Tuesday, September 10, 2019

When the Homesickness Hits....Hard.

"OH, how are you doing?? Are you LOVING living in Thailand"
"Yes, I love it so much here"

This is a conversation that I have either daily or weekly with people from back home. The thing is though, no one wants to really hear the truth. While I absolutely LOVE living here, it is also one of the hardest things I have ever done in the entirety of my life. I have gone through some dark stuff in my life, as have most people. BUT moving to Thailand consist of the hardest thing I have ever done. 
I am not doing great. 
It is made to feel like you are not allowed to say that but I am here to say it.
I AM NOT DOING GREAT.
That is sometimes scary to write but it is the absolutely brutal truth.
Does that mean that I won't be okay? No. I will 100% be okay, things take time.
You are told about the homesickness. You are told many times. Peter is going to tell you many times before you come YOU ARE GOING TO GET HOMESICK. He will also tell you many times when you get here. They tell you it is going to be hard. You sit there and think.. oh it won't be that hard! I'll be living in Thailand!
that is... 
until you are sitting in your classroom while your kids are at gym and you are bawling your eyes out because you miss every little weird detail about home. There is this enormous weight of loneliness. There are people here and I do get along with the people that are here but none of them know me like my friends and family back home do. Everyone here is getting to know one another. While this is one of my favorite parts about my move... getting to know new people, it is also one of the hardest. 
I miss my friends who know when I am being overdramatic and love me anyway. 
I miss my family who I can sit with in silence for hours but just being in each other company makes everything feel a little better.   
I miss my friends being able to look at me and know exactly how I feel about something and not having to explain everything. 
I miss my people. 
I miss being understood. 
Being completely transparent, I have people here who I would call friends. I enjoy them and I hope that they enjoy my company. But, I don't have a "person". It seems as though that everyone here has a person, someone they automatically connected with,(or previously in a relationship with) someone they spend a lot of their time with here. I haven't found that and it can make life extremely hard. The feeling of being left out and feeling like no one sees you or cares or understands crosses my mind a lot right now. I know it is going to get better and I know that these things take time, but right now... it's hard. 

I do not want you to read this and think I am not enjoying my time here in Thailand, because that would be incredibly false.  I do love it here. I LOVE my students. It amazes me to watch them grow every single day. I'm in awe of how much they open up to me and make me feel loved. I know that I am made to be a teacher because these kids are constantly on my mind. I am always thinking about how I can grow their minds, how I can make them more confident, how I help them become themselves and embracing who they are as a person. I love that here at STIS I have the opportunity to allow my kids to be who they want to be. I love how this adventure is pushing me to be more independent and grow tremendously as a person. I love how much this experience is making grateful for the amazing family that I have been blessed with. Missing them has been the hardest and knowing that I have a family back home to miss as much as I do is a blessing in itself. These are the things that keep me going through this hard time, the light in the darkness.
Some of my students in my class! 
I cannot wait to see how this experience continues to grow and change me as a teacher and as a person. 

Until next time, 
Cheers to the adventure! 

-
SK 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

My STIS Classroom

I have been trying to find the right words for the past couple of days and how to write this. So stick with me through this. I do not have a standard American looking classroom. I do not have all the decorations, I do not have all the supplies, I do not have everything I could ever want. But...it’s Thailand. I knew that coming into this. When I left from the states I allowed myself to bring one box of thing (I packed most of my clothes in my carry-on to be able to do that). ONE. BOX. The most important things as a teacher were packed into one single box, where I could have backed 100 boxes of stuff to take with me. I was also one of two teachers who brought any teaching stuff with her. As a lover of books and a believer that books can help us learn anything, that is mostly what was packed. That didn't leave room for my flexible seating, my teaching textbooks, my art supplies, and all the things that I would have in an American classroom. (mostly from Target!) The past couple of days, most of my friends have been sending me pictures of their classroom or posting pictures online. I LOVE their classrooms. There are areas where students can calm down in a bean bag chair. High tops tables and chairs for students to have a technology area. All the flexible seating that any teacher could ever want. Decorations out the wazoo. At times, it has been harder and I have missed it. The other day I told someone I don't know what I would do for a pack of Crayola markers. There are just things I very much miss having in my classroom. They are all the things that I would have in my classroom if I were teaching in America. But, I do not teach in America. I teach in Surat Thani, Thailand.

My time here at STIS has already grown my teaching skills more than I thought I would be able to. (I cannot wait to see what happens in a year.) There are so many different things that I cannot have in my classroom, which has made me look at the bare necessities of a classroom and become creative. While STIS is an AMAZING school and I have been provided with almost everything I have asked for, there are just those small things (hello Crayola) that I have missed. At STIS you are given the freedom (within the curriculum and standards) to teach how you feel is best and how you see the best fit for your students. That includes how you set up your classroom, and I love that. I was able to go in and arrange things that I thought would work best for my teaching style. We have a different version of flexible seating, we have desks but we also utilize the floor space. I have my students moving their desk throughout the day depending on what we are working on. Also, I do not have a typical “classroom rug” but I have a tapestry that my students know to put out for morning meeting and other parts of our day. We make everything work and it has become such an amazing classroom. It is not the typical American classroom that I am used to but it is the perfect classroom because it is home for my students and I. When they are in the classroom with me, they make the classroom exactly what it needs to be. Honestly, it's their classroom to decorate with their learning, not mine. I cannot wait to see what they do with our home this year. 



