Have you seen enough of my sixth graders yet? Well, one moment they're here, the next moment they're gone...so enjoy the kids for another post as they are no longer right in my face on a daily basis. I guess you can tell a little about a person through pictures, 1,000 words and all, but I thought I'd tell you a tiny bit about each one of my kids, personalities, attitudes, etc.
Our students all have a student number, their given name and their nickname. I'll not include surnames here. Thai names are pretty long for me to remember. Even some of the Thai teachers who only teach each class once per week have trouble with their real names. For example, Pae's first name is Nattakarn. Her nickname given to her by her parents at birth is Poupae, French for "doll". Poupae or Pae is much easier!!Student 1, Laksika, Snooker: Snooker came into this group about three years ago, when they were fourth graders. At that time, the class had just lost a couple students to other schools or programs so it was a time of great change in our class. Snooker's English ability wasn't quite up to snuff with the other students who had been in the English Program for their whole primary school life. She has grown into the language and even would surprise me with a top science score every now and then. She is very outgoing, loud and fun. The other girls in the class love her and the teachers see her as the leader of one of the little cliques in our class. I taught her and a couple of her friends after school for two years in a tutoring class. We discussed all kinds of things. She is less curious about science but asks me a lot of questions about life in general. "She is one of the founding members of the "Ugly Teacher Fan Club".
She refused to leave the school campus after the sixth grade graduation ceremony. I saw all of the students off for the final time but she refused to leave and it started to get dark. Her mom was patiently waiting for her to say goodbye to everyone, but it was only teachers left...She came over for a huge hug, bawling her eyes out, sobbing, "Mai yak bpai, mai yak bpaiiiiiii" Translated: "I don't want to go, I don't want to gooooooo!" I think it finally dawned on her, at that final moment, that this would be the last time that she would be at school as a student, as a part of her class. Now on to high school. New friends, new teachers, new experiences await! Snooker, a softy deep down, honest, playful, studies only because she has to! Loves Korean music groups and Kamikaze, a Thai consortium of singers.Student 2, Ploy, NamKhing: Khing is one of the most curious students, in that she always wants to know more about everything we talk about in class. Khing is a tiny girl, short and skinny and is dwarfed by all but two or three of the other girls in the class. Her personality doesn't exactly match her small stature. She is smart and competitive. One of the photos above is of a giang HICKEY on her forehead (that we lovingly called her fivehead) that she got from an air pressure experiment in her Thai science class. The suction cup got stuck on her forehead for a minute and when she removed it, all of the blood had surfaced. She walked around class for a week with a purple, brown, then yellow bruise on her forehead! Hilarious!
She refuses to speak English. She has such good questions that would help the class to untangle certain concepts in their heads, only she refuses to ask them in English. She'll say, "Teacher, tam mai pu chai bpen tong mai dai?" to which I'd smile at her and reply, "Khing, all I understood was 'teacher'!" This often frustrated her, but she would always follow up with her best English translation, which was usually pretty good. I think it's always been a confidence thing with her. Khing, very bright, head screwed on nice and tight, afraid of peanuts and other nuts for that matter.Student 3, Anawin, GM: GM is one of the two boys in our class. He is one of three boys in his family. I'm not sure why, whether it's because I was one of the few boys/men in GM's school day or what, but GM always gravitated towards me in class. No matter how often I had to use him as a funny example during lessons, being one of the only boys in class, no matter how many times I made him come to the front of class and spell out words with his bottom, he has always had the greatest respect towards me.
He has always wanted to do his best, always curious and always letting his personality shine through. GM, his brothers and his mom actually made the 700 kilometer journey last year from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani to attend our wedding. His mother told me a couple months before that GM INSISTED that he be able to go! Great kid! GM, already a gentleman, shy when the female teachers would squeeze his chubby cheeks, best moonwalk in Yamsaard, good sport.Students 4 and 5, Limpapan and Pimlapas, Wan and View: Ah, the twins! Wan and View haven't been too far apart for the past 5 years that I've been teaching them. That's kind of a problem at times, because I have a hard time distinguishing them from one another. Usually, I know who is who by looking at where they sit in class, but the teachers started changing assigned seats every week on Monday! So that got me even more confused! This year, instead of saying "Wan" I just said "Twin" and looked at the one I was talking to. This worked half of the time, but I'm not sure how it went over on a personal level ;) I felt it was better than always saying the wrong name though.
