Tag Archives: School of Promise

I don’t like going to church.


Yesterday at a staff meeting I took part in one of those ‘getting to know you’ ice breaker games… I’m sure you’ve played it.

Everyone sits in a circle, with just enough chairs for those sitting and one person stands in the middle (there’s no chair for the person in the middle.)  The person in the middle makes a statement like “I like cheese” or “I’m wearing a pink shirt” and everyone who shares the like of cheese or is also wearing a pink shirt has to stand up and then on the count of three, everyone, including the person in the middle runs and tries to find a new chair.  The person left standing is the new ‘man in the middle’.

You’ve played this game.

Anyway, yesterday after a bunch of rounds of this game and lots of crazy running around and getting to know one another, someone in the middle made the statement, “I like going to church”.

Working at a christian school with an entirely christian staff, one can easily assume… everyone stood up.

Everyone, that is, except for me.

Sure, I felt the urge to stand up… Thoughts like, ‘what will people think?’, ‘I’m a missionary…’, ‘I have to like going to church…’, ‘how bad will I look if I don’t stand up?’ flooded my mind, but I was compelled to remain seating.

What’s worse, I thought, lying to please the crowd and save face or being honest and raising a few eyebrows?

After the game was finished another missionary came up to me, she had noticed my being the only person sitting during the ‘I like going to church’ round and she wanted to comment.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but instead of assumed reprimand or the usual questioning of my devotion to God, she said, “Yea… sometimes going to church here is really hard.”

And that’s the truth.

Sometimes, going to church here, is really hard.

Before reading on I need to say, I come from a great church family in Omaha, NE.  The people in that church have become my family and have helped me grow into the person I am.  I love my church in Omaha and while, it’s not perfect and still developing, I would not be where I am or who I am without the love and support of that body of people.

Since living in Thailand I have regularly attended three Thai churches.

The first of the three churches was the most international and the most western.  The sermon was in both English and Thai, the worship was done in full Hillsong style and the Sunday meetings were held in a very air-conditioned, comfortable hotel ballroom. This was like the ‘adjustment’ church, while I was learning Thai.  This church was comfortable, the sermons were predictable and no one talked to you, so you didn’t have to get out of your comfort zone.

But in the end, I think that was the biggest problem with this church.  It definitely served its purpose in its time, but it was extremely comfortable.  There was no ‘community’ aspect to the church, no need to adjust to a new culture, no need to adapt to something unfamiliar… and so, after about 6 months, we (the Lorensens and I) transitioned out.  [No one noticed.]

The second of the three churches was a local Thai church near our home that many of the students from School of Promise attended.  As Caleb and I were both teaching at the school, this church seemed that the natural place for us to land.

The sermon was completely in Thai, there was no air conditioning and everyone ate lunch together that was prepared by members of the church.  At first this seemed ideal.  The church congregation was a community.  Everyone worked together, lived life together and shared church responsibilities together.

Unfortunately, the shiny ideal wrapping of this church quickly wore off and it became apparent that a lot of the ‘community togetherness’ was actually ‘community obligation’ enforced through guilt.  Missing a week of church was followed up by the third degree.  Performance, saving face and adherence to rules were more important than love and compassion.  I left this church after a year of begrudged attendance

The final church I was part of was a church made up of people that I still love and respect very much.  Coming off the bad experience from the last church, this church seemed like a breathe of fresh air.  Again, it was all Thai and very community orientated.  Everyone worked together and for the most part, lived together.  This church was a family and welcomed me in quickly.

But again, after a couple months of attendance, it became clear that the congregation was there out of religious and communal obligation, rather than out of pure satisfaction and joy.  Duty and tradition, adherence to rules was more important than the inner health of the individual members. I said a sad goodbye to this church family after a year.

So there is my church attending history.  I haven’t formally gone to church in the seven months.

What I have done, however, is:

-prayed together with my housemates

-shared meals with my neighbors

-helped get a woman out of an abusive relationship

-worshipped with released criminals

-prayed for my struggling classmates

-loved on kids who don’t get enough attention

-listened to my friends’ burdened hearts

-hung out with the teenagers that I live with

-travelled to Malaysia to be a companion of a lonely friend

I was recently pretty rocked by this blog.

