A Discussion with Angsumalee Samerporn, Teacher at Xavier Learning Community, Ching Rai, Thailand
June 26, 2019
As part of the Education and Social Justice Project, in July of 2019 undergraduate student Allison Ross interviewed Angsumalee Samerporn, a teacher at Xavier Learning Community (XLC) in Thailand. In this interview, Samerporn discusses religion, the practice of reflection, and teaching at XLC.
First off, can you tell me a little about yourself? Your basic background?
My real name is Ang, or the full name is Angsumalee Samerporn. I studied English, and then I know this place that’s gonna be built three years ago because I know through Father Vinai’s Facebook. Uh huh. At that time I was working in the early childhood area, like basically teaching the parents how to support the child. And then moved to like kindergarten teacher in English. I am teaching in English, and when I heard the news that Xavier needs some, needs more staff, needs more staff, but I heard the news too late. At that time I already continue my contract with the company already, but I thought, “Maybe next year I’ll try again.” And then I, when I finished the contract I did not see any sign that they wanted new staff. But anyway, I contact Father Vinai and then finally I decided to come here. So I left the job to come here.
And what made you want to come to Xavier over your old work, doing early childhood work?
Um, actually when I was in university, we work with the, we work with Father Vinai for, how do you say, the youth group. Like the Catholic youth. In university and every school break, I went to teach in a rural area, like the ethnic group, Karen village. Like very far, far away. Some don’t even know how to write Thai yet. Like they did not have like a proper teacher to teach them. So every school break, I joined the activity, which at that time Father Vinai was the one who managed the activity. And I also got like, not sure how they call it, got supported from Jesuits to participate in the youth day camp in Australia. Me and four, three of my friends. So four of us went there for, 2000, probably 2008. I’m not sure, it was a long time ago. Which is, they just like, they gave us for free. They did not ask anything back; they did not, I mean, they did not say anything. They were just like, “Okay, you go, you do it, you try,” or something like that. Which is, I feel really grateful for that, and I thought maybe if I have a chance to do anything return some day I would like to do it. So when, then they have the Xavier, XLC right?
And I also have some experience like teaching. And also me myself, also teaching myself English. Like which one, which part that they did not know, which part that they would like to know more. So I think like I have some common thing with the students, which is that I could, maybe I could help them a little bit with that part. So that’s why I think maybe that when I come here I might do something more meaningful for myself and for the other thing too. Even like, if compared to the income, there’s no, how do you say, there’s no income certainty right? You never know, you can make money from this job. But anyway, I still feel like my life is like more meaningful to be here, to be a part of XLC. And lucky that my family also support the religion activity, so even they know that I might not have a lot of money or I might not make a lot of money from this job, but as long as it’s a job that, like, a part of religion, about Christ, so he still like, he happy with that. So I did not push, they did not push me too much about that part. So I kind of work with a stress-free, like…
Not too stressful about like life expense or whatever, not that much.
That’s a good outlook. Can you tell me a little bit about kind of your religious experience growing up? Was your household very religious?
Okay, well our village before, you know that Thai, we live, my village is not, sorry, located in… When I was young, I could not remember where, but I still remember I saw some pictures like before our village surrounded by trees and still look like a forest. And at that time there were the missionaries from other countries came to our village, try to like let them know about the Christianity I think. Because before we believe in ghosts and spirits, like my great-great-grandparents, I think. And when you believe in ghosts and in spirits, then when something went wrong you have to do some ceremony which is, all the villagers have to gather around together and sometimes make your life complicate.
But I wasn’t experience that. I just heard from like the thing. Because when I, the time that I grow up, I already, my family is already Catholic. So I already know Jesus since I was born or already know Christians since I was born. And know the priests, but we don’t have a lot of, did not have a lot of Thai priests at that time. Yes, mostly we familiar with the missionaries from other countries. For example, the one that I still like remember the most is the priest from [INAUDIBLE]. Not sure that you know the name but anyway he’s from French. He’s from French.
So we, my village is like it, when it was my, when I was nine, I think my village is kind of close to the city area. Like the town area. Like they have hospital, they have police station, they, the government office is there. So my village is the Karen village but just close to the town so people, the children also get well education. Like we have proper teachers and we also like, easy to get education of people outside come to our village. If compared to some village that live like very far, high in the mountains. And also at that time, my great-grandparents, at the beginning, that’s what I heard from old people, like the first time that the missionaries came to our village, because they did not know our language yet, so they learned the language from my great-grandparents. And then my great-grandparents walked them to some village like, so it’s just like helping the missionaries at that time. And then our community like the Christian community grow bigger and bigger and stronger, and finally half of the villagers in my village want to be a Christian. And another half like Protestant and Buddhism. But I never experienced like the religion problem in my village.