I also think that the twins always being attached at the hip stunted their growth socially at times. The twins had a difficult time adjusting the the influx of newer students into the class, starting from three years ago. In third grade they were friends with everyone, but as their friends left and the new girls came into class, they kind of quieted down and stuck to themselves rather than socialize and participate in all of the fun that the others in the class were having. They seemed to form a little clique with a new girl Zoom. It was like we had a set of triplets rather than twins in class. Unfortunately, the twins' grades suffered a bit as their social habits changed. Sometimes "the friends you choose" really do affect things like your school grades, personality and attitude, especially during the impressionable teenage years, which they're approaching. I saw this with the twins. That being said, they both always had sweet personalities, caring and pleasant with the occasional blip. When Snooker's crew would call me Teacher Ubat (Teacher Ugly), the twins would come to me after class and pat my arm and say, "Teacher, you aren't ugly, they just play." I thank them and smile. Once I pushed my luck and asked, "So I'm handsome?" I got a true innocent child's response, "Um, well, you're not ugly." hahaha!! I love kids! Wan and View, two of a kind, sweet, catty at times, proper, Manchester United football fans!Student 6, Kinkomon, June: GM's cousin June, always the class high scorer on quizzes and exams. Between June, GM and Khing, there was always a correct answer waiting for a question! I guess you could say that, even though June goes cross-clique, she is mostly part of the smart clique.
June is very gentle and gets along with all of the kids in the class. Unlike others, she rarely gossips or complains about her friends. She has chubby pink cheeks and the other kids lovingly nicknamed her "Salapao" meaning dumpling (manapua for those familiar with the Hawaiian treat). Every time she is embarrassed or shy, her cheeks get pinker and she hides her face or grins really big. June, intelligent, freckles, shy, adores her cousin GM.Student 7, Rajita, Bright: Bright is another transplant from another program at our school. Her brothers also attend(ed) Yamsaard, one older and one younger. She is a very talented girl, playing piano for many of our school functions. Her mother is also very involved in the school. You can always find her at school functions manning a cotton candy stand or a popcorn popper.
Bright is buddies with the whole "popular" clique; Snooker, Pear, Amy, Tomm and Neyney. I think they all came in at about the same time, fourth grade maybe, so they have that bond, and that bond lasted all the way to graduation day. Bright is one of the taller girls in class (taller than both boys as well) and the kids liken her to a giraffe! She has always done well in class and has a bright future ahead of her. Bright, talented, dishes it out as well as she takes it, faithful to her friends.Student 8, Chanasit, Klao: Another boy in our class, Klao is treated more like a girl as he is a bit soft. I guess in the states, when I was a kid, he would have been termed a "sissy", but here some boys are tough and 100% boy, while others are more gentle in their actions and words more like girls. Klao is very girly and he has no problem with that, neither do his classmates. He loves to pick on the other girls (yes, a boy trait) but they usually make him pay for it. Klao loves to sit at his desk, not paying attention to anything I'm teaching, and rip his erasers apart, play with action figures, or deconstruct random things under his desk. Klao has never really clicked with science. The same is true with the class cliques. He roams. Klao, good for a staring contest, uses the female form of speech, loves to have friends just as much as he loves to get under their skin, tries pretty hard to explain things to me in English.Student 9, Rajaya, GungGing: Ging is the outspoken one, the one who doesn't care what anyone thinks of what she says. She's gone from more quiet to outspoken. As her grades improved towards the top of the class and she became more comfortable with her English and even with just herself in general, she started to be louder, more involved in the chatting, more a part of the larger group, but still gets lumped into the smart kid clique, although she did roam between all three (smart, outcast, popular).
She makes an effort every time called upon to speak in class, to enunciate all of her words, which gets her jeers from her fellow students, but she's doing it the right way and she sees the bigger picture and doesn't let their eye-rolling bother her. Her father is very active in her education and I think she gets it from him. Ging, Rebel, independent, studious, temperamental, holds a grudge.Student 10, Nichapat, Pear: Little Pear! Hahah, Pear is both sweet and sour. She can have a good day or a bad one and you know 100% which kind of day she is having. Overall, the majority of the time she is just a very caring girl who has fun with her friends and she even studies well and does great in my classes. She was with Snooker for two years in my after school class, and we had a lot of fun. I used to tease them both about the boys that they had crushes on (Wan and Zonny from the previous graduating class) At first I would tease them both about the boys, then Pear said she didn't like it. So I stopped teasing her, but continued teasing Snooker. When Pear saw the attention that Snooker got from Zonny because of my teasing in front of the other students, she came to me one day, with Snooker and said, "Teacher, remember how I asked you to stop teasing me about Wan? I want you to start teasing me again in class. Please." Hahaha, I loved it!