In this blog, the author, talks about how Jesus never actually told us to worship Him–but instead, 29 times, He tells us to follow Him.  He gives a list of things that happen as people lay down their lives (and their religion) to follow Jesus.  This list includes things like: the hungry were fed, the sick were healed, people were loved and discipled and the religious leaders were challenged.

The author also highlights Mark 7:6-9:

And He [Jesus] said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”

How often do we allow the ‘tradition of men’ to keep us blind to the commandments of God?

How often does ‘saving face’ mean that we withhold truth or compassion?

How often do we allow religious duty to smother stopping for the one?

I know I’m guilty.

I know that I often bow to the god of approval from man rather than hone into the God of grace. I know that I often begrudgingly say yes out of fear, rather than be honest with my desires.

So, with all of this going on in my head and my heart, I can confidently say, right now, I don’t like going to church.

But I LOVE being THE church. Following Jesus.  Saying ‘yes’ and ‘here I am God, I’m willing’ and ‘what do you want to do today God?’.  I love smiling at people whom I don’t know and praying for people I just met.  I love getting to be the vessel in which the Holy Spirit flows out of and being surprised in my times of quiet worship alone.  I love being the body of Christ in my neighborhood, with my family…

Following Jesus is uncomfortable. It’s unconventional. It’s unpredictable.  It’s uncontrollable.

Following the law is easier, clear cut, measurable… but it’s not through following the law [and going to church] that we will encounter God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”

So while I will surely be part of a formal congregation again in the future, for now, I just don’t like going to church.

verses to ponder:

John 14:6; Colossians 2:16-23; Isaiah 29:13


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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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“Don’t mind me; I’m a universalist heretic.”

I’ve been on a bit of a Graham Cooke kick lately–specifically his message titled, “Inheritance” (which, if you have never listened to–or just haven’t listened to it in a while, you should click here and have a listen before reading on).

This message has had a profound impact on me over the years, but recently, the truths God speaks through Cooke have been running through my head on repeat.

With the help of my Thai teacher, I translated Cooke’s message into Thai and have shared it at church, in the art studio and in one on one prayer sessions with my Thai friends.

The School of Promise (SoP) recently held their annual English camp which I volunteered to help at.  During a planning meeting we were discussing the objective of the camp and trying to come up with a camp theme.  As this message has become a staple in my spiritual life, I suggested, “God loves you 100%”.  I talked a little about Cooke’s message, said that I had it translated in Thai and suggested that we read it to the kids and base our ‘spiritual time’ on this message.

My colleagues liked the idea and we designed camp around this theme.

Camp went well.  The kids listened to Cooke’s message, a couple of teachers shared testimonies on how the revelation of God’s great love has changed their lives and we had an activity where the kids wrote out the things they don’t love about themselves, nailed those to the cross and them proclaimed God’s 100% perfect love over all our short comings and imperfections.

All in all, I would say it was a successful camp.

On the final day of camp, one of the SoP teachers stopped to thank me for sharing what I had shared with the kids.  She told me that she really loves this particular Graham Cooke message and will often share bits and pieces of it with Thai unbelievers.  She told me that she loves telling people, “God loves you 100%,” but that after sharing this she often feels remorse because she worries that if we stress God’s great love to sinners–while they are still walking in their sin–how will they ever feel conviction and change their ways?

My favorite part of “Inheritance” is when Cooke says:

“He (God) loves you 100%, He won’t love you any better when you become better.

He loves you 100% right now; and even if you have no plans to become better, He will still love you 100%, because He loves you, because that is what He is like.

And even if you don’t want to change, He will love you 100%.

Even if you have no plans to walk with Him, He will love you 100%.

Because that’s His nature. He loves all the way, all the time.”

These truths directly contradict the idea that we need to stop sinning in order to receive God’s love and salvation.

Through out my conversation with the SoP teacher I began to realize that while she really wanted to believe this message–it had yet to become a truth to her.

Our conversation went back and forth for a little while.  She quoted scriptures to me about God’s hatred of sin and how He turns His back on sinners and I did my best to explain my thoughts on God’s infinite love and our justification through Christ.  We were both stubborn in our views so in order to diffuse the conversation I just said,” You know–I can’t pretend to understand the vastness of God and His love and my opinions may not be very popular…so you can just write me off as a universalist heretic, it’s ok.”

Conversation over.

 Throwing the words “universalist” and “heretic” around do tend to make people uncomfortable.

But more and more, I feel like these may be words that the majority of mainstream christians would use to describe me.

