One of the joys of traveling is learning not only about one Culture, but surrounding cultures as well. This year I was able to take part in celebrating the Chinese New Year! To be honest, I did not know anything about it. At school the Foreign Language Depatment put on a half day event and the show was pretty spectacular. Manow, the Chinese Teacher put so much time and energy into the whole day, and it showed. She taught the kids: Tae Chi, Kung Fu, traditional dances from around the country, songs in Chinese, as well as a rendition of Cinderella, in Chinese.
I was able to partake by teaching a group of students a traditional Chinese dance (that I taught myself off of Youtube). I really enjoyed being able to spend time with the girls outside of class. It was also nice to be dancing again, and just goes to show you dance is a universal language. Who needs words?! Additionally, I got to know one student in particular, Fai. When she learned I had to perform alone, she stayed with me for hours after her group was done practicing. She would run the music for me, and practice with me so I did not have to dance alone.คนใจดี
And teach wasn’t all I did. I had agreed to perform a dance with the other foreign language teachers. However, life happens, and it ended up seeming like it was not happening. Two days before the show Manow asked me if I would still do it. And by ask, I mean told me I would. haha. So I learned a 2 min ( negotiated down from 4 min.) dance that I had to perform alone. Learning it, I really enjoyed, but performing alone has never been my favorite thing. I wonder why my professional dance career only went so far… Anyway, the show was a blast and I learned a good amount about Chinese culture, which was wonderful. I also got another opportunity to be amazed at what these students are capable of.
And that my friends wraps up the school year. The semesters in Thailand run May-October and then November-March. I will still be working until April 1st, but the students are gone. It’s a weird feeling to go to school and not see all my M1 students. They are such great fun. Which is why I decided to extend my stay in Thailand. One semester is enough to get the swing of things, learn very basic language, and start to make friends. I wanted to improve all of those things, so Thailand, we are not through yet. In many ways it was not easy to decide. I miss my family, and friends more than words can express. Additionally this means a summer without Mayhew, and if you know me…well…yeah. Sad. HOWEVER! this gives you more time to come visit me friends, okay? COOL!
I would like to take a little blog time to talk about some classes and students that really made this semester special. I adore my Matayaom 101 class. These kids are so smart, funny, fun, and really took the time to speak English with me. A group of the girls also taught me Thai every morning! Which I encouraged of course, even though we were at morning assembly…and I am sure we were meant to be listening to the announcements…but…it’s okay… This class never failed to put a smile on my face.
My Mataypm 104 class was really special as well. Just a polite, respectful, interested group of kids. One girl in particular, Flame, stands out. She was really respectful yet confident, eager to learn, and kind. Whenever the class would get a bit unruly she would definitely tell everyone whats up ( in Thai) , and it made my life so much easier. And it seemed she did so because she wanted to listen and learn. She loves playing soccer and running. And it’s not as common for the girls here. So basically, she’s bad ass.
My Matayom 108 class was a favorite. I had two students in it who pulled at my heart strings every class. Fridays with M108 started with a group of 5 kids running to me when they saw me in the hall, to carry my books, markers, and whatever else I had. And then there was Pai. Pai is everything sweet in the world. She really enjoys learning English and is so diligent with it. One day we were talking about food, and she asked me how to spell “om nom nom nom.” Point and case already. But on the last day of class, while walking down the hall she linked arms with me, put her head on my shoulder and said, “Colleen, I love you.” So sweet. Here she is in the picture below, holding my hand.
Also in M108 was Oak. Thai students are taught at an early age the answer, “How are you?” i with “I’m fine thank you, and you?” So you very rarely hear deviation from it. But Oak would always say to me, “Today I am so happy!” And it never failed to make me so happy as well. On the last day of class, Oak came to my office and read a note he had practiced to speak in English. He also gave me a sweet card and doll.
I would be lying if I said teaching in Thailand is easy. Many days it is difficult, frustrating, and exhausting. You are teaching a foreign language to some kids who do not understand most of what you say, some who don’t care, and some who see the farang teacher as a joke. I would say pretty standard to American students. I can imagine being in 7th grade and having a foreign language teacher who didn’t speak English. So I understand.But then you have kids like the ones from above,…that’s all it takes. It’s fighting the good fight for the kids who try, the kids who want to learn, the kids who will use English and hopefully travel and use it.
Additionally teaching in a foreign language is difficult because the cultural norms that are so engrained into our everyday life is just not the same. Class sizes here are large, they break up the students by tracking test scores, teachers should not learn on desks, don’t step on papers …or anything… ( even to demonstrate the preposition ‘under’) , female teachers must wear skirts, there is no higher up discipline (beyond what you establish in class), reading attendance ( very difficult in Thai)…etc. etc.
So as much as the students are learning, so am I.
And what school doesn’t end with a party? Here is a couple photos from the “Family Night” end of the year party. Where all the students perform, there is food, giant blow up slides and bounce houses, carnival games and everyone’s families of course! I just realized I took pictures of none of this…but use that imagination!