Oh, you’re a Teacher!

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Some very nice people have made a very nice offer to help me publish some articles on “the net” about Make Our Day.  Two of which can be found on BlogHer and Elephant Journal.

The topics for the articles mainly center on teaching abroad and it’s got me thinking about a smalltalk hurdle I’m constantly running into.  Aside from “Why Thailand” the most frequently asked question I get is “What do you teach?”

I normally respond with “love”.  People have a real aversion to this, which I will admit probably has as much to do with my demeanor as with the response, but let’s address the response for starters.

If you are an American living abroad and someone asks you this question, there are only two acceptable answers.  You are either an English Teacher or you are a Missionary. So the two “correct” answers are english or the bible.

I, essentially teach neither of these things.  And because I am painfully stubborn (but more importantly because I believe in the value of what I do teach) I will not say that I do because it’s limiting and unnecessary.  These two subjects are the same as love to a child in my program.

People want to be assured that children are understanding words when I want to ensure that they are understanding loving actions.  Actions that they can easily and immediately act on without translation of language and without any forced or imagined conversion to Christianity as a prerequisite.

I feel that we as westerners want to make this more complicated than it is for one reason…..because most of us are pretty damn lucky.  No one has to “teach” us love because we’ve been shown it our whole lives. (Thanks Mark and Deb:-))

You know what’s weird though (or not weird at all)….if the kids ask what we are doing today and I say “love, love, love”.  They say “YAYYYYY” and run upstairs to bring me this obnoxiously large stuffed heart.

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Just last Monday Pair said, “Teacha, remember smell chocolate?” and we both started laughing.  She is right and I completely forgot.  This stuffed heart we got for the Valentines Day photo booth had a “special extra special great bonus” where it smelled like chocolate.

It smelled awful and we were laughing and throwing it each-other, then of course taking it way to far and tackling the boys to the ground to make them smell it.  The smell faded and we still use it daily but the bigger picture is not lost on me.

The bigger picture is that Pair and I have memories together and they are important ones.

I remember the first day I met Pair in her 4th grade classroom.  I remember she braided my hair so tight I felt a pulsing in my temples for three days.  I remember how proud she was of that braid because it looked exactly like Elsa.

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I remember the day it was OFFICIAL that I was unwelcome at her school because it was her 11th birthday and I brought noisemakers.

I remember when her best friend Ar-Muay moved away and how we both cried because no one would tell us where she went.

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I remember her first crush and how she was so heartbroken over him on her 12th birthday that she didn’t said she didn’t even want the pizza she’d been begging me for for months.  And I remember the biggest hug and the biggest smile when her crush and I showed up with Pizza after school anyway.

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Sure, the majority of our time together has been spent in the classroom learning English but she doesn’t come for vocabulary and it’s not what comes first.  We can’t learn until after love and hugs and some days require more love than others.  Those are the days we both remember.  Those are the days we laugh about.  Those are the days she points to over and over again in the photo album.

So what do I teach?  I’m sticking with my answer.  Does that mean awkward silences in my future.  Sure….but not from the kiddos.

Pair and Laila are in 6th grade now.  We’re hoping that they’ll follow in Bung and Jang’s footsteps and go to school in town next year.  If you’d like to sponsor their tutoring or make a donation for Laila’s birthday next week (she wants 29 donuts for her class) use the donorbox link here or email me at: info@makeourday.org

Love, love, love from Munchkinland,

Teacha Katie

 

 

Can I call you Ruffio?

And just like that, munchkins they weren’t.

These are my boyfriends Gop and Nex fighting over me at school. If it were December of 2014, Gop would be writing me love notes and Nex would sneak up to kiss me on the cheek then run away giggling. This year they’re both still trying to get a date for the weekend but the sweet, shy smiles have gone. Gop now wants to practice boxing and Nex wants me to watch him sail.

Teacha – Well boys, it’s almost 2016 and you are munchkins no more. You’re lost boys now. Can I call one of you Ruffio?
Gop – Teacha you are crazy and I do not understand you but Nex swim no good and he gay, have boyfriend!
Nex – Ayyyyy Teacha Mai Chai! Gop cheat at boxing (makes eye gouging motion) and Nex is most handsome, not gay.

More insults and a couple lies ensue before they turn back to me, hands on hips and ask again,
“So Teacha…Saturday.”

Leaving the school, I laughed and thought about Tee. I tutored Tee everyday last December to prepare him to get into a private high school in New Zealand. The tutoring sessions and the international school were both low on his list of priorities at the time and he put on plenty of “what’s the point” teenage melodramas.