I'd have to call her the President or Vice President of the "Ugly Teacher Fan Club" as she led the charge on a daily basis of reminding T. Guy how "not handsome" he was. Before she graduated, she made a point to let me know that she was just playing when she called me ugly and gross ;) She wished me 1) happy and 2) "more handsome than this" which I thought was very sweet of her, hahaha. Pear earned her great grades, she almost always had an answer to my questions and when I caught her sloughing off or chatting while I was teaching she'd get a mischievous but guilty smile on her face. She, Tomm, Snooker, Neyney, Amy and Bright are bestest of friends. Always together, always smiling, always causing trouble in one way or another (good trouble). You know the proverbial apple for the teacher? Pear is my apple. Always made me smile, made me feel appreciated and like I was doing something right, even if I am "Ugly Teacher!" Pear, a Gemini born in April, playful, sweety, likes staring at Teacher Ugly and looking away shyly when busted, cares about her friends, great no-teeth smile ;)Student 11, Buntita, Amy: Here is the tomgirl of the group. Amy is only 12 years old, but following in the role she thinks she fits into in society, she presents herself as a boy. The term "tom" probably came from our "tomgirl" but my sisters in Florida were tomgirls. Tom, here in Thailand is a woman who flattens out all of the rounder parts with bandages and tight fitting clothes, dresses like a boy, styles her hair like a boy, and pretty much acts like a boy. They are just as common and as accepted here as a boy, girl or ladyboy.
So, anyway, the first year she was in the program, she had a crush on Bright and let everyone know about it. Poor Bright didn't know what to think about it, but she went along with it, although there were occasional flareups between the two of them and sets of friends when it got too serious. This past year however, Amy switched to crushing on Pear. Conversations ensued in our special after school class about how Pear decided that she wanted to like boys, not girls, but she'll still be buddies with Amy. Nuna, also in the class, "came out" and stated that she preferred girls, and Snooker laughed at both of them as if to say "More boys for me" haha. I think the girls talk like this now, before the hormones start flowing, because girls are their best friends, and their class is almost all girls; 13 girls 2 boys. I do believe, however, that Amy is the real deal and will probably have a lovely girlfriend in a couple years in high school. Amy struggled with the science curriculum, but when I could get her attention off of Bright and Pear she could figure some things out. Amy, lively, has a "Joker" from Batman smile, fun to see her laugh shyly and then try to "man-up" and act cool.Student 12, Nichanan, Tomm: The smallest of the class, although she would argue that Pear was smaller, Tomm was always a comedian. I noticed this right away and anytime I needed to know the time I would shout "Time check!" and Tomm would stand up and shout the time followed by a screeching air guitar that Sylvain Quimene would be proud of!
Always involved in all of the gossip and even in asking many great questions in science class. She wouldn't give up until she got a good answer that made sense to here either! She struggled at times to ask the questions in English but by the time she started asking so many questions this school year, she understood my level of Thai language understanding and would mix Thai and English to great effect to pose her questions to me. When she got the answer and understood what I was trying to tell her, she would look at me with a funny face and say "Okay!" That's when I knew that I had gotten through to her.
Tomm pulled some of the best faces in the class. I had twenty pictures of her making her faces, but had to choose only one or two for this collage. Tomm studied very hard when it came down to it. She felt the stress of having so much homework and studying to do before the end of her 6th grade year because she knew that the difference between a great school and an average school was riding on her performance on exams. Tomm, gregarious yet not a spotlight seeker, will make all of the boys laugh, loyal.Student 13, Nutrara, Neyney: Crybaby!! Hahaha. Ney would sit in the back of the room, while I was teaching or after she had finished her classwork, and hold her eyelids open and face the ceiling fan. I would look at her like she was nuts, and she would look at me with tears in her eyes. For a super happy, cheerful, always laughing girl, I thought this was odd. She always said that she could make herself cry...I guess this was her method!
