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I had just flown from Bangkok to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and was heading for Euro 2000: the European Football competition between neighbouring European countries. Slightly jet-lagged and a lack of sleep, I exited the airport and first went to Amsterdam Central Railway Station. I headed straight for the railway station to throw my bag in storage. It was certainly too bulky and heavy for my next experience. I was soon walking freely away from Amsterdam station, and I could now go off to the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven to see England play Portugal. Beckham and Figo et al head to head. Despite the excitement of this, I had actually booked a ticket to see the rock group Oasis in Hamburg the following day after the match; this initially was really my only plan. I had been a fan since the early days, and they were always worth seeing live anywhere in the world. So, as I strolled around Amsterdam at least I knew now I had to get from Eindhoven to Hamburg somehow.
I spent an interesting night in Amsterdam and then the next day went off down to Landgraaf by train. Talking to someone after a few drinks the night before, I had found out about a music festival; it was the PinkPop rock festival about an hour or so from Amsterdam. To my delight, it actually had Oasis playing and was not far from Eindhoven, I thought. I always remember going to this festival as I never had a ticket. As I got there in the morning, I saw lots of music lovers in a field. Various thoughts came to mind but I spent a good 30 minutes looking at how to jump the fence to get in for free. I made my move and was soon over a fence and in. This was only to find out that it was for tents/camping and the festival was in another field through more security and barriers. Anyway, I got a ticket for a cheap price, so it was not any hassle. The festival finished (I got to see Oasis without Noel Gallagher), and my next move was to think about the football. I ended up getting the train to another town one stop down from Eindhoven as the town was full of what seemed like England football fans who had taken over every hotel. Each hotel I went into to ask for a room in Eindhoven had so many football fans milling around singing and every place had no vacancies. I eventually spent the night in a hotel in the next town albeit it was full of Orange as the Netherlands were playing; the next night was the big match.
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Bangkok is polluted, the smoke filled air from the early morning commuters with their cars, coming from their brand new condos, making their way to work serve to highlight the dramatic contamination levels this city has reached. Recent news from the Pollution Control Department that Bangkok’s air has reached critical levels can only confound worry. Bangkok people have learnt to put up with the pollution and ignore the three main worries associated with it; new high rise buildings, abundance of cars and filthy air. These factors will be classified in this essay.
The first factor is the brand new condos and apartments line every street in Bangkok these days. These new building have sprouted out of the ground to collect more people into a smaller areas of Bangkok. The sad fact is, there are little or no zoning laws. These seductively built premises neatly situated within eyeshot of major thoroughfares maybe appealing for the commuter belt brigade of workers but on already congested toll ways, roads and little sois, there really is no room for 50 or more families in their sparkling new condos. There are definitely signs of an oversupply of condos in Bangkok. The Government has noticed this too and has dropped the bank lending of 100% to only 90% of apartments less than 10 million baht which had made it too enticing for speculators but this will not stop the builders as they change tack and move into other avenues to entice more people into Bangkok.
Another factor is that there is no day off for traffic. Cars and buses clog the city twenty four seven. Benzene levels over Bangkok are well over the general limit. Medical studies have proved that long exposure to benzene exposure brings on cancer but this information must be kept quiet. Euro 4, one of the benzene petrol distributors have said they will try to reduce the levels of benzene emissions from 3.5% to 1%. This in itself is a great idea but what about the past and Bangkok’s contact with the smog that envelopes the city everyday. To compound the problem, these Bangkok people keep buying new cars. The roads are littered with red number plates, even with all the expense car ownership incurs; as long traffic jams every morning still grow larger. Bangkokians still continue to see their motors as prestige items.
One last aspect of pollution is the air which may seem clean to Bangkokians, some of them actually think their level of pollution is normal, but the air is not clean, dust particles lay in the atmosphere. These dust particles which can only be measured in microns of measurement that float around exceed the normal rate of air quality. Ozone levels were also found to be 0.2 percent higher than normal and volatile organic compounds were double the normal rate. Most of the 6.7 million residents are taking this air in. Plants and vegetation should help this but with not that many green areas the plants can’t give off air to cleanse and cool the area while the temperature keep rising. This heat is added to by the concrete building which retain their heat so Bangkok is still hot at night.
To conclude, there are many examples of the ways Bangkok is becoming more polluted. The truth is the Government should wake up to the dangers of air pollution but with the sheer vast amount of traffic on the streets of Bangkok it is going to a hard task. They have started the underground and BTS which unluckily invites construction but expansion of this transportation seems a distant dream and the sad aspect, Bangkok people must have given up on that vision too.
