Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Experiences of a Canadian Teacher in Thailand.

There can be days where I totally "go into my own cave" and isolate myself away from the madding crowd, but today is not one of those days!

In fact, I am feeling on top of the world right now. At the Christian social mixer at uni tonight, I was introduced to yet another student from Malaysia who commenced studies in BECH without going through my former college. She's 32 years old, starting from Year 1, and this is her first degree! (and all this while I thought that I was old!)

Wait, actually two as of this moment of writing! One is a mature lady whose name is Maria, and is from my previous college. *laughs*. She's a mother of two grown up children (wow!). As she is Malaysian, it would be most interesting to know how she will be able to cope and handle the Australian context.

I had the most interesting conversation with Tom, a Canadian gentleman who is undertaking his first semester in Masters in Education, and has previously worked in Thailand for about 8 years. He told me how he handled his Grade 2 class in this international American school, where he
  • wrote personally to both the parent and the child before the start of the year. Both child & parents had to sign a "contract" stating that they agree & understand the ground rules presented in the classroom. This contract will be referred to throughout for the rest of the year.
  • asked the child to be present together at the parent-teacher conferences. Therefore, there would be no secrecy between the parent, child & teacher.
  • expected the teacher-student to co-own the class.
  • used a blog to interface and connect with his class children, parents and distribute home assignments. The teacher would read the letters written by parents to the child in class.
Of course, the other teachers in the school felt *threatened* by his actions, as he presented himself to be somewhat different from the others. I would say that I did have my fair share of such strategies which I implemented with my 4 yr kindergarten class a few years back. It would be most fair to say that I think that the parents really did appreciate the effort that I took to keep in contact to communicate with them, as well as creating an online photo gallery (which no other teacher in the school did).

Although this was only my exposure to an American international school where I had worked as an assistant for a short period of time before leaving (gasps!), but it gave me some understanding of how American schools were managed nonetheless. I am not sure how the other teachers in the school felt, but that was not of my concern, as I was the one who was enthusiastic to do my own part as a collaborator of parent-teacher relationships, and to make it a good one.

One of the questions that was on the tip of my tongue that I wanted to ask him was how different is Canada from Australia (or at least in the part of Queensland where I am at).
His answer was:
  • Canada is a Commonwealth country.
  • Has a Queen (Queen Elizabeth 2, who else?)
  • Has almost similar issues with the indigenous groups.
  • Has almost similar issues with the implementation of a National Curriculum.
  • Has similar issues with political-correctness of child handling & management in schools.
Summary: Canadians will have less trouble adapting to the Australian context as compared to Asians anyways. Which is what I wanted to know as it confirms my understanding of the western culture and values.

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