Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Communication Breakdown

  It's not even 10pm and I feel almost too tired to write this blog. What a long day. I only had three classes today, but I walked to the laundromat during lunch to drop off my dress clothes. I'm too impatient and incompetent to clean and iron them myself, so I carried my duffle bag of clothes to a laundromat a few blocks away. It wasn't a far walk, but going anywhere in dress clothes in this heat is exhausting in itself. When I arrived at the laundromat near the end of a narrow alleyway, I struggled to communicate with the women there as I explained my laundry request. The language barrier forced me to talk to the owner of the place on the phone for a bit. I was pressed for time because I had to get back to school as soon as I could. The owner spoke very well on the phone, which made me wonder if he was actually American. After I finished the phone conversation I started walking back down the alley when I unexpectedly met the guy I just spoke to. He looked like he was in his early 30's. I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that he went to school at St. Gabriel's. I have to pick up my clothes tomorrow before 6pm, so I hope my request was properly processed!

  Another highlight of my day occurred as soon as I arrived back on campus after the laundry trek. I encountered an administrator who asked me to start tutoring today after school. Like I said before, schedule changes happen frequently here. A few days ago I expressed an interest in tutoring any available students, but I did not expect to be notified on such short notice. But that's how things work around here. The admin put me on the phone with the students' mother who spoke English fairly well. I could tell that she had some previous experience with the language. She wants me to tutor her two sons in writing. Her older son is at the level M2 (8th grade) and the younger son is level P2 (2nd grade). I met the mother after school by the front gate and we walked to a busy store nearby to conduct the tutoring on the vacant second floor. I talked with their mother there for a while so we could learn more about each other. She said that she lived in America for a few years in South Dakota while her husband studied at the university there. She learned English while she was there and became pretty comfortable with the language. But when she moved back to Thailand she quickly forgot much of what she learned. I got the impression that she wants her sons to grow up with a better understanding of the English language than she did, and she knows that a native speaker will be more effective than a Thai teacher. She is extremely nice and gracious that I am helping her sons. I'm happy to teach younger students to get a break from M6 (10th grade), but man was it tough. Aside from throwing together a brief lesson plan short notice, the language barrier was the main issue. It was difficult to get the students to talk because they were shy. I think they also need to improve their vocabulary in order to properly express themselves verbally before we get to writing. I tutored each student for an hour. For M2 we discussed the idea of a future job, writing down ideas and talking about the brainstorming process. For P2 I had them draw animals and write anything about what they drew. The younger ones were extremely shy and quiet. Their mother said that they understand what I teach them, that they are better at listening than writing. It was easy for me to feel discouraged, especially when I looked at the P2 grammar book and saw countless errors. My heart sank when I saw so many mistakes. But I hope that with proper preparation I can teach them more than they can learn in class. As disheartening as I made this tutoring seem, it's mostly because I'm so exhausted. I am really looking forward to building a relationship with this family. I can tell they are very nice people. 

Song of the Day:
  I need something slow to calm me down after such a stressful day. Here's a song from Josh T. Pearson, a great songwriter who made a comical/serious song about himself being compared to Jesus. You'll see. His voice and guitar work are both fantastic. I recommend you listen to this song laying in bed with the lights off, just before going to sleep. It feels good to slow down once in a while. 
Josh T. Pearson - 'Sweetheart, I Ain't Your Christ'

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