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A Culture of Fear

Peace Corps Thailand Magazine

IMG_1991Clarence Say, 129 TESS

All quotes in italics are taken from The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer.

As a student, I was in too many classrooms riddled with fear, the fear that leads many children, born with a love of learning, to hate the idea of school. As a teacher, I am at my worst when fear takes the lead in me, whether that means teaching in fear of my students or manipulating their fears of me.

When I first started teaching in the classroom, the best piece of advice others could give me at the time concerning classroom management was a serious joke, “don’t smile until Christmas.”

Every teacher I approached gave me the “you’re not here to be the student’s friend” speech. On the front lines of that message was my Classroom Management Professor, I’ll call him CMP for short. He was in charge of instructing…

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Wan Hari Raya

I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.

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On Fear…

From grade school on, education is a fearful enterprise. As a student, I was in too many classrooms riddled with fear, the fear that leads many children, born with a love of learning, to hate the idea of school. As a teacher, I am at my worst when fear takes the lead in me, whether that means teaching in fear of my students or manipulating their fears of me.

– Parker Palmer

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Being Brave

Being in Thailand has been a challenge.

The community in which I live is so different from what I am used to, with its bucket showers and squat toilets, loud calls to prayer from the mosque, tiny children driving motorcycles, students in classrooms with no supervision, lady boys that hoot and holler as you bike by, but I have learned to love the strangeness and the painful awkwardness of it all. I have learned to lean into my fear and search for the courage to carry on. I have learned to stop always trying to control the things around me and to instead, become a living, breathing part of the present moment. There is so much out there that I don’t understand, and, to be honest, a lot of it scares me. But I’ve come to realize that being afraid is the first step towards being brave – or at least learning how to be brave.

I have also come to realize that even though I may not be perfect, I am still worthy and always have something to give, to offer.

Imperfection is the fuel that keeps us striving for something more – a better, brighter future, not only for ourselves, but for everyone around us. Knowing that I have so much more to learn from the world and from others makes me gaze out at the unknown with a curiosity and wonder that I refuse to let fade. There is a light that shines, I think, in all of us that must not be allowed to go out, and so, I am here to continue to stoke the flame. My goal, my mission in life is to help make school more than just about learning, but about experiencing a relationship between conscious individuals that care about what it means to be human, to ride the ups and downs of life with a smile and an open heart.

And that, I’ve learned, is the real challenge.

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First Day of School

…and Ramadan.

I’ve decided to fast this year, which took some of the members in my community by surprise. A good kind of surprise though. My counterpart in particular thought that maybe I was joking at first. Took him a moment, but once he realized that I was serious, he jumped right in to take on the role of Islamic tradition expert.

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His best advice so far has been concerning dates and their ability to somehow keep you going throughout the day. According to him, dates and milk are the best way to break one’s fast. This morning, I took his advice and put some dates (five to be exact) in soy milk along with my muesli, and I gotta say, not bad … not bad at all. I just might be able to do this thing. Along with dates, muesli, and soy milk, I’ve also got coffee, honey, canned fish, whole wheat bread, and Nutella stocked up and ready. Bought a little container to pack my school lunch in to save for dinner as well. Food-wise, I think I’m mostly set…despite the fact that I’ll definitely be starving.

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As far as scheduling goes, I just received my class load today, and tomorrow, classes officially begin. Although I do believe Ramadan started yesterday, fasting officially starts tonight. I’ve got it all pretty much planned out. Had a little bit of time today during an after school meeting (that was all in Thai), so I jotted down a rough schedule of daily events to keep me on track. Not super sure if I can stick to it strictly, but I’m going to try!

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Covers all the bases I think. Still, I am rather nervous about the whole not drinking water thing. Just in case you didn’t already know, Thailand is by no means a cool climate country. I am constantly sweating. How third and fourth grade level kids are able to do it I have yet to discover. Right now, I’m bracing myself for some solid fits of dehydration. But, I’ll trust the community and its practices. Seems like everyone gets by without too much trouble. Hopefully I can do the same because, well, I’m basically staking my next month on it…

Wish me luck!

It’s already 9:07pm so I’m way past my bed time.

Gotta get that sleep in while I can.

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Setback for a Comeback

I’m really frustrated right now.

My day is just not starting out the way I had hoped.

Last night, I went to a high school reunion party for 62 year olds and it lasted until something like two in the morning.

It was a rollercoaster of experiences. Initially it was really boring, but then it picked up into something kind of fun. I was enjoying myself. Dancing, singing, eating, drinking. All was well with the world, until I was asked to spend the night. Nope. Against my better judgement though, I stayed. Push my boundaries … go out of my comfort zone right? It was an awful night. I hardly slept at all. Basically was forced to share a bed with an older gentlemen from the government office that I’m friends with, but he was definitely drunk and smelled something nasty. Came in while I was sleeping and turned all the lights on. Climbed into bed with pretty much nothing on but a towel and kept creeping on over to my side of the bed. At one point in time he was practically hugging me. Hated it so much. Kept telling myself to stick it through. You can make it Clarence. Just a few more hours before sunlight. Got up like five times to pee. Finally gave up around 4:55am and wandered around outside. Sometimes, nothing can prepare you for the worst. Made it back home around 6:15am red eyed and hazy. My mind was a mist of tangled thoughts and emotions. So much had gone on that I had suppressed under a smile. That, along with my trusty uncomfortable, awkward chuckle:

He-he-he-he.

At this point, I’m finishing up my April bpit term month and I haven’t gotten any of the things done that I wanted to. Tomorrow is going to be the first day of May and I’ve got so many things on my to-do list. So many things I need to work on personally. So many things I failed to do during my free time alone and to myself.

Being off of work so liberates you from structure that all productivity goes out the window.

Things I’ve tried to stay on course have proven ineffective. I’m back to square one and still struggling. My motivation right now is at an all time high, but so is my disappointment. Shame is starting to sink in.

Why can’t I just be perfect?

There are so many vulnerabilities in my shell, openings for painful setbacks.

What I need right now more than ever is a comeback.

Time to put my head down and turn this day around. Stop letting the little things pick at and tear me apart. I need to work out. Eat something healthy. Visit my host family. Catch up on emails. Write something (check). Read something. Study Thai. Dance. What else? Oh yeah, finish my curriculum for the upcoming school year and plan out my approach. I can do this. I just need to stop stressing out and get to it. Alrighty then:

Chill-mode - Deactivate.