17 January, 2017

Dance with Teacher Sara, the cha-cha in Si Racha

Sara Guido is from Long Island, New York. She graduated from the University of Miami in 2016 with a B.S. in Elementary and Secondary education, and minors in Spanish, Italian, and Dance. She is a 2016-17 Fulbright-AMCHAM ETA at Ban Bowin School in Chonburi province. When she is not teaching, Sara enjoys scuba diving, trying different Thai foods, practicing yoga, and exploring her province as well as other cities in Thailand. After Fulbright, she plans on pursuing her master’s degree and teaching in the United States. 

“Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery.” ~Martha Graham

I grew up in a house full of music. While never a musical prodigy myself, my father is a musician and I always associated music with happiness. When going to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, people often tell you that a smile represents a universal language. However, many people don't realize that music and dance can also be shared and understood as universal communication. In the past four months, I have found that Thailand is full of music and dancing. If anyone wants to disagree with me, they clearly have never been to a Thai party!

Selfie with Mattayom 2

My school hosted a party for the associate director who was transferring to another school. At this party, we celebrated by dining, giving gifts, and relaxing. It seemed as though it was like any going away party would be in the United States, with one exception. As soon as the party started, so did the karaoke. While I’m not a huge singer myself, I watched as my teachers belted out popular Thai songs and owned the stage. After declining several requests to sing any song I wanted, I watched as some of the teachers supported each other by going up to the stage to be back-up dancers for the teachers who were singing. I went up and danced to Isan music that I had never heard before and had a blast. It was so much fun getting to know teachers from other departments, which may have never happened if it weren’t for dance.

I am grateful for the chance to teach 800 beautiful students ages 8-15. They are enthusiastic, intelligent, artistic, spunky, and most of all, loving. Teaching these students makes me a happier person every day. Teaching this wide span of grade levels in the same semester is a challenge, but one that I am fortunate to be able to undertake. I am able to sing songs and play games with my prathom 2 (2nd grade) students, while I’m able to have discussions with my mattayom 3 students (9th grade) students about their goals and what they want to do when they finish school. Each grade presents me with new challenges, yet gives me very rewarding experiences. These students make me smile and laugh, teach me Thai, and remind me what it feels like to be a kid again.

Prathom 6 students holding up the "U" for the University of Miami

At my time at the University of Miami, I took a course with the amazing Professor Kaminsky, which was titled, “Teaching Dance to Children.” When filling out my Fulbright application, I wrote that I would love to involve my community and students in dance. Everyone loves to dance, though everyone may not admit it. “I can’t dance” is something you will hear at every middle school dance, but it’s not true. Everyone can dance, and everyone should!

Prathom 3 preparing for the Christmas Celebration

Tuesday afternoons are my favorite at Ban Bowin. The last period of the day is a “club” period and I get to lead dance club, also known as “hip hop” club, with 20 prathom (primary) students. It was started the year before I arrived at school, and the students were thrilled when I decided to continue it. We meet for 50 minutes and practice for events, such as the Christmas celebration. We make music videos, or simply have a dance party to enjoy the afternoon. While this time is about dancing, it is also about relaxing and having fun. I get to interact with my students in a totally different way than I would be able to in a traditional classroom setting. We compare artists (Justin Bieber always wins, with the students’ favorite song, “Baby”), take selfies, and I am able to get to know their individual personalities in a way that simply cannot happen when you have 45 students learning in a classroom. We also are able to learn new words that we wouldn’t in class. I’ve learned words in Thai and taught my students words in English related to music and dance, and I love the way we are able to communicate with our combination of English and Thai.

I was so proud watching my students perform for my school’s Christmas celebration. They all took the time to coordinate by wearing all black, wearing matching hats, and even put on some makeup so that they would look like performers. They truly shined on the stage. My students may not be learning traditional dance, ballet, tap, modern, etc. They are learning important life skills: how to be a part of a team, how to help each other and be kind, and most importantly, how to have fun and be themselves.

Dance Club after their Christmas Performance

One of my favorite memories so far this school year is Scout Camp. For those who don’t know, Scout Camp is when the high school boy and girl scouts go to an army base and learn valuable skills from the local military such as how to cook food and hike. It is a wonderful, unique, and fun learning experience for these students. They are very interested in learning outside of the classroom, thus enhancing their learning experience. On the last night of Scout Camp, there was a celebration for the students to congratulate them on what they had learned by throwing a dance party. I had so much fun listening to the music and dancing with my students. They even taught me a little bit of the Thai traditional dance hand movements. With my students becoming the teacher, I am able to understand their thought processes and how they learn. I have found this exchange of information between myself and my students, through both language comprehension and dance, to be a useful tool in recognizing the best teaching methods to use in the classroom setting.

Selfie with Mattayom 3 students at Scout Camp

I am here in Thailand to teach the English language and American culture. However, my ultimate goal at the end of this year is not to have my students fluent in English (while that would be pretty great!). Instead, my goal at the end of this year is to make learning English fun. I want my students to know that they are loved, supported, and that they each have a bright future ahead of them. I want them to discover what they want out of this world, and strive to realize their dreams. I want my students to embrace the learning of new information and languages in the same way they enjoy music and dancing, and to understand that there is happiness in every minute and every day.

“I do not teach children, I give them joy.” ~ Isadora Duncan

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