So what was it like growing up with those three different religions together?
I did not feel that different because Buddhism, it’s part of Thai people, right? You grow up, you know that this is Buddhism and I grew up in the Catholic family, which you know that this is Christian. We just live together. It’s not like you can’t go to temple if you are Christian, or you can’t be friends with the Christians, and we force the Buddhism to be the Christian, to believe in Christ. No, we were just kids, we play together. We did everything together.
But just when it come to our religion, we just separate, do other things. Like we went to church on Sunday, and they went to church, like other friends went to temple on their Buddhism day. And sometimes we also, because the school also have the Buddhism ceremony for some Buddhists there in Thailand right, we also participate in activities so we did not feel like it’s strange or uncomfortable. I did not feel that way. And the teacher in the school also like, the people in our village, I mean, also respect us. So if they do the, you have to, how to say, to pay respects for the Buddhist statue, if you don’t want to do it because you are Christian, they are okay with it too. They don’t force us. So we just like, it’s religion. They don’t feel like they have to be the same, exactly the same. So nothing bad.
Nothing bad. Do people attempt to learn about the other religion, or is it more that they just accept it and move on?
Other people? What do you mean by other people?
Like in your village, would Buddhists try to learn more about Christianity or would they just kind of accept that other people were Christian and that was it?
Hmm, not sure that they try to learn, but I think that they just accept it. Like, “Oh, religion. You’re Christian; my family is Buddhism.” That’s it. And in our village, we also have like um, a housewife group. Like when they do some big activity the housewife from each family will come and help each other, right? For example, if we have a Bible camp in our village, maybe the housewife from the Christian family, the Catholic family, will be the leader to cook for the children in the camp, right? But on Sunday or if like bigger event, they all, the Buddhism housewife they also come to help us. And it’s the same way, if the Buddhism have some very big event or something, our housewife from the Catholic also help them too. So it’s a big, kind of like, we did not concern about religion; we concern about helping each other.
So then, coming to Xavier, which is predominantly a Catholic school right? Most students are Catholic. Did that feel very different than your hometown, in terms of religion? Or no?
For me, not at all because since I was raised… Explain?
Yeah, what was the experience like when you got to Xavier? Did it feel very different than your hometown religiously, or the same?
I did not feel that different, because, since you know I was born in the Catholic family, right? I think my family quite strong Catholic, but not too strict. I mean they are strong, like they believe in Christ. They have faith in Jesus. They have faith in people. They kind of carry the positive energy in the family. Which is, I feel like I, and it’s one thing that also my family was pleased. I don’t know why but I feel like, so that’s why I believe in… I’m not sure that I can say that I believe in God, but whatever. When you pray to someone, only think… because I was born with it so when I pray to something or I feel like very low, whatever. When you talk to someone, it’s like it’s God, but I don’t know what God that I’m talking to. But maybe that’s Jesus, that’s God or whatever, but I still have faith in other religions.
So when I came here I did not feel that thing, that change a lot. I still feel like okay still. Everything is like, you get from that everything that they say, that they talk about, maybe except the one that they mention it a lot, the Ignatius pedagogy or something. Yeah. Which is, they mention it a lot, and I think it’s about the Jesuit method of teaching or something. Which is, I did not, I did not study in the deep detail about it yet. Just that part that I feel like new thing to me. But if in terms of religion, I feel like not that different, because I was also in the… When I was in secondary school, I was in the boarding school, the Catholic boarding school. Like the girl group, the girls who, for three years. So when I came to, when I come to XLC, all the things in XLC like still like easy. It feels so easy to me if compared to the time that I was in the boarding school when I was in secondary school.
Can I go back a second to the kind of Jesuit teaching? What’s your impression of that? How does that reflect itself in the classroom or anything like that?
Hmm, that with the part, with the Ignatius pedagogy? That one?
Well, I think if compared to teaching courses in like government school or the private school, which is they did not use the same word. Like the Ignatius pedagogy. But anyway the processing of teaching is still like actually the same processing, but just not the, the way that they’re using the word. Just different. And maybe they might not concern about the reflection about, like in Jesuit they mention a lot about reflection, reflection. They might know something same, similar to reflection but they just use a different word maybe.
Yeah, that makes sense. Do you see reflection a lot around Xavier?
