Kara Anthony, 130 TESS
There is this thing that happens here in Thailand when people discover that I am a Kruu or teacher. They stop seeing me as the typical farung or foreigner, and begin to see me as something bigger than I am, or at least, this is how it feels to me. Already as a foreigner, I draw a lot of attention here—especially in the more rural areas, and often I am bombarded with an array of questions when people build up the courage to talk to me. If you have ever played the game 21 Questions or participated in a staring contest, you can probably sense what my life is like here in Thailand. When Thai people approach me as a foreigner, they often want to know where I am from, what brings me to this area, how long will I be here, and often times, to buy things. But when I am approached as a teacher, the questions often range from have you eaten yet, are you hungry, would you like to come to my house, or how are you feeling. Notice the difference? I am convinced that being a teacher in Thailand instantly changes everything. The way people approach me, the way they care for me, the way they treat me, and essentially, the way they see me.
In Thailand, being a teacher is a profession that is placed on a pedestal. Teachers are seen as Givers of Knowledge, and as a result, they are given the upmost respect. Thai people recognize the crucial role that teachers possess, not only having a responsibility to educate students to prepare them for a bright future and for college, but also having the duty to provide students with essential life skills that are necessary to be successful in society. Because of their impact, they are ranked highly in regards to status and authority directly following the Buddah and the monk, who are at the apex of the social pyramid and given the highest level of respect and honor. In a nutshell, being a teacher in Thailand is a big deal.
Coming from America, where the profession of teaching is not as valued as much as it is in Thailand, I was amazed at the amount of respect that teachers are given daily. During my teaching practicum in Don Chedi, every day the students and staff treated me with an abundance of respect. It did not matter where I was from, that I talked different, or that I looked different—those things did not matter. The only things that seemed to matter was that I was a teacher and that I felt welcomed, comfortable, and respected while I was in their presence. This was refreshing, as I never experienced this level of respect while teaching in America, nor in my role as a farung while in Thailand.
When I arrived to school in the morning, the students would greet me with a wai (which is symbolic for honor and respect). When I entered the classroom, the students would greet me again by standing. Half way during the class, the students would bring me water, and after class, the students and staff would provide me lunch, fruit, and snacks. The teachers would express to me how grateful they were to have me there, and how they were eager to learn from me. True enough they never had to mention those things to me, because they were already evident solely based on their actions and how they treated me. They made it easy for me to be in Thailand, to see myself being here for the next two years because I knew they wanted me here. I felt appreciated, and that alone, was enough.
My role as a teacher is what has kept me here—it is undeniably the thing that saved me. Universally, I think being anywhere in the world as a foreigner is very challenging. But if there are things that I have learned while simultaneously being the farung (foreigner) and kruu (teacher), it is: 1) The importance of actions—you never know what someone is going through, so be kind always. 2) Surround yourself with people that value and appreciate you—this will take you very far throughout this journey, and 3) Find something (a job or hobby) that you enjoy, that makes you happy to be alive, and that benefits others positively (as well as yourself). Trust me, people will notice, and they will admire you for it. These three things were game changers for me, and can potentially assist in making life a lot easier for you during the unfortunate farung stage too. Trust me, it gets better—but until then, su su!