there are no bananas in the sky. There’s a sun and a moon and coconut cream pie, but there are no bananas in the sky, in the sky.” Each word has an action attached to it and after teaching both the song and actions, you remove a word each time and just do the action until you are not singing and then add the words back in one at a time. The novices picked up the song right away and all the teachers joined in too! Definitely a great addition to the evening games.

no banana song

Teaching the song!

Advice for planning an English camp: 

  • Be sure to prepare materials ahead of time and bring extra pens, pencils and paper. Also bringing music is a good idea for games, sing-a-longs, and to play during down time or liven up an activity.
  • If cooking food with the students, prepare utensils and food stations ahead of time and let each teacher/volunteer know their roles. The novices are pretty self sufficient but still needed guidance and supervision.
  • Have a back up plan! If the power goes out, you run out of materials, or what you planned for 30 minutes only takes 10, be ready to have some simple backup games and/or group activities. Stick to your schedule as much as possible to stay organized but be flexible to adjust games, activities and timing based on students understanding of the games, content and/or unexpected challenges – especially in Thailand!
  • Remember to take lots of small breaks for the students to relax a bit and the teachers to regroup and go over activities for the day.
  • Tailor your games and activities to be appropriate for the age and ability of your students and keep rules in mind when working with novice monks (can’t eat after 12, no “touching”, games not too physical, etc.)

Overall we had a great experience and are excited to go back for another camp very soon! A big thank you to Yao and Lawrence for organizing the camp and to the monks and novices of Wiang Haeng!

Stay tuned for the photography corner about this camp and if you have any questions or comments about planning games, setting a schedule, or anything else just leave a comment below!

Katherine Devine



Teaching Abroad – Introduction from Marcia

The ATMA SEVA team has decided to include a NEW section on our blog, ‘Teaching Abroad’, which will include stories of teaching experiences from ESL/EFL Certified Teachers, present, past and future ATMA SEVA volunteers’ and interns’ as well as;

  • Suggestions to make teaching fun and interesting
  • Tips for class management
  • ESL Games, Ideas and Activities that can or have worked in the classroom
  • Funny and unique classroom experiences
  • Online resources
  • English camp ideas and reflections
  • Interesting websites about teaching
  • And so much more!

Without further ado, this will be our first entry and it is my turn:


Marcia with some of her students

My name is Marcia and I am an ESL/EFL Certified Teacher whose first language is not English, but Spanish; however, the English language somehow feels more natural to me –I read and write in English more than I do in Spanish, to the dismay of many of my Spanish speaking friends. Given that English is not my first language, I most likely make mistakes and might even have an accent here and there, but having had to personally learn a second language has helped me immensely to understand second language learners; I try to do my best and I strive to help my students communicate in English and to not be afraid of making written or oral mistakes, which are part of the fun of learning.

What is it like when I walk into a classroom? What is my most important goal?

When I walk into a classroom, I feel transformed, happy, motivated….almost like a brand new battery:  fully charged!….and yes, sometimes I also feel tired and frustrated but that’s part of the deal. I think everyone should, at least once in their lives, give being in front of a class a try. The first thing I do is try to get all the students’ names and try to memorize them all right in the first hour….this did not work so well in Thailand, all of their names were so new to me that it was impossible. Name tags helped…

My most important goals for my students:

1) I want the students to feel comfortable enough to make mistakes, to be foolish, to SPEAK; so, I make a fool of myself first, acting, signaling, drawing, even trying to speak a little of their native language……..etc.  This sounds odd but in order to learn a language one must understand that the pronunciation and the correct usage is almost impossible right away. We weren’t able to speak our own mother tongue without making mistakes in the beginning. It is not like we have a chip where we can just upload information, like in the Matrix movies. As we get older we become more self conscious and it hinders our ability to learn a new way of communication. The acting and the allowing myself to be foolish helps them see that it is OK.  It is OK to make mistakes, to pronounce incorrectly or to have an accent when using the new language…it is part of the deal.

In the beginning, usually students will laugh at one another; this laughter, most likely, comes from a place of self protection and fear. I try to help them relax and see that it is funny but not good to make fun of others; you must be attentive to the vocal tone and/or body language to notice the difference……..once they are able to let this go, and learn to laugh with each other we can have lots of fun during class without making others feel uncomfortable. That is my favorite part. One however, must be very careful because having fun does not mean not working hard, and this is where we monitor the feel of the situation, by settling students down….speaking in a whisper….or not speaking and just looking at them…..or acting something silently while focusing on the students who are paying attention to you…..little by little they will start to quiet down….you should not try to ‘calm them down’ by shouting or yelling….I think this makes it worse.

novices having fun at English camp

Novice monks having fun learning English

2) I like to engage the students into PARTICIPATING, I joke, interact and laugh with them. I like to be physical, in a loving way, it helps me feel closer to my students. However, these particular activities were a bit challenging while teaching Buddhist novice monks. A Buddhist monk or novice may not be ‘touched’ by women; I could neither ‘high-five’ them nor tap them on the shoulder nor touch their heads….no physical contact whatsoever. It was very hard in the beginning, but after a while I was able to feel comfortable with those limitations and was able to enjoy myself in the classroom.

My most important goals as a Teacher Trainer:

1) To help teachers not to be intimidated by the students; they are not there ‘to get you’ like the boogeyman; remember what it was like being a student and behaving mischievously?  It was harmless, however your attitude is everything.

2) To help teachers realize that they are just as human as their students and the title ‘teacher’ does not include ‘perfection’. We are humans and we cannot KNOW everything; it is vital to say “I do not know” followed by “I will find out and let you know”. Students can also teach us many things if we let them.

Past experiences & advice

Students appreciate honesty and when that happens they are more likely to engage and participate. We are there to help out, to facilitate. The students will do the rest, and when they are engaged, they will go beyond the finish line, just for the fun of it.

I remember when I started teaching “Advanced English” to English speakers at a high-school in Cabo; I felt intimidated, for the first time in my life I experienced fear of teaching, I had no idea what that was until that time…. and I am thankful for it.

As I walked in the first time, two of the girls, decided to switch their names. I didn’t see it right away but towards the middle of the class I realized it; their attitude was not the ‘fun’ one but the ‘let’s get her’ kind of mean…….but I was not about to follow that, better yet I let it go on for the whole class and in the following one I told them it was a good one and they had definitely gotten me!  They had had their fun teasing me, and I had enjoyed their joke; but it was time to start responding to their own name.

We had a boring “Literature” book and I had to read many parts of that in front of the students and boy was it hard!!…  I made colossal pronunciation mistakes, to which the students laughed. So, I decided to level with them and openly admitted that English was not my FIRST language but my SECOND and I was very likely to make many mistakes with all of those old English words; I asked for their help since English was their first language….but I also said I was a teacher and I was able and willing to help them use those new words properly to improve their written abilities. All they had to do was give me a chance and help me with the pronunciation. We became good friends!! I learned a lot teaching that class.

Sometimes communication does not require language skills but sensitivity, heart, and empathy skills. I believe we ought to start with this especially when we cannot speak the student’s mother tongue. And then, try to learn their language, a few words, a few phrases, and let them see you try and that you are not embarrassed to pronounce it incorrectly and/or make mistakes. Let them know their language is just as important.

school pa pei-3Being able to communicate with other human beings is priceless and being an instrument in this process makes me smile every time. I sure hope this also can happen to you.

Please leave us a comment below with any questions, comments, or ways we can help you in the classroom!

Marcia Somellera