Category Archives: School Life

Volunteer to Teach in a Thai School

I find it very satisfying to be able to give back to my local community. I teach English to Thai students in a private school in Samut Prakan. But, these kids mainly come from rich families and they are used to seeing foreign teachers. What I sometimes find more rewarding is to volunteer to teach at a rural school in Thailand. I usually do this a couple times a year at small temple schools or ones where the students have never seen foreigners. Although Samut Prakan is so close to Bangkok and the international airport is on our doorstep, there are many students here who have never seen a foreigner close up, let alone been taught by one. We went to teach as volunteers at a couple of schools recently. As I know many people visiting www.thai-blogs.com like the idea of teaching in a school, I thought I would share with you some of my experiences.

The first school we went to was Ban Khun Samut Chin School in Samut Prakan. This is the school I go to every year and I have written about them before. You may remember me telling you that their playground is often flooded at high tide even though they have already moved further inland. Due to land erosion the sea is catching up with them again. I first visited this school while I was passing by on a Saturday morning a couple of years back. I saw some activity going on in the school grounds and went to take a closer look. The kids were there doing some art work with one of their teachers. They were happy to invite me in and let me take some pictures. After chatting with the teacher for a while I found myself volunteering to go and teach at the school. There are only 32 students in the whole school and only four teachers which includes the school director. But he is often away attending meetings. The kindergarten teacher doubles as the school cook. They don’t have any support staff so everyone has to help out.

As they only have three teachers they can only teach in three classrooms. If you volunteer to teach at a school like this, then you are really being thrown into the deep end. As before, we were left alone to teach with the students. At this school they don’t have any English teachers and the staff barely spoke any English themselves. When you go to a new school it is difficult to know what to teach as you don’t know their ability. So, you need to have quite a few ideas already planned with spare games and songs up your sleeve. When I first went to this school none of the students had seen a foreigner before due to its isolation along the coastline. There are no roads coming here and we had to rent a boat and then walk for 30 minutes in order to reach the school. We could only teach them the basics. But, it was good to see that they had remembered lessons from previous visits. The aim of our visits is not really to teach anything new, but to help them practice what they know already and to show them that language learning can not only be fun, but useful too. Hopefully the next time that they see a foreigner they can now have a basic conversation.

The second school we went to recently was Wat Bang Nampheung Nok School in Samut Prakan. Although this is near the famous Bang Nampheung Floating Market, these students also had very little contact with foreigners. They also didn’t have a qualified English teacher. This was the first time I had been to this school and I wasn’t sure what to expect when we turned up. We had basically been volunteered to come here by the director of the other school. Apparently they knew each other. This school had 67 students from Primary 1 to 6. They each had their own classroom though there were only five teachers. This was another poor school. The school director told me that 60% of the students came from broken homes. Many lived with grandparents or with other relations. Although schooling in Thailand is supposed to be free, there are many extras which parents have to pay for. These include books and uniforms. The teachers themselves don’t get paid much but they said that sometimes they had to use their own money to buy school supplies and pens and paper for the students.

As I had brought four foreign teachers here from my school I decided to split them up into two groups. One group first taught Primary 1 and 2 together and then Primary 3 and 4. The other group then taught Primary 5 first and then followed by Primary 6. There weren’t that many students in the younger grades, so it was easy to combine them but also give them plenty of opportunity to interact with us. We practised with them basic conversations (such as greetings and introductions) and then vocabulary such as colours, days of the weeks and parts of the body. Variety and having fun is very important here. So, each topic had songs as well as games to play. I think all of the students had fun. They certainly want us to go back again. We stayed there for just half a day. They gave us lunch and then walked us back to the pier for the ferry. They kept asking us to come again and spend longer with them. They said that if we come again they would show us around and that we could stay with one of the teachers. At the pier they bought us some fruit to eat on the way home. Thai people are always very hospitable.

I wrote about these visits on our school blog. We also added that if any other school in Samut Prakan would like us to visit then please let us know. Within a few days we received several invitations. It just shows you how desperate many schools are to have foreign teachers. They cannot really afford to pay for one. They don’t even have a budget to have a Thai English teacher. They just don’t know how to go about finding volunteers. I told the school director that there are organizations that help foreigners to volunteer at schools in Thailand. But, it isn’t free. From the schemes that I have seen advertised, you have to pay something like between 20,000 and 40,000 baht to volunteer to teach at a school for a month. The Thai teachers are of course shocked. They don’t understand why people would pay good money to actually teach for free. It does seem strange but these organizations actually make things a lot easier and maybe even cheaper for the volunteers. They not only find the schools and communicate with the teachers, but they also provide basic accommodation and meals for them too. This means that the school doesn’t have to do much and it doesn’t cost them anything to have teachers.