Mostly I see from the priests, our priests probably. But from the students, I’m not sure. Hmm, even the priests like mention it a lot, but I still not sure about it. I don’t think that they get it yet, or maybe they might get it but short-term, and then when they feel relaxed they just forgot it. It happens to us sometimes too maybe, when you feel low, when you feel down, you have more time to think a lot of things and you feel like, “You should do this better. You should calm down.” Or whatever. You know that, okay. But when anything feel good, you just forgot about it.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Besides reflection, what else about Catholicism do you see reflected at Xavier?
Hmm, I think for here before you’re doing something, the thing that they want you to, to concern a lot is about, concern about other people. Like when you go outside, you may thought about your right. You have a right to do this, you have a right to do this. But here, even if you know that you have a right to do something, but it’s like you have to concern about other people who live with you too. Not just do what you think that you have a right to do.
Can you think of any examples? Of how that’s taught or when someone is shown that in practice?
For example, like when we have dinner or when we have a meal. I mean you have a right to get the food as fast as you want, right? Nobody gonna force you to stop or nobody gonna control it. Or nobody gonna say anything if you just throw the food that you, you can’t eat it, you can’t finish it. But here, they mention this like, we are children, you know? Like you have to, before you take the food just take that you want. And you have to finish whatever you take it on your plate, or something like that. I mean, normally I don’t think that in other schools they mention it that much anymore. But in Xavier we still talk like this. So which is, the thing is different.
Right, yeah. Do you think, do professors talk about that in the classroom, or is it mainly outside of the classroom?
I think they talk it in the meeting. Because every Sunday they have a meeting, right? So every Sunday they have some topic to talk about.
And that’s like a school-wide meeting, right?
So what are some of the topics they talk about?
It depends. It depends on the situation, it depends on what’s going on in that way. If nothing serious happen or nothing much to update, at least we just kind of greet each other and see how things going for the students. In my, that’s what I see, right? Because I just live here just only two months, so that’s what I see.
Do you think, would a school that’s not Catholic or religious be as interested in how students are doing? Or do you, do you think that’s uniquely Catholic or do you think any school would do that?
Um, they might do it, but I don’t think that the students gonna pay a lot of attention. Or sit and listen that much. Even I feel like there’s, our student not listening too well, but is still better if compared to outside. I think they are still better than other school; they still like obey what you said. But they gonna do it or not gonna do, is a different story. But at least at that time they were listening and okay.
And do you think, I guess, on that idea of the concern for others. Do even non-Catholic students, like the Buddhist students, seem to take to that pretty well?
Yeah, I think they did it pretty well, because all of our students, they are not all the Catholics. But this kind of, like, when somebody start doing it, other, next person, next person start doing the same thing too. So I think it affects each other.
At least think about others, I mean.
Yeah. Can you think of, besides the food thing, other examples of how students kind of exemplify that?
Maybe about respect each other. Like the rules say 11:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., you can’t make the noise anymore. I mean, if they don’t concern about other people, they might still think that, “I will still do it, I don’t care.” Or whatever. But you can see that, start from 10:00 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., everybody is already quiet, so at least they obey the rule. They respect other people. I mean they think about, “Maybe other people did not like it too.” So that’s good.
Do you think, based on their religion, do students interact with other students differently? Or do they all get along in spite of it, of religious differences?
I think that they don't feel like their religion is the boundary between them. They just be XLC students and they just feel like they are one. I don’t think that religion matters to them that much. They don’t feel like, “You are Christian; I am Buddhism.” I don’t think that they feel that way. They just feel, because when you come to XLC, you like XLC.
What is, can you think of an example of how XLC kind of creates that sense of oneness? Like are the professors doing that, anything like that?
What? We are XLC?
Yeah, yeah. That idea that, “We are all XLC, and that’s what’s most important.”
Well, in that part, in the way that they try to help each other about their, their communication in English. Because no one make fun of each other. Even you said it wrong or you pronounced the word like, they don’t make fun of each other, but they might say that, “Hey, did not say like this, or did not say like this.” They like try to help each other, but not just like, “Hey, you said it wrong,” or not making fun each other in their English, because they know that nobody perfect in English. They come here to study. This is XLC try to encourage them to speak in the correct way in English so I don’t, I think I never see them make fun of each other about the English before. But they might laugh because bored of, like, they are shy when they have to speak in English, but they might laugh. But is not like they make fun of their friend. They try to, “Maybe this one. Maybe this one. What? How to use this one?” They try to help each other because they know that they are together so they want everybody good together.
Do you think that in other schools students would be more likely to make fun of each other?
