WorldTeach Thailand volunteer Kate Mast writes below about discovering and participating in the Thai tradition of teacher appreciation day...
Today was "Wai Kru", teacher appreciation day, in Thailand. After reciting a few Buddhist prayers and singing traditional "Wai Kru" songs the students presented the teachers with flowers and paid their respect by bowing ("wai", means to bow and "Kru" means teacher) on the ground at their teacher's feet.
At first I felt a little uneasy. Coming from America I would never expect a student to give me flowers and pretty much bow down to my "greatness" just because they were thankful for my lessons. It made me feel a little uncomfortable to have students bowing down to the floor for me, it seemed like too much.
Students with their flowers, waiting for the ceremony to begin
However, I quickly looked around at the other teachers and the faces of the students. Many had tears streaming down their faces. I realized that yet again I was looking at the situation through my American looking glass instead of seeing it in its cultural Thai context. I was not seeing the ceremony for what it really was, which was overwhelming gratitude.
Wai Kru day is a chance for students to thank their teachers for their hard work and dedication and to symbolize their readiness to learn. It is a day specifically set aside so that students can actually recognize what their teachers do for them and to reflect on ways teachers have helped them and touched their lives.
After lunch classes resumed for the day. When my last class of the day was finished and I was walking to my office a group of girls (Ok I'll admit it, some of my favorite students...shh! Thats top secret!) poked their heads out of a doorway yelling "Teacher! Come on!"
I followed them in to the room where they sat me in a chair, gave me flowers and bowed at my feet. When they stood up I found myself with tears in my eyes and in the center of the best group hug in the world. Today was a good day to be a teacher.
Students "wai kru"ing
The elaborate floral arrangements students made by hand