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How Thai Massage Class is Like Boston Public

Today is Thanksgiving, though you wouldn’t know it in Northern Thailand.

Geckos are squeaking, the breeze gusts warm, and there ain’t a turkey in sight.

But wherever we are, even kooky Canada with its October Thanksgiving, it’s still that time of year to say thanks!

And this year’s thanks goes out to the students and staff of Boston Public Schools. Everything during this year around the world is making me think of you. I feel so lucky to still be able to harass you daily via Facebook! All the way across our great earth, I miss you and send you love.

Here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we have the final exam for our Level One Massage Course tomorrow. Eek! That’s sixty-three twisty and mushy moves to memorize!

I began to realize today, as I crammed for hours after school for the test with my partner:

There are some very interesting parallels between Boston Public Schools’ classes and the classes of ITM Massage School.

1. Both classrooms are packed with great folks from all over the world. This is a major plus of working in Boston or any other multicultural city: thanks to the worldwide experience of your students, you get to travel without leaving the city! Similarly (as the Thais say: “Same same but different”), ITM has a world map on its wall with heart stickers pasted on countries ITM-ers are from; the map is coated with hearts.

2. Both ITM and BPS use the Workshop Method of Instruction. In its simplest form, this goes: I do, We do, You do.

More complexly, first there is a Mini-Lesson: the ITM teacher shows massage steps #30-#43 on a model while all the students watch and take notes. Similarly, the BPS English teacher stands in front of the class and models a reading or writing strategy using an overhead projector or other visual device.

Second, there is Guided Practice: the ITM students each pair up and practice massage moves #30-#43 with their own hands while the instructor does the moves again on her own model, calling out each of the steps as the whole class does them together. Meanwhile, the BPS English teacher guides her class in trying out the reading or writing strategy from the mini-lesson together, using pencil and paper or wall charts. Hands-on, together.

Third, there is Independent Practice: the ITM and BPS students try out the strategy on their own, with the teacher(s) circulating to offer encouragement, hints, and corrections. Students can look back to the demonstration notes and handouts for help (as all us masseuses-in-training are doing in these photos!)

BPS also has a Share-Out, and both BPS and ITM have (oy!) Homework practice.

3. You have to be clean and neat, or you’ll get made fun of.

In BPS, you have to have decent fashion sense, otherwise you’ll get a raised hand and the comment: “Um, Miss– your shoes do NOT match that shirt.”

At ITM, you better shower well, moisturize, and wear clean clothes, because otherwise the up-close-and-personal experience that is Thai Massage will be a stench-y nightmare!

4. As part of the Workshop Model, both ITM and BPS use “Anchor Charts” of important concepts on the walls.

Having key vocabulary and ideas pasted a few feet from your face makes learning easier for both kids and adults!

Hung on top of its mirrored walls, ITM has charts of the muscles and bones of the body, and a list of the shorthand symbols used in our massage manual (pictured, left).

All over the walls of my classroom in BPS, I used a fat ream of neon-colored paper to post every English tip possible. To the right is a photo of the ever-useful “Grammar Guide Wall”.

You’d think after four years of that bright sign in their face and my shrill nagging in their ears, students would have all perfected your/you’re and their/there/they’re, wouldn’t you? You’d think.

5. And now for a DIFFERENCE: Group Tai Chi/Qi Gong/Yoga in the morning!

Ok, getting masses of surly teens in fashionable clothes to all do exercise in the morning would be, in the words of my former principal, like herding cats. Really angry cats with claws. That said, the fact that I have started every day at ITM with an hour of group Thai exercise is one of the main reasons I’m feeling so physically fabulous this week. It really helps get your energy zinging, your muscles loose, and your brain open!

Wandering around Southeast Asian cities, I’ve seen countless here taking outdoor exercise-in-unison breaks, and I would believe it has great benefits for the entire school. Teachers and principals: consider how smooth, flowing group movement could calm your students’ minds and bodies today! Want to give it a try?

And now off to try to sleep through the resounding fireworks and karaoke (why are there fireworks and karaoke every day of the week?) to be fresh and ready for my massage exam tomorrow. Wish me luck, and in return I send you love and THANKS!


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Tuesday 22nd of January 2013

That's so cool I didn't know it's common in Thailand to have massages in the morning. That way you can be relaxed all day long.

Sue Torpey

Monday 24th of September 2012

Hi! I was just wondering what the box in the bottom left handed corner says on the Grammar Guide Wall? It is quite hard to identify the fine prit. Thak you so much, Sue:)


Monday 24th of September 2012

Hi Sue, Thanks for stopping by! The bottom left corner says: "Your sentences should be CLEAR (not confusing) and FLOWING (not awkward, jerky, or full of unnecessary words)."

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