A new school year
Michal Dobson – Thailand
A new school year begins in ten days at CMIS. With 400 students from kindergarten through grade 12, the school has a total of forty-five teachers hired from various countries overseas. For a variety of reasons, seventeen teachers left at the end of the last school year. This is a much larger turnover than usual. The new teachers who will be replacing those seventeen, will be adjusting to a new country, a new culture, a different apartment or house, food, shopping and money, and will be surrounded by a new language as well as an unfamiliar school with students from a variety of countries and different backgrounds. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts.
During this break between last school year and the new, I find myself reflecting a little on some of the past year’s events and challenges hoping they have taught me something.
I think back to the beginning of the year as I became aware of the social, academic and emotional range that made up this group. I don’t remember ever having such extremes within a group before. I knew it was going to be a challenge to deal with aggressive hitters and biters, non-English speakers and many with strong personalities. I knew I would have Jasmin, my Down syndrome girl, back again and wondered how she would fit into this group. (She continued to run away when we left the classroom heading for another location or activity. She also continued to climb anything higher than herself and refused to come down without much coaxing.)
By the end of the year I had students who cared for each other and listened to each other and looked out for Jasmin when necessary. This meant more to me than any of their academic accomplishments.
In May, just weeks before the end of the year, Jasmin’s father arrived for a visit. He is not in Chiang Mai often because he works in Hong Kong. The school was going to allow her to continue to be a student here for the next school year, but due to her size and age she was to be moved to grade one. We talked about Jasmin going on to first grade with a full time helper that the family would provide. Her father indicated that one had already been lined up. Our visit was a good one. Two days later, however, her mother came to tell me that she, with the two girls, was moving back to her home village. She was upset and hardly able to tell me this so I thought the worst. There was only one more day of school before they would leave but time at least for a farewell party. Jasmin did not understand what was happening but she loved her party and the class was wonderful. A few weeks after her departure an email came from her dad to thank me for working with her and to report that the village location where the mom and girls now lived was only temporary until he was established in Bangkok in a new job. I have not heard from him since, but hope that that has happened. Through this drama I was made aware of how attached and protective we teachers get sometimes. The class had meshed and become as caring as a family is too. We all missed Jasmin that last month.
Now to look ahead a little I am excited about being here for another year of kindergarten teaching. The school is moving to an all-day program and I get to work out the bumps in that. I am thankful to PCUSA and Disciples/UCC for allowing me to continue doing something that I love to do, and to you out there who support the work of the church.
Michal Dobson is a missionary with the Church of Christ in Thailand, assigned to the Chiang Mai International School. She serves as an elementary teacher and also assists in the development of curriculum.