Maddy Smith, a 2013 graduate of the College of William & Mary, will serve as Global Playground’s Thailand Teaching Fellow beginning in August.
“I feel like now is the time in my life to give back as much as I can. I saw it as a great opportunity to give back to the organization that I have followed for so many years in a tangible way,” Smith said.
Smith first learned about the organization as a freshman in her Leadership and Community Engagement class.
“Doug [Bunch, Chairman of Global Playground] came to lecture in my class when I was a freshman. It was one of the first exposures that I had to meet the founder of an organization like that, and I was just captivated by him and the organization,” Smith said. “I have stayed in touch with him over the past few years and attended fundraisers.”
Smith, an International Relations major, believes her experience tutoring kids during her time as an undergrad and her past summer working as a program director for a summer camp will assist her in this new position.
“I spent the past summer working with Christ church summer camps. Halfway through the summer I was promoted to be program director for the counselor in training program, designing and implementing curriculum,” Smith said. “In order to gain respect from the students you have to give them respect.”
Through this experience, Smith developed a philosophy to her teaching style that she hopes to use in her Thai classroom.
“I saw myself not so much as an authoritative figure, as much as a learning tandem relationship,” Smith said. “When I was able to convey that to them it worked so much better.”
For Smith, Global Playground’s small, supportive network stood out to her during her job search.
“Through the whole process, it just became really clear to me that this was the place I wanted to be,” Smith said. “I just realized that this is a group of people that I want to be associated with.”
Smith believes the cross-cultural exchange element of the organization sets Global Playground apart from other teaching abroad opportunities.
“For me, the big difference between the average teaching English abroad and Global Playground is the fact that this is a cross-cultural exchange. I think that is something that is incredibly valuable,” Smith said.
Smith will go to Bangkok in early August to take a three-week intensive Thai immersion course. After that, she will go to Mae La Noi to join current Thailand Teaching Fellow Ryann Tanap in the village where she will be teaching and living for the upcoming year.
“The way the program is set up, we overlap by two or three weeks, so I will be able to observe her in the classroom so that by the time I step into the classroom I will have a solid grasp on what I’m doing,” Smith said.
She will also participate in a training weekend here in the U.S. before leaving for Thailand with the new Honduras Teaching Fellow Alex Clark-Youngblood. Smith is looking forward to the upcoming opportunity.
“This is the time in my life when I want to be putting myself out of my comfort zone so I can learn more about my life and my abilities, but also give back to different cultures at the same time,” Smith said.