Evan DuPree Testimonial 1 and 2
One Year Testimonial by Evan DuPree
Well let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Something about working for Bank of America immediately after University wasn’t really doing it for me. So… I was in a bar one night talking to my friend Sara about how kick-ass Samurais - and subsequently - Japanese culture was. That was the progression of the conversation, on my end. Cool Evan. And then she was like ‘Hey I’m totally going to teach English in Asia, if you like Asia so much, then you should too.’ So, I did.
I did the regular route of finding a job teaching abroad, looked at eslcafe.com and shot out a ton of applications to a bunch of different places all over, not Japan, but yes, China. Much to my chagrin – and surprise – every single one of the schools I contacted - about 30 - responded and wanted me to start immediately. Yes, it’s that easy to find work in China. But I had been talking to my friend of a friend of a family member Dave who once taught abroad in Thailand. I remember thinking it was like, the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. You know, just going for it. Dave worked at Super and put me in touch with Peter, where the first semester was mid-term already and not needing teachers, but it was no big deal - I make my own way, but it was my first contact with Peter and the Super English team.
So back to my overwhelming amount of replies for schools in China; they were overwhelming. All replies had a bit shifty English, and a totally western name attached to the replier, so I instantly knew I would be working for a Chinese person, the real deal. Maybe I could do some good there, spread some American goodwill and some free-market idealism. But honestly I didn’t even know where to start with getting back to them, so I selectively numbered down my cities in China, and was getting ready to reply to offers I had interest in when WHAM! Peter gets back to me saying there are some positions open at Super English.
Now, Dave, he’s a good dude, I trust him implicitly, and finally, here was a job opportunity coming from someone who spoke English as a first language - and an American at that. So I was immediately interested in the position. One Skype conversation later and I gathered my friends in Dallas and told them ‘Hey Guys, see ya later!’. The next day I put in my two weeks, ditched everything I owned, drove back to Florida in a rented car with my dog, made a little sidestep in New Orleans to gamble and eat re- tar-diculous food, then made my good-byes
So, I’m a last minute dude and I ended up booking all of my flights last minute. It’s just the way I do things. The whole of next week was spent shuffling around the planet on airplanes. Don’t ask. Upon arrival at Surat Thani International Airport I was greeted by Wen –with a sign, for me! We threw my luggage into her car and we were off! Onto the crazy Thai highways - it was no joke the first thing that I had seen in Asia other than an Airport. I remember thinking – rock and roll. On the flight-in, I got a good view of all of the countryside around the area, at sunset. The first thing I said to Wen was how beautiful the area was, and she just laughed at me. Wen laughed because, well, Surat Thani City itself isn’ t very postcard worthy – but it really is surrounded by some amazing natural beauty. Anyway, I was then dropped off at my house and met the other teachers for dinner. I made my introductions, met my fellow Thai-teaching crew and from then, it was on.
The first week was a whirlwind. The semester was mid-stride, so I had a crash course in how to teach and the S.E. philosophy then I hit the ground running. The situation was sink or swim – just my kind of style. I was here to pick up the regular classes, where a teacher who had had some disconnect with the Thai staff had left. Looking back on it I understand why, regular present a totally different set of challenges from EP classes. But let me tell you, it is really hard to mess up those regular hours! My wise Super English philosopher Head Teacher John Phelps once told me that you have the chance to make this the one class that all of the kids would look forward to in the week. To make sure they were always building on what they know and making it a fun energetic class. I also had one class at Super, which gave me insight to both worlds. Regular school hours and after school hours – these are your options in Thailand, probably anywhere, but this is all I know.
Let me tell you Regular classes are a breeze but they are hotter than anything and I looked at all the other teachers that work at Thida, with their cushy air-con classes, and wanted them. Not the teachers, but their classrooms. So I worked and worked and worked. Super: Super is quite a challenge because it is a fun, after school environment and progressing the learning, having it not just be playtime, is the balance. But I do believe the fun is in the challenge. First part of my teaching went by quick, then it was the October break, and I got my first taste of adventure in Thailand – which was awesome.
Start next semester. I was teaching regular hours at Thida with the same hours at Super as well. This semester, the fall/winter semester, it went by incredibly fast. The Regular hours – I took the approach of slamming on the basics across 5 different grade levels. Instead of trying to teach the students loads and loads and loads of English, I really hammered them on basic targets lifted straight from the textbooks and vocabulary that could be represented physically. You don’t get to see them enough to teach them the entire language; rather, trying to inspire them to be fascinated by English. To show them that it isn’t that crazy difficult, to keep at it – and you’ll get it. Any activities you do in class need to be geared towards teaching a mass audience, so single lessons need to be impactful if you expect them to carry over week to week.
