The ISOS English teaching Saturday program (aka Sanuk My Saturday) we began last July in a small slum on the outskirts of Bangkok has really taken off. I haven’t been very detailed in an explanation of what we do, so here’s a look at how we’re building relationships and getting kids excited about learning English in a little more than an hour a week.
[In General] There are a few large slums in Bangkok, but what is more common in this big city is a very mixed housing structure with smaller patches of unconnected slums all over the city. This describes the community we teach in. It’s on the way to plush Bangkok suburbs and hidden behind a large temple, less than a kilometer from the area’s largest shopping mall. Almost every Saturday we meet a group of 25-40 kids. Their ages range, but the majority of them are 4-11 (but as you’ll spot in some of the photos, holding babies may also be on a volunteer’s to-do list).
My outlook on teaching is not too different from my outlook on life. If I was honest we should probably call this time “fun with foreigners” instead of English class. The biggest goal is not English fluency, but building relationships with the kids and having them associate fun with learning. For an hour class, I typically plan to teach about fifteen minutes. The rest of the time? Well, I will let you either come volunteer with us, or examine the incriminating video below. Teaching also varies because Sanuk My Saturday has a unique problem. Quite often, we have too many volunteers! If you can imagine, one Saturday we had 25 kids and TEN teachers. That’ll change your lesson plan a little, right? I want to make sure that volunteers who come get connected and feel that they have a role, so now we’re looking at a few other small slums or homeless communities around Bangkok where we can spread Sanuk My Saturday.
Can you save the world teaching English? I have an answer, but I won’t debate with you. Just know that the plan is to use this program to build bonds in these communities. That access is invaluable because in the future when we have more funding we can expand programming, using Sanuk My Saturday as the launch pad for micro-loans, urban gardens, or whatever we plan to implement.
[Lessons Learned] This program would be impossible without partnership with Thai friends who wanted to do something special in this community. You can’t just show up anywhere and plan to teach English and help people. Now that I want to expand the program, I’m going to have to be careful to make sure I spend a lot of time building the same connections with the community. I have to also tell you about new team member Chris, who joined the program a few months ago by telling me I didn’t have enough help and taking the reigns. Because of her initiative and dedication, she’s now the go to gal for spending your Saturday in Bangkok doing something worthwhile.
[A Special Treat] We have a jambalaya-like mix of good for you here from the last few months. This was put together by another In Search of Sanuk team member, Cody Mckibben. More than being the guy who designed this great looking site, Cody’s also one of those people who will jump up and booty shake or do whatever it takes to put smiles on kid’s faces. You’ll see a little bit of that in this video of our campaign in search of sanuk from Cody’s recent blog, My Secret Recipe for 100% Guaranteed Happiness. Enjoy.
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