MA TESOL (part 1)

I am getting my Masters Degree.

This statement is still slightly hilarious to me as it was never part of my ‘future plan’.  Though, I’m not entirely sure that I ever even had a ‘future plan’…

My undergraduate degree is in Studio Arts–specifically, oil painting.  As I was working on that degree, my family endlessly encouraged me to get a teachers license along with the art degree.  For some reason, unbeknownst my young self, my family did not believe that an art degree would be sufficient in the paying of my future bills and expenses.

With the idealistic stubbornness of a millennial artist, I ignored them.  Art was the passion of my heart and getting a teaching degree along with my art degree would undermine my integrity as an artist.

I graduated university in 2009 and worked as a barista at a local coffee shop, perfectly living out the starving artist persona.

And then I moved to Thailand.

Thailand shock things up for me.  It’s hard to keep up a persona when you can’t work, can’t speak a language and no one even knows what persona you’re trying to present yourself as.  It took me a little while (maybe a long while…) to get my bearings down and figure out what living in Thailand looked like.

About six months into my stay in the Land of Smiles, the school that Caleb was teaching at needed a new first grade English teacher.  I knew of the need and heard the concern, but not once (let me stress, not even one time,) did it enter into my mind that I could be the solution to the need.

One morning, as I was on my way to Thai class, I very clearly heard the Lord say:

“It’s time for you to consider your role at the School of Promise.”

This was so out of the blue and so far from my concerns that I just kind of brushed it off and didn’t give it any further thought.

That evening, as our family was eating dinner together, Caleb looked at me and asked, “Samara, would you consider being the first grade English teacher at School of Promise next year?”

Well, that through me for a loop.

As a team we had never talked about me teaching. My lack of experience/training/desire was clear.  Under normal circumstances I would have said “no” without even blinking an eye–but my morning walk flashed back into my psyche and the word consider seemed specific…

So, I considered it.  And, eventually, despite myself, I said, ‘yes’.

Turns out I kind of loved being a teacher.  I enjoyed being in the classroom.  I enjoyed investing in those kids–getting to know their personalities and planning activities to not only develop their English abilities, but to also develop their cognitive and social skills.  And, on top of it all, I was given the opportunity to introduce my classroom to the Wonderful Nature of the Good, Good Father.

I worked as the first grade teacher at School of Promise for two years until difficult circumstances made it clear that my time was up.  While the decision was evident, the choice was difficult.  Leaving the school meant leaving the kids I had been investing in and the role of teacher that I had grown to love.

But, of course, as one door shuts another one opens and this was most definitely the case for me.

In Thailand, you have a two year grace period in which you can work as an English teacher without a teaching license.  In my second year of teaching I went through the process of getting my Thai teaching license, but after lots of dollars spent and days wasted, I was declined the license due to my degree being in Art. Many foreigners avoid this predicament by switching schools every two years and thusly restarting their grace period, but this was not appealing to me.  My desire is to be rooted in one place and build relationships–not to move around and start over every two years.

This is where the opportunity to get my Masters Degree presented itself.  Caleb, being the wizard of the internet that he is, found a program at a Thai University offering an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) that is accredited in the US and from start to finish would cost around $5000.

Through a process of praying and communication with friends and mentors, I decided to go through the application process and was quickly accepted into the program.

So, here I am–11 years after beginning my bachelors degree in Art, I have come full circle and am finally taking my family’s advice and getting a teaching degree… like a practical adult.




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2 responses to “MA TESOL (part 1)

  1. While I have never been an artist, I think I kind of understand your desire to not have your integrity as an artist compromised. In my teens and early twenties, I listened to a lot of punk / hard rock / metal / heavier music and a lot of the messages propagated by those bands were messages of not conforming to the world’s system, thinking for oneself, questioning the American dream and the way everyone else lives, standing up against injustice in the world, etc. While I don’t often listen to heavy music these days, I think that the messages of those bands, combined with my Christian faith and church experience, affect the way I see the world today.

    But I’ve also realized as an adult that there are good and bad ways to rebel against the system. Some people think the best way is to never get a “real job” and think you’ll single-handedly solve the problems of the world. Or some people just give in to the world’s system and dismiss their younger, more radical days as a “phase.” But after getting to know a number of Christians who are involved in NGOs or ministries, I’ve realized that it is your heart and mindset that really matter, not whether or not you get a “real job” and appear to be living the American dream. Some people will advance in the business world so they can give money to NGOs. Some will learn a trade and then use their skills on the side to help the church or train people who can’t afford to go to school. You never know. So having that mindset and not living just for yourself is what really matters, I think.

    Maybe I just went off the rails and that wasn’t related to your desire to not compromise your artist dream, but it made me think of that. After all, you are teaching art, so you are still utilizing your art passion (though I don’t know if it’s how you imagined it would be used… probably not).

  2. I think it’s so great you are getting your Masters while living life and doing the other things God has called you to in Thailand.
    I totally relate to you with being so opposed to teaching – but once doing it enjoying the investment and relationship with the kids
    They truly are precious

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