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MY WAY OR THE THAI WAY Chris Khonngam EDUC 6171 My Way or the Thai Way Believing I was not

what Reagan calls, ethnocentric (2005; cited in Merriam,

Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 219) after having worked in Chicagos South Side, a school for Hawaiians, and at DoD bases in Japan; I accepted a summer teaching job at a Thai Technology School (similar to a vocational college in the U.S.). Was I ever in for a shock. The students were unmotivated and would rather play videogames than study; they openly copied each others work, including exams; and they refused to practice English. My assumption that there was a best method for instruction: the Euro-American style I studied in Graduate School; was an enormous mistake (Anderson, 1988; cited in Merriam et al, 2007, p. 408). Copying anothers work, a practice that would lead to dismissal in most Western schools, was a difficult pattern for me to understand. It wasnt just a few students copying in secret, it was every student and in the open. Therefore, the cause was not a behavior issue, but one of cultural anomaly (Merriam et al, 2007, p. 222). Youngwha Kee (cited in Merriam et al, 2007, p. 226) described the Confucian philosophy of imitating the virtues of another person. Although Thais dont subscribe to Confucianism, there is a strong Chinese influence in the nation, and the concept of learning through imitation carries over to the cultural approach to plagiarism. Because copying is the first step of learning, Thais take great liberty copying the works of others without citations (Thep-Ackrapong, 2005, p. 57). Also at play here is the concept of communal learning versus individual learning (Merriam et al, 2007, p. 237). While it appeared to me that groups of students were simply copying the work of the smartest student in the group, what was really happening was collective learning (Thep-Ackrapong, 2005, p. 57). In a research study of motivational factors, Chutigarn Raktham at Lampang Rajabhat University found that Thais have greater motivation to achieve if they perceive their study group is likely to succeed (2011, p. 14).

MY WAY OR THE THAI WAY Chris Khonngam EDUC 6171 The Asian trait of hesitating to speak out for fear of making a mistake and losing face is also in evidence in the Thai classroom (Merriam et al, 2007, p. 220). Thais also refrain from critically viewing their lessons because, as in China, they hold their teacher in high regard (Lee; cited in Merriam et al, 2007, p. 227) and even textbooks are treated as holy materials (ThepAckrapong, 2005, p 57). The main reason students preferred playing videogames to practicing English is their relaxed attitude towards learning. Rooted in the Buddhist concept of fully living life in the now, Thais believe that learning should be enjoyed, not endured. If Thais perceive their lessons as boring, they will not be engaged. Raktham (2001, p. 14) found that most Thais study English to improve their career prospects; however, this generates motivation to pass standardized tests rather than concentrate on fluency. As a result, many Thais perceive

communicative lessons as unnecessary and boring. And while Thais hold teachers in high regard, a teacher who is perceived to be too serious negatively effects motivation (Raktham, 2001, p. 14). My first few weeks teaching in the Thai Educational System were a constant struggle. But gradually, I learned to let go of my Westernized concepts of what constituted learning, and learned to work with my Thai students rather than against them. I allowed them to copy each other, but turned lessons into timed games whereby groups that finished first were those who didnt just rely on the smartest student, but worked together. I made lessons more engaging by including World Cup (soccer) statistics in math lessons. And I encouraged students to practice English collectively through the use of songs. By the end of the summer, I was finally feeling sanook, or enjoyment. I had learned the most important lesson: doing things not my way, but the Thai way.

MY WAY OR THE THAI WAY Chris Khonngam EDUC 6171 References Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. John Wiley & Sons. Raktham, C. (2011, March). A Study of Thai Students Motivation to Study English. In 2 nd International Conference on Foreign Language Learning and Teaching (p. 10). Thep-Ackrapong, T. (2005). Teaching English in Thailand: an uphill battle, Journal of Humanities, 27(1), 51-62.