When you think about the most respected careers in your home country, what are they? Soldiers, doctors, nurses, firefighters? If you ask any local in Thailand, one of the first answers you’ll hear is “teacher.”
This goes double for foreign teachers. As long as you smile and do your best to be respectful, you will be awkwardly brought to the front of lines, served first and receive a deeper bow when greeted than your age would usually grant you. One of the many ways I’ve experienced this is the teacher appreciation day known as “wai khru.”
I could write an entire book – nay, volumes — on teaching in a Thai government school, but the one thing that every “kru farang” (white teacher) learns is that the Thais know how to holiday. Depending on what school you teach in, you will have close to a dozen holidays during a four month semester.
In addition to usually requiring two days (one for preparation of whatever song and dance is necessary and one for the actual celebration), they’re often unexpected and pop up like a jack in the box. I can’t tell you how many times I was writing some “Jill went to the store” practice dialogue on the board with my back to the class, only to turn around and find students packing up their things.
“Teacher, no more class today. There is a holiday.”
It’s easy to blame this on a communication or language barrier, but usually my fellow Thai teachers were just as surprised as I was.