Tag Archives: kindergarten

Loy Krathong in Phuket

I won’t lie, the holidays are hitting me right in the feels, and I am homesick. Luckily, the Loy Krathong Festival happened to be the day before Thanksgiving this year, so I was given a nice distraction from being far away from my family.

I had read up on a few holidays before coming to Thailand, and Loy Krathong was one I had flagged as  “not to miss.” I saw pictures on Google and in guide books that showed thousands of paper lanterns floating up into the night sky. That was basically my idea of what it was supposed to be.  You would think I’d know by now that I need to stop drawing expectations from what I see online. The total number of lanterns I saw? One.

Loy Krathong (important note here that the “h” is silent) is an annual tradition of creating floating vessels (krathongs) and sending them off into a body of water to send away the bad energy, wish for good luck, and pay respect to the water gods. It is also a bit of a romantic holiday. I’ve read so many different interpretations of the holiday, so any information I’m going to provide here is based solely off of observation and imageinformation from my coworkers.

On Wednesday morning, my Thai teacher insisted I be in her classroom at
1pm. It’s normally my planning period, but she told me she wanted my help with making krathongs with the students. I was excited about the opportunity, because I didn’t really know what they were traditionally made from, let alone how to make one. Making krathongs with the kids ended up being a blast, as I think they helped me more than I helped them.

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This is Silmee! (Pronounced “Simee”)

The base is traditionally made from a stump of a banana tree. It is wrapped with banana leaves that are pinned into place with little metal pins. It is decorated with flowers (and lettuce, and whatever else you can find), and 3 incense sticks and a candle for good luck. Something that really caught my attention was everyone’s willingness to share materials. Each kid brought in their own grocery bag full of tree stumps, banana leaves, flowers, and pins. I was amazed to see kids walk over to each other and reach into their classmate’s bag to find a flower they needed, and nobody cared. I don’t think I’ve seen children interact in such a collective manner. Since I didn’t have any materials  to make my krathong, they insisted I use theirs. Some of the kids’ krathongs came out much better than mine, but I think it was okay for my first try!

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This is Nudee- probably my most artistically inclined student.

After the sun sets, the krathongs are taken to a body of water, where the candles and incense are lit and the little boats are floated away. Some of the teachers invited me to go with them to Saphan Hin- a park in Phuket Town with the biggest celebration of Loy Krathong on the island. The park is on the eastern coast with ocean access, and also has a lake in the middle. The water in the ocean was choppy, so everyone was floating them in the lake. At first I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t release mine into the ocean, and then I realized that in the excitement of the holiday, I hadn’t realized how horrible the festival is for the environment.

Floating away the bad energy in the ocean seems so mystical, but in reality it’s kind of a mess. My krathong was made from banana leaves and imageflowers, but it also had a ton of metal pins in it. Other peoples’ boats were made with plastic, or sugary cake. Some of them were made out of fish food, which is something I can get behind, but for the most part, they were not really good for fish. I figured that releasing it into the lake had better odds of it being disposed of properly.

It is good luck to send off the krathongs with a lock of hair and money tucked into them.  I couldn’t believe that some people were swimming in the lake and picking through the krathongs to find the money in them! Nobody said anything about it. I took a picture of some of the krathongs in the water, and then a little boy popped up out of nowhere and counted the money he had found.

imageAfter about an hour of watching the festivities, I asked a coworker about the paper lanterns I’d seen in pictures on Google. I had previously seen in the news that they were banned from Phuket, but I thought it was for environmental reasons. She told me that they were banned because they were flying high enough to potentially be sucked into the engine of an airplane. Not for environmental reasons.

Loy Krathong is definitely magical, but after all is said and done, I feel bad for the environmental cost of having such a holiday. The following day, I read in the news that a mass cleanup of the park generated 14 tons of trash. WHAT!! That’s insane. For a holiday meant to give thanks to the water gods, and water as a resource, it’s pretty crazy to celebrate by polluting the waterways. Even so, the krathongs that were made from organic material are going to be sitting in a landfill and not biodegrading. It’s a pretty crazy palm-to-face realization that the celebration is magical and whatnot, but it’s coming at the cost of the environment.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the cutesy pictures of us trashing the environment. *sigh*

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Week 2 of Kindergarten

I’m starting to get into the swing of things, and  now time is flying by.