Uh, in Thai, yeah. Because sometimes, I don’t know why, but when it comes to term of speaking foreign language they kind of make fun of each other. They did not mean to do it. I mean, they did not, they did not feel like they be mean to make fun of that. They just think like it’s a joke, but then it can, it can reduce somebody’s confidence to speak. I think it’s the Thai culture thing too, that they did not take that kind of thing seriously.
And what is it about students at XLC that makes them not do that so much, do you think?
I think one part, they know they do not, they did not, they know that English is not our native language, right? And English is just for communicate. So as long as you can communicate by using English is fine. It doesn’t mean that you are better because you can speak English. Or I am not smart because I can’t speak English. English is just a tool to communicate. It’s just something that you gonna use it for, maybe using it for a living some day, but it’s nothing that you can bring it to judge other people I think.
Do you know, can you think of what that kind of mentality would come from? Like, do professors at Xavier tell students that? How do they develop that kind of understanding?
Part, I think part of it, the teacher also tell them. And part of it like they just know, because I think they are older enough, they are adapt enough, like they also been through the high school situation. And when they move here, I think the way that the people practice English is different in school. And they also have like the foreign country here that try to speak with them and also encourage them to just, “Speak, speak!” So I think they feel more comfortable to speak English even it’s not the correct pronunciation or even it’s not the correct accent or whatever. But they feel more comfortable by using it every day, every day. And because, normally if you speak English with Thai, and you know that like Thai speaking English, it sounds funny and awkward, right? But here, since you live together for 24/7, it feel like, I think they feel close to each other. And they feel more comfortable to use any language that they try to say it in.
That makes sense. So you mentioned all the foreigners coming in to help teach. How do you think that influences like life and learning at Xavier? Having so many foreign nationalities around.
It lets them know the different accent from different countries, because even you thought that you, your English is good. But when it comes to term of speaking with foreigners, sometimes it’s still difficult to get the word, right? So when they experience to talk with different nation, different accent, different people, I think they also gain more confidence to catch the accent, to catch the thing. And also learn about the perspective from, from the foreigner country, too. Like, “This is what you do in your country, and that’s what I do in my country.” So they have like, not just only English, but also exchange thing and idea and maybe inspire in each other some way.
Can you give me some examples of how, some of the perspectives people have shared?
Umm, in my point of view, like if I look at my students and I look at the foreign students right, I mean the volunteer students. Our students like, they are confident enough to speak, but sometimes their responsibility in their job, in their studying, not well enough if compared to the volunteer student. Which is, they are, they are study without, you don’t have to, I mean. The way that, because we know that they study hard to pass, they take their studies seriously. But our students sometimes I feel like they did not take it seriously, and they did not read a lot of books or they did not try to understand that much. Which is sometime I saw, I saw the volunteer helping our student. I think that they, and actually the volunteer is like younger than our student, but the way that they teach them, I think our student might learn something, that they should do something more to, to understand thing. They might not say it like, I think it’s gonna be like some inspiration for our student to learn. “Look at the Gamma kids, they still have to teach us,” and because they read more, something like that. Our student did not read a lot, but it just not our student, I think it’s part of the Thai culture, too, I think.
Sorry, what exactly is it that’s part of the Thai culture?
Like we don’t take studies seriously. And we just like, maybe take it, maybe some schools like high competition take it very seriously, but for us we just like, “Okay, just make it pass. Pass.” I mean, I was that kind of person too when I was young, but at least I concerned about to grade myself. I also concern, I’m not compete with the friend, but I just want to do my best at least to get the best grade that I can, right? And I remember when I was young, even come to term of English, because we don’t have the electric dictionary thing, the smartphone thing, so we just have to open the dictionary from like very cheap dictionary, not the proper dictionary too. But we have to look at every word and try to find the meaning, every word. You open it again and again. And when I look back I feel like, even I thought that I did not work hard, but it seem like I did something. But then when I look at the student right now, they are like too much on Google Translate, which is sometimes like, “No, no, no, not a good idea.” Something like that.
That makes a lot of sense. Can you tell me a little more about your experience learning English when you did?
When, oh, when I was young there were so many foreigner volunteer came to our village with the missionary right, to build the water supply or toilet or whatever in our village. Because at that time, when I was young, our village was still very urban, right? Rural or urban?
Rural. So I, just only thing that I feel at that time is like I want to know what they were talking about. Because it sound strange to me, but then I just want to understand. I don’t want to feel like stupid, like I do not know what they’re talking about, right? That just only that little spark that I felt. And then I enjoyed like, I enjoyed speaking with foreigner. Even the tourists or whatever, I just, just a little chance to speak with them like in that way. But mostly I learned, I study English through the music I think. At that time we hear like a tape-cassette right, a cassette-tape, that they have the lyric inside. So I just rolled the paper out, and no typing yet, so you need to write the words out on your paper and then you just, which one that I did not understand I just circle or underline that word. And then open my dictionary word by word.
