Thai Teacher Visits With Rowan’s Students
By SUSAN SHINN
Students in Thailand know all about Britney Spears and
Madonna, but they don’t know who Spongebob Squarepants is.
Elementary and middle-schoolers
in Rowan-Salisbury Schools have had the opportunity to learn
all about student life in Thailand the past couple of weeks,
thanks to a visit from Miss Tan, who is a Professor at
and Technology College. The school is located about 2 1/2
hours northwest of Bangkok, the country's
Miss Tan is visiting schools during
August as part of an exchange program created by Meredith
Lentz, a junior and Morehead Scholar at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill who taught at Miss Tan's
school for two months last summer.
Miss Tan will make numerous presentations to public and
private schools here. She spoke to seventh-graders at
Southeast Middle School on Tuesday.
Miss Tan opened by telling the students her given name. She
then said that most people in Thailand have nicknames, and
hers was Tan, pronounced "Don."
Miss Tan asked a student to find Thailand on a map. It is
south of China and borders Laos and Vietnam
to its east. "We have beautiful beaches, and people come
from all over the world to the beaches," said Miss Tan,
adding that "The Beach," starring
Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed in Thailand.
At her school, students study farming, computers, science,
and English. In the country, most people farm, she said, but
such as medicine, nursing
and law enforcement can be found in Thailand's cities.
Miss Tan told the middle-schoolers
about a typical day for Thai students.
"Students come to the flagpole in the morning and say
prayers and sing the national anthem," she said. The
school's director also talks to the students during this
time. Students must take off their shoes before they go to
class; no shoes are worn inside. Students stand and say
"good morning" when the teacher enters the room, and then
stand again at the end of class and say "thank you." Southeast's
teachers were impressed
by this show of respect. Miss Tan taught the group how to
say "Hello" in Thai, which is "Sawadeeka." It is said with a
bow, and all of the students got up and practiced saying "sawadeeka"
The Thai letters ate quite different
from the English alphabet, and Miss Tan demonstrated by
writing students' names in English and then Thai.
Students learned about Thai dress. Both men and women wear
sarongs, and Cameron Parks, Javier Jaimes and Akiem Scarborough
modeled the colorful Thai silk wraps.
The all-purpose wraps, Miss Tan said, could be used
as bathing suits, to hold a baby, to wear for
farm work, or to protect the face from the sun. Miss Tan
said that Thai people eat sticky rice with every meal, either
mixed with pork, chicken or fish. Thai food is also very
spicy and very hot, she said. Thais use forks and spoons to
eat, but no knives, she said.
Miss Tan also talked about sports, another topic
that drew interest from Southeast
Thai students, she said, like soccer best - they call it
with badminton, tennis, volleyball and basketball. They play
a game called sepraktakraw,
using a bamboo ball. It's similar to hackeysack, and you can
hit the ball with your knee, ankle or head, but not your
hand or arm.
Miss Tan brought along many postcards of Thailand, with
scenes of the country, as well as pictures she'd made of
student life. Students looked over these pictures and
postcards, along with Thai handicrafts
such as umbrellas and fans, following her presentation and a
question-and-answer session. Several students came to the
front of the media center, along with the group's three
teachers, Janita King, Ben Davis and Allan Tenney, to learn
a Thai dance. They tilted their right hands, with palms
facing out and thumbs bent back, while making a motion
similar to "OK" with their left hands. As they brought their
right hands down and their left hands up, the motions
The students also learned that Thailand is a Kingdom, with a
royal family who lives in an ornate palace in Bangkok.
People love the king and often have pictures of him in their
homes, Miss Tan said. Most people in Thailand are Buddhists,
and there are Buddhist temples called wats in which the
monks live all over the country.
Because so many European and American tourists visit
Thailand, most people in Bangkok speak English
as their second language, Miss Tan said. Movies are in
English and Thailand has MTV and fast food restaurants such
as KFC, McDonald's and Burger King, but no Nickelodeon.
Answering students' questions,
Miss Tan said that there are bears, tigers, monkeys and
elephants in the country, and that people keep dogs, cats,
birds and fish as pets. Most people ride motorbikes, and you
only have to be 9 years old to have a license to drive one.
There are three seasons in Thailand: summer, the rainy
season and winter. The grading scale is similar to students'
grades here, and people can marry whomever they choose,
generally when they are in their 20s.
Tenney's students, he said, love to learn things about other
countries. "So, many of them haven't ever been out of North
Carolina. The Internet really connects them, which is
Miss Tan left the names of Thai middle-schoolers with the
teachers, so that students here could have a pen pal in
Thailand. Miss Tan said that students here are outgoing and
have asked a lot of good questions. This is her first visit
She met Lentz in San Francisco. They' have visited Carowinds
and will visit Washington, D.C., this weekend.
She shot four rolls of film her first week here, she said.
She will be teaching science
when she returns to her school in Thailand, and spend time
talking to teachers and things.”
Miss Tan is being taken to different schools by a group of
Rowan ,County high school graduates: from North Rowan,
Lentz; Jonathan Williams, a senior at Clemson University;
Jenna Wooten, a sophomore at Lenoir-Rhyne College; Carly
Young, a junior at UNC; Kelly Honeycutt, a junior at the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro;
and from East Rowan, Lynn Plummer, a junior at the
University Of' North Carolina at Charlotte.
On Thursday, Aug. 21, the community will have the chance to
meet Miss Tan during a presentation at Central United
Methodist Church, 20 Fourth St., Spencer. Her presentation
is scheduled for 7 p.m., with a reception to follow.
Contact Susan Shinn at