Working at the school hardly feels like work. The teachers at the school are all wonderful, and make for great company throughout the day. The English department has teachers from all over- the U.S., South Africa, Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, and of course Thailand. Everyone brings their own slang and dialects, and I can’t imagine how my vocabulary will change over the next year. So far, I’ve caught myself using the words “mates” “keen” and “proper” in ways that I hadn’t before I had arrived. To my students I am supposed to use the word “trainers” for tennis shoes, but I don’t think that word will stick with me. Same with “jumper” for sweater. I won’t be calling it that when I get home.

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This is Paeng. She is the sweetest little girl in my class. Always well behaved, and she’s crazy smart. She’s a little doll.

The students have really started to adjust to me, and I’m impressed at how quickly they’ve done it. The construction at the school has me shouting out my lessons, but the kids are still managing to pay attention. The construction outside of our classroom is set to last at least another two months, which nobody is too excited about. It is rumored that the whole Kathu District is supposed to be without power for the next 2 weeks. That should be interesting. Hopefully it will give us a break from the construction!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but our classroom is open-air. So far it hasn’t been too hot, but we’re technically not in the hot season yet. If 87 degrees is not considered the hot season, I’m curious to see what is. I like the open air room, as we have some critters that come and go as they please. These are including, but not limited to: dragonflies, giant bees, birds, lizards, and dogs. It’s hard to keep the kids under control when a critter enters the room. The other day a giant bee flew into the classroom, and my attention span matched that of my students.

The Thai teacher in my classroom, Fee, is awesome and we get along great. She is always willing to step in when I need help, but she keeps her distance otherwise. She is 7 months pregnant, so she’s training a new teacher to take over for when she’s on maternity leave. Here’s the depressing part:

The principle told Fee that she is to keep her pregnancy a secret. She is single, and a Muslim, so the pregnancy is frowned upon. Fee has been wearing giant if dresses, but compared to her small frame you can definitely tell she’s not just gaining weight. I’ve heard that she won’t be on maternity leave for long, because once the baby is born she has to give it to her parents to raise because she doesn’t have a partner.

She is always smiling though. Thai people, I tell you what.

It’s crazy to think that I’ve only been teaching for two weeks, but I’ve been affected as a person. Something about guidingimage 30 five-year-olds makes you feel like you should be a better human being. It’s like having 30 mirrors staring back at me. I so badly want to be a positive role model for them. The picture on the right is from our P.E. class on Wednesday. I HATED P.E. growing up. I’ve always wished I were more enthusiastic about physical activity. I guess now I’m going to have to learn!

On Friday I received the great news that my work permit was finally processed. I  found out a little more about what the holdup was. The school I’m teaching at has a contract with an “English Language Provider” so a company that is paid to help staff teachers at schools around the island. The company is basically HR for the school’s English programs. They are in charge of processing all of my paperwork as it relates to the work permit and teaching license. The school signs a yearly contract with the provider, and usually it is a smooth process. Well, this year the guy at the very top of the organization died. His replacement came in and wanted to review every last detail of the contract with the school. Neither the school nor the company knew with 100% certainty that the contract was going to go through. Apparently the entire English department had their jobs on the line. I was still on vacation when this was going on, so I had no idea.  It usually takes about 1 week to process a work permit, and mine took about 6 weeks. Now I can leave the country and re-enter on a Non-Immigrant B Visa.

I was talking to my supervisor about when I could leave the school to do my visa run. On Friday, December 4th, normal classes are cancelled and the students come to school for Father’s Day activities. I’m not sure if I’ve previously mentioned, but Father’s Day is always on the king’s birthday. I’m under the impression that it’s less about biological fathers and more about the king. There are shirts everywhere that say “I love Dad” and have a picture of the king on them.

Anyhow, the normal classes are cancelled on Friday, and then Monday is the official observance of the holiday, so schools are cancelled. I’ll have to leave Wednesday night in order to have 2 business days to process the paperwork. I am going to get to have a 5 day weekend to leave the country and get everything taken care of. I got really excited, because I heard that the Thai embassy in Singapore is really nice and efficient, and I wanted to go because, well, it’s a weekend trip to Singapore. I started looking into flights ($45 round trip, at that), when one of the teachers told me to make sure the paperwork wasn’t written for a specific embassy. Sure enough, we asked the secretary and she said it’s all addressed to the embassy in Penang, Malaysia. I was a little bummed, but it’s still a new place. I’m going to try to get my paperwork done quickly so then I can hop on a plane to Singapore for the 3 day weekend. Wow, I’m so spoiled. I’m just going to “hop on down to Singapore.”