It is of course possible to volunteer at a Thai school without paying an agency. But, you have to do all the hard work. It also helps if you speak a little Thai. Schools in towns and cities are harder to just walk in. They might be suspicious of your intentions. However, the rural schools are more open and it is easier to walk in unannounced. However, it is best if you can get some kind of introduction. Maybe ask around town first about schools where you can go and visit. Someone is bound to know someone who works at the school or has a child there. It is probably best if you don’t say that you want to teach. Just say that you are interested to go and visit. The chances are then high that they will invite you to visit a class. If that works out well then they will most likely be keen for you to visit again. Even more so if you say you would like to teach for free. All of the schools we went to recently would be happy for us to visit every day. Though with small schools you might not have many lessons in a day! I now have a new website about Thai School Life over at www.ThaiSchoolLife.com. You will find plenty of information there if you are interested in Schools in Thailand.

Thai School Life

(This is the continuation of my blog about an average day in a Thai school. Click here if you missed part one.)

We don’t take attendance for each lesson. The classroom teacher has already done this at the start of the day. Outside of each classroom there is a statistics board. It tells you how many boys and girls are normally in this class and also how many are present today. Our classes have an average of 45 students. We then have about four classes for each grade. At some high schools they might have ten classes or so per grade and up to 60 students in a class. This may sound very overwhelming but luckily for us, the students are usually very disciplined. The seats are often in rows and many teachers will traditionally teach by rote. This usually involves them standing at the front of the class reading from a book or getting the students to read aloud together from their books. Using this tried and tested method makes it easier for us to control the classroom. The students are not encouraged to raise their hand or to contradict or question something the teacher did.

Some years ago, the government asked all the schools to stop teaching by rote and to take a more Westernized version of teaching where the classes are more child centered. Obviously, this has some merits as we were now asking the students to think for themselves rather than being told what to think. The tables in the classroom were often pushed together so that the students could do group work. However, I think the government soon realized that you couldn’t change the way of teaching overnight. Not only did the students not know how to do project work, but the teachers were puzzled how to teach. However, a number of years have now passed and we are now seeing more child-centered classrooms. I guess the only teachers still teaching by rote are the older ones who have the opinion that if it isn’t broken then it shouldn’t be mended.

Although I think it is great for the country that we are now teaching students to think for themselves, it has also seen at the same time a watering down in the classroom of discipline and respect for the teacher. Some teachers still have the illusion that all students must have automatic respect for them. The same goes for society as a whole where children are taught to be respectful to their elders and to never question their authority or knowledge. However, by allowing free thinking in the classroom we started to see students wanting to know why something was done in a particular way. It didn’t change overnight of course, but we now see more two-way interaction in the classroom and lateral thinking. However, grandparents not used to their grandchildren questioning their decisions and orders, just saw them as naughty children.

I think some lessons have been learned here. You cannot just bring in a practice used in the West as it might not work here. You have to adapt it for local culture and customs. Although are teachers say that our students are naughtier these days, they are still a lot better than most students in say America and Europe. Visiting foreign teachers always commented on this. If a student wants to leave a class they will have to ask permission first. On their return, they have to wait at the doorway for permission to enter. If they come to the teacher’s desk during the lesson they have to kneel on the floor. This is because it is disrespectful to stand higher than a teacher who might be seated. At the end of each lesson, I always find it amusing how the students stand up and chorus a “thank you” to the teacher for teaching them. It doesn’t matter if you had just given them a particularly hard test or told them off for not doing their work properly.

Our school has three lessons in the morning. We don’t have enough room at the school for a canteen so the students eat their lunch in the classroom. As we also have many students, the lunch break is staggered during the morning. First to have “lunch” are the kindergarten students who stop to eat at 10.15 a.m. They then have a nap for two hours. Next come the junior school who stop for lunch at 11 a.m. Then the senior school at 11.30 a.m. School lunches are usually very good and there is a three week rotation of menus. The food is often served with either rice or noodles. The students don’t have a choice but as teachers, we can choose the menu from either the junior school or senior.

