Daily Phuket #95: 13 December 2021 – Wonderful Workshop

Today, my Camp Crew held our first English Camp/Activity Day since pre-pandemic times. Effective with this particular event, I decided we should call the one-day sessions “workshops”. This one was absolutely wonderful due to the hard work put in by everyone involved. I cannot remember the last time one of our activities went so smoothly.

Getting to that point was extremely difficult though as everything was very — typically Thai — last minute. It was not organized until Saturday morning and the camp’s theme changed several times before the powers-that-be settled on English For Tourism which would end in oral presentations of travel posters. Once they settled on that idea, I had less than two hours to create a handbook containing all of the information the teachers and students would need complete with sample dialogues, lists of vocabulary and an explanation of the final project. That time crunch was due to needing to have the books printed and bound before the shop closed.

A scheduling nightmare ensued as we scrambled to recruit available teachers. While we do have a number of teachers, many of those who met the criteria were busy teaching online during the daytime and did not want to risk losing their positions by cancelling classes with very little notice. One of my successes was having my supervisor hire a returning teacher. She had last worked for us in 2018 and arrived back in Thailand on the 3rd of December and checked-into an “approved” hotel for what she thought would be the promised one-day quarantine. She was released on the 10th. According to the hotel, it is still seven days despite what the government is claiming.

At any rate, the students were all fourth or fifth year students attending Valaya Alongkorn Rajabhat University Under The Royal Patronage in Pathum Thani just north of Bangkok. They were flown down to Phuket solely for the camp. VRU is ranked the 49th top university in Thailand and the 38 students were mostly general science or mathematics majors in the English Programme there. Fifth year students are in the Education Department — future teachers, in other words.

The venue was a Sheraton-Marriott owned property right on Patong Beach in the west of Phuket. It was quite posh! The conference room where we conducted our activities was very nice indeed and they parked several food trolleys outside to provide snacks during the duration (I did not discover this until late in the afternoon — there was a station with tiny Rueben sandwiches, several with drinks and even an miniature ice cream wagon with the best lime sherbet that I have had in years). Lunch was a buffet in the main restaurant. All was provided free for the students, our staff and teachers. I didn’t eat much as I couldn’t really relax until the day was finished.

The day really just flew by. The students were absolutely brilliant, a joy to work with. They took to the project of creating travel posters like seasoned professionals (they probably do this type of thing on a regular basis). The destinations were chosen by the students and I learned about some areas of Thailand that I hadn’t known much about. Each of the four groups (one per teacher) was further divided into three or four smaller groups for the project; my smaller groups did their posters and presentations about Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya and Pattaya. The three students who did their presentation for the latter even demonstrated a cabaret show (I thought they would win but, alas, they did not). The oral presentations of the posters were all excellent and it really was difficult to determine the overall winner. I’d made a fairly comprehensive scoring rubric and we still had a five-way tie for third place, only three points separated fourth place from the grand prize winners (who presented their poster about Phetchabun).

Along the way, there were a lot of group photos taken and I am still waiting to see copies of those (they brought the University’s official photographer with them). Here is a selection of the very few that I managed to shoot. You might notice that each of our groups were designated with a symbol. Yes, there was a slight Squid Game theme but we assured our students that the losers didn’t have to worry about getting shot at the end.

Our Camp Crew did a fine job. I had never worked with two of the teachers and was pleasantly surprised at how well they did their tasks. We have had a few past camps during which somebody was always disappearing for smoking breaks or just could not think on their feet or behaved in an unprofessional manner but there was none of that today. It made for a completely stress-free event (although I still worried about very minor things). The students heaped loads of praise upon us as they were not expecting the Tourism theme and really felt what they learned would be very useful. We have already received extremely positive feedback from the client so, hopefully, it leads to additional workshops in the (near) future.

It still seems quite amazing to me that this event was allowed to happen at all and it was my first experience in a hotel under COVID-19 protocols (even to the point of having to don plastic gloves at the buffet). I cannot wait until we have another similar event. I hope that the next one has lime sherbet too!

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