Speaking of spoiled…

With another long and exhausting week of school finished, I decided to get out of the city and head over to the island of Koh Yao Noi for the weekend. My experience on the island was amazing, and it will definitely require its own blog post (coming soon!)

Here’s a fun fact to leave you with:

My school is a Buddhist school, so the kids say a prayer at assembly every morning. There are 2 kids in my class who aren’t Buddhist, so they just stand with their hands at their sides. Every Thursday, everyone wears white because the school goes vegetarian. Pretty cool!

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Teaching Kindergarten in Thailand- Week 1

Well I’ve officially survived my first week of teaching kindergarten, and boy was it a crazy week.

Banmaireab school is a government primary school that offers bilingual classes starting at the kindergarten level and going up through 6th grade. I’m not too sure how the structure of it is all setup, but I know that parents can select from three different programs to place their kids in- either 100% of the classes taught in Thai, the majority of the classes taught in Thai with a couple of English classes per week, or 60% of the classes taught in English every day. I know that there is a cost difference between them all, but I was told that our English Programme (yes, it’s spelled correctly) costs the most. It costs about 25% of the cost of sending a child to an international bilingual school. The class size is maxed out at 30 for the kindergarten, but there is a huge waiting list.   As a kindergarten teacher, I am teaching three hours of English to the same 30 students every day. The class is Kindergarten 2, so the kids are all either 6 six years old, or 5 turning 6 during the year. There is a Thai teacher in my class who has a desk in the room, and she is available to help me if necessary.

I had been into the school two times before the school started. At the very end of September I was able to sit in on three classes and observe a little bit of the procedures, but it definitely wasn’t enough. October is vacation month for the teachers and students, so I wasn’t able to do anything inside the school as far as planning goes. Before the break I was given a lesson plan for my first week of teaching and a list of my students’ names. That was it. I felt pretty unprepared going into it all, but the best way to learn how to swim is to be pushed into the water, right?

The first day of school was overwhelming, to say the least. It was basically like, “Okay, you have your lesson plan. Have fun!” I didn’t know anything about basic procedures. Even something as small as letting the kids go to the bathroom. They’re 5 and 6 years old. Am I allowed to tell them no? Can they hold it if I tell them no? Are they manipulating me when they all ask to go at the same time?

Same with going to their backpacks. Some of them walked up and got their supplies from their backpacks. Did they all have those supplies? Am I supposed to always let them use their own? Which supplies do we need for this lesson? Where are they? Oh no. That kid is upset because I told him no. Did the last teacher allow him to do that? I don’t want him to hate me.

Also the same with their level of English. That kid is giving me a blank stare. Does he understand me? Am I talking too fast? Did I use the right language? Does he know how to construct a sentence in English? Is he pretending like he doesn’t understand?

I didn’t realize until midway through the class that I was teaching in front of the class with my shoes on. In kindergarten, everyone is supposed to take their shoes off before they enter the classroom. I had so many things going through my mind, and I completely forgot to take them off. I felt embarrassed. image

When I was about to finish the first class, I went to get the kids’ attention. I said, “Everybody stop what you’re doing and look at me!” I got nothing in return. Everybody went about their business and was acting like I didn’t even exist. I said, “Okay everyone, it’s time to clean up!” Everyone started cleaning, but nobody really stopped talking to listen to me. I felt disrespected and hopeless. I left the class, and I cried a little bit.

I went back to the teachers’ office, and my supervisor asked me how it went. I was all flustered and was a little teary. It was lunch time, and I needed to go cool off.

My afternoons at the school are free of classes and open for me to do whatever work I need to. I spent a lot of time talking to Bronwyn, my supervisor, and tried to figure out where I went wrong. Bronwyn is teaching the other Kindergarten 2 class, so our class structure and lesson plans are the exact same. She basically told me that I need to show the students that I can be scary. It was the piece of information that turned my class around. I was caught up in my own head with Thai culture and showing anger. It has been instilled in me that it is inappropriate to show anger in public. Bronwyn told me to forget about that, and said it didn’t apply to the school setting. Most of the Thai teachers will scream into the kids’ faces. I didn’t need to scream, but I had to show that I was angry with the students if they were acting up.

