'Teaching English with love' in Bangkok

At the request of Bhichit Rattaku, a former BYU student and now governor of Bangkok, Thailand, a group of retired couples were sent to teach English pronunciation and conversation to Thai English teachers in the schools of the metropolitan area. In their spare time, the couples -- many of them former school teachers -- drove several hours each weekend to teach in other school districts.

The English volunteers, who had been sent by Latter-day Saint Charities 18 months ago, recently returned to their homes after an intensive training period with their replacements. Many of them wrote letters describing their experiences. Following are excerpts from some of the letters.

"I have had the opportunity to teach six lawyers at our apartment in the evening. Some of them are prominent men in their field, I understand. One man is the national president of the Royal Society of Lawyers of Thailand -- a group that volunteers time to represent or counsel people with no other means of legal representation." -- Helen Horner

"We were honored at Prawes District annual teachers meeting in August. The director, Mr. Sathaporn, gave a prepared speech about us, and then spoke extemporaneously to us. He said, 'From the time you arrived, you have been a good example for Thai couples. You have always been together, you work hard and are happy. I have never had a complaint, not even one complaint, from anyone about you. The people in the district appreciate you and the teachers love you.' He again said that we are a good example of a couple for Thai people to see.

"The comments of Mr. Sathaporn verified the importance of the example we, as English volunteers, set for those around us. -- Sherman and Janet Johansen

"The Thai people love to sing, and singing simple songs in English is a very effective way for them to practice pronunciation. One day, after [Sister Janet Asper] had been teaching some new songs to a class, she told them they sounded just like a choir. Instead of being pleased, they all burst into laughter. Sister Asper was puzzled until they explained that they had thought she said, 'kwai,' the Thai word for 'buffalo.' The class never sang again without someone saying 'kwai' and bringing on a spell of giggles." -- Janet Asper and Darlene Williamson

"At the end of an all-day English camp, the supervisor told us that the students in his district wanted to honor us in a special way. He said that this particular ceremony is not done very often and that the students had requested to do it.

"We were seated on a couch that had been placed on a richly piled red carpet in front of the stage in the open-air auditorium. About 150 students knelt in front of us in six straight rows. Two students, each bearing a large gold tray came and knelt on either side of us. On the trays were a lot of little white strings, the type of string used for crocheting.

"One by one, the students knelt before us, making the wai (palm of the hands together at the nose). Each student then took one of the strings, tied it around our wrists and whispered in English, 'Thank you from my heart,' then walked on their knees to the back of the line they had come from and knelt while other students performed the ceremony.

"Before the ceremony was half finished, I was in tears and my husband was also visibly moved. We went home with about 45 white bracelets on each wrist and wondered how long we should wear them in honor of our dear students." -- George and Joy Robinson

"After we had served four months in schools in southwest Bangkok, the principals of the school district gathered in our home the morning of Sister Jenkins' birthday. Mr. Sittichai Karakul had been chosen by his peers to write and deliver a birthday tribute.

"The 20 school principals gathered around as Sister Jenkins stood facing Mr. Sitichai. They were all Buddhists. He began to speak, 'As times go by, we'll think of you more and more, our beloved friend. God bless you.'

"His words resonated in my heart and I remembered my patriarchal blessing. 'Dear sister, if you desire it, you will be called to take a mission . . . where you may become a teacher and these people will love and sustain you.' " -- Doug and Beverly Jenkins

The impact these teachers have can be summed up in the following experience as reported by Elder Jack and Sister Marion Johnston:

"We were being driven back by an official to our apartment from a goodbye party. He was reflecting on the difference in the teaching styles between Sister Janet Asper and Sister Helen Horner and what the students had been used to in the past. He said, 'Your teachers teach differently. They teach, ah, ah.' He struggled for the correct word in English. He patted his chest over his heart. 'They teach with love?' I offered. His face lit up. 'Yes, yes! That's it!' he smiled. 'They teach with love.' "

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