Bangkok Phil

Back to school again!

A very enjoyable morning at a school in the heart of old Samut Prakan

Yesterday, I spent a very enjoyable morning at Sriwittayapaknam School in the heart of old Samut Prakan.

Sriwittayapaknam caters for kindergarten up to primary age students and much of the credit for its successful English program is down to the great Richard Barrow, who has been working at this family-run school for three decades and counting. 

One aspect of the English program that Richard has implemented is 'foreigner visits', where an outsider comes to the school and gives students the opportunity to chat to a complete stranger from a a completely different walk of life. So Richard invited me along to see how the school is run and to chat with many of the students. Wow! I've never come across so many confident English speakers in one place.

Note that you don't have to be a teacher or involved in education in order to visit the school. Past visits have included tourists on holiday and expat families with their own young children. Last month's visit was from a retired durian farmer, living in Rayong. The more variety, the better! 

The morning started off with a couple of the better (and older) English-speaking students acting as my tour-guide and showing me around the school - the gym, the music room, the kindergarten and primary sections, the very modern computer rooms and the school canteen, where I have to say the snack food looked delicious.  

Then it was time to visit a few classrooms - five in total (or was it six?) Accompanied by Richard himself, The visitor gets to introduce themselves to the students with 5-10 pieces of information, depending on the level of the class. Nothing too complex - name, place of birth, age, job, how long you've been in Thailand, the usual stuff.  Students then get the chance to stand up and repeat what facts they caught and remembered. The last five minutes is devoted to a question and answer session, and it was pleasing to see so many kids literally fighting each other to ask questions. I got asked at least three times (in three different classes) whether I preferred Ronaldo or Messi. This is invaluable experience for young language learners because it brings new voices and accents into the classroom and I'd imagine an interesting change from their teachers and teaching assistants, whose voice patterns they will be familiar with. 

The morning ended with a ten-minute interview from Nong Koon, an up and coming YouTuber who has his own online chat show. The young man did incredibly well to keep the conversation going and the questions flowing. He's only going to get better and better as he gains more experience. He told me that much of the English he has learnt, especially the more colorful idiomatic expressions, have come from watching YouTube vlogs. 

Sriwittayapaknam School is a straightforward 10-minute walk from BTS Paknam on the Sukhumwit line and you'll need to be at the school for around 8.00am. Please make the effort to go because the kids would love to see you and you'll have a fun time. Plus of course you'll get to meet the one and only Richard Barrow. Obviously you need to contact Richard first and make an appointment, etc by filling in this online form.  

On a final note, I think this would be an invaluable opportunity for anyone who is thinking of becoming a teacher in Thailand but perhaps isn't quite sure if it's something for them. You''ll gain a tremendous insight into how a typical Thai school is run. 

Comments Bangkok Phil CAN work the whiteboard!

Great story, great photos. Keep the joy alive!

Be well.


By Knox, Manchester by the Sea (29th June 2024)

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