Tuesday, August 23, 2016

School Daze Part 2 - The Kids

In the last post, I talked about the beautifully situated physical grounds of our school.  In this post, I'd like to describe the fine education that our kids are getting, including the extracurricular opportunities Piti Suksa offers.

To begin, every school day begins at 8:00 with the flag raising ceremony.  Students line up in the courtyard facing the flagpole with teachers and parents watching from the wings.  Two students are chosen to slowly raise the flag after another student makes the announcement:  "Attention!  Please respect our our religion, our country and our monarchy by singing the National Anthem!" at which point the students all sing the National Anthem together (in Thai).  If all is timed well, the flag reaches the top just as the students finish the anthem.  Next comes the singing of the school song (in English).  This is a fantastic song that was written by one of the teachers here.  The lyrics are as follows and sung in a marching rhythm.

        We are the children, we are the future.
        We are role models to one another.
        Unity in diversity!
        We are a caring community.

        Learning is fun at Piti Suksa
        Seekers of knowledge
        With focus and freedom
        Learning is fun at Piti Suksa
        Learn to love and love to live

        Interdependent and independent
        Within a natural environment
        Working as one to reach our peak
        With love and kindness we are unique

        Learning is fun at Piti Suksa
        Seekers of knowledge
        With focus and freedom
        Learning is fun at Piti Suksa
        Learn to love and love to live

After the school song is completed, students and teachers bow to each other and they all walk to their classrooms.

The class starts, like most Montessori classes, with Circle Time.  In Jessica's class, this is the time where she talks with the students about virtues.  There is a different virtue every week, but some of the recent ones have been honesty, respect, and forgiveness.

After Circle Time, students have 3 hours of independent work time where they have a set list of tasks to accomplish, but can do so at their own pace and in the order they choose.  On some days, a teacher will come in from another room and give a presentation on topics like Thai culture and history, health enhancement, or any other general education subject.  But whatever the day or special presentation, students line up in the canteen for lunch at 12:00.

When a student finishes his/her lunch, the student gives their plates, bowls and silverware (or chopsticks) a preliminary wash and rinse and then is free to play on the playground until one o'clock.  Now the interesting thing about recess is that there is almost never any conflict between students.  At the public school the kids attended back home, there were always conflicts and they never seemed to get resolved to anyone's satisfaction.  What is the difference?  From my perspective, in Montessori schools, teachers spend a lot of time teaching peace and conflict resolution or prevention through effective communication strategies.  Then, on the playground, the teachers are also on hand and paying close attention to how the students speak to each other, and if necessary, can step in and remind them about being respectful to each other.  In my experience in American public schools, there's almost no time or energy spent on teaching kids how to get along or why they should in the first place.  And on the playground, it's a free for all.  In fact, at our last school, there were only one or two playground monitors, and they weren't even teachers.  They had no training or experience dealing with children, let alone any kind of responsibility for teaching conflict resolution.  Is that because there are no communication/conflict resolution questions on standardized tests?

Regardless, after recess, and depending on the day, students have 2 hours of club time.  This can mean 2 hours of gardening, football, Thai dance (Suni's club), Lacrosse (Radd's club) or cooking.  On Wednesdays however, the students have Scouts.  This is mandatory for all students on Thailand, regardless of the school's status as public or private.  "Scouts" is a lot like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the U.S., but 1) it's mandatory, and 2) the uniforms are a lot cooler, especially for the boys. I really like how all scouts are required to have a length of red rope on their hips at all times, you know, in case they need rope.

After school, many students take either Ukulele or Violin lessons at the school, except when they take my special English class.  Beginning today, I am teaching English for a few select students whose parents and teachers feel they need a little help.  I am really excited to have a little time 4 days a week to interact with these kids.  From the small experiences I've had with them so far, I know it's going to be great fun and the kids will improve  quickly.

Overall, the school is similar in a lot of ways to an American Montessori school, in that it creates its own tight knit community, fosters peaceful interaction between students, and allows for individual choice and expression between students.  On the other hand, it is also uniquely Thai in its organization, respect for Thai culture, and promotion of clubs and after school lessons.  But it's most special to us because, as I said in part 1, it is the center of our lives here and it's the people who make it such a caring, welcoming and beautiful environment.





11 comments:

  1. Teared up from this post! Sounds wonderful and everyone looks so happy. Also happy for you that you will have a special part at the school as well! Love and hugs to you all! Keep us posted!

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  2. So many points that US schools could learn from, but have no hope that it will happen. What a great environment and learning experience for Radd & Suni. Maybe their prents had a good idea doing this year long adventure 😉

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  4. All boys need a length of rope...

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  5. thank you so much for sharing your experience I look forward to reading it and you're right we could learn a few things from them

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  6. Thinking of you especially today, Jessica! Today is Caleb's first day at Sacajewea, and I was just rereading your letter to pass on to his new teachers. Thank you for being such an angel in his life - wish us all luck on this new chapter!!!

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