Staying a second year in Thailand is similar to finding the warp zone in Mario Brothers.  All of a
sudden, you find yourself easily hopping over obstacles and getting into situations you had never
before envisioned.  Why did my wife and I decide to stay with Super English, in a lacklustre town
with no tourist attractions?  Good life.  That is the answer.  My life is better on every front:  I have
fun at my job, I have more time with my wife, and I get to travel.  

    I go to class every weekday, and I am greeted by class after class of fifty-five kids who are excited
to see me, learn, and play together.  It's amazing!  For each bit of effort and creativity I put into my
class, they give me back an equal measure of fun-loving energy.  Lesson planning and preparing for
my classes has only become easier as I have learned how to enjoy both myself and my students while
pushing their mental capacity to the maximum.  This second year has been much better than the
first, as my classroom persona has become much easier to fall into.  I feel like I am myself with my
students, with only an added tendency to be goofier than normal and a razor-sharp edge of
discipline.  I still have days teaching that are very tough.  Such days are usually those that call for me
to lay off the joking around and bring down the hammer of discipline.  Since my first year, I have
developed the ability to switch back and forth from drill sergeant to comedian within a split second.  
That doesn't mean it doesn't wear me out some days. However, there is a sweet reward in being a
second year teacher in the same school.  I see the students I was hard on last year every day in the
hallways and hear how they are doing in their English class now.  The kids I drilled on to get them
to do their homework, listen during class, and take notes are flourishing.  A year of having good days
and bad days with them, and they are still running up to me to give me high fives and ask how I am
doing.  Combined with my current load of one hundred sixty-five students, I have an army of fourth
and fifth graders seeking me out to ambush me with some kind of cuteness attack.  

    Having more time with my wife is the primary reason that I came to Thailand.  While there have
been times that I have been very busy with evening classes and a non-stop day, there have been so
many long weekends, week-long, and month-long trips with her that I did not count on having.  It
is as if we have had the opportunity to put many years of maturing together into two years in
Thailand.  Traveling together seems to accelerate relationships to either a breaking or a unifying
point.  The first year, Janet and I started out just seeing sights.  As we stayed longer, we realized
there was no point in rushing around.  Travel became more about finding relaxing places to be and
experience new things together.  After seeing all the big spots in Thailand during the vacations of
the first teaching year, we went to a few out of the way places in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and
Laos.  It is unlikely that many people get to see SE Asia like that in just one year.  We did some
volunteer farm work outside of Chiang Rai.  We stayed three days a Qui Nhon, a random fishing
town in South Vietnam.  We took a slow boat down the River Ou in Laos.  Just finding settings that
were helpful to growing together.  We have also done this largely on money made in Thailand,
dipping into our American money on some of the longer breaks from school in which we chose to
travel heavily. Another choice we made for our second year was to move out of Super English
housing.  This allowed for us to have our own place to have quality time together and our own
neighborhood. We have lived in two houses since, and made some good friendships with Thai
neighbors.  It seemed that once our Thai friends knew we would be around more than just a few
more months, they made more effort to get to know us.  Once some of our Thai and foreigner friends
showed us around Surat Thani, we began to see what find this town really is.  I began to study Muay
Thai and found a trainer that really encouraged me.  We have strolled through markets and found
new things every time.  We have driven down dirty alleys to find peaceful coffee shops and friendly
florists.  So many beautiful and interesting things hide under a thin layer of grime.  And Janet and I
have gotten to discover these things together, and we will always get to remember them.

    And why have I chosen to stay with Super English for this whole time?  It is the way that Super
teachers create a positive, helping environment that makes me want to be a part.  In our teacher's
lounge, we throw around ideas and take suggestions.  It is just as common for the more experienced
teachers on staff to use ideas from the recently arrived as the other way around.  We help each other
find places to eat and see around town, we go on trips to the beaches and waterfalls together.  Peter
throws awesome parties to show his appreciation every so often, and people toast and laugh at each
other until late into the night. This is a no “Team Building Exercise 1999” necessary type of group.

    We help each other out and don't try to withhold anything in the way of games or classroom
management tricks.  No one is trying look any better than anyone else.  There is no corporate ladder
climbing or vying for promotions here.  Peter and the staff that have been here over the last two
years have created a culture that makes people want to help each other do well.  Not a culture like in
yogurt or cheese.  A culture in which everyone laughs at my terrible jokes.  I mean a culture in which
I laugh at my own terrible jokes, and everyone laughs at me.  We have fun together out of work, and
being coworkers goes right along with that.  This is a good place to grow as a teacher and live a good
life.
    
John Phelps' Two Year Testimonial