Inspired Teaching recently led a teacher training in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Deputy Director, Dave Yarmchuk, shares his reflections on the trip.
September is a wonderful time to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is the end of the rainy season, so it’s not too wet, and the throngs of tourists have yet to arrive. It’s also the beginning of the school year, and so it was a perfect time for me to lead Inspired Teaching’s first ever teacher training in Thailand. This was the culmination of six months of planning and preparation that began with an email from Chiang Mai International School in March, leading to this two-day training on inquiry-based education for their teachers and others from several schools throughout southeast Asia. For more details about the training and how it came to be, check out this earlier blog post.
The most surprising takeaway from my visit to Chiang Mai – apart from the massive numbers of motorbikes – is how similar Chiang Mai International School (CMIS) is to so many of the schools in DC that I’ve worked with. At first glance, it couldn’t be more different: CMIS is a private school with a student population that is nearly one-third Thai, and it has incredibly high achievement rates (nearly every student passes at least one AP test by graduation). Yet beneath the surface, I saw the same triumphs and struggles that I’ve seen students and teachers experience in classrooms throughout my career.
Instructional approaches varied, from teachers who used Class Dojo to track student behavior, to small group instruction driven by questioning. Likewise, some opportunities to engage students were quickly taken advantage of – whether it be a chance to enthrall students with a read-aloud of a Mo Willems picture book in elementary school, or taking the time to breakdown a Dickens’ passage in AP Literature – and some were missed, like when a student’s intriguing question was dismissed in the interest of keeping the class on task.
Just as I found many familiar sights during my time observing in the school, the teacher training itself also created similar dynamics to the ones we facilitate in DC. I was thrilled to see that even in the short two-day training, the educators came to know each other more deeply, and developed a community of learning through collaboration across school and national boundaries. One of the highlights for me was witnessing the group’s dynamics during the Random Walk activity. Participants are asked to form small groups, and make human sculptures of everything from an airplane to “justice.” The activity can feel very silly, but every teacher dove in, without hesitation, ready to learn. I was also excited to see the participants engage so deeply with the activity Teaching through Questions, where they must teach a skill to their partner using nothing but questions. Given only one day’s notice, and many far from home, the teachers stretched their creative muscles to come up with lesson ideas. I was impressed by the resourcefulness and dedication evident in their choices. They taught one another drumming, and trigonometry, and even how to play mini golf using paper golf clubs, paper balls, and paper holes.
Similarities and differences aside, the most powerful takeaway for me is that while these teachers have been very successful in their careers, with students who are thriving, they are still eager to push themselves to engage students in new ways of learning. In all my experiences with Inspired Teaching, I notice the incredible passion and dedication teachers bring to their work. At every Institute we’ve run, and in every Residency cohort, each group amazes me in their own way.
I am incredibly grateful to the teachers, students, and staff at Chiang Mai International School, and those from the many schools in the area who joined the workshop. Their kindness and welcoming nature were unparalleled.
I am excited to see where Inspired Teaching Academy’s workshops will bring me next and I look forward to meeting more exceptional teachers at all stages of their careers. Learn more about the workshops we offer like this one at www.inspiredteaching.org/academy.