I told him the point was I needed him to do better and if he wasn’t going to do it for himself, he was just going to have to do it for me. This really set him off.

What? Why I gonna do something so hard for you. I not even want to do for myself and you have messy hair! I said Tee, you love my messy hair so much it just might change the course of your whole life. Do better.

Back to 2015. In a poetic circle, Tee came to see me after finishing his first year abroad.

Tee – Hey, Girl with no friends. I not see you one year so why you look the same?

Teacha – Because I’m an adult Tee. I don’t have to change my look everytime a pop star has an identity crisis, that’s your department.
Tee – You are a mess. Do better man.
Teacha – Alright angsty, I hope you didn’t come to study because I don’t teach international students

Tee – ”No, not study. I come to tell you I gonna go to college USA for you.”

Teacha – Because you love my messy hair

Tee – Because I love your messy hair.

Again creeping on my own instagram, exactly 52 weeks ago. He was not exaggerating about the negative effects of heat, wind, rain, and bike helmets have on my hair.
Again creeping on my own instagram, exactly 52 weeks ago. He was not exaggerating about the negative effects of heat, wind, rain, and bike helmets have on my hair.

I look at these pictures of the boys and think of how much they have changed yet stayed the same and I can’t stop smiling. Though I feel a slight pang for their munchkin days, possibly the best thing about love is that it is never complacent. It changes always because it changes you for the better. And if there is one thing we can always be, it is better.

Please consider setting up a recurring monthly donation or purchasing a sponsorship to support hiring more teachers and adding a second classroom location in 2016.

Love from Munchkinland, Teacha Katie.

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Fri-Yay, not today

When the Director handed me the roster for tutoring in October, I did not like the looks of Friday.  7th grade boys any day is a tall order but Friday afternoon is really pushing it.
They proved me wrong and today marked the 8th week of the boys not only having perfect attendance but being the most creative and enjoyable class out of the 4.
As they put their attendence stickers on the board they realized there were no more columns, and pointed to where the 25th would be.
 “next week, why not have?”
 I said well do you know what holiday is on the 25th?
 “Yes, Kis ta ma sah”
That’s right, so we will probably have a party at school and have cake and games are you excited?

I knew they wouldn’t be.  They love that they get their own time. They love that their class has the most stickers on the board and the sign we made for the door that says “please do not interrupt”

I love that they casually hang out outside the room as if they just happened to be upstairs and that unbeknownst to me they asked to switch to the 2nd dinner shift so they could stay longer in class.
They asked about the week after and we got out the board again so I could explain to them that their class was over, we had done 8 weeks.  They just looked down kind of sad and pulled my wrist to sit next to them on the stairs for a moment of silence.  They are too big to hug me so instead they said, “Teacha, we are going to hide Nex’s dinner plates….you can come if you want.”
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I know in order to meet the long term goals of the program, we need to give every munchkin at the orphanage a chance to study but I miss the boys already.  I’m not worried about a lapse in English exposure as much as the absence of a fellowship they had grown to value over the past couple months.
If you are reading this, chances are you grew up in the church and were part of youth group, Younglife, CRU etc.  Maybe it’s where you met your first love or your best friend. Maybe the group fellowship afforded you the opportunity to realize that someone wasn’t who you thought they were at school or that a person you thought you had nothing in common with was struggling with the same problem as you.
Maybe it’s been a long time since you left that group but you still feel like reaching out to your pastor or leader or remember someone and think, “I wish I would have gotten to know them better.” or “I wonder what they’re up to now”
In March of 2014 I had a summer camp of private students ages 13-17 none of whom knew each other going into it.  As I was the only teacher, the tutoring center that registered them let me do it my way which means we did lessons and activities that my Dad, The Griffins, The Swifts, The McKinneys and many more youth leaders used to do for me.
At the end of the one month camp the students said to me that they had not had friends like this before (different schools, different age etc.) and asked if I thought they could always be friends.  I said you will not see each other often, but if you try to meet on school breaks then, yes, I think you will always be friends.
It’s been almost 2 full years and they’ve been happy to keep me updated and drop in from time to time to reminisce.  The camp lovebirds are still together (long distance because of college of course), as a group they have celebrated 2 Songkran’s (Thai New Years) together, and they always send me selfies anytime someone from the group sees one another.
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As it stands, the munchkins are not Christians and do not have the luxury of quality time with parents or outside friends. I do not know when the time will come that we will be able to have a 2 way discussion about the gospel but I do know that through fellowship God is laying a foundation of understanding about what love is for when that time comes.
If fellowship is something that’s made a difference in your life please consider making a donation this Christmas or setting up a recurring monthly donation to ensure that Make Our Day is able to make consistent progress towards creating a special time of fellowship each week for all the munchkins.  I know they will make a new friend and they may even meet their Savior.
Current programming needs include 2 more teachers who can commit to 8 weeks of classes at a time and an additional classroom location within walking distance of school and the orphanage.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie
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Half Munchkin Half Man