After living in Buddhist country for three years and being forced to learn how to connect with God without all the christian lingo/ideology/iconography that has surrounded the first seven years of my walk with God–my idea of who God is and how great His love is has expanded.  It has been forced to.

Having Buddhist grandma die after living a devout life of Buddhism, not ever knowing Christ’s specific love for her…

or having a young man die in a motorbike accident after living a life of neglect and abuse, never once being told he has value or purpose…

or a girl taking her own life after being sold and used since she was a child, not ever being called a beloved daughter…

These sorts of situations begin to challenge ones views on eternal damnation for not accepting Christ in your life.

God loves you 100% right now.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  1. at the same time; meanwhile.
    “he starts to draw, talking the while”
  1. during the time that; at the same time as.
    “nothing much changed while he was away”

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Before circumcision was law, Abraham was justified by God. Before the disciples believed who Jesus was, they were chosen to do great works.

While we were still sinners…

Even if you have no plans to walk with Him, He loves you 100%…

It seems that, more and more, performance and religious rituals have taken the place of justifier in the church.

That the free gift of salvation is only free as long as it’s followed up with a devout, religious, holy, sinless life.

I can not believe this.

If righteousness comes through performance, Christs’ death is worthless. Christ paid the price.  100%. End of story.

The price has been paid.

Christ’s death covered my past sins.  Christ’s death covers my current, repeated sins.  Christ’s death covers my future sins, my unbelief and my incomplete theology.

Is his death not enough for my buddhist brothers?

So. Maybe I’m a universalist heretic?

Maybe you’re going to be worried about my theology and praying for my mind to renewed…and for my salvation.

Maybe this is just a phase that I will grow out of (like obsessing over cats or drawing pictures of robots).


But in the meantime, I chose to stand on and believe in God’s perfect love.

I chose to believe that nothing will draw people into God’s family in a more complete and authentic way than their experiencing the infinite love of the Creator.

And I choose to honor the Lover God by loving those He loves–even when they don’t (won’t) love Him back.

He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because that is what He is like.

An Addendum:

    I was really worried about writing this post, knowing that it may be slightly controversial in a couple of places.  I do want to make it clear that I still very much believe that Jesus is the One way to life eternal and I believe in hell.  The Bible seems clear about these facts.  I, however, believe that we, in our christian minds, send people to hell much more readily and freely than God does and that it is God’s greatest desire to see all of His children honored with Christ in heaven and that He will pull out all the stops to get everyone of us with Him.
    I do not, necessarily, believe that sin sends us to hell. Every single one of us will die in our sin–even conscious, repeated sin (gossip, unforgiveness, half-truths…etc, etc, etc…). But rather, I believe that some, having experience God’s ridiculous love will still chose to reject Him and chose hell for themselves.
    I am also aware of my youth and ignorance and incomplete revelation of God and am willing to be refined in my understanding as I continue to walk with the Lord.



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“The Heartless Teacher”

The first grade classroom is a magical place—especially my classroom.  I mean, the blue walls, the whimsical flower mural, Dr. Suess posters everywhere and all the brightly colored art work displayed on the walls, there is no place I would rather be.


Well… sort of.

This teaching year has been a very challenging year.

I finished my first year teaching feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed; I was excited to give my classroom a facelift and expected nothing but rainbows and butterflies from my incoming first grade class.

Sometimes, when expectations meet reality… they clash.  Loudly.  This teaching year has been filled with that:  loud clashing noises.

Clamor.  Noise. Uproar.  Turmoil.

Maybe I’m dramatic…

But, the beginning of the school year, I was hit with a huge reality check.  My class was filled with 15 unruly children, most of whom had never been in any sort of schooling before, and many from questionable home situations without any sort of parental guidance or support.  Combine that with a foreign language, and you get a disaster.

And that’s how I would describe the first month or so of this school year.  Disaster.  The students drew on my mural, peeled paint off the wall, destroyed the rug that I bought and had no concept of a quiet signal.

Miss Samara—the happy go lucky first grade teacher, with her big glasses and even bigger hair—was in over her head.

Fortunately I was gifted with a veteran teacher willing to come in and do a classroom overhaul.  She told me to ‘man up’ and burst all the bubbles I was still grasping for about the ideal first grade class.  Yep, she burst my bubbles and she taught me how to take control—how to implement discipline, and, in some instances, how to be mean.

