Differences Between Teaching a Thai and a U.S. Kindergarten


The wonderful and enthusiastic Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. I.

What a difference between my volunteer teaching in Thailand, and what I’m observing and learning in a U.S. Kindergarten. I’m sure I shall be in for another surprise in Lesotho, southern Africa, where I am co-teaching in January 2016.

Sometimes I wonder how I can use the skills I learned from teaching elementary school in Koh Samui, Thailand, with those in Orange County, California,  while I serve in the Peace Corps during my two years in a school in Lesotho.

Each country is so different, especially the cultural differences, the expectations, and the rules and discipline procedures.

In Thailand, the children are so loving. They come up to you for hugs, even in fifth grade, and unlike the U.S., the teachers use a thin bamboo stick for corporal punishment.


First grade class

In the U.S., the Kindergartners are adorable, but there is no  hugging  and fewer smiles than I experienced in Thailand.


No chairs in Kindergarten in Thail class where I taught

I feel the “stress” on our children in the U.S., to be high achievers and to obey the rules. In Thailand, the children are often distracted, and I accepted this. We had to get their attention with games; standing up and sitting down and touching their toes, etc. We often shouted and got them to do the same while teaching them to repeat new vocabulary words.

In the U.S. Kindergarten, I observed the expertise of the teacher in how to apply “classroom management” skills which are so important in establishing order and guidelines for children to follow during the school year.

As stated in the well-known book by Harry and Rosemary Wong, The First Days of School, How to be an Effective Teacher.

“Effective teachers MANAGE their classrooms.

Ineffective teachers DISCIPLINE their classrooms.”

Mrs. I. is the Kindergarten teacher, and through positive reinforcement, she manages to control her new Kindergarten class with thirty students. She says things like, “We’re here to grow big brains, who wants to learn to read? Who wants to learn to write stories?”

She thanks her students, by name, who sit still and announces, “I like the way Logan is sitting still,” or “Get up, give yourself a hug and walk quietly to the door.”

She says, “When Mrs.I.is talking, your mouth is not,” and when a child answers a question correctly, she says, “Kiss your brain” and they kiss their hand and tap their head. I just love that.

There are playground rules like counting to 20 when someone is on the slide and your turn is next. Then there are lunch rules, about asking for permission to be excused to play,and rules for entering the classroom. It seems the kids have to follow so many rules in the U.S., but I can see the results of how well-behaved the kids are.

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As you can see, everything is neatly arranged, including the box of crayons with each student’s name labelled on the box. You can tell the teacher has spent time getting the classroom organized.

I want to learn new skills on how to get young children to listen, and to do so in a calm manner. During my teaching in Thailand, I felt like I was yelling to get the children’s attention, and although they did keep quiet when I put my right hand up, and my left hand to cover my mouth, most of the teaching was done with shouting the new vocabulary words and getting the kids to repeat, and copy from the board. I did not like teaching this way, but followed the curriculum.

I realize that co-teaching in Lesotho, will be a new adventure that will require being flexible. The best part is I love seeing the differences between cultures, and learning to adapt.

Let’s hope that whatever the method, the kids are always learning.


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  1. What a great opportunity to once again find the similarities and differences among children in other parts of the world. I’m struck by your description of the smiling faces and rowdy behavior of the Thai children versus the quiet, attentive, and serious American kids. Makes me wonder if we’re not letting our children stay children long enough. Have there been studies on Thai versus American adults and their achievements (as well as their stress levels, ability to cope and general happiness)?
    Patricia Stoltey recently posted..For the love of “old stuff”: the Chaw’se Miwok and Me … by Catriona McPhersonMy Profile

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