That’s very impressive, huh.
But because you enjoy it when you know the lyric. And when you were young, things a little bit, you just know the exact word, but you don’t know to translate all the woman sing. Because in one word, they have so many meaning and you did not know. And nobody, nobody tell you, right? Because I once start the ABC when I was 11 years old. Which is right now, they start the ABC at 3 years, 4 years, very early for us. And our teacher wasn’t, wasn’t that good if compared to the teacher right now. Because they might know about the teaching theory, but they also did not use English for reality. So they teach us the vocabulary, they teach us the sentence that we should know, but for real communication I did not think that they know a lot too at that time. Or even right now if I better than, than other teacher. But anyway, the thing that they need is to appreciate well. And that’s why the beginning of the thing, I did not take English serious, but when I have free time I just like opened the vocabulary book for fun or sometime they have some, how they say, phrase? Right?
And I just open it like, “How did they use it? How do they use it? How do they put it in a sentence?” I did not like really copy it down, but I just want to know how to example, every day, every day we did. And I think reading help a lot too.
Reading books in English?
Uh, not English yet. I start reading in English, real reading in English, when I was in probably first thing when I was in university. But my vocabulary still really bad at that time; everything was new to me. But then, because I went to America, right? Even people thought that I really good at English, but then I could not communicate with my host family. Because my accent or whatever, I did not, they did not understand what I say. And I could not put my sentence naturally or make it sound like people speaking. So I start reading a lot, because I catch the words from the reading. And I think better and better. And after idea, by not using or reading in English, in Thai at all, I think I get better then.
So I’m sorry if I missed this, but did you, like, in high school did you have English classes?
Mhhmm. If we have English classes. Two class or maybe three class per week. Or maybe, I don’t know. But they have like two subjects. One for English, one for main English, one for elective English. Something like that. I’m not sure how many, how many class per week. I forgot about it.
But you took the English classes?
Yes, I took the, we took the English class. But mostly they focus on grammar and quality. And how to use this one, this one.
Yeah, is that what you meant by English for reality? When you said they didn’t really teach that?
No, I mean when you speak like general, like normal speaking. Because even they teach English in the class they still teach in Thai. And they just give you sentence and you have to put it in the grammar, in the right word. Or read it correctly. Or translate it. That’s it. But they don’t have the thing like the conversation with, like you talk. They may have a role-play, but that’s very funny because you just try to remember everything and you speak like you remember it. Like a robot speaking. It’s not like right the way we’re talking.
That makes sense.
But because our school is also far from the big city, so we did not have a lot of the foreign teachers come to our village. Or we don’t have an English teacher who is foreign teacher because it’s too expensive.
And so I guess, how would you describe the differences between how Xavier teaches and how your high school taught English?
Totally different, I think. In XLC, we encourage the student to speak. Even you are Thai, even you know that they can speak Thai, but we try to speak English with them. Which is at least reduce the shyness or reduce the uncomfortable thing that they don’t want to speak it. But in Thai school, you don’t even speak in English. They just expect everything in Thai, right? You just need to, you just need to get a score. It’s not like in the practical terms that you have to speak it or think about it. Here we encourage the students speak more. And also in the three ways, reading, speaking, writing, and also at the critical, in everything like critical reading, critical writing, in everything too. So I kind of push them a lot, but anyway it’s not pushing to get a score it’s just pushing them to use it more.
So it’s fine, but then if they have to do it, sometimes they might get stressed a little bit. Like how do they gonna make it good for themselves. But I think it’s fun to see themselves and to see their friends to show some expression about using English in the topic that they try to express. In XLC, they teaching English in more practical terms. Like using. In school, we just, like, in the book and that’s it. And if you speak English in the class, you make an accent or you make something, they might laugh at you and they might say something like joking at you, and you not gonna do it again. You feel like you not gonna do it again. You feel like you not gonna do it again. But here, you can make an accent, you can put some… you can do whatever you want, nobody gonna judge you here.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Why do you think that Xavier focuses so much more on practical English versus memorization?
Because I think when you do a practical a lot, when you do it in the practical term a lot, you using it naturally. So one day if you have to do something, do something or with your job or whatever you have to do it, it just come out naturally. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable or to feel like lack of confidence using it. It’s just gonna be like, “Okay, I’m gonna do it. It’s fine.” It’s like you don’t feel like you have to push.