Super English is a bit of a different experience than teaching at Thida. At Super English you have much smaller classes, right now mine range from 5 in one class to 13 in my other. You get a far better chance at Super to actually bond with the kids on a much more personal level. It is also the students opportunity to branch out a bit, outside of school, away from the nurturing yet-at-times disciplinary nature of the large classes at the Thai schools. Your lessons have to be so fluid and engaging that any means of classroom management are tied to the overall lesson plan/structure of the class itself. At times, progress can seem a little slow at S.E. At SE you are balancing a line of keeping the class environment fun and exciting and getting across major concepts in the English language. There is no heavy handed Thai teacher to keep the kids’ attention and focused on what you are doing. But over the course of the semester you get a great gauge on where the kids started and once the semester is complete, where your students have ended. And you know it’s pretty much all of your work, there at S.E.
Let’s blow through this semester - sure it was eventful, bonding with my fellow teachers, enhancing my skills as an English instructor, but, it went quick. Believe me, it will go quick. I elected to stay not just another term (I had an option, as I was a replacement for someone who left) but another entire school year. I wanted to the full experience. I wanted the English Intensive Program and I wanted to see the same kids every day, not 1,000 kids a week. Though in defense of 1,000 students let me say that it is really cool stepping back on to the old Thida campus, recognizing a lot of the kids as old students of yours and having them say ‘HELLO TEACHER!!’ to you.
If you don’t know now, then know, New Thida is Anuban – Prathom 2 and Old Thida is Prathom 2 – 6. Then it is all girls Mattyom after that. Those are the grade levels, essentially, if you’re confused, think of Mattyom like high-school. And Prathom like everything before it. Given my seniority with Super English, 1-ish year under my belt, I was granted an option on what I wanted to teach; I chose Prathom 2. Think of it as 2nd grade in America, same idea. Why did I choose it? Well, I taught all Prathom levels, Regular courses, across the board. Prathom 2 was hands down my favorite. Why? I don’t know… why do you like anything I suppose? You just do. The kids are there with no hate for school, you’re the brightness of their day being Teecha Eh-wen; our classes are fun, there are no attitudes from any of the students, the targets are basic, but here’s the kicker, this is the age when you make the most impact on learning a language.
I get to hammer my kids on the basics but I see them every day, so I know when to push them into the more advanced aspects of our rather complicated language. I get to practice phonics with them and believe me after being here for several months before beginning teaching Prathom 2, I have seen where the most common mistakes are – which is like, just plain fun. It’s easy for the kids and it’s fun and easy for you. But their minds are like little sponges, so week to week I can constantly gauge improvement in my kids, so while some lessons seem to be a miss, I can work at it to make my concurrent lessons hit home runs. It’s when you teach knock-out lessons and can actually witness the students taking away knowledge from it that you know you are making it happen, teaching some English.
Not only am I teaching Thida, but I still teach at Super as well, more hours this term around. It is 15 hours a week at Thida and 10 at Super this term. Super is as challenging as ever but, I have found the happy medium between advancing the course and having fun with the kids. Really as long as you are enjoying yourself, they are enjoying your class, and this holds true for Thida as well. I have never really had any moments in class that I straight up do not enjoy, but, I’ve heard your positivity rubs off on those around. I heard that from someone, somewhere, sometime. But, it’s true. Both are about going in with a game plan, a brain plan and a positive attitude.
Coming in with no teaching experience, it was a bit rocky at first. No one is there in class to hold your hand and tell you what to do. In this environment you need to be prepared to think on your feet. Granted at Thida, you usually do have a Thai teacher there who will help with discipline, you need to figure out how to fill the hour yourself. If you can’t do that, you’re going to find yourself between a rock and bunch of crazy kids that just want to party. Any issues you may have with lessons or questions in planning can easily be figured out amongst co-workers, S.E.’s head teachers and of course Peter himself. Any troubles I’ve ever really had in the classroom I’ve learned to work out from techniques and advice from them all. It really is like my friend and teaching mentor John Phelps told me, you’ll get to a point where you can just walk into class and start whamming out home runs every time. Let me tell you, progressing from where I started to where I am, it feels good.
Looking back on the year, yeah there is a lot that has happened that isn’t included in this article but this isn’t the end for me. I will be here for the rest of the semester rocking out classes, trying to smack home runs like Sammy Sosa when he was juiced and corking his bat. Super has been a comfortable first step into a life that I told myself I wanted – a life of adventure. While you may not be canoeing down the Mekong or meeting mountain hill tribe people every single day, teaching Thai kids, every day, is totally a part of the adventure that has become my life. What would I change – looking back on it all? Lots of things – mostly how I’ve spent my savings out here but, that’s another story! You know they say hindsight is 20/20 anyway. So if you know what the future holds, please let me know. Otherwise, take some weird chances and have some fun with now or perhaps you never will.