Family, friends, and internet creeps..hello!
My travel adventures this past month warranted some down time, so I’ve been taking it easy the past few weeks. Because of this I don’t have anything too noteworthy to share, therefore, I thought that this would be the optimal time to tell you the rest of what I had about my school. This may be more interesting for educators, so I apologize in advance, but feel free to just look at the pictures if you prefer 🙂
In Thailand kindergarten is called aunuban, elementary grades are called prathome, and secondary grades are matome. For example, fifth grade is prathome 5. I teach prathome 3-5. Students start taking English while in anuban (kingergarten). Their other classes are pretty standard…math, science, social studies, etc. They also have a their project based learning class at 2:30 Monday-Thursday, and on Fridays that time is for groups and clubs. This is when I have an English club with the students. We’re doing a video exchange with a few classrooms back in the states. Something I’ve noticed about my school is that unlike back home, there aren’t as many after school programs. Perhaps this is because I’m at the elementary school, but I believe that the high schools (matome) also don’t have as many extracurricular activities that take place outside school hours.
At my school, students are divided into five classes per grade depending how how they score on end of the year tests. Prathome 4-1 are the better testers and 4-5 did more poorly on the tests. Personally, I don’t think that testing skills necessarily equate to knowledge or desire to learn, but as there are so many students per grade (around 200), this system does prove to be a bit useful when pacing my lessons. I’ve learned that other schools in Thailand don’t do this grouping system, so it’s something that’s up to individual schools to decide.
My school is still rocking chalkboards, however, each room has a big tv mounted on the wall that a laptop can be connected to. I don’t see too many teachers using this, but maybe it’s because they have to bring in their own laptops in order to do so. There is also a “Smart Room” with a desktop computer, big tv, white board, and air conditioning. This is one of the few places at school with AC. I’ve seen other sorts of computer rooms near prathome 6, but since I don’t teach there I don’t know much about how they’re used.
All students in Thailand wear uniforms (even university students). You can see from the pictures I’ve posted in past blogs that girls wear navy skirts and a white collared blouse. Boys wear khakies and a white collared shirt as well. In addition to providing lunch and books, the government also pays for their school uniforms. They have uniform haircuts (which vary depending on the grade) as well, and it’s not unheard of for a teacher to shave or cut a part of an offending student’s hair in order to make them go get it cut…
They have a Thai version of boy/girl scouts that is coed. From what I’ve been told, it’s pretty similar to scouts in the US (but I still haven’t been able to find girl scout cookies!), and that their activities mainly take part during the day. Students must pay extra to be a scout, so if they aren’t one, then they have time to play or study during the designated scout time. They all wear their scout outfits (see below) on Thursdays. The little boys remind me of the kid from Up. They even have little hats that go with their outfits. Too dang cute! The teachers who were scouts all wear their outfits on Tuesdays. The adult outfits are identical to the kid ones. Is that how it is in the US? I wasn’t a scout so I don’t know.. but seeing them in the same uniforms is pretty cute. 🙂
Students have art, physical education, and music about once a week. The music and art classes are taught by the same guy. He is really impressive for being both a great musician and a very skilled artist. He told me that his favorite kind of music is bluegrass music from the US. I thought this was pretty neat that bluegrass was able to make its way around the world. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, but I always associated this type of music as being so grassroots and local.
In music class the students play some of the same instruments you’re probably used to…percussion, trumpets, etc., but some of their instruments are from Thailand too. I didn’t gather too much more information on them, but I took some photos at least!
Meds & Special Needs
Many of the things that children in the US have prescriptions for (ADD, ADHD, etc.) don’t seem to be as prevalent here. This isn’t to say that students do or don’t have these disorders, I just don’t think medications are as commonly used. If they were I think my school would at least have a nurse. Instead, they have a room where students can go and lay down if they don’t feel well, but their teachers will just keep and eye on them. The “head nurse” position just goes to whoever happens to have some experience in that field. This being said, I think there’s a lot that I miss just because I don’t speak very much Thai. For example, some teachers found out that a student couldn’t see well out of one eye (they do eye exams and lice screenings here, too) and they said they were going to take care of him. I’m not sure how, but it’ll get done.
