One of the challenges that a boarding school faces is maintaining connectivity between parents and students while they are away. TGS combats this dilemma by using THINK Spot, our unique learning and collaboration platform, and having a ResLIFE team that engages the entire TGS community. Director of ResLIFE Yosefa Gilon describes the a recent trip to the parents on Spot.
AS I WRITE THIS EMAIL, my skin is soaking up the early afternoon rays. In an attempt at escaping from my computer screen and appreciating the day, I am sitting by the massive swimming pool. I have a pen in my hand and a notebook in my lap. Although writing on paper and then typing later adds to the amount of work I have to do, I’ve found that stepping away from routine often puts a new perspective on what’s at hand. This could not have been truer this past week.
On Thursday, February 2nd the students and Residential Life Staff said goodbye to the teachers and the PTIS campus and boarded vans. We headed off to a hill tribe village about an hour and a half away from campus. The trip served a multitude of purposes. We participated in community service, learned about the Palong Hill Tribe (a group of Burmese living in Northern Thailand), played with children, slept in tents, sat around a campfire and learned many things about each other. Those three days gave me a new perspective on the people who make TGS what it is.
Our project was centered in the village’s school. In three days we built a bathroom, created a cement path around one of the classrooms, and built a bamboo fence around the perimeter. Teamwork, enthusiasm and determination were the driving forces that enabled us to complete the project.
The team consisted of TGS students and staff (Brad, Monique, Lindsay and I) plus special staff members Jo and Ashley in addition to children from the community. We formed lines and passed buckets full of sand and rocks from one hand to the next. We didn’t just build for people; we built with the same people who will continue to benefit from our efforts for years to come. Jo and Lindsay captured the teamwork and special moments on film and many of the photos are already on SPOT.
While the work was physically demanding and the sun was hot, everyone remained in good spirits. Being outside, away from technology or other distractions, we found ourselves engaging in conversations. I learned a lot about everyone. Not only did I learn little bits about people’s lives, I learned that many TGS students love playing with little kids. Yada and Charis, our Thai students, shined as interpreters and through their language skills and everyone’s body language and patience, our students became big brothers and sisters to a group of energetic and happy kids. At the end of each workday we cleaned our tools, said goodbye to our new friends, and rode in trucks back to our camp. Each night we ate a Thai feast and then sat around a campfire.
Although I enjoyed every moment of the trip, my highlight was sitting around the campfire with the unique and fantastic students and staff that make up TGS. On our last night we engaged the students in a processing exercise that required everyone to take on a role and to discuss tourism based on their persona’s perspective. What ensued was a thoughtful, inquisitive, deep and impressive conversation. I have worked with hundreds of international high school students, but I have never been surrounded by such a thoughtful and intelligent group of teenagers.
These teens, your teen, remained engaged and outspoken for two hours. Their curiosity and global citizenship were apparent and it was obvious that they were enjoying the conversation. The discussion eventually came to an end and then everyone shared something they appreciated about the person sitting to their left as well as something they learned about that person.
After the last thought was shared, a sense of pride and appreciation washed over me. I feel fortunate to be supporting and facilitating the growth of these youth into intelligent, balanced, and inquisitive global citizens. I hope that after reading this, you feel something similar about your son or daughter. Be proud.
I know that my positivity and overall good feeling about the trip is shared by everyone who participated in it. In an attempt to continue the momentum, we will be having a bonfire on the PTIS campus Sunday night. We will continue to engage students in thought provoking conversations while they roast marshmallows and bananas, and make s’mores (graham crackers, chocolate and roasted marshmallows). I can almost guarantee that the night will end with someone playing guitar and 25+ voices singing along.
Stepping away from our usual routine enabled us all to appreciate each other as well as the opportunities and experience we have had and the ones that lie ahead.
Hugs from Thailand,