The craziest thing is that my time teaching grade 5 is over. Last Friday was my last day of class with my homeroom English Program (EP)* kids and all this week I proctored testing sessions for a different grade 5 EP class and graded over 500 exams. No joke.
I’ve been battling these intense waves of jealousy; I met the “new” teacher who will be taking my place teaching grade 5 on the English and Thai sides, and he clearly has his shit together. Ryan actually taught grade 5 at my school for two years before taking a break and heading back to his home in Canada for a semester. So now he’s back and I have to hand over my kids. What if they like him better than me?? I asked Ryan the same question when I met him during my lunch break. His answer? “It’s not really a question of ‘what if.'”
It’s so funny that I’m genuinely concerned about this. I feel this instinctual, maternal attachment to my 26 little Thai ten-year-olds. When I see them around school I swoon and smile and wave and get all excited: “Look at Title. Look at his sweet little face and his new haircut! How CUTE is he? Oh my gosh, Benz is so adorable. Look at her little pigtail braids. And look at New: at it again with the grade 6 girls. What a ladykiller.”
My absolute favorite times teaching so far have been when I get to exchange cultural information with my students. I have had days when I get totally distracted from the lesson plan and just start in on the importance of 9/11 in American history or how Judaism is different from Buddhism. I showed them the Hebrew alphabet and they were just as surprised as I was how similar cursive Hebrew letters are to Thai letters. I sang them the Reader’s Kaddish, my favorite Jewish prayer, and then I asked them all about Buddhism and monkhood. (Believe it or not some of my students have been monks before! It is expected that every Buddhist male honors his family as a monk for at least a few days in his lifetime.)
One of my students, Golf, has made it his personal mission to teach me Thai. When I see him now, he quizzes me on the days of the week in Thai. He also looked up how to say “hello” in Hebrew (“shalom”) and has been greeting me in that manner ever since. See how brilliant and amazing and adorable they are??
I only had two months with them but I’m going to miss them SO. MUCH.
I feel like we were just getting started! I finally know all of their names and the characteristics of their very distinctive personalities. I mean, I will still see them around sometimes. But I’ll be on the other side of the school teaching kindergarten 1 (K1), also known as PRESCHOOL. Yes, my new students will be 3 years old. As my coworker Annie has said, “You’re gonna have to slow it all down. And sing a lot.”
I’ll try to repress any expectations about what it’s going to be like beyond the fact that it’s going to be totally different. I’m kinda looking forward to a change of pace, anyways. And to get out of the stuffy, male-dominated teachers’ office on the EP side and move into the Filipino lady cave on the Thai side with Molly and Christina and the 3pm ice cream cart nearby to keep me company.
*Allow me to further explain: My school is divided into the English Program (EP) and Thai Program (TP). The students in both programs are Thai, but the difference lies within the extent to which they are exposed to English during the school day. EP kids have something like half of their subjects in English and half in Thai, while the Thai kids just take English as a language elective (not that they get to elect to take it but that it’s an English language class, not a subject class in English). Anyways. I had 1 homeroom class on the EP side that I met with 4 times a week and 5 TP classes that I met with 3 times a week.