Student Experiences

Sarah Naaman

The education program at Niagara University provided me with an array of practical experiences. I had the oportunity to observe and teach students from various backgrounds located in the state of New York and Ontario, Canada. This opportunity has better prepared me as a teacher and mentor and allowed me to have met insirational professors, supervisors, teachers, colleagues, and students.

I feel truly blessed to have met wonderful people, gained solid practical experience, and I feel confident beginning my carrier as a teacher.

"I will touch a million lives as a million lives have touched me."

Jay Menzie

Final Exam Reflection: Study Abroad Thailand

There are few experiences in an individual’s life which completely change the way one looks at the world. My study abroad trip to Thailand this past summer was definitely one of those instances, which provided powerful moments of self-assessment and personal reflection. This opportunity proved powerful enough, in fact, to divide my life between events prior to and after this experience. I consider myself very fortunate and grateful to be able to apply what I have learned in Thailand to my daily life, but more importantly, to my development as a professional educator.

One of the most significant lessons that I learned while in Thailand was an increased appreciation of people who are different from me. This includes a distinct understanding of the cultural obstacles that are in place within the U.S. for both visitors and immigrants. Daily tasks which seemed effortless prior to the trip suddenly became challenging adventures in Thailand. Simply calling home or catching the train turned into laughable miscues because of identifiable language barriers. The difference, however, was the eagerness towards assistance demonstrated by the Thai people. This made me think deeply about the type of classroom community that I want to promote while teaching. Students in my classroom who come from different ethnic backgrounds will be accepted and assisted because I have experienced cultural displacement firsthand.

I was completely overwhelmed by the reception that we were given at the school visits in Thailand, particularly at the Rajinibon School. Students, faculty, and staff were welcoming and respectful in a way that I cannot describe through a journal or photos. This aspect of the visit made me contemplate about multicultural education. I realized that the students that I met do not need to take a course in diversity because they already possess a strong appreciation of people from other cultures. It was clearly evident in every interaction that I had at the school. The Thai students and educators were eager to share their knowledge and experiences with me and were equally receptive to learning about my background. Multiculturalism in Thailand does not need to be a course requirement because it is already such an important part of their lives. In my own teaching, I will use this knowledge to promote a strong sense of belonging within my own classroom. Students do not need to come from the other side of the world to desire a place within their school’s environment.

Another important lesson that I learned while in Thailand is that no educational system is perfect and that educational reform can only occur if the people who can make improvements are willing to do so. At every school visit, I heard teachers, students, and staff members admit to the problems that they face. Despite these challenges, these people refuse to become satisfied with the way things are. This inspired me to work towards changing my own teaching techniques in order to meet student needs more effectively and also become active in altering school policy, if it is within the best interests of the students. Complacency and acceptance toward educational issues will not make these problems go away, but collaborative efforts can make a difference.

While visiting Wattana Wittaya Academy in the heart of Bangkok, I learned that effective teaching strategies are not universal. The instructional methods that I have learned over the past year in my graduate education studies have provided me with a solid foundation on which to base my teaching philosophy. I had not realized how valuable this training is to my professional development until I witnessed opportunities in which it could have been effectively used in some of the classrooms that I visited. A few of the teachers were unaware of the constructivist approach to learning or simply chose not to use it. During a workshop with Niagara students and professors, I worked with some of these teachers and saw genuine enlightenment in their expressions as they were introduced to constructivism. This experience has provided me with a new appreciation for the skills that I have acquired at Niagara University and encouraged me to share this knowledge with my colleagues. My methodological approach to teaching should continually be assessed, reflected upon, updated, and improved by becoming a “life-long learner” of education.

As a North American, I live in a culture which fosters extreme egocentrism. We believe that we are better, smarter, and more effective than other areas of the world and our educational problems are minimal when compared across the globe. Admittedly, I fell into this “First-World Egotism” trap prior to studying abroad. I had several preconceived ideas about the shortcomings of Thai education but found myself astounded by the organization in these schools. In particular, special education facilities and practices were amazingly adequate. I was impressed with the communal attitude toward students with special needs. Employers who had an employee with a child with special needs recognized the importance of these parents spending time with their kids. They were allowed to have time off from work to go on school field trips, reflecting the Buddhist way of life, giving to others who are in need of support and understanding. I can only hope that this practice would reach the people of North America. Nonetheless, I will use this knowledge in my own classroom to become more compassionate towards all people. There will certainly be families in my school with a variety of situations that may be unknown to me. I must remain patient and willing to work with parents and students to help them through these difficult events. I believe that people do not always seek a solution from others, but simply need someone who will listen to them and show compassion.

The lessons that I have learned about teaching, learning, and life that I brought home from Thailand could fill an entire book. I learned something about people in every interaction whether it was in the markets, a school, restaurant, temple, or on a train. I hope someday that I will be able to return to Thailand and take people with me, so that they may experience the compassion of the Thai people and witness an amazing country. I feel that I experienced this trip to the fullest potential from the Tuk-Tuk rides, the global representation of Kao San Road, the bustling atmosphere of Bangkok, and even the horrible dancing at Lumphini Park. It was without question a mind-opening experience.

Melissa Dietrich

Student teaching is an amazing experience. There is nothing more exciting than finding your path in life and enjoying what you do every minute of the day.