Once all of the students are seated in the classroom then they all chorus the lunchtime grace. The all know this off by heart as they have been doing it since they were in kindergarten. It basically gives thanks to the farmers and cooks for growing rice and cooking their food. It ends by reminding the students of the people in the world that don’t have enough to eat. It tells them not to waste food. Once the students finish eating, they put any waste food in a bucket, their plates in an enamel bowl and their spoon and fork in a plastic bucket. Then, the duty students have to take these down to the kitchen. The plates and bowls are washed by the kitchen staff but the duty students wash the utensils, which are then brought back up to the classroom. Each student has their own set.

Each day students have to take turns to do duty. This usually involves keeping the classroom clean. We have janitors at the school but they don’t enter the classrooms. So, the duty students are responsible to keep it clean. They will sweep the floor, mop it and also do other duties like empty the rubbish and take the recycle paper down to the recycle area. The duty students for that day also have to do other things like collecting homework and taking books to the teacher. The students clean the classroom at the start of the day and during the afternoon break. Each day, one class also has to take turns to sweep clean the playground after lunch break. This encourages them not to drop any litter.

The lunch break lasts until about 12.20 p.m. Many of the younger students go down to the playground to play games. Many of these are recognizable by students around the world. These include marbles, tag games and jump rope. Some of the older boys might play football or basketball. However, we don’t really have much space in the playground for all 1,200 students to play. But, it doesn’t really matter as it is so hot and many students choose to stay in their classrooms to chat with their friends or read school books. The school organizes lunchtime clubs and activities that the students can take part in sometimes.

The kindergarten students don’t come out for the lunchbreak. After they have finished eating, they then settle down to have a siesta. The teacher puts down mattresses on the floor for the students and each one also has a pillow and a blanket. The kindergarten classes are all air-conditioned so it can get chilly. Before they go to sleep they have a meditation session to calm them down and prepare them for sleeping. The students sleep for about two hours in the middle of the day. Unfortunately I am not a kindergarten teacher so I am not allowed to have a nap too!

At the end of lunch the school bell goes and all of the students have five minutes to quickly line up outside of their classrooms. Now the duty teacher will give some announcements. Sometimes she might remind students not to run in the corridors or not to be so noisy near the kindergarten classrooms. Every day students seem to lose something and if something is handed in – like a wallet with money – the duty teacher will make an announcement. They also mention the name of the student that handed in the lost property. Everyone then applauds that student.

The afternoon session has three lessons which are finished by 3.15 p.m. This is the short break where the duty students have to clean their classrooms. A number of schools let their students go home at this time. However, our school has a compulsory “homework lesson” which starts at 3.40 p.m. In theory, the teachers help the students complete their homework so that their parents don’t have to help them when they go home. However, in reality the teacher often teaches something new so it just becomes an extension of the school day. Lessons finally finish at 4.45 p.m. and the students can go home.

The kindergarten and junior primary students go home earlier in order to prevent traffic jams in the small lane outside of our school. You can imagine the chaos if all 1,700 students left at the same time. The students wait for their parents in their classrooms. Then from about 3 p.m. the school loudspeakers are turned on and names are called of the students whose parents have arrived to pick them up. If a parent comes to pick up a student they have to show the duty teacher the student’s i.d. card. Many of the older students walk home by themselves. However, they are not allowed to leave the school premises by themselves. They first have to line up at the school gates and then all leave in one long line. One of the teachers on duty will escort them through the town and help them cross a major intersection. After that they are on their own. Duty teachers have to stay at the school until the last student leaves by about 6 p.m. A long day for many people.

If you are interested in reading more about Life in a Thai School or you want some advice on teaching in Thailand, then please visit our site at www.ThaiSchoolLife.com. You will also find tips there on how to visit a Thai school or a Thai scout group.

Average Day in a Thai School

Most schools throughout Thailand are much the same. Even though they may be public or private, they all have the same guidelines under which they have to operate. The average day in these schools is also much the same. At Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan, the students start to arrive as early as 5.45 a.m. If their parents are working in Bangkok then they might drop them off early. At this time it is still dark. The students are not allowed to go up to the classrooms but have to wait for their classroom teacher to arrive. The teachers have to take turns to be on duty once a week. This means that they have to come to school before the first students and also to be the last to leave. This often means a 12 hour day for them.