It has not been easy.

I would go home many days, completely ready to throw in the towel and never go back.

But now, with 5 weeks of school left and thousands of timeouts under my belt, I have a classroom that I am (90% of the time) very proud of.


Last year I was filling this blog with tales of hilarity from my class; unfortunately, I didn’t have many funny stories to tell this year, however, as I was telling a friend about the disciplinary experiments I have tried, this story stood out.


Through out this year I have established a very predictable routine for my classroom.  The students know, in general, what we are going to do each day and what to expect from me.  The first three things of the day never change:  Bible, Calendar, Interview.  This time is followed by a four minute break, during which I play the song ‘Peace Like a River’ and the children know that they are allowed to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water or dance and that I expect them back in their seats by the time the song ends.

This is the routine.  Everyday.  Never changes.

One particular day, a couple weeks back, when ‘Peace Like a River’ had ended and I was standing in my classroom with only five students.  Five little girls, sitting diligently in their desks waiting for the day’s lesson to begin.

Where was the rest of my classroom?  (To be honest, I didn’t actually want to know…)  So I decided that I would just go ahead and start the lesson.

Apple Apple A A A 

Baby Baby B B B

Two students run into the classroom, sliding on the cement floor with their worn out socks.

Cookie Cookie C C C

Dolly Dolly D D D 

Three boys burst in wrestling and pushing and laughing.

Elbow Elbow E E E

Flower Flower F F F 

There are the rest of them—running in, asking for permission to enter the classroom but not allowing me to respond.

I was not happy.

Hands on my hips.  Lights off.  Silence.

With my authoritarian face on, I asked my first graders where they were and what took them so long to get back.

I ask, rhetorically, “Is this an appropriate way to enter Miss Samara’s classroom?” and then I answered myself, “No.  Absolutely not.” and went further, explaining that Miss Samara is not going to allow the late students to sit in on her next lesson and I sent them outside of the class.

I had them sit on a bench outside of my classroom and shut the window so they were not able to make faces or join in on any of the fun that was happening with myself and the five girls on the inside.

I taught the five girls a new letter—the letter E—a very important letter if you ask me, especially if you’re in first grade and learning how to read and write three letter words.

We practiced differentiating between the short E sound and the short A sound.  I let them watch a silly cartoon all about the letter E and we learned some new vocabulary words.  All the while, two thirds of my class sat outside.  Teachers and staff members kept walking past my classroom with looks of confusion and a couple chuckles as they realized that I kicked my class out of my classroom.

Of course, this couldn’t go on all day.  I couldn’t just keep them outside.  I had to invite them back in, but I wanted to make sure they understood the seriousness of the offense.

So, I invited them back in and decided to have a fun game of ‘board races.’

I split them into two teams—Team A, the five girls and Team B, everyone else.  They were to take turns going up against each other spelling three letter words on the board, a game we play fairly often.

Naturally, this particular day, every word that I said had a short E in the middle—fed, met, get, bed, peg, leg, web, wet, and so on.

Team A crushed Team B.

When the game was over, I sat everyone down and we had this conversation:

Miss Samara:  “Team B, why did you guys do so poorly?  Team A got every word right… What was the matter?”

Team B’s Students:  “Because we didn’t know about the letter E. :(“

Miss Samara:  “Weird!  Why didn’t you know about the letter E, but team A did?”

Team B’s Students:  “Because Miss Samara wouldn’t let us into the claaaaaaasssroooom.  :(“

Miss Samara:  “Oh no!  Why wouldn’t Miss Samara let you into her classroom? “

Team B’s Students:  “Because we were late and looouuddd. :(”

Very Good.

Lesson Learned.

Nothing like loosing miserably in order to learn a lesson.

That evening I felt a little silly for being such a ‘mean teacher’, but have since come to terms with the fact that structure and discipline, while they may seem ‘mean’ on the forefront,  are actually two of the nicest things I can provide for these students.

The next class, in order to make up for the humiliation Team B had suffered the class before, I bought a bunch of Eggs and had my students draw Eyes and Ears on them and make them look like Elephants.



Then, I gave them each a small bowl and told them to put their Elephants to sleep.  Once their Elephants were sleeping I told them to use their Elbows and SMASH their Elephants!!!

They looked at me with pure shock and disbelief, but after the first brave student smashed his Elephant Egg with his Elbow, the rest of the class was quick to follow and I once again felt the pure bliss of being a first grade English teacher.


