Farewell Ling Lek
And so it is that my long year of being an English teacher for Kindergarten 1 at Anuban Lop Buri draws to a close. It’s been everything I thought it would be and yet also nothing like. Saying goodbye to my 300 pupils was very hard but I’m so glad I stayed with them for the full year. I suppose we’ve had oddly similar experiences; my 300 and I started school on the same day, nervous and excited and not really knowing what to expect and we’ve progressed from there. Getting to know our teachers, making friends, finding our way around and in the end having to say goodbye.
I’ve cuddled them when they cried, played with them, taught them and dealt with their occasional puddles, projectile vomit and attempts at armed take-over. I’ve loved them so much it ached a little bit and I’ve been more frustrated by them than I’ve ever experienced. Most of them have changed quite a bit over the course of the year, some for better and some for worse sadly. Chick-Chick for instance – the first lesson I taught her she was vivacious and engaging, constantly doing chicken impressions every time I sang Old MacDonald which is how she earned her name. Her class has the bitchiest cliques of girls however, who slowly ostracised her from their groups and now she sits at the back of the class and rarely raises her hand or speaks up. Little mouse however has had an opposite transformation. He has a face that always looks sad and to start with he would never get involved or open his mouth. After a while I brought him up to the front of the class for a game though and deliberately asked him questions I knew he could answer, slowly his confidence grew and now he’s reaching for the sky every time I need a volunteer and if he gets things wrong he just laughs at himself and tries again.
On the last day of school I thought I was holding myself together pretty well but as my favourite little group of girls were playing their best game and racing up to tickle me and then dash I felt tears start to threaten. I held them back until the children had filed to the bathroom to brush their teeth after lunch and then let them spill over right there in the corridor. One of the teachers walking past smiled at me and then ducked into a class room, barely a second had passed before there was a rousing chorus of “awwwwwww” from all the TAs so she’d obviously just told them about the sobbing farang in the hallway.
I decided to have all my children do British colouring-in sheets for their last lesson since Teacher’s going home there – and explained about England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales not all being the same thing (something which has driven me nuts whilst I’ve been here) and despite putting up pictures of all the images for them to see and stating unequivocally – “the dragon is red, the leprechaun is green etc…” I got some fantastically coloured zombie/smurf queens which amused me greatly being not much of a royalist.
Just as an aside, Thai 4-year-olds trying to pronounce ‘leprechaun’ is always good for a giggle. They all found it hilarious when I pointed to the picture and said ‘ne si mai dee!’ which means bad behaviour and is what I say to them when I catch them stabbing each other with pencils or trying to round-house kick their classmates in the face. For all that they’re lovely; classes with 40 4-year-olds, hardly any mutual language and teaching assistants who spend 90% of the lesson outside on their iphones do have a tendency to get a little out of hand.
One thing I did discover along with fellow teacher James was that it helps to say goodbye if you bring sweets for all your pupils in your last lesson. Then – whilst you’re trying to say a heart-felt goodbye and express how much you’ll miss them – they’ll be fighting over who got which colour, moaning that they don’t like the one they got and can they swap and shoving the ones they have in their pockets so they can come up and pretend they didn’t get any. That makes saying goodbye to the ling lek (little monkeys) much easier.