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Students gain cross-cultural experience student teaching in Thailand

By Hannah Williams

Every education major gets to student teach their senior year, and generally, they are at a school somewhat close to Huntington University. That wasn’t the case for Hannah Barrett and Mikayla Carpenter. For these two seniors, their student-teaching experience took place across the Pacific in Chang Rai, Thailand.

They taught students from different ethnicities several subjects at a missionary school.

“I had sixteen students in my class, and I taught a little bit of everything from math to English,” Barrett said.

Carpenter worked with students across a variety of ages and taught multiple subjects.

“I was able to teach my third grade students Bible,” she said, “and I also helped out with the high school gymnastics class.”

In addition to learning how to be a good teacher in a real classroom, Barrett and Carpenter learned how to operate in a culture very different from theirs.

Two of the main differences were that everyone took off their shoes when they entered a building, and people had a different religion — Thailand is primarily a Buddhist nation.

Another difference is how teachers are regarded in Thai society.

“The hierarchy of their society descends from King, to government officials, to teachers,” Barrett said.

She said educators are highly respected in Thai culture.

“The students there have a different respect for their teachers,” Barrett said. “There is no talking back.”

Wai Kruu Day, occurring once a year, is a Thai tradition that honors teachers.

“All the students bring flowers for their teachers,” Carpenter said. “During the ceremony, the students kneel in front of the teacher and thank them. Afterward, they give them their flowers, and the teacher gets to pray with the student.”

When they began their educational journey four years ago, Barrett and Carpenter said they felt called to help kids. They feel as though they can help spread the kingdom through the use of education.

Carpenter said she wants to use her love of teaching to impact children on a deeper level than just education of the mind.

“There is an overwhelming amount of need all around the world, [and] I believe education is one way to combat the need and demonstrate the love of Christ,” she said.

Barrett said education is a fascinating way to watch what God has set up the mind to do.

“God created our minds to grow over time,” she said. “To be able to walk alongside a student as they are gathering information to grow their mind is an incredible experience. They become a whole new being by the time they are done with school.”

The cultural diversity in the classroom allowed Barrett and Carpenter to incorporate different teaching styles for their students.

“I had to make sure that each student felt comfortable in their own culture,” Barrett said. “I didn’t want them to feel like they stuck out because they were raised a certain way,”

Carpenter said incorporating a variety of cultures into her teaching methods was difficult, but helpful training for her future career as a teacher.

“I learned so much just from being around [the students] every weekday,” she said. “Having the variation of culture in the classroom creates a learning environment that enriches the lives of so many students, including myself.”

Post graduation, Carpenter plans on teaching in a K-3 classroom, and Barrett said she is anxiously anticipating this upcoming season where God will use her as a blank canvas to go wherever He wants her.

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