As my first semester of teaching is coming to a close and I am assessing how much my students have learned, it is also important to recognize how much they have taught me.
Teaching kindergarten has been such a gift. This age group has been wonderful for many reasons, but one of the most transformative is that it has been as much a learning experience for me as for my students.
In addition to making me a better educator, this opportunity has allowed me to learn the basics of my students’ language as I have shared mine with them. Because their English is so limited at this age, my English lessons have doubled as a crash course in basic Thai vocabulary for me. The significant language barrier has presented a unique set of challenges, but that language gap is steadily decreasing.
Every week, my school assigns a topic and accompanying vocabulary for me to teach. Because it is a trilingual school, the same topic is taught in Thai, Chinese, and English. The school provides a PowerPoint with relevant vocab words in all three languages, and the rest is up to the teachers.
This semester’s topics have included nature, colors, numbers, day and night, writing, and much more. This has given me to opportunity to learn the Thai vocabulary for each of these topics from my students as I teach them the English words. When I hold up a flashcard of the color red or hold up an image of a monkey, inevitably the whole class will shout the word in Thai. I gently inquire for the English word and make a mental note of the Thai one. In this way, my Thai vocabulary has grown exponentially.
My priority is first and foremost as a teacher, but I believe that learning from your students is essential to succeeding in that role. Sometimes, students need you to hear them in their language. I try to meet my students halfway in this journey toward understanding.
I recently finished writing and administering end-of-semester English exams for my students and am impressed by how much we have learned from each other this semester. It is my mission of gratitude to teach them as much as they teach me every day.