If you had asked me a year ago, I would have never imagined that today would be the day I finish my teaching contract in a world so different from my own. The whole experience has been a series of ups and downs, twists and turns, frustrations and rewards. But all in all, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. At times, (more frequently than not) I thought the only plausible thing to do was wave the white flag of defeat before the kids drove me to insanity. Despite the days I wanted to torture every human being I came in contact with, I’m proud of myself for doing it
Despite the days I was at my wit’s end and wanted to scream at every person came in contact with; I’m proud of myself for doing it until the end.
Prior to this experience, I knew that the English language was complex, but OOYYYEE at times I questioned whether I knew my own native language. the sound of the letter ‘X’ and ‘S’ and ‘C’ and ‘K’ and ‘SH’ vs. ‘CH’, and ‘TH’; all start to jumble together. Trying to differentiate the sounds for five-year-olds seemed nearly impossible. I often thought to myself: “How did I ever learn this language?”
I taught English to kindergarten-aged, four and five-year-olds. Personally, in my very biased opinion, I think this is the hardest age to teach. Even if for the sole reason that at that age they are still learning the basics of their own language. Science topics seemed so far-fetched, and when I spoke of science, I was met with empty stares. Mathematics was a joke. Grammar and word structure: HA.
After hours of lesson plans turned into brawls between the boys and giggling girls, I discovered the only possible way to teach five-year-olds (and maintain their attention for longer than five minutes) was through: SONG AND DANCE. I have to be honest, it worked wonders. The only downfall: nursery songs get really, really stuck in your head.
Living here for almost six months, the Thai language is still a mystery to me. The number of apps I’ve downloaded, the youtube lessons I’ve painfully sat through, and the strangers who have failed to teach me are countless. Thai is still a confusing jumble of gibberish.
The differences between English and Thai: Well, there are NO similarities, so everything.
The letter r, for example, is nonexistent in their speech. Arroyo (which means delicious) is pronounced by a native Thai tongue is “aloy”. Rabbit becomes ‘”lab bit”.
W’s becomes B’s. The whole process turned into a consistent gong going off in my head. I’d have to stop and inhale to calmly, and collect myself to attempt to repeat the word ‘soft’ (or whatever word we might have been working on) for the hundredth time.
PATIENCE. Patience. Patience. If anything, teaching kindergarten has taught me, is: you NEED massive amounts of patience to make it through an hour. Without patience, there is no way anyone would have learned anything, and I would most likely have given up.
One of the best reasons to teach children of such a young age is to experience the depth of their imagination. Five-year-olds have such wild and vivid imaginations, the innocence of it is magical. To them, trees can be purple, dogs can talk, empty containers become extreme modes of transportation, and Legos can make a battlefield spring into action. I firmly believe that every child has the right to explore their imagination. and taking that away is cruel. yet the Thai culture encourages kids to grow up fast. coloring worksheets are based on the exact model of the teacher’s and taped to the front of the class. it made me sad to realize that when I gave them the freedom to color as they please they were lost and confused and couldn’t manage. at times lessons were second handed to getting ready for a performance. elaborate bejeweled dresses and makeup caked on. it was like waking backstage a toddlers and tiara episode. but these events were encouraged and overpowered lessons and education.
I firmly believe that every child has the right to explore their imagination. Yet the Thai culture encourages kids to grow up quickly. Coloring worksheets are based on the exact model of the teacher’s and taped to the front of the class. It made me sad to realize that when I gave them the freedom to color as they please they were lost and confused and couldn’t manage. At times, lessons took a backseat to the preparation of a performance. Elaborate bejeweled dresses and makeup caked were caked on these young girls. It was like walking backstage at a ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ episode. But, these events were encouraged and overpowered lessons and education.
When teaching this age, you can’t be picky, and you can’t be finicky. I had to constantly remind myself this is their first exposure to the English language.
They are going to get it wrong. Wrong on the first try, wrong on the tenth try, and wrong on the fiftieth try. But, that moment when they get it right, when you realize they understand; that moment makes it all worth it.
You feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride rush through you and you can’t help but smile. That feeling. That sense of pride for your students is what makes teaching such a rewarding career. Looking back now, I know that most of my kids won’t remember their kindergarten English teacher, or the games we played or the songs they learned, but I can only hope that I left some sort of impression on their little growing minds.
Below, a few moments captured of my students and I 🙂