A Day In Changmai

CELTA completed I had 24 hours in Chiang Mai before heading back to Korea. After an evening  with my fellow CELTA students and trainers at the Gecko Garden expat bar I looked forward to my day of tramping. I’d been in the city 25 years before but was bedridden for three days with Delhi Belly. This is my photo diary of the day

The walled city of Chiang Mai was established as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom by King Mengrai in 1296. It was at this time he ordered the city be protected by a wall, moat and 4 gates. The wall measures 1800 x 2000 metres and took 90,000 men 4 months to raise.

I passed through Chiang Ruak (East Gate) around 8:30am. There seems to be a military presence at each of Chiang Mai’smain gates but they act as a police force and there was no sign of weaponry. After stopping for an egg butty at the Art Cafe on Tha Phae Road,  I came to my first temple, Wat Mehawan which at the rear housed a massage school and service. Over the road Wat Chetawan housed more pariah dogs than monks, the stone dragons had ruby-red glass eyes which caught the morning sun. Further along Wat Buppharam house a menageries of richly painted stone animals among which chickens squawked before hitting the pot for lunch. Adjacent to this was a side street of graffiti including a rather fetching willy. I stopped to snap an ageing monk sucking on his first of many daily fags before crossing over into Wichayanon Road.

This is an area of textile merchants and also home to Warorot Market. An endless stream of smiling Thai ladies hustled around the market, many taking advantage of the multitude of tiny effervescent restaurants serving cheap and tasty Thai cuisine. I spent some time here just watching and enjoying the buzz. A couple of minutes away is the Ping River where I had a great Thai coffee (a quarter of the price of coffee in SK) which came in a real cup (unlike Korea) with a variety of add-one such as an almond biscuit (unlike Korea).

As I left I scraped my toe on a badly laid flag (just like Korea) and a fruit vendor jumped forward to help. After a good few minutes comforting she produced a plaster to cover my tiny wound, what a lovely country Thailand still is. I headed past the night bazaar and over a bridge which had a sculpted family of rats sat atop it. Crossing over the moat I skirted the city wall before strolling south-west towards the “silver” temple which as I would find out later was the wrong silver temple. I snapped some vibrant graffiti and when I arrived at my silver temple the pariah dogs had followed.  The monks chased them off with brooms before giving me some green tea.

I was meeting Rachel for lunch and worked out the town park (Nong Buak Hard) was on the way back so I pottered across the moat into the southwest corner of the walled city before lunch.  The 90p wonton soup was great, after this R set off with her shopping list and I went for coconut cake and coffee at the stone carvers café. I continued to  wander north stopping at more temples and register g further graffiti snaps.

Meeting Rachel at 7:15pm we headed to ten jazz bar near the North Gate for a farewell party. My 24 hours in Chiang Mai left me wanting more! The city is a place that you can quickly can see yourself living in. The people are welcoming, the food is delicious, and for those of us considering a working life on the road – the internet is fast (unless you at the AssaredeviTowers in Hang Dong).Chiang Mai’s a place where for every temple there is a 7-11 store, and for every monk in robes, a begging child in rags. There’s an army of travellers with dreadlocks and baggy trousers who sit alongside the posh voiced public schoolboy sorts from the UK who are on the search for “real” adventure. It’s also so compact visitors can walk from the railway station to Thapae Road,  where there are major banks, many popular guesthouse belt and family owned shopping outlets.

The pace of life in Chiang Mai is refreshingly slower than in Bangkok, giving it a sleepy ambiance that adds to its charm. Chiang Mai is everything Bangkok isn’t.

Before I go let me summarise my CELTA experience. Firstly my”grammarphobia” is still intact and fixing it an ongoing motivation prior to my next teaching job. I have taken some steps on the road to recovery such as downloading all the Cambridge Apps and taking some further time out to travel. But CELTA the highs and the lows.

Firstly the advice is correct cancel the weekend, my first day off was the Saturday after it finished. During the course our only relaxation time was around 2 hours on a Saturday evening when we share a bus to the BIG C supermarket to stock up on cheese, chocolate  and other provisions.

