Teaching in Thailand

25 Sep

I have been pondering this blog post for a while, and now that I’ve officially been teaching for almost two months, I feel somewhat qualified to post on the matter. So here goes.

The school I work at is called Ruamrudee International School. Ruamrudee means ‘united hearts’ in Thai. It was founded in 1957 by a group of Catholic priests in downtown Bangkok, but has since moved to a bigger campus out here in Minburi (the ‘burbs of Bangkok). The school has about 1,400 students preschool to 12th grade. I teach pre-k, so my students are four and turning five. The students are mainly from Thai families, with a smattering of ex-pats thrown in. Of my 14 students, 2 are teachers’ kids who speak English natively, 10 are Thai, and 2 are other (1 Chinese, 1 Japanese). The Thai kids speak English to varying levels, from practically native to hardly speaking a word. All of the EYP (early years program) classes have animal names, and although I was tempted to name mine the Monkeys, we are the Friendly Fish (I love alliteration). The kids are completely adorable, and I am having tons of fun with them.

That all being said, teaching in Thailand is nothing like teaching in NYC. Or almost nothing. There are similarities of course; four-year-olds are cute and rowdy, private school parents are a little bit nutty, and everyone needs to learn social skills and how to write their letters. However, in NYC, a pre-k teacher (or any teacher in general) is also a janitor, an interior decorator, a guidance counselor, a social worker, a parent/sibling/nanny, a hoarder of supplies, a personal chef, and, oh yea, usually broke. In Thailand a teacher is.. a teacher. I have yet to mop a floor here. There are janitors who set out the sleeping cots for my students, and clean up after art projects. There are people who bring me supplies after I order them. It will be really easy to become spoiled by it. It’s also taking some getting used to. The first week of school, I noticed a shelf was a bit dusty and went looking for a sponge. 15 minutes and 3 people later, I was unable to find a sponge, but was told I could call someone to come wipe the shelf. And indeed 30 minutes after that, a janitor appeared. I had a similar experience yesterday with some sand on the floor and a search for a broom. Yes, it would be faster to clean it myself. Yes, I feel weird letting someone else clean. Yes, it is fabulous not to have to mop floors.

In NYC, when I told people I was a teacher, the response was usually one of three things: “You must have so much patience!” “I could never do that!” “That’s so cute!” Meh. Here in Thailand, when I tell people I am a teacher, people are impressed. The parents (while still being a little bit nutty) treat me with the utmost respect. They ‘wai’ me (respectful bow that Thais do in greeting). They bring me treats. Last week they brought me moon cakes (delicious pastries related to Chinese lunar celebration). Of course, there are plenty of people in the US who respect and appreciate teachers (I have the pleasure of knowing some of them), but there are also way too many people who think teachers are idiots who work part-time and get summers off. Overall, it’s just refreshing to find a new perspective on the profession.

Now to wrap this up, some before and after pics of my classroom. This was my classroom the week before school started.

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This is actually better than it was when I first saw it; during orientation, my classroom had no floor, no lights, and no closet doors. After a good month or more of decorating, this is what my room looks like now. Sidenote: it’s also twice the size of any classroom I’ve had in NYC – the first week of school I kept thinking I was missing a child because there was so much empty space.

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Where we do circle time

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Looking at the cubbies, my desk, and the art areaImage

Trying to photograph the whole room from the dramatic play area – you can see the block area, the tables, and over to the door

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4 Responses to “Teaching in Thailand”

  1. Colleen September 25, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Love love love your classroom, Darce!!! It looks like you’ve done such an awesome job setting it up. 🙂 I’m glad things are going well so far. I really enjoyed reading how teaching in Thailand differs from NYC – craziness! xoxo

  2. Kim September 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I love your classroom and teaching in Thailand sounds amazing! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it and finally getting the respect that you deserve 🙂

  3. Leez Hoelzle September 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Looks awesome Darcita! Man, it sounds like teaching internationally is the way to go! Let yourself be spoiled & enjoy it! The part about the difference in respect is especially poignant to me. :-/ Keep rockin’ it out!

  4. maira September 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    wow! I’m sooo impressed and the room looks awesome !!

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