Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Siamese Fireback and the Bees

During our first week in Don Kwian, two of us accompanied our Thai sisters to a primary/secondary school in a nearby village. The purpose of our visit was to assess the community health needs of the children, of which many were identified. At the end of the meeting, we were asked to collaborate with our Thai sisters to develop a sex education program for the secondary school students, to be taught four days later. In Thailand, comprehensive sex education is expected in schools, and we were elated to be included in such a unique opportunity!

(Two of our Thai sisters holding a banner they created for the day.)

When collaborating, we were astounded at how dedicated the Thai students were to this assignment. They quickly produced an intricately detailed schedule for the sex education session, and created high-quality, engaging posters on contraception, puberty, and sexually transmitted infections. Not only are these young women phenomenal students, they take an incredible amount of pride in the education they receive. They exert gratitude and respect for others at all times, even when they are exhausted from sleep deprivation, immersing themselves in a new community for six weeks, and working diligently together through all hours of the day and night.

(Julia introducing the sex education presentation with our Thai sisters, Eve and Ped. Notice Gel rocking out on the drums!)

Moreover, our Thai sisters seem to work magically well together. They fall into an intricate rhythm of enthusiasm, warmth, and supporting each others' strengths. This fostered an open, accepting environment for teaching and learning about such a potentially sensitive topic. Their work was well-organized and thorough, and they were dedicated to using multiple teaching modalities to effectively communicate with the adolescents.

On the day of the presentation, our Thai sisters impressed us all with their ability to garner and maintain the interest of skeptical, reserved adolescent students. From the ages of 12-17, children present unique challenges to teaching that force educators to devise creative solutions. The topic of sexual education is not exempt from this and is arguably an even more difficult subject to teach due to the potential for awkwardness or discomfort.

(One of the fantastic posters our Thai sisters produced!)

Nonetheless, our Thai sisters excelled in teaching sexual education and "bringing it all together" by playing a game with the secondary school students. After being seated in a circle, a balled up piece of paper was passed among the students in a quick fashion a la hot potato-- a game our Thai sisters called "cabbage." Music and dance accompanied the object being passed, provided live by our Thai sisters, and a stop to the music meant whomever holding the ball at that moment would be brought into the middle of the circle. After entering the middle of the circle, a layer was removed from the ball of paper like an onion shedding skin, and the piece of paper contained a scenario. The scenarios reinforced and applied knowledge taught in the sexual education lecture, challenging the secondary school students to synthesize and practice with new information. Audience members cheered and chuckled as the student in the middle navigated the scenario. The sheer ingenuity of this game cannot be overstated, and everyone involved seemed to enjoy the game tremendously!

Creativity in the classroom is decreasing as teachers and parents are more reliant upon technology to educate students. However, technology is often exclusionary and alienates the human element of learning. In this sexual education lesson, our Thai sisters inspired us to implement innovative thinking when teaching. As healthcare providers, much of our teaching occurs in the office setting. This activity demonstrates that opportunities for teaching extend far beyond clinic hours. Most importantly, constructing clever ways to communicate health information is tremendously beneficial for learners and teachers.

The dedication and compassion towards community health exerted by our Thai sisters was tremendously inspiring.
As future Nurse Practitioners, we will incorporate and apply all we have learned throughout this experience as we strive to provide a platform for open communication, acceptance, and comprehensive education.

With love Aubree, Cassie, Jordan, Julia, Lizzi, Misha

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