Update on First GP Teaching Fellow

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | posted by Jon Heifetz |
Ryan Drysdale is Global Playground’s first Teaching Fellow, and has now served for five months at Huay Puung Mai School in Thailand, where Global Playground opened a library in early 2009 and contributed technology in 2010.

Reflecting on his experience teaching English, Ryan described one memorable interaction where he observed that a group of students was beginning to understand English better. He wrote, "While learning vegetables, the students would say 'I like eating carrots.' Compared to American students, they love every vegetable. They asked what I liked to eat, and I rattled off some basic foods. Then I slipped in 'I like eating students.' The look of terror on their face was priceless and the pride I felt for the students understanding English was refreshing. After relishing in those feelings, I explained I was joking. It was another day or two before those specific students would come near me."

Summer vacation for students at Huay Puung Mai will begin shortly. During the two-month hiatus, Ryan will meet with Books for Thailand, an organization providing free books to local schools that are in need of more books. He will also join a Global Playground delegation that will be visiting Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to explore new projects and to check on existing ones.

Ryan worked hard with his fellow teachers and students to attain "Dream School" status from the government under Thailand's "One District, One Dream School" initiative. Established in 2003, this initiative seeks to ensure that each of Thailand's districts has one high-quality school. Huay Puung Mai School was evaluated on factors that included infrastructure and subject-specific presentations; the conferring of this status will have major financial implications for the school.

Huay Puung Mai's latest accolade shows just how far it has come. Five years ago, this school's enrollment was a fraction of the 350 that it is today. The school had no high school, and no opportunities for boarding; today, about one-third of Huay Puung Mai's students board at the school. Students who previously did not have access to education now have the opportunity to attend high school and possibly even college.

While in Thailand, Ryan has actively blogged on GP's Web site and contributed to the Global Playground Twitter feed. Indeed, modern technology has revolutionized the very nature of such an overseas experience versus a generation ago. In his blog, Ryan writes of reading the world news on his iPod, which is only possible because Huay Puung Mai School is equipped with wireless Internet. This digital access, along with the cameras, Skype headsets, and webcam that have recently been purchased for the students at Huay Puung Mai School are the building blocks of GP's Virtual Playground. The students at Huay Puung Mai will be able to "play" electronically on the Virtual Playground with youth around the world.

Global Playground is currently seeking teaching fellows for a year of service in Honduras and Thailand.