For the rest of the week, I did not smile, and I was not silly. I didn’t ask the kids, I told them. I brought in a ton of stickers, which I handed out to reinforce positive behavior. Once I gave out a sticker to one kid for being quiet, the rest of the kids were trying really hard to impress me, and they followed suit. It worked very well to encourage positive behavior, but the kids were testing my limits. On the 2nd day, the kids were trying to see how much talking they could get away with. The first time they did not listen when I asked them to be quiet, I got scary.  I was stomping around the classroom and yelling. They all got completely silent. It worked.

Keeping the kids quiet is still a challenge, but it’s a whole lot easier now that I’ve showed them a mean side. I have found that praising good behavior is working better than yelling about bad behavior.  Now that I’ve shown them who is in charge, I am more excited about teaching the content. Classroom management is still a huge mind game, though. I feel like I’m trying to train 30 puppies.

Over the past week, I’ve begun to realize that my predecessor left a mess for me to clean up. She had these students for the first half of the year, and she let them get away with a lot more than I will. It’s a big adjustment for myself and the students alike. The teacher, also named Sarah, was a slob. I hate to be so blunt about it, but she was. She left me a mess with the students’ behavior, the classroom itself, and my desk in the teachers’ office. She didn’t bother to decorate the classroom. It was really a halfhearted effort on her part. My desk in the teachers’ office still had leftover food from before the October vacation. She left a stack of paperwork to file, and a mess of junk to sort through. Trying to find a functional marker for the whiteboard in the classroom was even a struggle. She had a pile of 35, THIRTY FIVE, dry markers next to the board. It was pretty clear that I had my work cut out for me. It’s okay though, because I’m a pro at cleaning up messes.

I am extremely fortunate to have a huge availability of resources at the school as far as crafts go. There are cabinets in the teachers’ office that are full of colored paper, glue, markers, glitter, buttons, sequins, etc. If there is a material that I need for a craft, I am able to ask the school to buy it, or I can buy it and they will reimburse me. The possibilities are endless. On Thursday and Friday night I stayed at the school until 8:00pm working on cleaning, organizing, and decorating. I’ve made a little bit of progress, but I have tons of work to do still. Thanks to Pinterest, I have a huge to-do list for my classroom.

Before

The students previously had a system of table teams, where they were rewarded stars (and ultimately a prize) for working together as a team. I wanted to keep the system, but I hated looking at bulletin board that

had the teams on them. I didn’t even use the system for the first week. The teams were monsters, aliens, robots, and dinosaurs. I decided to freshen it up. It took me forever. To give you an idea of where I started, I had to photoshop most of the clip art to make it look like I wanted it to. The deer was originally a quilting pattern, and the owl had a big “O” across one of his feet. I colored everything with colored pencils. I am pretty proud of the transformation! The kids haven’t seen it yet, but I think they’re going to be excited.

The school normally has wifi, but it isn’t working. The school is under construction right

After

After

now, and it’s very frustrating. The playground was closed off last year because it was hazardous, and they decided they weren’t going to fix it because they’re going to construct a new one. As construction normally goes, the process keeps getting delayed. Right now the kids only have a field of grass to play in.

There was a swimming pool to use for P.E., but they have ripped it out and we’re awaiting a new one. Nobody is really sure when it’s going to be completed. During class on Tuesday, they were working on a building right outside of my classroom. The banging was so loud that I had to scream to talk to the students. Bronwyn’s class is right next door, and she was blown away at how loud it was. Luckily, she’s a doer, and went straight to the head of the school and complained. It hasn’t happened again, but we’ll see.

I don’t have many pictures of the students yet, because I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to be taking them. I just got word that I am able to take as many pictures as I want, and I can also post them online. I’ll make sure to take a lot! My students are super cute. This is Tin Tin (one of my favorites) with his clay chicken. image

I have tons to say, but I won’t bore everyone with all of the details. Here’s a quick little funny story before I go:

On Wednesday, one of my students stood up (when she wasn’t supposed to) and went to her backpack. I sternly said her name, and walked over to find out why. She said, “Teacher. My tooth come out.” and held up a tooth. She asked, “Can I put in my backpack?”  I reacted with excitement, and she shrugged her shoulders. It was just another day to her. I just noticed that she is pictured (above) sitting behind Tin Tin. That’s Opor.

When I asked the other teachers about the teeth, they told me that losing teeth isn’t a big deal here. If the tooth comes from the top row, they will go outside and throw it into the air. If it comes from the bottom, they bury it in the ground.

You learn something new every day.

That’s about all I have for now. Here’s a before/after of my classroom progress. There is so much more to come.

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