That makes sense. And what would you say, as a kind of an institution, what are Xavier’s major goals with its students?
Hmm. I think they want, at least they want to support the children who is, like, doesn’t have a lot of opportunity. Like as others. Maybe they, their family have some family issue or finance issue or whatever. At least I think they want to give that opportunity to the, the young adult. And for them, doing something good for themselves and also doing something good for the others in the future if they can. So they may not, I don’t think that they expect that you have to do something good. But they just want you, just want them to feel that the good thing that you receive from XLC will make you like, do something for others in the future.
Can you give me an example or a reason why you feel that way?
Because I think the, the priests here are the person who take care of the XLC. I mean sometimes they give without asking anything back in turn, right? Maybe just helping each other to keep the rule because right now we live like, more people live in here together. We need sometimes, we need to stay under the rule a little bit to keep everything under control. But they did not ask like, “If I give you money, you need to give it back. If I give you a scholarship, you need to take it back to me someday.” They never mention things like that before. They just like okay, if they thought that it’s good for the student, they give it to them. If they thought that it’s good that one person, they just gave it to them. Or even in my case, when I was in like, when they support us to go to the, to go to the Australia, right? I did not know what they thinking, but then they just gave us, and four of us, I think that was a lot of money too actually. And they never asked anything back or asked that you have to work for us or asked that you have to do something return. They never asked like this.
But it’s just like that grateful, it just start in our memory, our mind. Like, “We got this for free, so whatever that we can do some day, we, I would like to do it.” And I think at least that kind of thing will be in, in part of our students’ memory and be part of them too. So some day if they can do anything that can support others, I think they will do the same thing too.
So do students seem to recognize, to like recognize and accept that idea? That they should help others later?
Not so sure about that. Right now they might spirit, because they still have lots of things going on in their minds. I think they have a dream; they have so many things that they want to do. They young and they like hot-blooded. So whatever that you said it today, they might not feel it yet. But one day when they are mature enough and been through lots of things, and I think, even you, even it’s not like, even we feel like you are not good, but I think that good part is always in every each of them. That’s what I feel. Even sometimes we complain a lot about, “You did not study enough, you!” Blah, blah, blah. Anyway, if compared to many students outside, I still believe that our students have some good part inside them. But just, it’s not right, maybe it’s not the right time to show it, but it’s in there. It’s in there.
I guess, can you think of specific things, other than what we’ve talked about, that XLC does to kind of cultivate that goodness that everyone has?
Let me think of how to phrase this. Can you think of specific things that XLC does to make sure, or to teach students how to act well or use that goodness? Does that make sense?
I'm not sure that they, I’m not sure that they teach in the way of teaching like word by word, but I think they teach by doing it. We can see from our priests, like for our priests they work hard and that and they never, like, they never complain that they work hard. They just doing it, and they doing it for other students. And I think the students know this. So they teaching by not telling, but they teaching by doing it every day, every day. And all of us actually, we know how much they sacrifice their own personal time for us, so I think they, they see it every day. They learn it every day. And one day it’s gonna be, they gonna, how do you say it, little by little they gonna, things gonna happen in their lives from seeing it and seeing through it.
Yeah, that makes sense. So what do you think would like motivate the priests here to give so much of themselves?
Not so sure about that because they might have some background, history, that they might experience something that I do not know what. Which is, that's what they, that's what they feel like. That's what's meaningful for their lives to do something like that. Because for me, when I came here, I cam back here because of one thing. I feel like the Jesuits gave me an opportunity to open my experience too, right?
And another thing is when you, when you working, even you get a lot of money but you don’t feel happy with it. You don’t feel like you do anything good in that work, except the money. Every day, every day it’s not, it’s not what you think, something like that. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I’m not, I just know that I’m not happy in that position right now. But when you feel like you doing this and it’s good for some people… I mean I used to be that shy student who did not have a lot of opportunity to learn, who did not have a person, a proper person to teach me or who need to try harder than others because we did not have enough of materials or whatever. So right now I feel like, if I have something in myself that I can give it to others, I should do it. Especially with the Jesuits because how much that I make, just a little part that I got that from that time, but it change a lot of point of view because you went out of the world and you see things different, you understand things different. And you kind of grow up inside. So that’s why I think that if I could do just a little thing that can help with them and to make them stronger here or to give them something, I should do it.
And I think they might feel, the other priests might experience something like that too. That’s why they feel like it's valuable to work here, it's valuable to do everything for other students.
Do you think that all the volunteers and staff like yourself feel the same then?
