Kids are kids are kids. With all of the cultural differences that I am experiencing firsthand among Thais and Westerners, I think I expected the students to be at least slightly differently from Californian students, but except for taught behaviors, I have to say that Thai kids are pretty much exactly like Californian kids. Here are some sweeping generalizations that certainly do not account for individual differences, but that seem quite true from my perspective:
- Second-graders would rather not sit still (and give them a squeaky stool in an art classroom, and expect your ears to hurt).
- Sixth-graders come in a few categories: girls who like boys, girls who have no interest in boys, boys who are far too immature to care what girls think, and boys who care what girls think but are overwhelmed by the girls who like the boys.
- A handful of sixth-grade girls will indulge in some pseudo-teenage-drama that will result in rumors and tears and lost friendships.
- Children will ask you, if you are a short-haired female, why it is that you had to cut your hair “like that”.
- Seven-year-olds will delight you with statements like, “I love being creative because I am an artist,” and “Mistakes are the best things in the world…because they’re YOU.”
- Kids find flatulence irresistibly hilarious.
- Children, if given the covert opportunity, will ingest science experiment materials (e.g. starch, clay, iodine solution). Don’t worry — I prevented the grade 4 kid from licking the iodine, but he was definitely going for it.
- The kids that many have labeled a “problem” or “a behavior” just need individual attention, and then they need to learn ways to get that attention without settling for negative attention.
- Some kids are quiet; some are loud. Some love school; some don’t. Some can’t sit still; some can. Some are spoiled rotten; some are humble. Some will appreciate you; some won’t.
So even though my new students recite a Buddhist chant every morning, bow to their teachers at the beginning and end of each class period, view the fork as an auxiliary utensil (it’s all about the spoon), get rides home on the back of a motor taxi with their mothers, and are used to torrential downpours in July, they are learning, growing, exploring, goofing around, making jokes, playing games, karate-chopping each other in line, and running in the hallways, just like the kids I’ve known back home.