Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Odd Silence

School's out, school's out, teacher let the monkeys out! Yeah, I remember singing this after leaving school every year for summer break. As a matter of fact, I've sung it each year since teaching in Thailand also! I'm always relieved when another semester or term comes to an end.

This year was a little different for me though, as "my" sixth graders graduated and will not be returning next year. Weird. I've taught and graduated sixth graders four times prior to this year, this year being my fifth batch to release into the wild ;)

I think this group is unique, not just because of all of the little personalities in the class, but also because I've been sat in their classroom as their homeroom teacher for several years. I've taught them for 5 years and been in their room for three I think. Having a chair in the corner of their classroom is like having a secret camera in the room or being a (large) fly on the wall, because sometimes they 1) forget I'm there and 2) think I don't understand some of the things they say in Thai.

The kids will gossip about each other when someone leaves the room and they'll play with things or write and pass notes under their desks while another teacher is lecturing. They will give each other dirty looks across the room, dirty looks between the two big cliques that have formed over the years. They will come to me in the corner and ask random questions about anything and everything. They've started to "like" each other but don't realize it yet...but you can see it, the chemistry.

They, mostly girls, will come to me and ask for a barrette or hair tight (rubber band) for their hair. I keep extra hair ties and bows in my desk just in case they ask ;) I also have learned to keep lots of glue sticks, bandages and tissue for them as they ask frequently for these things.

I let the Thai homeroom teacher, a woman, keep the sanitary napkins in her desk, as we have the occasional first time menstruation with the sixth grade girls. Teacher Malcolm was pretty grossed out last month when one of our students suddenly burst out of the room and several other girls followed her. He almost couldn't hold his breakfast down when he finally realized why they had gone...he had some of the other girls in class remove the bloody chair and have it cleaned.

For me, I'm pretty cool with that kind of stuff 1) because I have 9 sisters and 2) I'm also the health teacher and some of our most spirited classes come during the menstruation and puberty chapters. If we could discuss those two things all year, the kids would be SO involved and WANT to learn because it's something that they feel is relevant and immediate (or at least right on the horizon).

Off track...where were we? Ah, so after the final bell went, on Friday, the kids cleared their desks to the side of the room so the cleaners could wax over the summer break. They began to leave one by one, each asking as they straggled to the door, "Teacher, will you be here tomorrow?" to which I replied, "Of course na luk." (Translation: an intimate parent/child or adult/child "yes")

So "my kids" gathered their things on the last weekday of their primary school lives and left school. They would be back on Saturday for a little graduation ceremony and to say goodbye to each other, but this would be their last day of classes, their last day of being sent here and there for this subject or that subject and their last day to be in denial that they would not see each other anymore!

Side note: Children don't go to a school based on their district or zoning like in most places when I was a kid. Here, they go wherever they get accepted, based on standardized test scores. So my kids will be going to six or seven different high schools. And then the school are so large that each grade level has like 15 classes, so the chances of them studying together again are very slim.I sat in our classroom, the rest of Friday, Monday and Tuesday, surrounded by half graded final exams, expired whiteboard markers, a month-old uneaten donut and the eerie din of silence. My kids were gone and they'd probably only visit to pick up their younger siblings on occasion. My other teacher friends who teach at larger schools told me that they don't really have a chance to build close relationships with their students, as they only see each group of kids once per week and don't do the homeroom thing. Some of them don't even know their students' names after a semester, having 20 different classes per week and 50 students per class on average.

I count myself among the lucky, and even though I've been in this situation for five years already, it's only this group that have grown on me. They've almost adopted me as a father figure, or an uncle figure...or maybe I just feel like a real teacher with this group. They certainly tried my patience at times. Some among them certainly disappointed me with a brazen lack of effort. But through the good and bad, the ups and downs, they have been great kids with top shelf personalities; a perfect match the 15 of them.Good luck Snooker, Khing, GM, View and Wan. Good luck June, Bright, Klao, Gung Ging and Pear. Good luck Amy, Tomm, Neyney, Nuna and Zoom. Have a great time in high school and be good. The sound of your complaining when I give homework, the sound of your whispers and giggles when I'm teaching, the squeaking and scuffing of your feet in the hall trying to get to class only ten minutes late, your laughs and your smiles will be missed ;) Good luck, Chok Dee.

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