On the topic of the recent flooding in 2011 in Thailand, I was able to access the thoughts of ten Bangkok university students to gather enough data to enlighten me as to how best to proceed with putting together my essay. I first questioned what they already knew about the subject and what their attitudes toward the flooding were. I left some guesswork up to such questions as to their general age and cultural status was.
One of the first questions I asked the ten people was whether the flood directly affected them. I wanted to know whether the water got into their houses. Of all the ten answers received, not one was in the affirmative. A unanimous “no” to such a question both surprised and pleased me since it meant my job was that much more straightforward. I knew now I had to bring the flood to them. My essay now had a clearer purpose, namely to make this ongoing crisis more of an urgent reality to be collectively acknowledged as opposed to a distant one as it currently seems to be for the ten people I spoke with.
I elaborated the first question further with another that asked if any of them had seen the floods personally. All but three said ‘no’, and even the first and second of those two had to get out via the train because of where they lived to avoid the water that may or may have not come. The third said there was water surrounding her neighborhood, but not enough to keep her from coming and going as she pleased. We also asked if any of them had trouble finding food. They all said food was easy to get, it was the clean water that people had a hard time getting.
I then conducted three polls, first I gave three choices to the question; Do you think the flood was natural, man-made, or both? Two said it was man-made, three said it was naturally caused, leaving a majority of the remaining five who chose both. Citing the tourism industry, poor management, and global warming as just some of the causes for why the flooding has been worse than it has in the past. The second poll, which asked whether the flooding will happen again, yielded yet another unanimous vote saying ‘yes’. This indicated that the group was well aware that the flooding is going to get worse and more frequent if something does not change very soon. When asked how soon the next major flood will occur, seven said “in the next few years,” with one each saying “within a decade,” “in the next three to four years,” and 5th final one saying, “possibly sooner, next year if the drains are not fixed.”
Additionally, going by observations and some guesswork, the general age varied between the early twenties and thirties; the cultural status, albeit somewhat irrelevant in today’s globalized world, ranges from Chinese to Thai to German; the educational level is college-level; their economic status is likely middle-class on average; their occupations vary; and their attitudes toward me as an interviewer were in all likelihood positive, considering I gave them little reason to feel otherwise.
Looking over the results, I was much more confident than ever about my essay because I was no longer preparing for it blindly. It was all too evident that the flooding had a far less direct impact on the people I interviewed. Although some were greatly affected by this terrible occurrence, I did my best to bring about how this problem happened, what to do to prepare for it, and were things wrong in the first place. I feel most of the audience while fortunate for now will not be so lucky in the future. It tends to give a false sense of security to the people of Bangkok when no clear organization was shown from the beginning of this tragedy. Bangkok is predicted to be underwater in the next few years, within all of our lifetimes. This is a problem that should be addressed and remedied as quickly as possible, something my essay aims to do.
The ongoing Thai flooding sucks with almost $50 billion in damages including another $25 billion to get everything back to normal. This is all thanks to 20 billion cubic metres of rain. That is a lot of money, and a lot of water, earning Thailand the dubious distinction of having had the world’s fourth most expensive natural disaster happen to them. The most expensive one also happened earlier this year, which was… ? The Japanese earthquake and tsunami. This sure has been the year for natural disasters, hasn’t it?
Moreover, this is to say nothing of the almost 13 million people who have had their lives turned upside-down. That is about the entire population of Belgium or Greece! Yet of the ten people I interviewed last week, not one person was directly affected by the flood. While that is all very well and good for them, it would not be smart to treat this incredibly fortunate turn of events as anything but temporary… because it is temporary.
I do not want to alarm you, although alarm may be what it will take to get you into action, but we all know there is no stopping the icebergs from melting, which means the sea is getting more and more water, and we all know Bangkok is below sea levels. Where we are concerned, that is not a very good combination. And this flooding? It pales in comparison to its predecessors, of which there were many, six in the last decade alone (!), with the worst in 1942 having the water twice as high as ours. Hence “been there, done that…” raising the question of just what on earth the government, both old and new, has been doing if not making sure there won’t be another flood. I mean, is that what they’re supposed to be doing?
Instead, they have been reacting to the crisis and, when that did not work, keeping us thoroughly confused. Take all these helpful quotations, for instance, in chronological order. The flood is coming, it is getting better, oh it is not, but it will soon, not that soon, very soon. Is it any wonder, then, that some people, like myself and my family, decided that it was now every man and woman for themselves?
I live right next to this smelly khlong that we did not care to have overflowing into our house. It has happened before in 1995 and got to about hip-high. With all the contradictions coming from the government, we thought, screw it, we will prepare for the flood first and ask questions later. We had concrete barriers built around our front and back doors, sandbags bought, and the necessary manpower hired to lift the washing machine and refrigerator above ground level. And bought a boat, too! All of which came to just about 10,000 baht, including the cost to demolish the concrete barriers when we figured the water was not coming.