Neyney was inseparable from her popular clique friends and had a way of making others smile. She was always close to my desk spying on what I was doing, asking me questions about Pae or about Bun, or just bored and hanging around with her friends who would generally congregate around my desk. Another keeper!! Neyney, full of personality, great attitude, sweet girl.Student 14, Ussana, Nuna: We talked about how Nuna sees herself at this point in her life, as far as socially goes. She leans towards the girls, but I used to tease her about one of the boys a year ahead of her. She would get furious, mainly because she, unlike the rest of the students, really didn't get the fact that I was joking and just messing with her. I had to lay off of the teasing once I realized that she was so serious and that she couldn't distinguish between serious and playful ribbing.
She towers over the rest of the kids in the class and therefore got the nickname "Big Mama". If she was on your side, you were safe. If she was on the other team's side, you were in trouble and had better possess some speed and agility to escape her powerful lunges forward. She actually once hit me in the head with a chair, then stomped out of the room. I just continued the class and talked to her in private afterwards. Turns out that her acting out in class sometimes kinda mirrors some of the treatment that she gets at home...that's all I'll say about that though. The best thing about Nuna is that she really always wanted to learn. When others would get off track for five minutes, she would want to get back on track and continue with the lesson at hand. Nuna, temperamental, curious, moody, strong, slept through many of my classes (that fried chicken and fries will do that to you!).Student 15, Thanitchaya, Zoom: Zoom was an addition to our class only two years ago, our last addition. The first day she came to the school, her mother talked to each teacher individually, letting us know that she "had to" remove Zoom from her previous school and that we should keep her informed as to Zoom's behavior. Nothing about scores, grades, nothing about attitude, just behavior. She didn't let us know why she had been removed from her old school, but it must have been serious. Over the course of two years in our class, she separated herself from the rest of the students outside of the twins. She wasn't an outcast per se, but a lot of her look-at-me antics and loudness certainly didn't enamour her to the rest of the class.
We had many meetings with her mother in the two years that passed, and she always had such a seriously concerned look on her face. I think Zoom is trying to grow up too fast, wanting to be what she sees in movies and magazines. She loves attention and is always bragging about ex-boyfriends, in efforts to have the other girls get jealous, but it always seems to backfire on her because they always just whisper about her and leave her out of their clique activities. Unfortunately for her, the same brutally honest students who reminded me daily of how "not handsome" I was, would remind her of how annoying she could be. If it weren't for the sweet caring of the twins, I'm afraid that Zoom would have been very lonely the past two years. The Thai teacher actually scolded the whole class late last year after the floods for not socializing with Zoom. After a half hour of scolding, Zoom came into the room to absolute silence. The students did make a visible effort after that, I must say. Zoom may have her issues, but deep down she just wants to be loved, wants to be involved and included. For her, high school will be a fresh start. Zoom, attention seeker, mysterious at times, possesses great potential to do well in the future,excels in all classes but science.Teacher Kai, Teacher Chicken: Teacher Kai has been the sixth grade homeroom teacher as well as the Thai science teacher for the past couple years. I rarely talked to her or was in the same classroom as her due to out class schedules. That's fine with me, I like teaching without a Thai teacher in the room personally. This was her first year with this group of girls (and GM and Klao). She's always had a reputation for yelling and screaming when the kids got out of hand or when they didn't do as they know they should. There has always been a level of fear felt towards her by the students. But this year, as with me, you could tell that this group had a special effect on her. I think they softened her up a little.
Perhaps because it was a bunch of girls, perhaps because of the individual personalities and how they matched or clashed just perfectly throughout the year. Don't get me wrong, I walked into many a icy cold classrooms with her stood at the front staring angrily at them, but it always seemed that it "hurt her more that it hurt them" to have to get angry at them. Heck, this school year has been really tough on everybody, with teaching on Saturdays following the flood last year. I think we're both lucky that we teach the best subject in school (science)! The kids might disagree with that!Teacher Guy, Teacher Ubat: Ah, that leaves me with good old me! What can I say? I enjoyed this group of kids. They are by far my favorite kids I've taught since my cute and innocent little first graders in 2007. Out of all of the teachers in the entire school, I spent more time with and around this group than anyone as I was their homeroom teacher for several years and sat through many of their classes. They grew on me just as I grew on them. We had some bad days and some good days together. We always could find some positive and there was always some fun to be had! As you can see from the photos, they always brought out the best in me!! I look forward to watching them grow and succeed.
Spring Break at the Rigg River Ranch (April 2014)
11 months ago