For KKEI teachers, the last few weeks in America have been tremendous. Huge. Packed. Exhausting. Fun. Full of new ideas and old ones in new forms. Full of new and old friends. The seeds are clearly planted and roots forming, for strong, collaborative relationships well into the future. This is thanks to dozens and dozens of people who contributed to pulling this trip off – who have accepted us as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters in their own homes and schools.
The best way to check-in with ENGAGE now is to share some of the teachers’ strongest impressions. We hope to have additional updates of many of the locations and activities, but as the teachers are still in the moment (right now in Indianapolis), the best time to share those detailed updates will be…later. Soon after we get to Khon Kaen, we will focus on expanding this experiences to the collective memory of KKEI, ENGAGE, and Khon Kaen schools, and we’ll move on to next steps of applying all we’ve gained here. Then, I’ll go over sleepy journal and blog entries with the teachers, which are now written in Thai.
The following are some impressions. As you read these, remember they are impressions after 2 weeks in a new country, and in some very good schools. After workshops with some amazing leaders and artists. Impressions after being well taken care of, both by schools and organizations, and by the families we’ve stayed with. These are not ultimate truths about American education, but they hold true somewhere, and hopefully are useful impressions for educators anywhere.
The following are very positive impressions…but here’s a big one that’s not so positive to start off with: “Americans use a LOT of trash and energy. Every house has energy on standby. At all my homestays, I want to unplug things, but feel bad doing so. Things are just waiting on standby to be used,” says Soryor. “And for trash, there is so much – and everything is used once and thrown away!” adds Aom.
The schools create an atmosphere where we can accept who we are and work from there. Kids with special needs aren’t ignored and pushed down by the system, so that the school “looks normal.” They are given attention and resources, separated from and immersed into the main classroom as necessary.
Here, teachers are completely focused on their students during class. They don’t become distracted by paperwork or talking on their
cell phones, for example. It is very student centered. When a teacher sees a student is bored or uninspired, he/she gets them to come back into the discussion or activity. When a student has an idea, it’s supported and built off of.
Every class inspires students to question each other, even with Autistic students. If the question is, “What did you do this morning?” And the student answers, “Had breakfast,” the teacher will encourage another student to ask for more details: when, where, what, how did it taste?
The principle stays at school and organizes everything, connecting everything that happens within the school to both students and teachers (for example, when we visit).
I have also noticed more parent involvement. Here, many parents came for a weekly, class tradition of singing songs in the morning to start the school day off with a happy mood.
Discipline of Americans, outside of and within the schools. Americans stay in their lanes, get in lines, do everything they can to avoid chaos. In schools, if times up, they stop. If it’s time to learn, they learn; time to share, they share; time to play, they play.
The curriculum is integrated and connected. Levels are clear. Art and social studies are important and learning is connected to the self.
If someone comes in late, they are caught up. The teacher uses it as an opportunity to review or check in, having the learners tell each other what they missed.
Here, learning is sharing and talking. There is not a lot of “teaching,” as interpreted in Thailand – lectures and exercises.
3 things Dang likes about America:
For more, see KKEI in the news!