The Power of Education

Sometimes teaching helps both the teacher and students.

Jack Stromberg

Annie Smuts, Body Copy Editor

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As a First World country, it is easy to take education for granted, but it can enlighten both the teacher and student. There is a reason that I never say I hate coming to school every day, no matter how late I stay up to study or complete one last assignment.

Community service was very heavily emphasized at my old school. Numerous times I found myself in an unfamiliar setting with my foreign peers. The first time that happened, our band class was taking a trip to Khao Lak, a small city in southern Thailand that was destroyed by a 2004 tsunami. We were going to perform a few songs for the students. I was nervous. I didn’t know them and they lived a completely different life; I feared that they saw me as a stuck-up American wanting to make them a charity case. But that didn’t happen.

That was the first time I was exposed to an education system in a foreign country, but it was not the most impactful. That happened over a year later.

Again, I was assigned to do community service at a local school, but this time it was just down the road. Though I lived in Thailand, my friends and I mainly stayed in our walled compound. The walls separated the real world from our plastic suburbia; we didn’t really know what was going on down the street. I remember sitting in the very back of a gray van with the A/C on full blast. My heart was racing. I didn’t know anyone in the group. More than half of them were Thai, so they could actually complete the task of teaching the kids, whereas I couldn’t even properly say “hello.” Our simple task was daunting to me.

We got out of the van and were greeted by the principal’s broken “hello” and led to the classroom.

“Now, everyone pair up so there is one Thai speaker in the group,” our chaperone instructed.

Everyone gravitated towards their friends. I wasn’t upset when I was left alone with a girl I’d never spoken to; I was just worried because neither of us spoke a word of Thai.

We all walked inside and went to our assigned group of students. I could see the excitement in their eyes, but neither of us could understand their rapid speech. When they realized this, their faces fell a bit and their eyes wandered to other groups, longing to be with someone that they could actually understand. At that point, it felt like the other groups were mocking us; the kids were hugging their group leaders with smiles. Both my partner and I looked at each other and sighed, then picked up another marker to resume teaching.

“Puuuuurrrple,” I said, enunciating every syllable over dramatically.

Two of them caught on, the loudest being a boy wearing red shoes, but everyone else just looked at us with blank expressions.

We tried again. This time, three of them repeated in heavy accents.

Then, the boy with the red shoes said something I, to this day, don’t know, but he convinced all of them to follow our instructions. So, when we tried again with red, everyone repeated.

From that point on, the learning went both ways: we were teaching them colors in English, and they were reiterating in Thai. That was the first time I saw that school is not only there to teach us math and chemistry, but to really show us the humility of people.

For me, complaining about having to come to school is a paradox. Why would anyone object to one of the greatest privileges of the Western World? I have met many people that would kill to be in our position. We have the world at our fingertips, so why not take advantage of it?

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