I would like to dedicate this post to my 110 Thai 4th graders and the 110 degree weather I was blessed with today.
Today we took a field trip to the Grand Palace (which is the only place in Bangkok I had visited before, what are the chances) and the Siam Museum. We had to arrive at school at 6 am to load up the “VIP” buses (double decker coach buses kind of like the Megabus) with all the kids and get on the road at 6:30 to try and beat Bangkok traffic. Which is like trying to pin a wave to the sand. Pretty sure I just combined two separate lyrics from the Sound of Music there. Needless to say we did a good job of getting off in time, however, still hit traffic. About 2 hours later we arrived at probably the biggest tourist attraction in the city, ready to rock and roll.
The kids were actually pretty good through the whole thing, they were excited, paid attention, were careful crossing the street, lined up when asked, and were respectful all around the Grand Palace. Which brings me to my next topic, Thai children. After teaching for about 2 weeks, it’s been really interesting to learn/observe the little idiosyncrasies of the kids- my 4th graders as well as the whole school. I thought I would share my observations.
For starters, they are extremely helpful. Thai kids are expected to help out/do everything for themselves as well as the teacher. For example if I have a lesson that involves the projector and a Powerpoint presentation, they jump up, erase the board, pull down the projector screen, turn on the projector and get everything ready for you. If it’s noisy, they grab the microphone for you. If you have papers or notebooks to hand back, they hand them out for you. They are just very helpful and conscious of what they can do to make your life easier. Today we had to give out water and lunch on the bus as we went from the Grand Palace to the museum and they all jump up to help. They handed out all the waters and lunches so you really don’t have to do anything. I feel like in America, as a camp counselor, I was handing out crap all the time, opening everything for them, cleaning up after them. You don’t have to do that here. I handed out one lunch by the time the girls had distributed everything and a kid collected my garbage from me. Below is a picture of a Thai school trip lunch. Very different.
They are also extremely self sufficient. Like I said, you don’t have to help them open this, put a straw in that, clean up after them. During their milk break in the afternoon, they are actually in charge of getting out the straws, taking turns cutting a hole in the milk bags (the milk comes in weird little pouches instead of boxes), and putting the empties back in the container they were delivered in. Because students don’t wear shoes in the classroom they learn from a very young age (like 4) how to quickly take their shoes on and off and line them up on the rack outside the classroom. My friend here teaches K1, which is basically Pre-K and she isn’t sitting there all day putting shoes on and off, or that would be her only job, putting 100 kids shoes on and off. They do it themselves.
They also aren’t babied or toted on. Granted I know they are in 4th grade, but today we had to cross not one, but two, extremely busy streets filled with buses and taxis around the Grand Palace and weave in and out of street vendors and tourists. There was no stopping and waiting for everyone. There was no headcount. They were all expected to stay together, look for us, and make sure it was safe before crossing the street. I’m standing there looking all around waiting for me to lose a kid, have one get abducted, or hit by a car, but they were fine. And the Thai teachers weren’t worried. There is almost an expectation set of being responsible for your own well being and they meet it.
It’s the same when they are at school. They are all lined up for lunch, which they bring their own utensils to, and walk down in rows, grab their food in a assembly line (same thing for everyone) sit and wait until everyone is seated with their meal to eat. Then they clean up after themselves, wash their forks and spoons, and are allowed to go off, anywhere on campus to play until lunch is over at 12:50. Without fail the kids are in the class, at their desks at like 12:45. Granted they are wired and off the wall, but there are no lunch ladies, sections they have to play in, or worrying of kids running off. They just do what they’re supposed to.
Now I don’t want to give the impression they are all well behaved, disciplined robots. They’re not. They can be extremely misbehaved, noisy and disrespectful in class. But outside of the classroom, functioning as little people, its really amazing to watch them go through the motions and be capable. Which is what I think sometimes kids in America forget, that they are capable. Capable of doing a lot more than they have to. None of my Thai kids say “I can’t”. Even today, after we trotted them around the Grand Palace in the blistering heat for 3 hours, they were such good sports until we were leaving and waiting for the bus. Only then did they come up to me, all sticky and smelly with little kid sweat whining, “Teacha, teacha, so hot. Teacha, I thirsty. Teacha I need water”. I was like “Trust me kid, I am right there with ya.” I don’t know how they let us all go without water that long. My Thai homeroom teachers runs a tight ship. Anyway, it’s interesting is all. Below are some more pictures of the day and the kids. They were kind of cute. Taking pictures of everything and eachother. Except when they kept being like “Teacha, teacha, pictcha!” and making me stop and pose and take awkward solo shots. Which happened a lot. Other than that I kind of liked them today 🙂