Michael “Beaux” Mudd, 128 TCCS
Recently, I was sitting in the office at school working on flash cards to give to my counterpart. In the office with me was our school’s principal and we began speaking in the way people do as one is about to leave. We discussed various topics which led to our students and their living conditions.
I’ve been told that the area my school is located in is the poorest area within the province but was still slightly surprised by the numbers the principal shared with me. He said that approximately 90% of the students were below the poverty line for Thailand and that he estimated that of those families the average income is around 3,000 baht per month. Converting that into U.S. simply does not work, but that amount definitely places a family, even in our small village, within the poverty level. I share this information not for sympathy towards my students, their families, or our village, but to show their strength and spirit, despite life’s challenges.
I’ve loved working with my little ones these past two years, learning how to reach each one in their own way. My main job here was to spend two years working with my counterpart (CP) but it was clear to us both early on that it was just as important for our students to learn English. Learning the language itself was valuable, but even more significant than that was using it as a tool in setting up our students at a young age to be proud of who they are and will be.
In an area where the main source of work is as a day laborer, selling the benefits of what English can bring is tough. Thankfully, my CP loves children as much as I do which goes a long way when it comes to gaining a student’s trust. Without showing the students that you are there for them, you might as well go home, because they will know.
As I leave, I have so much hope for my little ones because of my CP. I was someone that was able to come in and grab the kid’s attention as the big, goofy foreigner, but she deserves most of the credit. She works her tail off, has fully embraced the style of teaching we both worked on, preaches critical thinking of the students, and most importantly, as I’ve stated before, loves them.
I’m sad I won’t get to watch them continue to grow. I’ve watched students that barely knew the alphabet when I arrived now being able to not only understand the lessons but also feel confident in challenging the teacher when they don’t feel something is correct. To me this has been our greatest victory. They may lose the English they’ve learned, but that critical thinking will be applicable in everything they do the remainder of their lives, and that was far more important to me as I prepared to leave site this past week.
When a teacher leaves our school, the other teachers and students form two lines and the teacher leaving walks through as everyone hands them a rose. For me, this happened to fall on valentine’s day, so I was also peppered with loads of stickers. Walking through I was also showered with “I love teacher Michael” letters, prepared mostly by the older students.
Yet, one letter stood out amongst them all and the student that gave me the card is the reason for the title of this article. On the front of the card were heart stickers, colorful hand drawn roses, and stick figures of myself and the student. The back of the card made me cry. Many of the kids had the other English teacher write a sentence for them and many had the same line as above, which is no less wonderful and thoughtful. But, when I turned over Fa’s card, there was “Describing people: He has got short hair, he is handsome, he is tall, he is cute, he is young”. Not only did she do this on her own, it was also accurate (see: He is handsome).
Kidding aside, I’m happiest with this lovely card for what it says about this young (third grade) lady as a person already at such a young age. My CP and I worked hard to push the students that did well in class and encouraged them to help their friends. English wasn’t the easiest for Fa, but she succeeded through her hard work and was one of our best class leaders in the end. We both cried as she hugged me after giving me the card, and the joy I felt from being lucky to be a part of this young lady’s life for two years was/is amazing.
On my last day at school, I played a movie for the kids while also passing out snacks for everyone, and later gave away some gifts I thought they might enjoy. In the basket of things I brought were spinners, stickers, books, and a kiddie pool I had bought but never used. To make things fair, I put paper with numbers on them and had the students draw them from a box. It may be wrong, but I cheated for #1 and made sure Fa received it.
Maybe it is wrong, I don’t know, but like many of my kids, life hasn’t been the easiest on her so far in her young life. Also, like many of my students she is a lovely, beautiful, smart young person that I hope knows I cared more about her as a person than what her English level was. To finish, with her #1 pick in the “Samyod Teacher Michael” lottery, Fa picked the kiddie pool. I hope she enjoys that pool, especially with summer approaching; she deserves it.