Finding a piece of home in Krabi.
Armed with a backpack stuffed with English picture books, a 64 pack of Crayola crayons, and a few jars of playdough, I hopped on a bus for my first day of school. Beginning to feel like I was regressing back to my kindergarten days, I immediately snapped back upon arrival at the school just outside of Krabi town. Here, I will be volunteering for the next few weeks with a kindergarten class. Upon my arrival, the director received and led me to the flagpole where students were lined up in preparation to raise a flag and sing the Thai national anthem. A teacher was making an announcement in Thai over the loudspeaker then pointed at me, evidently introducing me to the student body. I waved nervously then remembered to make a Wai, the traditional Thai greeting, instead. (Placing my palms together in front of my chest in a prayer pose and bow my head slightly.) Students and teachers smiled eagerly and mirrored my pose to accept the greeting.
I was a little overwhelmed by all of this at first. I had no teaching experience and very little experience working with young children, so I was feeling out of my element. But the school seemed utterly overjoyed at the presence of a new face, especially of a native English speaker. In Thailand, citizens possess a huge advantage if they speak English, yet so few people I have met here can effectively communicate in the language. My goal, I decided, would be to provide my kindergarten class with a few of the basics – A, B, C’s, numbers, “Hello, my name is…”, colors, etc – to hopefully lay a foundation for basic English communication skills.
When I entered my classroom, I knew immediately this would not be a goal easily accomplished. Aside from a few tiny tables and chairs and a couple posters with Thai letters on them, the room looked rather barren. There were no children’s books and very few arts and crafts supplies. The classrooms I remembered in the US were bursting with school supplies, brightly colored posters, books and all kinds of play toys.
In spite of the obvious deficiency in resources, I was surprised when the students walked in how much the class actually did feel like a kindergarten at home. My mother is a kindergarten teacher, and when I visited her class recently, the children immediately jumped up, gave me hugs, and grabbed to hold my hand. When the children began to arrive at school, they did just the same. The warmth, wonder, and pure, unadulterated joy exuding from each of my students transcended the language barrier. I found it much easier talking to them than the Thai adults I had met along my trip. To effectively communicate in a completely foreign language, I have now discovered, one must only spend time with a five-year-old.
Article written by Anna Carey.