Most students don’t arrive until about 7.15 a.m. They come to school alone by school bus or on foot or with their parents by car or public taxi. In Thailand, we have different forms of local taxis which are very cheap. For example the three wheeled motorized rickshaw called a “tuk tuk” and the pedal version called a “samlor”. In Thai this means simply “three wheels”. The name “tuk tuk” comes from the sound that the motor makes. Another form of local taxi is the motorcycle taxi. These guys wear coloured numbered jackets and wait for people at the top of lanes. Other students come by “songtaew” which means “two rows”. This is basically two rows of seats on a converted pick-up truck.

When the students arrive at the school, they will often first pay respects to their parents. They do this by making a “wai” which is a prayer like gesture made by bringing their hands together at chest level and then bowing their head down to their hands. They do this as a way to say “thank you” to their parents for bringing them to school but also to say “goodbye”. They would also do this if their parents gave them some pocket money to spend in the snack shop at school. Some parents are stricter than others. You will sometimes see them holding onto the money until the child remembers to “wai” them as a “thank you”. Other students don’t seem to “wai” their parents even though they are taught to do this at school. However, they must “wai” the duty teacher otherwise they will get told off.

As they come into the school they pass a number of different shrines: a spirit house, a Brahman shrine and a Buddha shrine. The students are taught by their parents and teachers to always be respectful of these images other wise there might be consequences. The students and teachers often stop to give a “wai” on their arrival. Some do this to pay respect while others do it to gain some form of good luck for the day. Maybe they have an exam that day so they may make a wish to have good grades. If their wish later comes true, then they need to return to the shrine to make an offering. For example, some fruit or drinks. The school owners make an offering to the guardian spirit of the land daily in order to appease the spirits and to beg them not to cause mischief at the school.

Students are not allowed to wear shoes in the buildings. So, when they arrive at the steps they have to pause to take them off and then carry them up to their classroom. If they pass a teacher on the way up, they should stop to let the teacher pass first. As they are carrying shoes, they should first put these down and then give the teacher a “wai”. In Thai culture, it is impolite to point your feet at anyone. The feet and lower parts of the body are considered unclean. While the head is seen as being almost sacred. It would be considered very rude to give a “wai” while still holding your shoes. However, some students do this by mistake and we have to correct them. Teachers never initiate a “wai” to a student. This is considered by many as bringing them bad luck. Most teachers do not return the “wai” but will smile and nod instead. However, they could give the “receiving wai” which is where you hold your hands at chest level and do not bow down to them.

On arrival in the classroom, the students will put their shoes on the shoe rack and then make their way to their desk. If their classroom teacher is there, then they need to pay respect to them first. If their teacher is not so strict, then they will probably chat with their friends or read a cartoon book. However, if the students are more diligent, then they might read a school book or revise for an exam. The school bell rings at 7.45 a.m. which means that they should all go down to the playground for assembly. They leave their bags in the classroom, pick up their shoes and head downstairs. Strictly speaking, students should always walk on the righthand side of the stairs. You sometimes see adults doing this at a shopping mall. They have been trained well at school.

In the playground they will line up in rows according to their class and grade. They also do one row for boys and one row for girls with the tallest at the front. Everyone faces towards the flagpole and the Buddhist shrine at one end of the playground. At exactly 8 a.m., the school band starts playing the national anthem. Everyone quickly stops what they are doing, stands to attention and then sings the anthem. Students who might still be arriving also have to stop and stand still. If there is any parent sitting in the waiting area reading a newspaper, they should also stop what they are doing and stand to attention. All of the radio and television stations broadcast the national anthem at this time. They also play it on loudspeakers outside police stations, at hospitals and also places like train stations.

School assembly has the same formula every day. It usually lasts about 15-20 minutes. Our playground isn’t quite big enough for all 1,700 students, so the kindergarten students line up outside their classrooms for assembly. This is what the rest of the students also do on rainy days. After the national anthem has finished and the Thai flag has been raised to the top, the students next do Buddhist chanting. The majority of the students are Buddhists, though we do have a handful of Muslims and Christians. Although they have to be in the assembly, they don’t need to chant. This only lasts a few minutes. Next comes the reciting of the student oath, the school creed and finally the school motto. Once these formalities are over then one of the duty teachers goes to the front of the assembly to give a small speech on ethics. Sometimes students will also take turns to read something from a newspaper.

