Crime and Punishment in Thai Kindergarten 1
So I’m not really expected to have any control over the children in my class which is good because I pretty much have none; I’m a novelty entertainer like a clown at a kid’s party. I come in for an hour to each of my 7 classes twice a week and sing songs, dance, play games and generally hope that they pick up some English from it, which impressively they seem to be doing quite well. Discipline is left to the nursery nurse, student teacher and teacher who (should be) in each class. Most of time the teacher views it as a break and leaves me to my own devices. One particular class they all seem to disappear off immediately and pretty soon my classroom descends to anarchy with just me to keep control.
Smacking is a-ok in Thailand which definitely confirms my status as a novelty act since they know that, whatever they do, I won’t smack them. It’s pretty much impossible for me to instigate any other kind of discipline as we have no shared language. I can’t tell them what kind of behaviour I expect, what kind of behaviour I will not allow and I can’t warn them of the consequences if they don’t obey. I have occasionally bodily picked up the biggest trouble-makers and deposited them unceremoniously outside the classroom when my patience wore too thin.
I got a bit put off that though when I tried it with the class I mentioned before where I have no Thai crowd-control presence to shush them. One 5 year old boy (who I’ve named Rascal) was being a continual pain in the backside, chattering, turning around, shoving the children around him etc. He’s actually one of my favourites most of the time and is very bright but if he doesn’t want to sing the alphabet song who am I to make him? Anyway, after having turned him back round to face me and shushed him several times and just had him shush me back and giggle, I clocked him kicking his neighbour so picked him up under the armpits and deposited him outside the classroom door. I figured I’d leave him there for 5 minutes to cool off and then bring him back in with a shush and a stern look. As it was though the teacher was sitting outside the door and pointed to him with a questioning expression. By way of explanation I pointed to him and mimed kicking, at which point she came and took him off my hands. As I walked back into the classroom I could hear her slapping his legs and him howling: GUILT. It was probably a full 15 minutes later that she brought him back into my lesson and marched him up to me at the front of the class, huge fat tears streaming down his cheeks and his whole tiny body shuddering with sobs.
“Say sorry to teacher,” she commanded.
“Ah, sob… ah, sob… soh, sob.. ee! Sob…”
“Ahm sooorry!” He wailed, his shoulders pumping up and down and his little face a snot-streaked mask of despair.
Damn near broke my heart. I patted his shoulder “thank-you, it’s ok, go sit down.” He was a little angel for the rest of the lesson and I made extra sure I gave him lots of praise when he got things right to make up for having accidentally sent him to his doom. Thankfully small children don’t hold a grudge and he thought I was the bee’s knees again within five minutes. Since then I tend to make chatterers and troublesome types sit in the corner on their own or up by me when they’ve been really naughty. I did try just moving them away from their friends but they sneak back again the second I turn my back.
The smacking’s not usually so bad, most of the time it’s just the student teacher and the nursery nurse there with what looks a little like a pink plastic ruler. Most of the time just raising it in warning is enough but when they do smack it’s more to make a nasty noise than cause pain. It never seems to bother the children much and most of the time it doesn’t even stop them giggling and being silly for even long enough for it to be administered!
The weirdest punishment is duck tape/steri-strip. I’d love to see what would happen if they tried this one at home; persistent chatterers are threatened with the roll and then if they’re caught again the student teacher will tape their mouths closed. I know! It’s always duck tape or steri-strip but in all fairness they do fold it over on itself several times to take most of the stickiness away before they stick it on so that it doesn’t hurt when it comes off. It is surreal to watch children colouring-in with their mouths taped shut. It’s also quite annoying when the purpose of the lesson is to have the children practise speaking English. Katie tells me that with her year 2s they don’t even de-sticky it before they put it on. Thankfully I’ve only known them resort to this a handful of times. Having over-zealous crowd-control can often be as bad as none when the point of the lesson is that they sing and do actions and dance and play so that they can learn. Endless drilling really doesn’t work for 5 year olds.
If anyone is an advocate for smacking I would like to tell you about class 4. Class 4 is by far my favourite class to teach and they’re also one of the most advanced (and home to Little Bear, Smiles, Twinkle, Porcelain and Daddy). In class 4 I have Nurse Ten and Student Teacher Gutteral-Noise-I-Can’t-Pronounce-Let-Alone-Spell who are lovely, about my age and who I often eat lunch with. The class teacher is the lovely lady who makes me som tam. I’ve never seen them smack the children and theirs are definitely the best behaved. All the staff in the room join in with endless Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Happy and You Know It and other completely undignified kiddy stuff. They encourage the kids who aren’t participating and stand over the naughty ones. No smacking; nicest, most relaxed class with the highest level of participation. ‘Nuff said.