Janet Phelps Testimonial 1, 2, and 3

Janet One Year Testimonial

Today is a perfect time for me to write a testimonial. I just signed up for an additional year at Super  English. Ten months down, fourteen more to go. And I'm sincerely excited. When I find something good,  I like to stick with it.

But, let me go back a little.

My first few months of teaching were hard. Thai kids love to laugh and have fun, but it's hard to not get  upset when trying to speak over than 55 rambunctious kids. Being in a different country and not  speaking the language can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience at times. It took me about  four months of teaching to learn the most valuable lesson you need to thrive in teaching a Thai school:  Laugh. Laugh at your students, laugh at yourself and laugh just to make things easier. Sometimes  that's all you can do.

I especially struggled that first semester with a couple of fifth-grade classes who were very  undisciplined. They were loud, unruly, rude and crazy. I dreaded going to those classes.

OK. So enter Super English. SE owner Peter M. worked with me a lot to get those classes under control.  He gave me advice, encouragement and support. SE director Victoria was great— sitting in on those  classes to give me feedback and listening to my frustrations.

And that's not even all. The other teachers at SE made me feel welcome here. They showed me  around, took me out to eat, helped me figure the Surat world out. That's the kind of welcome you don't  forget.

On the last day of class of my first semester, my fifth-year students got together and bought me a huge  fruit basket. Several kids recited poems of appreciation in English, and they sang me a song. The  students made me cards and hugged me good-bye.

That sealed the deal for me. At the end of the semester, Peter kindly gave me the option of dropping  those difficult classes, but I chose to keep them this semester. I don't regret it at all. I am happy to see  my students every day. They love me— even though we often don't understand each other.

Teaching can be tough, so it's really important to be at a school you like with people who care about  you. I can't imagine a better place for a new teacher than Super English.


Two Year Testimonial by Janet Phelps

I can't believe how quickly these past years have flown by. Have we really lived in Surat Thani for  two years now?

Two years ago, I was a terrified and skeptical new teacher with no plans to make teaching into a  career or be the assistant director at Super English. And now, I guess I'm not terrified anymore, and  I'm more in love with this city and my life here than ever before. So that means it's time to write  about why I like being here so much. So here goes.

I love living in Surat Thani! I love it so much. We recently moved to a more remote part of town  where the nights are quiet except for the sound of crickets and sun during the day is blocked out only  by palm trees and bamboo. It's made me feel even more home to have a refuge from the concrete and  traffic. But let's be honest: The concrete has its advantages! New coffee shops and other kind of  stores open here every month so I never get tired of exploring. I'm finally making some progress in  my Thai language skills so I can read some menus and shop signs. It makes every day a constant  adventure! I love exploring all of these new things. And Surat offers tons of amazing, really cheap  Thai food. How could I live without all of this?

I love the amount of free time I have here. Since I've been in Thailand, I've started running, doing  yoga, studying Thai, reading more, seeing my husband more, spending more time with friends and  traveling. It's like working that 50-hour/week job with two weeks per year in America just becomes  more ludicrous in hindsight as the years go by.

I also really, really like my classes this semester more than any other time before. I have a sweet  group of about 14 kids at Super English who I see every day. They brighten my day because I can see  them improving at English as the year progresses and they're always, always happy. I also got to  teach P3 this semester which was really fun. And I'm still teaching a class of M3 (the equivelant of  high school sophomores) girls which rocks my world. They're so bright and clever, they make me  happy. They laugh at my jokes and notice every single time I wear something new (I mention that  because it's kind of freaky.)

So I want to be honest here also and say this has been a pretty hard semester work-wise for me.  That's all I'm going to say about that because I find that the good things outweigh the bad things — otherwise I wouldn't still be here.

During those hard times, though, SE owner Peter has been supportive and communicative,  encouraging me to take on more responsibility and improve my skills as a teacher and as the team  leader at Super English. He's always there to answer questions that I have or to give advice on an  especially difficult class. He's encouraged me to grow professionally and personally in ways I had  never anticipated. A standing ovation for you! Thank you.

I can't say enough good stuff about the Thai staff at Super English (headed by Super Wen). Nui and  Tda are always friendly and helpful. Wen borrowed a truck and her brother-in-law to help us out at  11 p.m. on a Friday night when we had to move out of our house last minute this semester. I will  remember that kindness forever, I think. Her selflessness was so out-of-the-blue and timely that she  saved me in one of my most frazzled moments in Thailand so far. Thanks, Wen!