But I was one of the luckier ones. For others, the water did come.
Lesson from the Classroom
I would first like to say that I have enjoyed this last month immensely while learning a great deal of new material. I feel as though I have further recognized, with the help of the SIT course, what the teacher’s role is in the class, as much as the student’s role. I have learned not only about the teaching side, but also the manner/presence of the teacher in the classroom.
I have taught four-practice lessons so far since starting the course, and I have been trying to become more student-centered while challenging them also. I am more aware now that in the class everyone is equal. I am also aware that the teacher is there to help the students and to facilitate their learning and not lecture. This is why I have tried to focus on each student and recognize the weaker ones. There are various levels of students in the class and also different characters. I realize after doing this course to value every one of them.
I have also valued constructed criticism. One issue in mind was my voice and my delivery of speech during class. During some practice lessons, I have modeled some stories in the class and they have become a bit disjointed, by this I mean incomplete sentences. I am glad the instructors recognized this in me and I think I have tried dealing with it but I would still like to continue to work on it. Likewise, I am pleased that there were a lot of positive points from the instructors, namely my strengths in eliciting questions, answers, and information from the students as well as getting a more student-centered class. I feel as though my fourth practice teaching gave me this experience to adapt to what I had been taught. One case in point is, I had the students in two groups, then four groups, and then pairs all the time monitoring and eliciting. I think this made for a great lesson as long as there was a purpose to do this.
I also watched some of my peers from the course that gave me a great insight into what it is like to be a new ESL teacher. Some of the teachers, because they were absolute beginners, showed some telltale signs of teaching infancy, which was interesting and fascinating to watch. The best example would be talking too much during the class. I guess even more experienced teachers can still fall into that habit. But all the same, it makes a new teacher think that they may do it without thinking.
I think this course has made me see both sides of the classroom from the teachers’ and the students’ perspectives. I have definitely become more aware of how much effort and time the students need to put into a class to get any benefit out. I would like to use my German class as an example. I was an absolute beginner and found the lesson a little challenging. It made me think about how the students in my English class must feel. We have had many practice lessons like the German class where we (SIT Students) had lessons given to us (sometimes as imaginary students). One thing, I took from these was that they were interesting and kept me attentive. It made me feel that if the teacher loses the students’ interest the lesson is so much harder. I think that keeping the students’ interests includes recognizing their learning styles as well. For example, I am the sort of student who likes learning by doing. I cannot sit for long periods. I think Thai students are a bit like this as I have found if there is a game in the lesson, they love moving about. I remember one of Anna’s lessons. She had some slips of paper on her desk at the front. Two groups had to come up to the desk one from each group at a time and take a slip of paper. They then had to take it back to their group and read it out and try and guess the movie. This kinesthetic activity got the students excited and maybe more prone to learning. I think it worked well and showed how some students prefer learning. This is why it was interesting having these practice lessons because we could find out about students’ learning. The classes for the practice session I found were very mixed. We had students from many backgrounds. There were people from Korea, Japan, and Mexico. All of them had their reasons for studying English. It made for a range of styles and backgrounds to work on which I think is very helpful, especially for new teachers.
I have found over the course that I have come to focus more on being a facilitator to the students. I have started concentrating more on my lessons and what the students will get out of my teaching. I feel as though I want every lesson for the students to leave with knowing that bit more than they did before. I have also come to believe that the students need challenges. I think the students like that and anything less would not be just. I saw one lesson by another peer in our group whose delivery was excellent with added humor. I felt he had prepared and wanted to teach us (students for his lesson). It made me realize that if the students recognize that you are serious they will be as well.
I think also the ESL instructors have shown that they can make a hard job look easy. One trainer actually gave a lesson on how to give instructions. After the lesson, I realized that some teachers make their jobs so much harder by talking too much. Furthermore, I have come to realize that the teacher must do their job, but it is the students who need the practice in speaking not you, the teacher. I believe clear instructions that are based on an interesting lesson that challenges the students will work. I also have liked the feedback session. There have been times when I thought things did not go very well but the instructors always remained very positive. I think it made me think that there are always more positives than negatives and if anything you should just be constructive. Most of the practice lessons I saw, mine included, needed some work on but the feedback was always positive and constructive. Even things that didn’t go well can be positive as long as the teacher learns from the experience.
The question I am left with is where do I find more information to continue where I left off. This course has sent me on the right path. It has given more a lot of information that has expanded my teaching knowledge. It is now my goal to continue this. First of all, I would like to keep everything fresh in my mind so this means continuing to read books and articles because I am sure I can refer back to this course. I would also like in the future to be more fully qualified in teaching.
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