Thursday, February 27, 2014

School's Out

It's funny how many things become so familiar after spending only five months in my classroom. I have been thinking of this familiarity, having spent the last two weeks in Chon Buri with more than an abundance of time to think. There has been a lot to think about, past, present, and future. Normally I'm not one for reflection, but it has been difficult not to with the school year coming to a quick end. Today, I did a lot of thinking about my school, my students, and the eventual familiarity that comes with residing in a new place.

When I first began teaching, I was in a constant state of stress and the nerves would never subside. I rushed into school 45 minutes early every day. I always wanted to make sure that I had papers printed and copied on time, and also that I had all of my PowerPoints and videos downloaded on the classroom computer each morning. Not that I don't want things done ahead of time anymore, but after about a month, my nerves finally began to fade. I got into a routine where I never had to stress about these things. The kids could wait a couple of minutes for me to pull up my lessons, and I now know that copying takes a whopping six minutes, which could be done on any number of my free periods during the week. I have gotten very comfortable in this position. As I think about the future, I see that any new job I get will be scary at first, but the nervousness of a new job always goes away eventually, especially with gained experience.

When I began at Anubanchonburi School, I was overwhelmed with learning 36 students' names. Each student has a number, and I was certain that I would only learn numbers, not nicknames. On the first day of school, I went through the 36 numbers and had each student say and spell his or her name for me so I could make a list. I referred to that list often in the first month to try and remember who was who and to put numbers to names to faces. Proudly, I now know all of my students nicknames, and I even know some of their Thai names. This is a big accomplishment for me!

As I sit at my desk grading grammar homework, I notice the familiarity of my students' handwriting. It is amazing how I doubted learning all of my kids' names, and now I can even identify most of their handwriting. Even when they forget to write their names (a teacher's biggest pet peeve), I can still identify the student. 

Their excitement of the smallest things will always put a smile on my face. My students never fail to have to show me their newest purchase from the store. It is usually the same kids over and over who do so. For example, Yok, my quietest 8 year old, just whispered to me from three desks away in the middle of art. Teacha, Teacha Laura.. and she holds up a pack of Hello Kitty erasers with the largest smile ever. I smile back, and nod as if to say, get back to paying attention (our art teacher teaches in our classroom). It's little things like this that make me love them so much. They care to tell me these momentous happenings in their lives, and it means the world. As I write, I am getting bombarded with the pastel pictures they are making. I appreciate that they want to share with me so badly. Small things like this shows me that whatever job comes my way next, I know I want it to be with children. A majority of my thoughts this past month have been about the future, about finding a career at home. One week I thought about opening a coffee shop. The next week I wanted to open a book store. The next week was a bakery and the next week I wanted to open a coffee shop/bookstore/bakery. I've even toyed with the idea of writing a book. All of those ideas sound great and could always have potential, but what I really want to be doing is teaching. Therefore, teaching is what I will try my best to do when I get home.
Making the phases of the moon with Oreos
Learning about patterns
Outside for a spelling word scavenger hunt
Testing our wind mills

So, as I am ready to leave the school, I am not as ready to leave my students. They have become such a familiar part of my life, and not knowing what I will be doing at home makes me not want to leave them. The tears already began to flow on Tuesday. The students had an assignment to write a letter to someone telling him or her about the weather in Thailand. When Non showed me his, I immediately teared up because his letter was written to me. It also had zero mention of the weather, so I made him write the last sentence.

I don't think it would have mattered if I was with my second graders in Thailand, with fourth graders in Japan, or with sixth graders in America. Any teaching experience is rewarding and is one that forces you to grow as a teacher. I feel ready to move on to a new job in America, and I have this experience to thank for that. If I could succeed here, I am confident that I will be a great teacher in America. And the kids will adore me, I hope.

Tomorrow (Friday the 28th) is my last official teaching day, followed by a week of English and Thai finals. It surprises me every day how fast this term at Anuban has gone. I will be very sad to say goodbye on the 10th, but ready to move on to exciting new adventures with the friends I have made along the way, as well as friends I have had for a lifetime!

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