I’m not sure about the, not sure about the foreign staff because they just finished their high school and they came from the, I think they came from the rich family. Most of them they came from the very rich family. But anyway it’s good thing that they try to experience something different from their own environment, which is maybe they might learn something from here too. They might see something different too.
Do you have anything in particular you think that foreigners learn when they come here?
They might learn that they really lucky with the things that they have because sometimes… You never know when you have something, sometimes you forget the value of it. So maybe because they live, if you live in, like, all the rich family environment, right, you might feel like you still not raise enough income compared to someone else. But when they come here, they might realize that, “Oh, what I have is really many things already.” And also the little things like, even we, we are Thai people, we study hard about grammatical things in English, and they don’t even care. I mean it’s not like they don’t care, but because they use it naturally, even you, you use it naturally. You don’t understand why we have to learn like, “This one need to put s or this one not s or this one need to change form.” But we have to remember all of the things, so maybe if sometime they feel like, “Oh, that guy speak English funny.” They might understand it now, right? That he work hard to just communicate in your language. It’s not, it’s not easy for us. Every vocabulary is like, we have to learn everything. Every vocabulary, every single detail that you don’t feel like you have to.
Yeah. So how would having, so you’ve had a very similar experience to a lot of the students, right? How would you say that has influenced how you teach?
Okay, so at least I know that, so when I see my student I know that this one maybe need to improve in the vocabulary, this one need to improve in pronunciation, this one already smart but need more encourage to study hard, something like that. So I try to encourage them in a different way. Sometimes I use the nice words; sometimes you need to be harsh with some kind of student. It depends. But it did not mean like we, I dislike the student. Like just some of the people want a different encouragement. But I mostly, I try to be friend so they can talk or they can say anything.
So you try and be their friend?
At least try to be friend and we can talk about anything. And if something is too much to tell or not to say, should not say, so I just, “No, no, no. Not a good term to speak.” Because the students they love to learn about the slang words and sometimes bad words, which is no need to use in my class. Or something like that. But well, they can say it and we can, I can give them an explain how to use it properly, which situations to use that word, but please don’t use it in my class.
Right. I guess, can you just tell me a little more about how you try to be the students’ friend? Like is that just by engaging with them, or what does that look like?
I, because I talk about everything with them actually. I mean I answer lots of questions, even personal details, which I do not mind to answer about love life or something like that. Because in this age, they care so much about the love life, right? So when they ask I answer. And I ask back. Some answer, some not answer. I do not force them, but just like, just make it like a topic. It’s not like thing that we gonna attach each other some day. It’s just like normal talk. Like you talk with your friend, you talk with your, you talk about the thing that they like or they don’t like. Like book, movie, or whatever. But mostly they like to talk about the love life. They gonna say, “That friend have a boyfriend. That friend have a girlfriend.” Okay, okay, okay, or whatever. They make fun of each other about these things. I don’t really know like which one is true or which one is not true, but whatever. When you mention about love, it seems like the atmosphere in the class like, everyone have a thing to tell, to talk. So, I think it’s the easy topic to talk with them. But if somebody take it really serious, you just like, “If you don’t want to talk it’s okay. We just listen to another thing.”
Do you think, do most Thai teachers do that? Or is that kind of an uncommon thing? To be so open with your students?
I think most Thai teachers doing that.
Here, or everywhere?
Everywhere. But maybe not in, not in the high school. In high school, maybe not everyone that you can talk like that. But here, because we have a small group right, just 12 or 13 in a class, so we can talk. We have time to chitchat. But for outside, in the high school, they have like 30 students or even 50, I think. Not enough time to talk like that, but some of the students might be close to the teacher so they can talk, everything. But not like it here.
Is there anything else about Xavier, besides small classes, that helps with that relationship building?
Um, I think uniform is part of it too. Because when you don’t have uniform you don’t feel the boundary between each other. You just feel the same, right? Good part is you feel like you close, but another point, if they don’t respect the teacher, that’s bad. Which is, right now not really happen yet so it’s fine. Because when you don’t have uniform you feel more comfortable to talk each other, to get to know each other I think. But when you have uniform, something a little bit, you distance yourself a little bit. Because you know that teacher, that student or something like that. But with normal clothes, I don’t feel that way.
That makes sense. Is there any way that you think religion influences the relationship between students and teachers, or not so much?
