K1 Watermelon Fun: Kindergarten in Thailand

My kids: K1 Watermelon at Kajonkietsuksa School.

The class is made up of 24 kids, ages 3-4, most of whom speak only Thai.  They made these crowns during our intro lesson to “My name is…”  Even though only a few of them grasped the concept of self-identification while the others crawled around on the floor pretending to be jungle animals, everyone in the class proudly wore their paper crowns home.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected from my first week as a kindergarten teacher, but I do know what I expected my first day to be like:
-All 24 of the kids coming into class crying (possibly screaming), not wanting to leave Mom and Dad for the day.
-A handful of ‘accidents’ including both pee and poop.
-Workbook writing exercises resulting only in scribble on the walls and tables.

…Luckily, none of the above happened.  A handful of students cried on the first day (no screamers), none of them had an accident and some of them already knew how to trace letters.

What I hadn’t anticipated about the first week was:
-There would eventually be a few accidents at naptime and one student who peed on the floor during a group activity later in the week.
-That I would be the teacher of a number of escape artists.  During lunch/snack when the kids mixed with other kindergarten classes, a few students thought it would be fun to check out other classrooms as the other teachers and I frantically searched for them.
-That they would all be wearing little shirts with toddler-sized ties and pleated skirts/shorts and look completely adorable.

It’s been a ‘sink or swim’ experience to say the least, but I’m learning more with each new day.  Sheryl (the Filipino assistant teacher) and Khun Kru Jaeb (the Thai teacher) helped me throughout the week with classroom management and getting accustomed to the daily schedule.  It’s difficult not knowing the amount of English each student understands, but I’m also picking up a few key Thai phrases to help.  ‘Fang‘  means ‘listen’ (when the kids aren’t paying attention); ‘hong nam‘ means toilet (when we are ushering the students into gender-appropriate bathrooms); ‘mai pen rai‘ means ‘no worries’ (probably the most commonly used phrase in Thailand).

I know that I shouldn’t have favorites, but there are already a few students who stand out in my mind:
Oum is a little girl who understands very little English, but she has the cutest little chubby face and always comes to class with a bubbly demeanor and hair pulled into two little buns upon her head.
Alicia is a little girl who has a farang father and always tells me during singing time, without fail, “I have that song at my house, Teacher.  I have that song at my house and I sing it at my house.”
Credit is a little boy who is smaller than the others and despite not knowing any English, always sings the loudest when I ask them to sing the ABCs.  “A, B, FEE, D, E, HEF, HE…”

Despite only listing a few, all of the kids are gut-wrenchingly cute and I have to stop myself from smothering them in hugs each time one of them runs up to me, tracing/coloring assignment in hand, calling out the only English word many of them know: “Teacher!  Teacher!”


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