Making a Difference

Nan English Teachers in Traditional Dress

As I share these stories with you, I try to include as many photos as I can. Please take the time to look at even the tiny thumbnail photos at the end.  Often, I just run out of space to include them. Double-clicking on any photo will enlarge it for more detail. I say that as I share a photo of the Thai teachers of English at Nan (Nahn) Christian School.  In one of those moments in history when Thailand felt it was losing its uniqueness and identity with the influx of foreigners and foreign goods, someone came up with the idea to promote Thailand’s history and traditions through the wearing of traditional Thai dress on Fridays. Every Friday, teachers and students in all of the schools wear clothing made of Thai material and, often, cut in the traditional Thai style.  It is a welcome break from the rigid uniforms of other school days for both students and teachers.

Rice Fields and Rain Clouds in the Nan Valley

Set in a valley filled with rice fields and surrounded by rolling mountains, the city of Nan has played a key role in Thailand’s history.  Once a sovereign independent kingdom, it rose to prominence in the Sukhothai period, often as the buffer between warring Burma and Vietnam.  The city of Nan is filled with historic houses and temples, including beautiful teak houses in the traditional Lanna style, and there is a national museum that preserves much of the rich history of Nan. Today, with Thailand’s new highway system, Nan is rapidly becoming a tourist destination.

Meeting with the English Teachers and Principal

Nan Christian School has over 2,000 students in grades 1-12. It is privileged to have several native English speakers (the foreign men in the photo) among its English faculty.  Recently, I met with all of the English teachers in the principal’s office at the school. (The woman on my right is Ajarn Supaluk, the principal, and the man on my left is Ajarn Thanom, my boss. There is another thumbnail photo of them below.) That morning, we had a lively two-hour discussion about the English program. Their greatest concern is the lack of native English speakers to help the younger children get a good foundation in the language.  The foreign faculty are concentrating on the older students. Some teachers (Thai and foreign alike) are trying to teach English in classrooms that have up to 50 students!  With class sizes that large, how can any student really learn a language well?  And what time does any teacher have to share stories of their faith when class discipline becomes the dominant issue?  Oh, we need some volunteers!

The River that Flows Through Nan

There are other problems as well.  Just weeks ago, heavy rains caused the river in Nan to flood and the school itself got caught in the flood. Teachers were called in to help with the clean-up and several days of instruction were lost. But there is definitely an upbeat, “can-do” attitude among the faculty and staff and I really enjoyed my brief visit there.  As Thailand prepares to become a member of the new ASEAN community of nations, the visionary leadership of Ajarn Supaluk and the dedication of these Christian teachers will prepare the students here for the brave new world that waits in 2015.  They just need a few volunteers to help ease the burden of those who are already hard at work.  They are making a difference in the lives of these students and the future of this country.

More photos from Nan and Prae:

On The Road Again - Dodging Rain Storms

The Principal's Office in Nan

Mountains Between Prae and Nan

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About ladypreacheratwork

For more information about me and my ministry in Thailand, please select the 'About' tab in the header above.
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5 Responses to Making a Difference

  1. Frank Malin says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Your story “Making a Difference” was an intereting read and also it was good to find your blog, since your visit to NCS not much has been mentioned by Teachers or students about ASEAN so I took it upon myself to show a 5 min cartoon to all the Mattayom students about ASEAN and its goals and benefits to Thailand. It was recieved well by the students and I was asked a lot of questions by them during the following days which was good.
    Hope to catch up for a chat next time you are here in Nan at NCS.
    Best wishes,
    Frank Malin…….Mattayom Teacher at NCS (the one scratching his head in your photo)

  2. I am Rev. Norm Gordon, a PCUSA pastor in Gaithersburg, MD. I was a volunteer as a young adult with the PCUSA and served as an English teacher at Nan Christian School from 1985 – 1987. 1987 was the year Ajarn Sawaluk started. You won’t believe how much the school has grown under her leadership. Coincidentally, too much focus on older students’ English was a problem back then too. Ajarn Sawaluk can tell you that her predecessor had me switch to 1st and 2nd grade for that very reason. Please give her and her team my warmest regards. Blessings on your work.

    • I am Rev. Mitchell Young, a UCC pastor in Montebello, CA. I was a volunteer through the PCUSA as an English teacher at Padoong Rasdr School from 1990 — 1992. I also have wonderful memories of Nan Christian School when I helped Achan Brint (now PCUSA pastor, Rev. Brint Pratt-Keyes) with English camps. I am still occasionally in touch with one of their veteran English teachers Achan Nipaporn Chindarat.
      By the way, Rev. Norm Gordon (Achan Norman) was in part responsible for getting me to serve as a Christian Volunteer in Thailand through Achan Rev. Virat Koydul when we were all students at Fuller Theological Seminary.

    • worasiri says:

      Hi Rev. Norm Gordon,
      I studied and Nan Christian School when I was young. I guess that I studied with you during 1985-198..something. I was in the first grade in 1985 and studied with the male English teacher. All of the students called him as Mr. Norman. If that is you, I would like to say thank you for being one of my best experiences in studying English. Of course, I couldn’t understand any of English at that time but I am certain that having you providing me the English speaking environment contributes to my great success in English. I would be delighted if we can get in touch. My email address is worasirib@yahoo.com.
      Regards,
      Lee

  3. Hi!! It was so nice to find this blog. I taught at Nan School in 1995 or 96…I can’t remember for sure! I taught grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 but also taught the teachers! We had a lot of fun. Anyway the issues seem to be pretty much the same but they continue to grow.Still, I loved teaching there and I loved the people. Seeing Ajarn Sawaluk and Supaluk brings back so many memories. I hope they are well and if all goes to plan I will be visiting them again in 2017.
    Blessings on your mission.
    Doug

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