I also want to give a shout out to Victoria in this little letter because she's the best of the best and  still helps me out whenever I have difficult questions or need advice. Even though she's been gone for  over a year, she's still very missed. She's also the one who taught me how to teach, how to drink Thai  beer, how to help new teachers feel comfortable and love living in Surat and some other important  stuff too. Word. Thanks.

So here's the best thing about my job: The people! Yeah, I freaking love my fellow teachers. We have  great times together, and I love getting to know such an interesting and diverse group of people  from all walks of life. We've got a really great group of good-humored teachers who support each  other and enjoy each other right now, and I love that! For my birthday a few months ago, everyone  humored my silly idea and dressed up in moustache-related costumes and pitched in to make amazing  mojitos (not a drink you can usually find in Surat). Whether it's adventuring in Koh Phanang or  camping on the beach in Khanom or having all day lesson planning “parties,” Super English teachers  are by far the best out there.

And that's a very brief rundown of the reasons I love working at Super English. If you want to hear  more, e-mail me at janet.mclaren@gmail.com. Can't wait to tell you more!


Three Year Testimonial by Janet Phelps

It's finally happened. My time at Super English has come to an end. I'm packing up my things, selling  lots of stuff and preparing for the giant move home. And I'm also reflecting on my experiences and time  in Surat and at Super English. 

One thing I've realized lately is how much I've changed. I'm not the same person I was when I came to  Super English, inexperienced and scared of standing up in front of a class. I've learned to teach (!), and  I've taught tons of levels and types of classes. I've learned to think on my feet in a classroom setting, to  manage and discipline rowdy groups of teenagers and first-graders. I've developed really good  relationships with some of my students and have seen them grow up and improve dramatically in their  abilities to communicate. In addition to all that, Super English has allowed me to develop professionally  more than I ever anticipated.

I owe most of that to an incredibly supportive and understanding boss. I can say anything, good or bad,  to Peter. He listens and lets me pursue ideas that I think are right, even if they don't always turn out  well. And, amazingly, he's never upset when they don't turn out! (I've never heard him say, “I told you  so.”) He's always been very understanding when I face difficult situations, and he's rarely gotten  frustrated with me when I mess things up or drop the ball— which I've done a lot as a first-time  manager. Overall, it's been the perfect environment to try my hand at directing a school. Peter's given  me a lot of freedom and independence to determine the course and the culture of Super English. He  frequently says that we—the teachers— are Super English and he lets us set the tone and feel of the  school. I feel really priveleged to have had the opportunity to do just that and to pour my heart into  making Super English the best place for teachers and students.

I'm sad to leave this town. Even after 2 ½ years, I'm not tired of living in Surat Thani. I love it here. I  love how much there is to explore here. The food is great, the people are interesting, there are always  new places to see and explore in and outside of town.

Another great thing I've experienced here is how much say I've gotten in my schedule over the past  two years. Of course, I always have to mention how much free time working for Super English gives  you. This is absolutely, hands-down the best work schedule I've ever experienced. Having a lot of free  time during the week (weekends are always off with rare exceptions) has allowed me to develop  personally and explore my interests and hobbies in a way I never could have done at my full-time job in  the U.S. And the incredible amount of vacation time beats most other teaching jobs in Thailand.  Despite all that free time, I've still managed to save a fair amount of money (mostly by not traveling too  much in my last year here). Of course, you can't earn as much teaching in Thailand and Surat as you can  in other places, but it's definitely possible to make ends meet and even to save some cash.

But who cares about that? I've had some of the greatest times of my life at Super English. Looking back  at pictures from the past few years, these are some of my favorite memories: The trip SE teachers took  together at the end of my first term to Koh Lanta, camping many times with SE teachers in Khanom,  karaoke at our end of the year party, two trips to the dam at Khao Sok with SE teachers, dressing up for  our Jersey Shore party, learning and dancing in three Christmas performances at Thida, a beach  wedding (my beach wedding!), and a series of great housemates and friends and unbelievable trips  through southeast Asia. I feel so lucky to have gotten to experience all of these things here.

And of course, I can't help mentioning the people I've come to know well by working here. I've made  incredible friends here in the past three years. Some of whom I suspect will be friends for life. It was  great, I mean amazingly great, to walk into a work environment at Super English where people were  waiting eagerly to take you to dinner, show you around, help you learn Thai, give you advice on  teaching and be there to relax with you after work and on weekends. It's something that I experienced  from the moment I arrived in Surat Thani, and I've tried to keep the tradition of helping each other out  going. I think Super English teachers are the best at this of every other school I've seen.

I can recommend Super English without reservation to anyone who wants to grow and learn  professionally as a teacher in a supportive and welcoming environment.