Sunday, July 6, 2008

Task Based Reading

Lest you be worried, Rebel has been reading... just nothing especially fun. Everything I've read in the past couple of months has been related to my upcoming adventure in Thailand.

I started out reading both Culture Shock! Thailand (currently out of print) and Culture Smart Thailand. The Culture Shock book was highly recommended on a couple of expat websites I've read. But it's presently out of print - and not set to reissue until later this year or next. So it was a bit of a challenge to track down a copy. When I finally did, it was a copy from the 80s and probably not as helpful as one would hope. Much of the same information was shared in Culture Smart Thailand. Basically both books covered a bit of the history, and some cultural phenomenon like the ubiquitous Thai Smile. Apparently Thai's smile at everything, if they're happy, of course, but also if they are sorry, embarrassed, if they want to defuse a tense situation etc. It's all about keeping harmony and saving face. I feel like both gave me just a taste of what Thailand is like, without going into excessive detail. Thailand is a proud, independent country, the Thai people value an even temper and avoid conflict. This obviously has some pros and cons that I'll need to be aware of while I'm there. Since I knew practically nothing about Thailand before hand, I think they were just the introduction I needed. Of course we'll see how useful the information is once I get there!

Thailand Confidential by Jerry Hopkins .

This was an interesting one, interesting as in “odd” not so much “note worthy”. From the back cover it sounds like this will be a salacious tell all about the seedy underbelly of Thailand. But it’s really really not. I mean, he relays a story about watching a sex-change operation, getting stopped at a drug raid in a bar, riding along with a highway accident corpse pick up crew and more. But he tells it all from the perspective of an old man who’s been there, done that and has the Thai wife to boot. It’s graphic, but not particularly exciting. I picked it up because I wanted to get as balanced a view of Thailand as I could… knowing that the official guide books would paint everything with a rosy hue. And I feel like I got that from this book. The guide books like Culture Smart and Culture Shock talk about religion in Thailand, and the influence of both Buddhism and Animism on the spiritual life of an average Thai. But Hopkins explains that this is why service in a bar came to a halt when the movie “Ghost” was playing on the TV. Apparently, they LOVE ghost stories, and believe in a very real way that the spirits of their loved ones watch over them day to day. So overall, an informative read, especially in conjunction with the other books. But as a collection of short stories… kinda dull.

Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener

This is a text book, and as such there's not much of a plot... or motto. Scrivener presents a lot of information and methodology about teaching English as a foreign language. He talks about different types of teachers and different types of students, and discusses options in the classroom. When covering each specific area of language, vocabulary, phonology, listening, speaking, or grammar he merely lists various ways to approach the material, giving the pros and cons of each. Basically the teacher is to decide which methods are most appropriate for their given situation. All of that was pretty good.

What I did not like about this book was the format. While the chapters did tend to be organized around particular language skills, there was very little introductory information to get my little brain prepped for what the chapter would cover. And there was no summary at the end to distill the information into memorable chunks. I don't know about you, but the summary sections of a text book are what saved me in High School and College. Sure I did the reading, but it was the summary sections that I studied before an exam. Anything that didn't ring a bell became something I'd go back and review. I was at a bit of a loss trying to remember everything without a summary. Of course, I could have, you know, taken notes and all.... written my own summary of each chapter. But dude! I'm trying to ease into this learning stuff thing. I've been out of college for a good decade now... the neurons need to get warmed up a bit first.

Overall I guess it's a good introduction to learning teaching. I'm far from knowing what I need to in order to step into a classroom... but at least I have been exposed to the topics I'll be studying (and practicing) in more detail in my CELTA course. Learning Teaching will be a good reference for when I'm actually teaching and need ideas for lesson plans... but I'm hoping the next teaching book I'm going to read (How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer) will do a better job of helping me get the information into my brain.

So that's what I've been reading. I really hope that they've helped my brain get ready for moving. I miss reading books for fun though.


Batty said...

I hope you love Thailand as much as my sister did!

Karin said...

"Thai people value an even temper and avoid conflict."

De-chan ohhhh, it's definitely better that you're going there and not me ka.

De-chan I would get pissed and piss somebody off my first morning there just because they flashed that Thai smile at me before I was fully awake ka.

De-chan your personality is so much better suited to Thailand than mine ka.

I think you're going to have a great time! ka or no ka.

Rebel said...

LOL Karin... I don't know about that. You seem to do quite well in a classroom with people from all over!

But I will say, working with delicate professors who need to be told 'everything's going to be okay' regardless of how stressed out I am, was probably good training for having a 'cool heart' in Thailand.