Before the first lesson starts, the students will have a homeroom period with their classroom teachers. She might also give them an ethics talk or she will prepare them for an exam by getting them all to read aloud from their school book. We mainly have primary students so they stay in the same classroom for much of the day. However, at High schools, the students will often move from class to class during the day. Our junior students are taught for most of the day by their classroom teacher. However, the older students have specialist teachers who take turns to come to their classroom. The only time the students have to move class is for subjects like Computer and P.E.

When the teacher arrives in a classroom to teach, there is always a small routine that the students have to perform. This starts by the class captain calling out “students stand to attention”. The students then greet their teacher by saying “sawatdee”, which is Thai for “hello”, and giving them a “wai”. The teacher will then say “sawatdee” in reply and then tells the students to sit down. The students then chorus “thank you”. For their English lessons, they do all of this in English. It goes something like this: “Please stand up. Good morning teacher.” We then reply “Good morning, how are you?”. They reply “I am fine thank you and you?”. We reply “I am fine, thank you. Please sit down.” They then say “thank you” and sit down.

I will post the conclusion of this average day in a Thai school at www.thai-blogs.com tomorrow. In the meantime, I have posted many articles and pictures of Life in a Thai School over at www.thaischoollife.com.

15 Years Teaching in Thailand

This month marks 15 years since I started teaching at Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan, Thailand. In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would still be at the same school fifteen years later. In fact, I didn’t think at the time that I would be staying longer than one week. It was never my plan to teach nor even to stay in Thailand so long. I left England back in mid 1993 to go backpacking across Asia on a round the world tour. This was my second big trip. In 1991, I spent one year in Australia. I had bought a station wagon and drove the complete circumference of Australia. On my return to the UK, I had enjoyed my time on the road so much that I found it difficult settling down and commuting to London every day. The only thing that kept me going was planning for another trip. This time, overland to Australia. I had liked Australia so much that I was toying with the idea of emigrating there.

I still remember very well the day that I left. British Rail was on strike, so at the last minute my parents had to give me a lift down to the port at Dover. I then took a ferry across the English Channel where I then continued overland by rail to Moscow. I spent a couple of days here before boarding the Trans Siberian Express. Seven days later the train arrived in Beijing. I spent several months in China going to places where I rarely saw any other foreigners. I traveled to the far Western border and then down into Pakistan via the Karakorum Mountains. These have some of the highest roads in the world with public transport. A memorable sidetrip here was a visit to the lawless town of Peshawar where, for a few dollars, you could fire kalashnikov machine guns or buy a James Bond gun disguised as a fountain pen. I also continued up to the Khyber Pass with an armed escort to look down into Afghanistan.

A month later I crossed into India and caught a train up to New Delhi where I met up with my sister and her husband who were in India with their baby daughter. I traveled with them for a while before setting off on my own again. I really enjoyed the culture of India and the food of the Southern region. I ended up in Calcutta where I caught a small plane to Bangkok in Thailand. I arrived in February 1994. Up to that point I had spent several months in each of the countries. I never really had a strict schedule or road plan, though there were places were I wanted to visit. My only rush at the start was to get over the Karakorum Pass before the snows came in and closed off the road.

At that time, Thailand didn’t really have a good reputation. All I knew was that it was referred to as the “sex capital of the world” and had a serious drug problem. When I was in Australia, I had seen the Nicole Kidman tv movie “Bangkok Hilton”. This had made me paranoid that the police in Thailand would plant drugs on me and that I would end up at Bang Kwang Prison. When I flew home from Australia on the first trip, the plane stopped in Bangkok to refuel. I had the option to do a short stopover here. But, I declined and stayed on the plane. It was just as well. A few days later, there were tanks on the streets as Thailand was having yet another coup. So, this time round, my rough plan was to only stay in Thailand for one week before heading south to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Before I left England, I already had a contact to visit in Thailand. My mother used to run Scout Commissioner courses at Gillwell Park in London. One year, two of the participants on her course were two ladies from Bangkok who ran a school there. Apparently, in Thailand all students were Scouts. After the course had finished, they kept in touch. Before I left home, on my around the world trip, my mother wrote to them to say that I would be passing through. They invited me to visit. I was in two minds to do this. But, when I reached India I sent them confirmation to say that I was on my way. They replied that they would pick me up at the airport.

