If you're reading this this morning, Prasarn "Paul" Boonnok is in the air, approaching San Francisco.
Boonnok and the rest of a delegation of Thailand Ph.D. students spent yesterday shopping at the Mall of America before heading home following their three-week stay at SMSU. All told, they'll be on a plane for some 28 hours.
A total of 30 doctoral students and four advisors, the largest group yet, visited SMSU for three weeks. They are Ph.D. students in either the Strategies of Learning Management or Educational Administration programs at Udon Thani Rajabhat University, Thailand.
It's the fourth year a group from there has visited SMSU as part of their program.
"We learned so much," said Boonnok, who visited Holy Redeemer School in Marshall, as well as elementary schools in Lake Benton and Walnut Grove. He was able to talk with teachers and administrators and observe the educational system of each first-hand.
"The educational systems are similar in Thailand and here," he explained. "What was interesting to me was the way the teachers work together in teams - a teacher and a helper, that's different than (Thailand)."
Class sizes are smaller in the U.S., he said. "Here, there's not more than 25 students, In Thailand, it's between 35 and 40 students. Smaller is better, teachers can look closer at each student, give them help. "
He was a secondary teacher for 29 years before becoming an educational supervisor, a position he's had the past three years. He deals with student achievement, and professional development, in that capacity.
"When I was a teacher I had an opportunity to help a supervisor for about 10 years," he said. "I love teach and help people, and I was asked to help (a supervisor) so my interest grew."
How technology is used in the classroom was something he'll take back to Thailand with him. ""It's effectively used here," he said. "There's touch screens (SMART Boards), and students sometimes go into small groups. We need to extend (technology) more, and that's a good example of something I'll take back with me."
The group stayed in the residence halls at SMSU, and at the end of each day would gather and share their experiences at the various schools in the area they visited.
They also had a lot of discussion in the SMSU class they took.
The class was specifically designed for the doctoral students. The Educational Administration students took a class, School-based Management, while the Strategies of Learning Management students took a Curriculum Theories and Design class, both 600-level courses. The classes are not part of SMSU's master's in Education program - they were created specifically for the doctoral students.
They were able to visit parts of Minnesota, including Forest Lake, Itasca State Park and the Pipestone National Monument. And Boonnok learned all about the tradition of Halloween while he was here.
"People are very friendly, it became like a family," he said.
The Udon Thani students' ages ranged greatly. The oldest student to make the trip to SMSU was 73 years old.
When they arrived, they were each given a quilt, a gift made by women at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. When they left, they needed those quilts. "It's much cooler here, and windier," said Boonnok.
As the group waited for its bus outside of Sweetland Hall yesterday, they were bundled up, with hats and gloves on and heavier coats covering their bodies.
"It's been a good experience," he said. "I appreciate it, though sometimes I forget which day it is."