The people; well my fellow learners were mostly incredible and very supportive and I’m sure many of us will keep the important network of friends we  have made through this shared experience.

Some advice, plan and stage lessons the CELTA way, your style has to take a back-seat even if it’s worked for you in the past. Don’t wait until the last-minute, and use your weekend time (what time) productively. Learn to forget TV and movies unless you’re having a bath! Now for my first ‘area for improvement’, I always thought I was pretty good at explaining tasks and I don’t know if it was having an audience but I sort of botched up a few times. My advice slow down, always put your script on the lesson plan and demonstrate the activity when possible. Make sure you have lots of aesthetic activities to cut TTT and increase STT. Always, always, always check learners understanding with ICQs, never ask them if the understand.

Personalise the lessons and use authentic materials and scenario’s. Always check they understand the meaning of the target language, that they get the form and function of the grammar and you give them ample speaking practice so that you can listen to their pronunciation and correct errors.

Remember, a picture really is worth 1000 words – use photos, charts or diagrams to replace long verbal explanations. Cline’s, timelines and scaffolding will become your crutches.

Use a single context in a lesson and always try to connect words / grammar concepts into a single context or storyline. It’s also a good idea (particularly in weeks 3 and 4) to work closely in your team and share ideas and themes. In saying that try to experiment with new ideas, one of my co-teachers was complimented for her bravery in trying Test Teach Test (TTT)and Guided Discovery (GD) methods as well as Situation Presentations (SP). My view (after completion) is that SP is necessary for Elementary classes, TTT is fine with Intermediate (C2 and above) but GD is only going to work well with more advanced learner. This is my general opinion not a rule.

We were told to speak normally in an authentic way and not slowly as was my previously indoctrinated view. It has to be said that peers who didn’t follow the mantra and accentuated everything did not seem to have a grade affected by this, neither did finishing a lesson too early without having more activities available. Bizarre really.

Keep calm over criticism and be ready for inconstancy in both marking and feedback. Complain on Skype to family and friends rather than at the trainers who are often freelance but all know their stuff. It can be hard when you’re are honest about your areas for improvement  and the negatives still keep coming back at you. What I found is I made mistakes even though I knew what I was doing was sometime off-key.

Essentially the day began at 5:30am for me. I worked all day, every day until 11 or 12 at night. The hardest part was that when we started teaching practice or observation I’d already been up 12 hours and my brain was heading towards meltdown through information overload.

Remember  language grading. New teachers either forget to simplify to the students’ level, or they oversimplfy their language in a way that can  cause problems

Too much Teacher Talking Time (TTT) is sacrilege, more STT is sacrosanct. Teachers should only talk when necessary; hate the sound of your own voice and love “Judy’s”. The lesson should be 30:70, TTT/STT if possible, but in a grammar/reading/writing main focus lesson it’s often impossible. Aim for 50:50 and you won’t go far wrong.

Use a variety of activities and as many Kinaesthetic ones as possible, don’t always put students in the same pairs/groups to do work and separate learners if one student starts to dominate answers and speaking activities.

In a 45 minute class time is a precious commodity, always think about ways time can be saved. For example, instead of writing correct answers to questions on the board get students to carry out peer review and feedback.

When students are working in groups, don’t either sit on your ass twiddling your thumbs or interrupt them, just let them get on with it and monitor from a distance. Pick out any errors and correct later. Circle the room, listen to students strengths and weaknesses. This can be a good time to take notes on students for your assignment on “The Learner”.

Beware the echo, it will be yours! A student says “I had a date,” and you say “Oh, you had a date!” Remember they don’t think you are praising them repeating what they say, they think your criticising.

I’m done; so many other things to consider! I’m still awaiting the email to say that they’re recommending a pass but I’m pretty confident that is what it will be. I learned a lot and reinforced what I knew I needed to improve, so it was a trying and tiring “success” but ultimately worthwhile.

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