Until next time,

Cheers to the adventure.

-SK

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Welcome to STIS- New Teacher Orientation


Here it goes, the first day of “work”. While it is not the first actual day of work, it is the first time you will be at the school and you will be seeing and meeting the people you will be working with. There are plenty of emotions that go along with this. There is this idea of “What if I don't get along with everyone?” or “What if no one really talks to me”. All kinds of What Ifs. Well, let me stop you right there. The STIS staff are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Everyone in Thailand are the friendliest people I have ever met, and I am from the south in America where good ole southern hospitality is a thing, so that is saying something!  The next type of feeling/challenge you might be having is… well, I am new to this town and can barely tell up from down, much less ride my new motorbike to and from school without getting lost! My advice? Message someone before and follow them! Or you can pull over numerous times to look at your GPS telling you where to go! (I have had to do that so many times trying to find my way around here!) But finally, you get to the school where you will be working for the next year or maybe (hopefully) longer!
IT IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN YOU THINK. 
The pictures on the website do NOT do this school justice AT ALL. Surat Thani International School is absolutely beautiful inside and out. I fell in love immediately. My favorite part? The beautiful garden. I know that my students and I will be spending as much time as possible out there! There are three buildings that are a part of this school. There is the main building which is where the teachers’ office, the Thai teachers’ office, and the front office is located. Then there is what I call the big building, which is where the cafeteria is, as well as some pre-k and some of the older grades. This is where my classroom is - on the second floor.  One thing that was a little strange for me, because of the culture difference, is that the cafeteria is open to the outside. Then the last building is where first grade, as well as some more pre-K class, are located, along with the gym. (The gym is also outside, god bless me for going to a school with indoor gym)
You get to the school and you do a school tour and get to see everything. Then it is time to sit down and get to business. We sit down to talk to a “veteran” STIS teacher, which means that they aren't brand new like me! We just get a brief overview of what is like to teach at STIS. Then we got to go and meet the Thai teachers. Peter had us play a game where we stood in the middle of a classroom and then he said two things such as “dogs on the left and cats on the right” and then you moved to the side that was your favorite! It was interesting to learn not only about the Thai teachers but to also learn about the other new STIS teachers. After this game, until we ate lunch, we had the opportunity to talk to the Thai teachers! It was so much fun to learn about Thai culture and about the Thai teachers. 
The rest of the day was just talking about the different documents and all about how to teach at STIS. As I have found out, there is a lot of curriculum that you have to teach but you have the freedom as a teacher to figure out how you want to teach that material. The materials that I was given is McGraw Hill Reading Wonders for reading and writing (theteachersguide.com was amazing before moving here to see what I might be teaching) and then McGraw Hill Science.
The next day, we were headed to Thidamaepra School. Thida is STIS’s sister school. It is a Thai school in which there are western teaches who are there to teach English. (Some of the coolest people too!) These teachers are part of the extended STIS family because they also work for Peter. This was probably one of my favorite days of orientation because it involved getting to interact with students, which is obviously my favorite part of my job (Thai kids are also some of the cutest kids I have ever seen). I also really enjoyed getting to see what a Thai school looked like and how it felt to be in that situation. 
The next two days were for getting all of our material to prepare and to start planning what we wanted to do and to start setting up our classrooms. (We also got taken out to lunch every day which was nice, too). There were times when it felt somewhat overwhelming, but it also was one of those things that I just wanted everything in front of me so that I could sort it out and figure out my life. 
Then came the last day of orientation, which happened to also be Parent Orientation in the morning. Meeting parents has always been a struggle for me personally because in America there are so many do’s and do not’s when it comes to parents. Meeting Thai parents was completely different. Each STIS teacher had a different experience, but my experience was my parents asked me one or two questions and then they were ready for the Thai teacher to come in and get started. Other teachers had parents ask a bunch of questions, mostly just about themselves and where they are from. Overall, it was a great experience for everyone. 
After we finished parent orientation, we headed off to lunch and then we were pretty much allowed time to plan. 
Looking back at new teacher orientation, it went by so fast and I cannot believe that it is over. I have already learned so much about Thailand, myself as a teacher, and just myself as a person. You are going to be pushed to be uncomfortable but with a safety net (Peter and all the other staff) under you to catch you if you feel overwhelmed. I am SO excited to start this school year and to get going with my students! Grade 2, Hamsters, here I come!! 

Until then, 
Cheers to the adventure. 

SK 


When the Homesickness Hits....Hard.

"OH, how are you doing?? Are you LOVING living in Thailand" "Yes, I love it so much here" This is a conversation ...