Kelsey Woodrick, class of 2013, is a recipient of a Fullbright Scholarship.
My third month of teaching in Thailand has recently begun; what a journey it has been thus far. From teaching sixteen English classes a week, having approximately 350 students to keep track of, living independently, exploring this unique country, and squeezing in time to look deeper into myself, I am discovering the meaning to this experience. I am not merely a traveler anymore, yet I am living in a culture apart from my own. I meet new people every day, acquire Thai vocabulary in varied environments, and taste delicious meals crafted with the perfect amount of sweet, salty, and spicy flavor. I am teaching English to Thai students both formally and informally, and although a teacher, I never stop learning.
I feel very fortunate to teach at Sripatumpittayakarn in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. I teach Mathayom 3, 5, and 6 students. They are equally nervous and excited to learn the English language, which certainly shows when they talk under their breaths as they formulate questions to ask me. I care so much about their education that I spend hours creating plans to make my teaching authentic, and to make learning English enjoyable for my students. My Thai co-teachers often say to me, “Kelsey, sabai, sabai” [a popular Thai phrase that doesn’t directly translate but means along the lines of “do not worry” and “easygoing”]. They consistently say that because I always try to be the best teacher I can be. I provide free tutoring services after school twice a week for all the students at Sripatum, not only for the m.3, 5, and 6 students, and I play football (soccer) with Mathayom 1 students in the sand when I am not tutoring. I make mistakes, which usually involves pronouncing Thai words incorrectly, yet I am living meaningfully, or at least what I consider as such.
Recently, between teaching and living among the Thai culture, I have realized why I teach my students with enthusiasm, creativity, and compassion. I teach them because I want them to be the best versions of themselves. I want them to be who they want to be, and some of them might not have that opportunity. Maybe they aspire to be doctors, English teachers, bus drivers, gardeners, or policemen. Perhaps they will become the street vendor who greets the locals with a friendly smile, or perhaps they will have a change of heart and decide to become a monk devoted to Buddhist scripture. Regardless of where their future plans take them, I want them to strive for passion in their professions.
"I am devoting my time this year to teach English because in an ever-changing world, language is an invaluable tool. Especially with the ASEAN Economic Community coming together in 2015, it is important for Thai students to learn English so that, in the professional world they grow as individuals, as communities, and together as a nation.This amazing opportunity has opened my eyes to my identity, my ambitions, and, this goes without saying, to the Thai culture."