I really had no idea what to expect. The world saw Thailand as a “third world” country and I thought that there would be poverty wherever I looked. However, the drive from the airport to the school certainly changed my mind. All of the cars on the expressway looked expensive and brand new. I remember commenting in a letter home that there didn’t seem to be any old cars. We passed big shopping malls and the billboards were advertising designer brands. There was no sign of poverty here. This continued when I arrived at the school. I had imagined I would be sleeping in a wooden hut on a thin mat on the floor. But, they took me to their school where the living quarters was nothing short of luxurious. I had my own place to stay and as it turned out, I had a servant who cleaned my bedroom and washed my clothes every day. I also had people who prepared and cooked my every meal. This was all such a shock to the system after being on the road for so long and living on an average of $5 per day.

The next day they invited me to visit some of the English classes. Fortunately for me, the school owners spoke some English which made it a lot easier. However, they never had a foreign English teacher before. They had Thai English teachers but they could hardly speak any English. They gave me a text book, pointed me to a class and said, “Go and teach”. It was literally like being thrown into the deep end. I had no idea of what to teach or even the ability of the students. It was a classic example of school owners thinking that just because you are a native speaker that you can teach English. Luckily for me, teaching is in my blood. Not only my mother, but my two sisters and various aunts and uncles were all teachers. I managed to survive and even enjoyed myself. But, I was still only planning to spend a week before heading south down to the Malaysian border.

Before I knew it, one week became two and then soon it was the summer holidays. I did a few side trips to places like Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Kanchanaburi and Koh Chang. Then they invited me to teach during summer school. They said it was an opportunity for me to earn some money. It wasn’t a lot but as I was staying at the school I was able to save most of it. I knew this would be useful pocket money for the road ahead. I ended up staying at the school for nearly three months. I was having such a great time that I was having difficulty in leaving. However, I was keen to get to Australia before Christmas. I have relations there and I wanted to spend that period with them.

I finally left Thailand in late May 1994. I crossed into Malaysia and then from Penang I caught a boat across to Samatra in Indonesia. I then island hopped as far as Bali. From there I flew into Australia, about a year after I had originally left home. After spending Christmas here, I was planning to then fly to New Zealand and from there to South America, America and then back home. However, while I was staying with my relations, I received a phone call from the school principal. She invited me to come back to Thailand to teach there for one year. I didn’t have to give it much thought. I immediately said “yes”. As we all know now, one year became two, and then three. Before I knew it, fifteen years has passed and I am still here at the same school.

It is actually rare for foreign teachers to stay so long at the same school. They usually move around. But, I guess for me it was different. I was originally invited as a family friend and still today they regard me as one of the family. Thai people are very much like that. I could have moved to a school in Bangkok and easily trippled my salary. But, I decided to stay with this school. Money was never so important for me. As long as I was comfortable, and had a job that was enjoyable and never really felt like work, then I knew I would be happy. People have often asked me why I chose Thailand. I think really, Thailand chose me. I love the culture, the people and the Buddhist way of life. I think maybe I was Siamese in a previous life and had meant to one day return to my motherland.

I have collected all of my articles about Life in a Thai School and put them onto a new website at www.ThaiSchoolLife.com. Later this week I will be writing about An Average Day in a Thai School and then later A Tour of a Thai School. I have a lot of pictures about schools in Thailand and I will also be adding them to the website at www.ThaiSchoolLife.com.

Wai Khru Ceremony

All of the students at my school took part in the annual Wai Khru Ceremony today. The students presented their teachers with flowers and said “thank you” to them for giving them knowledge. In return, the teachers gave them a blessing which the students believe will give them good luck for the coming academic year. The flowers given to the teachers are symbolic. Dok Ma Khue (eggplant flower) stands for respect because when the tree is blooming its branches bend down in the same way a student pays respect to their teacher. Ya Praek (Bermuda grass) stands for patience or perseverance because although the grass looks wilted it is still very much alive. Khao Tok (popped rice) stands for discipline because the rice is placed in a pan together and heated up to become popped rice. The Dok Kem has the same name as the Thai word for needle. So it means the student will be sharp-witted and brainy. The ceremony always takes place on a Thursday towards the start of the academic year. Thursdays are considered to be auspicious for teachers.

You can listen to a audio streaming of the Wai Khru Poem recited by one of our students at www.SpokenThai.com.