Um, in some way too, I think. Like when students are down, if they have religion, and you mention about faith or you mention about believing in God or you mention like, “Calm down, keep praying.” If you are the same religion, I think that’s easier to talk about. Or even you are different religion but when you talk about, “Keep your faith in whatever you believe,” you have that, something about believing in something, which is, you understand that feeling of have faith in something. So you can do it or not, you might do it or not, you never know. But when you talk about, “Calm down and keep your faith in whatever you believe,” you understand what it’s like, but when they come to the practical term, we don’t know. Maybe you try this, but sometimes you too weak to keep your faith or whatever.
And just to ask a few final things, can you just tell me a little about your role at Xavier? So you’re responsible for teaching, like, what classes? Anything like that.
Right now I’m teaching two classes. One called Listening, in Summer, and another one is Speaking, in Freshman.
Wait, that was Listening for Sophomore?
For Summer, Summer.
Oh, so the new students?
Yes, the new students. Which is help a lot, because they have very limited vocabulary.
Yeah, that makes sense.
And the speaking, the speaking in Freshman.
Right, and besides teaching those classes, is there anything else you’re responsible for at Xavier?
Not really. Like, not really in, like, speaking role, but just do anything that they need help in that time. And I also teach two extra, how to say it, because they are two of students very, very behind their friend. So I tutor them, like use my own time to tutor them three days a week. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Start from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. at night. Because they need a lot of, to catch up with their friends. They don’t even know the vocabulary for the part of the body. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, whatever. They don’t know how to spell it. Or color, month, they’re very, very behind their friends. Which is, I don’t know how to help them, but at least I hope that I can be anything helpful for them. I don’t know yet. Because right now they don’t have, the Summer don’t have STOU yet. Like the one that they have to get a grade. They just take the XLC course, but after August they have to take that one too. Which is if they have to do, they’re bored, and they still feel that it’s gonna be very tough.
I guess, did the extra tutoring, did XLC ask you to do that? Or did you take that on yourself?
Because, not really asking but because we want to help the, I mean XLC want to help the students so there’s no other way. I mean the priests already have lots of things to do already. The foreigner volunteer, they can’t explain it in Thai. Because they need a lot of Thai explanation, so that’s why I do it.
That makes sense. And how long, do you know how long you’ll be at Xavier?
Well, actually I should have, if I really want to teach at Xavier I should have a master’s degree. But right now I don’t have master’s degree. So mostly I just helping; right now I just a volunteer teacher. But I’m not sure, maybe after, by the end of this year I should apply for any university to do the master’s degree, to finish the master’s degree. Which is the Jesuits will be the one that, I think the Jesuits will be the ones that support us, but I don’t know where. I don’t know when.
Would that just be a master’s in teaching? Or English language?
It can be anything but they prefer, they prefer it in teaching I think. But I think I’m gonna choose the literature, which is more interesting to me if compared to the other part.
And after you get your master’s, what would your plan be?
Back here teaching.
Yes, I think so. I have been a lot of area, and lots of jobs. Move from place to place a lot. But since I came, the last decision that I think I’m gonna move here. I’m gonna do it for the last place. Because they have, they still have lots of things to do here I think. They need lots of staff, and I don’t think they can hire a lot of people right now because hire people is complicated. It concern many things. So at least if I can help them until everything going in that process, so I think I would love to.
And I guess, what is it that makes you want to stay at Xavier for a long period of time?
Well, first of all, I think it’s cause of, it’s the Catholic school too. So you work something, it just not work, but it’s also something like serving God’s love or God’s job or something. Which is, has more meaningful. And also, it’s also about education and helping with the ethnic students, the ethnic group young adult. Because I also a Karen, right? So I feel like, if they grow up, if they have something good in their life, I feel like I, it’s one of my successful to see the students grow up and can, how to say, can reach whatever they want to. Can reach their goal. So I still want to see that from year to year. Because right now they are just beginning, so many of them maybe still have a hard time to, to go through their goal. To get their goal. But if Xavier like grow up stronger, bigger, I think they can do more things to others. Which is, I would like to be that part of the students.
That makes sense. And I guess, just so you said because Xavier’s Catholic, teaching here is more like service. Would that be any teaching job would be service, or is it just because of something unique about Xavier?
So you said that teaching here felt like service. Would teaching at another high school also be service, or is it only Xavier that feels like that?
It’s also service too I think, but it’s just, if I can do maybe, it depends. If I teaching at others and they have enough teachers or they, they have, like, everything they need already, they have every support already, I don’t think that I am needed there.
So you feel uniquely needed here?
It’s better to be somewhere that you are needed.
That’s all the questions I have. Do you have any last thoughts or anything you’d like to add?
Not really. I don’t have anything, no.
Perfect, thank you so much.