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N is for Noodle… and Noise and Nonsense

So far my second year of teaching has been much more challenging than the first year.  I think I was spoiled with last years class, it was so small, the students were quite bright and keen on learning English and they were all, at least a little, scared of me. (At first…)

This year has proven to be so much different.  Not only has my class size doubled, my students come from a much wider range of ‘home situations’.  Where last years students, for the most part, attended Thai preschool and had a basic understanding of what is acceptable school behavior, the majority of this years class are just now experiencing school–let alone English–for the first time.

I’ve had to up my game.

A lot of the tricks and tools I used regularly last year do not work anymore.  Things I routinely did with last years class to quiet them down and transition onto the next activity, have proven to only make these students louder and less compliant.

As much as I have felt frustrated and lost as to what to do, the challenge has been good for me.

I have been graced with a teacher helper, who has helped me come up with new ideas for managing my students and has been pivotal in giving me the confidence I need to play the unpopular role of disciplinarian in the class–a role that I seldom, if ever, had to play last year.   With the help of my teacher helper, I have set up routines, boundaries and structure for my little 6 year old to excel in.

All that to say, my students (and I) have come a long way.

I’ve always known that first graders can’t sit in their desks and listen for any extended amount of time… this year the kids are taking me to task.  I have to make sure I come to class fully prepared with activities that will not only stimulate their learning, but keep the students engaged as well.

I’ve recycled some of my favorite lessons from last year, but have also incorporated new lessons and activities–I have even started doing station rotations with the first graders, a completely foreign concept in Thai education.


This week, we’ve been learning the letter ‘N’.

What is ‘N’ for?  

Noodles.  Obviously.

So, I cooked up a bunch of noodles (spaghetti) and let my kids have at it for some sensory exploration.

It was a blast.

The kids were content playing just with the noodles and the fun could have gone on for hours–but then, I added PAINT and gave each student a piece of paper to make their masterpiece.

2014-08-26 11.43.09  2014-08-26 11.43.272014-08-26 11.42.35  2014-08-26 11.43.05  2014-08-26 11.43.53


The results couldn’t have been better.

2014-08-26 11.44.15  2014-08-26 12.23.03


I was so proud of my students and it was really evident to me how important sensory exploration like this is for this age group.  They not only loved the activity, they were engaged, well behaved and surprisingly quiet.   The noise and nonsense that is so normal in my classroom disappeared for about 20 minutes while my students played and created.

I don’t leave school everyday feeling like it was a success–on the contrary I have plenty of days that I feel like I need to do the entire lesson plan over again–but painting with noodles while learning about the letter N, was a successful teacher day.  So successful that I’m thinking that we’ll need to ‘Paint with Pasta’ for the letter P… 🙂


**Bonus Picture**

We also made Noodle Necklaces, so this is Graphic cheesing with his.  

How cute is he!?! 

 2014-08-28 12.04.30



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This Years First Graders

I realize the school year has been going on for sometime and I have yet to introduce you all to my first grade class.

So here you are, your first look, at the kids that steal my thoughts and energy on a daily basis.


Geshem is a first grader at the School of Promise this year, but he is (sadly) not a part of my English class.


This is Pakboong (Morning Glory) and just like last year, though I try not to have ‘favorites’ this one has a special place.


There’s a lot of them this year–twice as many as I had last year… and therefore things are just much different.  I’ve had to rethink and restructure my classroom and the way I do things for this group of kiddos, but it’s amazing to me how far they’ve come.

Hilarious stories from this class will hopefully be coming soon.

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New Year, New Classroom

The new school year has officially begun and I have begun to get to know the new first graders I will be spending the year loving.

I have 15 students this year as opposed to the 7 I began the semester off with, so that’s kind of fun and exciting.

I spent a lot of time over the summer break brain storming ideas for the new school year–how to make my classroom more inviting and new fun ways to dive into the alphabet with my ESL students.

I took some pictures of my classroom, so you all can see the finished product.

I wanted to add color and fun things to look at, I also wanted to try and break the room into sections so that rotations can happen.  I bought a big rug and smaller rugs for calendar and story time and added a few plants just to bring in the green.

I’m pretty pleased with the outcome and have now made promises to work with the other teachers to create their classrooms into a more exciting environment.