As far as students with learning or physical disabilities go, I have been told that there is a special education teacher, however I haven’t observed what her classes look like. She is primarily for younger grades with the idea that they will phase out and become integrated back into the classroom. As far as my students go, I have one student with a prosthetic arm and another who seems to have something along the lines of muscular dystrophy or maybe cerebral palsy. From what I’ve observed, my students are very kind and inclusive to the students who could be marked “different.”
There aren’t student aides here, and though it is a very minimal population, I find myself struggling to meet the needs of my students who do need some extra support in the classroom. The classes are sorted into five different levels, but I’m not sure how much differentiation (modifying instruction to meet different student needs) happens after that. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that it is common to walk by a classroom while students are working and a teacher is not in the classroom with them. Often they are working on projects, but nonetheless, this contrasts what I was taught about formative assessment (informally assessing student knowledge), being a support system, and just managing classroom behavior (even though the students at my school do seem to be able to be on their own and not lose their shit).
Now, if a student has more profound needs, there are boarding schools specifically for them. I volunteered for a morning at one such school and was pretty impressed with it. One student who seemed to be overwhelmed by the noise and commotion sat down and took a moment to meditate and calm down. Very cool! And even though it’s a boarding school, students go home with their families every weekend (families just may not have the resources to care for them on work days). However, it is an interesting contrast that the culture for dependent elderly people is to stay home and be cared for by families.
I think that a good talking to is the most common type of discipline, however most classes have switch sticks on the teacher’s desk. I use them to help me point to things and would like to think that that’s their only purpose, but to think they’ve never been used for discipline may be naive. My friends and I have discussed this though, and we think that just the intimidation factor is enough for most students and therefore it’s there but rarely used. I know there’re used at other schools, but I’ve never seen it at mine.
Something that I have seen is playful hitting between students and from teachers to students. A smack on the back of the head for a cheeky student is not uncommon, but based on going from somewhere that I have to very carefully consider any physical action with a student, this was a bit surprising to see. Students themselves are very rough and tumble. They’re definitely not coddled here. In the states I would ration out band-aides since everyone wanted one for even the smallest of scrapes. Here most kids who fall just get up and start running again. It’s kind of refreshing actually. A little dirt in the blood is good for ya..connects you to nature 😉
I don’t think that there are any helicopter parents here. I think that a part of this is the respect and prestige that khrus (teachers) have. The job that they’re doing as trained professionals just isn’t questioned as much. This is another area that I think I miss a lot of information about because of the language barrier, but I don’t think that the school to home connection is as emphasized. I certainly haven’t seen any classroom news letters go out.
About once every few month teachers will have office duty on the weekend. This just ensures that if someone needs to get in contact with the school on any day of the week, there will be someone there to talk to. When school was cancelled due to the floods parents would call in to confirm this. There was also a sign on the school gate. More importantly, the school Facebook page made a post about it. Due to Facebook’s popularity here, this was probably adequate notice (assuming all families still had working wifi at this time).
Every morning students sing the king’s song. His pictures also have a prevalent place in the school. I don’t know to what extent they learn about him, but I thought you might be interested in seeing all of the pictures. I’m not sure when they’ll put up the new king’s photos, but I believe that they’ll leave many of these ones up.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with words, so just read the captions if you’re interested. My school has several different buildings, so we get a lot of sunshine throughout the day!
One of the view out a class window.
Little koi pond and mini water canal in front of it (there are a lot of these canals here since it rains so much).
Plastic consumption is out of control in Thailand, but at least they have some recycling.
The meeting hall.
Working on the new bathroom.
Past directors and school awards
One of three identical classroom buildings.
Old desks…where I got my “dining room table.”
Inside the library.
Tables to study at.
Old abandoned classroom.
While not religiously affiliated, Buddhism does make an appearance in my school.
Instead of flushing toilets, a big bucket of water is at standby and then you scoop water from that into the toilet to “flush.” For the most part this probably saves water, so that’s cool and whatnot, but it means that often the seat is wet when you sit on it from the water that splashed during the pouring process. This is pretty typical for Thai toilets. Oh and used toilet paper is thrown in the garbage.
Anyways, that about covers everything. If I’ve left anything out that you’re curious about please let me know. Otherwise, thanks for taking the time to read this all of the way through. I hope you learned something new!