My grandmother had a funny habit the last six years of her life. She would sign all cards, whether
for birthdays, Christmas, or St. Patrick's Day with “I love you. This is is my last
Christmas/Easter/Fourth of July.” She just wanted you to know that this might really be it, so listen
up. Either that or she just had a really dark sense of humor. So listen up, this is my last testimonial.
My Thai life will be over by the time you get your next Easter egg. Sniffle.
It is not an easy thing to leave Super English when you have put your heart into the work here.
Because I was free as a teacher to teach in the way that most closely follows the pulse of my own
creative soul, I ended up with signature pieces of art all around me. My last year and a half has been
filled with experiments in the classroom. I've been able to try new classroom management strategies,
team projects, chants, class dances, games, problem-child solutions, affirmations, etc. I have learned
that teaching always takes intense effort. But I have also learned that the more you put into the
students, the more you get out of them. They give their attention, and they let themselves be shaped
by your efforts. You begin to see your own work taking shape in them, and it makes you pour more of
yourself into it. How do you finish your last few brush strokes, put your tools down, and walk out of a
studio filled with painstakingly refined works? There is the sense of accomplishment, and there is the
strong pull of belonging. I want to stay in this place where my ten-year-old prathom four student can
have a five minute conversation with me about Legos or martial arts. The strong pull of belonging is
not just something in my brain, it is usually a actually hugging my leg, trying to keep me from leaving
Peter gave me a very rare and valuable opportunity when he offered me this job, one lifetime ago.
He has challenged me with difficult classes with adults and children of varying levels. He has asked me
to resolve tricky management problems. During these challenges, he has always been available to me
with some guidance, even to the point of demonstrating a technique in my own class, to be sure that I
could pick it up. He has never once burdened me with paperwork or overplanning. He encourages
fluidity and flexibility in the classroom. His method of keeping his teachers' performance high has
always been to offer support when it's needed and help teachers come up with their own solutions to
setbacks. It has always made me feel a sense of ownership in how I run my classroom and appreciation
that nobody is making me fit into a pattern.
The lifestyle that Super English has allowed me has been rich. Just in the first year in this job, I had
more quality vacation time with my wife (about three months, counting holidays and breaks) than in
the whole three and a half years at my last job in the US. We've traveled extensively through Thailand,
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia. I came back to work each time to find that I still had plenty of
time every day to exercise, have time with friends, and relax with my wife. I've been able to make Thai
friends, study Muay Thai, play the guitar, and explore around the city on my motorbike. When I am at
work, there are several moments a day where I would rather be nowhere else. There is no teaching job
I have seen in Thailand that even remotely compares to the vacation time you get with Super English.
There have been time where I have had to scale back on the daily expenses to save for the vacation, but
it has been pretty easily done.
I am going to miss the group of people that Super English brings together. Over my time here,
many teachers have chosen keep signing up for another term or another school year, just because of the
way that we all bond as we work, live, and travel together. It is no coincidence that even though some
people go and other stay, the culture of helping and enjoying each other has stayed consistent. We go
out of the way to help each other out because somebody did it for us. Then they help the next
teacher. We have fun helping each other have fun with life. At work, if I have a classroom activity
that made my students go wild and learn something, I pass it on in the teacher's lobby to everyone else.
I've formed many lesson plans from five minute conversations with my coworkers. Socially, if one of us
finds a new restaurant, bar, beach, or waterfall, we take each other there. Your life gets filled with all
sorts of things that you want to give to the next teacher. This is has gone on for years, and there is too
much momentum for it to stop.
This crowded art studio of a lifetime in Thailand looks like so many years. Years of homesickness,
wanderlust, of friends coming and going, of being challenged and and growing. This time would make
me feel so old from all the experience packed into each day, but strangely it has made me feel younger.
Working with Thai children makes you learn to play at life. Being challenged by the job but supported
by your director and group of friends makes you live with just the amount of stress that an artist has
when leaning toward the canvas. That stress that comes when you ask yourself what you will create
|One Lifetime in Two and a Half Years
John Phelps' Testimonial