First, some before pictures.  I didn’t actually take any ‘before pictures’, but I did take a ton of pictures of my students last year–so, see if you can look beyond the adorableness and get a feel for the previous classroom.

Image    Image

Now for the after pictures.

(I haven’t started taking pictures of this year’s bunch yet… you’ll have to wait for those.)

Image Image



Image   Image

(As always–I want your feedback!  Plus, if you have any ideas for rotations or centers to have the kids do, I’d love to hear them! Ideas, ideas, ideas… I don’t have enough of them…I want yours!)






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V is for…

My main goal in teaching ESL to first graders is to make learning fun.  I set the precedent for what language learning can be like for the rest of their educational career; I have the ability to shape the way these students see the English language.  It’s not all drudgery and grammar and pronunciation… no, no, learning English is an exciting adventure!

My class and I are making our way through the English alphabet.  I intend on the students knowing all 26 letters and their simple sounds by the end of the year.  

I am not, however, going through the alphabet in the tradition A-Z fashion, but instead in an order that gives the most simple and most common letters and sounds first–thus paving the way for reading simple words early on. 

We are 15 letters in. 

I teach class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I typically introduce a new letter on Tuesday and then we spend some time practicing the sounds, writing the letter out, doing flash cards and playing a few games to help with sound recognition and then on Thursday we work on the same letter using different methods of learning.  

For example:

For “F” they had to put their face in a plate of flour.  (After writing big F and little f in the flour with their finger.)

For “E” they had to use their elbows to crack eggs.

For “D” I brought donuts and plastic dinosaurs.  The ‘dinosaurs’ had to try to make Ds out of the donuts.


The list goes on…


The most recent letter I taught was V.

What in the world can we do with V?


As it is the holiday season and our home had recently hosted a Staff Christmas Party…one of Tracy’s party games came to mind. 

Vaseline Santa Beards.


So on Thursday after a brief review of what the letter “V” says, I put the kids into teams of three, whipped out the cotton balls and vaseline…and the children got to work.



Base, First and Aaw. (Base’s team was given the title of winning team.)


The game was a hit.  The laughter was uncontrollable.  

Unfortunately, there were some unforeseen hiccups with playing this game.  

Namely the task of de-vaseline-ing my students.  

Their hands and faces were covered with the sticky gel and the ice cold water was not doing the removing trick.  The majority of my students ended up soaking wet in the 40 degree Thailand weather, and I had to help them take off their uniforms and lay them in the sun to dry–which, in turn, left me with a classroom of first graders shivering in their undershirts.


V is for Vaseline. 

and Victory.


Happy Holidays!




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a shorty, but a goodie…

Each morning, after prayer I begin class by randomly drawing a name out of a cup–the name I draw is my helper for the day.

One of the perks of being Miss Samara’s helper is that you get to stand on top of your chair in the front of the class and answer Miss Samara’s eight questions.

The questions are the same everyday and pretty basic:

  • What is your name?
  • How old are you?
  • How are you?
  • Do you have any brothers or sister?  How many?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite animal?
  • What day of the week is today? What was yesterday? What is tomorrow?

I write all of the student’s answers on the white board as they are answering and when they are finished I ask the listening students the same questions about the helper.


Meet Boon [Bawn]

(arguably one of my most favorite students.)


How can you not love that face!?!


Boon is under the impression that he cannot speak English and so when he wins the opportunity to be my helper, the question part of the job is a bit painful.

We make it through, but there may be a translation or two along the way.

This particular day when Boon was asked the question, “How are you?,” he was able to answer straight away.  He knew how he was.  He was tiger.

Yes. Tiger.

Miss Samara:  How are you, Boon?

Boon:  I am tiger.

Now, this is a very common mistake and was not the first nor will it be the last time that a student has told me they are tiger instead of tired. I was not surprised.  

So I repeat:  “You are T-IIIII-re-D” (stress the final consonant,) and move on.

We get through the remaining five questions and then it’s time to see how well my other students were listening.

Name and Age are pretty easy even if you weren’t listening because they’re not subject to change much over the course of the year.  Then I ask Folk to answer the third question about Boon.

Miss Samara:  Folk, how is Boon?

Folk: [blank stare] [look at the sky] [scratch chin]

Miss Samara: Folk, how iiissss Boon?

Folk: [look up] [lightbulb] Boon is lion.


Boon is lion.

All in a days work.

The End.

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