“Don’t waste your youth growing up”

Gop 2014
Thanks to “the mother” (whom the munchkins ask about every day) Christmas cards featuring my handsome boyfriend Gop are on their way.
Gop’s birthday is on Christmas day.  The day my christmas card photo was taken I had been at school asking him what he wanted to bring his classmates for his party this year.
As I carried on a logical discussion with my half munchkin half man about the pros and cons of donuts, my mind drifted back to the day of this picture.  When I got home I pulled it up on my instagram and sure enough it was exactly 52 weeks ago.
In this picture I wanted to check his worksheet but he kept folding into a heart and hiding it from me.  When I managed to wrestle it away from him I unfolded it to find he had covered the whole sheet in hearts that said “Gop LOVE K.T.”
He has grown up a lot this year and I’ve already mentally prepared myself for a polite thank you and firm handshake in place of a love letter this year…….but I bet if I show him this picture he’ll laugh.
If you would like to sponsor a playdate or birthday party in honor of a munchkin or minion in your life, you may do so here. Sponsor a Playdate
They will receive a card in the mail from munchkinland explaining your gift and why it matters to us.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie
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T is for Thankful

The sun has already set on a holiday that no one in Thailand knows exists, but I wanted to put in my two cents and say that this Thanksgiving I am thankful for progress, perspective, and potential.
Progress – I’m not going to lie….the past month and especially the past week has not been great but it is only because I underestimated the progress I had already made with the orphanage and got the green light to begin tutoring in October (before I was personally prepared to do so).  Day to day has been a real struggle but big picture I am still amazed and picturing the look of surprise on the Directors face when she said, “Actually can come every day because many student more want to study”
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My delightfully dysfunctional classroom used to set the clocks back to try and trick me into leaving earlier.  I tried to pull the same thing on them last week and they said…Teacha 4 minute more, not finish. Progress.

Perspective – As some of you know we had a birthday party last Friday.  It was a slam dunk and I apologize that due to a hellacious venture into Malaysia I didn’t have time to write up the details, but towards the end of the day some Canadian volunteers were at school and Benz, the Belle of the Birthday Ball, was so shy she wouldn’t even say hello and whispered into my ear “Teacha I want to know their name”.

The volunteers said all the kids had been kind of shy and, encouraged by the fact that the kids were so visibly happy to see me, asked how often I visit.  I said it was my third time there that day….we’re just big on exaggerated and affectionate greetings.
Had the volunteers not been there I don’t think I wold have taken even a moment to step back and think about how far we’ve come in the last year and how much love there is between us. A year ago at this same school, I met not one, but several girls who didn’t know their name because no one had ever asked.

It amuses the munchkins so much that I know their names, their class, their birthdays, and their personalities.  They frequently try to trick me by switching papers or answering to a different name only to giggle at my disapproving look and say “she knows already”

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My boyfriends Gop and Nex fighting over me at school.  I remember meeting both of them; when Gop had a shaved head and before Nex had the scar on his nose.  They couldn’t be more different although I wouldn’t have known it at the time.  Perspective.
Potential – The potential for what we can do here is life changing in the sense that I honestly believe Make Our Day will change the course one or more of these children’s lives, be it through higher education, adoption, or a self confidence that propels them to take control of their situation.
That being said, if I want them to reach their full potential, I cannot deceive myself in thinking that theirs is the same as my own.  From the moment I was born I was loved, supported, educated, and cared for consistently.  A couple days ago, if I wanted to throw in the towel in Malaysia, I could have.
But throwing in the towel for me means, I go home, I get a job, I get married….I have a comfortable (if not more than comfortable) life. I cannot lie to them and say they have the same choices.  They don’t.
What I can do is understand each child in terms of their heart and their desire and make sure that a lack of encouragement or funding doesn’t keep them from realizing the potential they see for themselves.
The munchkins do not know what Thanksgiving is, but when I get to school at lunch tomorrow after a few too many hard days away, there will be no other word to describe the moment they scream and run into my arms other than….Thankful.
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This doesn’t look like much to you.  But to every teacher who has ever known “George” this may as well have been the feeding of the five thousand.  George is the worst student in the school by unanimous decision, but after 6 months of me ignoring him and not allowing him to join playdates, he figured out being the squeaky wheel was getting him nowhere.  He now always joins in at lunchtime activities and asks me to look at his homework from time to time. Potential.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie

Not all noodles and bubble tea

I have a problem, but I also have a solution.  I have all kinds of updates from Munchkinland that I would like to bring to your attention….but not so much to the attention of the world wide web.

Definitely not to the attention of the world wide web.  That’s the problem.

Here’s the solution.  If you’d be willing to pray for some of my kiddos as they continue to struggle with family situations, sign up for our private newsletter HERE

Please share everything else constantly except this letter…like quit your job, create social media accounts for your pets, commit to living the rest of your life in elephant pants taking selfies and hash tagging Make Our Day .  Superfan levels of sharing are highly encouraged for everything else.

If you just want the sunshine and rainbows or are taking a hard moral stand against receiving yet another email…we ain’t mad at you.  You can still get the cliffs notes version here.

In fact, here is a little October update right now.  Would you look at that.  Originally intended for my PIKE boys but a cause for sharing and celebration none the less.  We’re moving in the right direction over here and feel extremely encouraged and grateful for all the support from back home.

Now wake your pet up and ask them to share this. CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR A PLAYDATE

To my frat boys who are frat boys but not in the way that people cock their head to the left, half roll their eyes and scoff “frat boys”…unless of course that’ s the connotation you were aiming for, in which case stop:

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I’ve just finished my first full week of fall tutoring and it’s been nothing short of a miracle. 
 
When I met the new Director at the beginning of October to discuss private tutoring and group classes she agreed but as the conversation progressed I realized how unsure she was any of the kids actually wanted to study after school and was evasive about setting a date.
 
During the month of October, I continued to visit for playdates and ask the Director for a start date for tutoring. As we’re on “Thai time” I figured this would take until after new years BUT She had so many requests from the kids to study with me that she gave me permission to stay until 5:30, every day except Sunday and enrolled 55 students with a waiting list of 30 more.  
 
She is so happy and encouraged after watching classes this week and seeing how many munchkins kept sneaking up to peek through the cracks in the classroom doors because they want in. I told her we will open more spots in January and the adult staff are even asking to be included as well.
 
From her perspective this is all sudden and random.  But it isn’t and you all are a big part of that.
 
My first volunteer, my first intern, my first group sponsorship, and (come January) my first college grads to hop a plane.  All from Missouri State and all part of putting a missing piece into a community that’s struggling to love and educate its youth.
 
I frequently go back to a commencement address from Toni Morrison in which she said, 
 

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

 
Regardless of where life takes each of you after PIKE, you will always be in a position to help and empower someone and I pray you never grow complacent with that.  I sincerely thank you for helping me and Make Our Day and welcome any and all opportunities to collaborate in the future.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie

Not About Elephants or Clothing

There are 3 things that I never get tired of looking at in Thailand. Don’t expect to see beaches, buddhas or shimmy shimmy coco-whaaaaaaats on this list.  That’s actually not what I do every day.

Speaking of coconuts though, I did have one today that was the size of my head; closer to literally than figuratively and if you’ve ever taken a precocious 5 year old to the KC aquarium you would know that a falling coconut poses a greater threat to the general public than a Daddy Shark.  Or in the words of Keagan “Coconut fall, people die”.  So thank goodness I was dealing with a domesticated coconut.  The aquarium didn’t include this variety in their statistics but I presume they have fewer homicidal tendencies than their rowdy relatives.

I digress. Coconuts did not make the list.

#1.  power lines

It’s insanity.  Forget texting / selfie-ing and driving.  If I fail to gun it at the light change its because I’m deep into a head back, mouth gaping contemplation of how..HOW is working.  If you are questioning why the internet sucks or why you can’t use the fan and the rice cooker at the same time…this should answer your question.

#2. scout days

They all hate scouts. Too bad:-)
They all hate scouts. Too bad:-)

Hawaiian shirt Friday is a close second, but Wednesdays are what get me through the week.  The hats are unnecessary and uncomfortable and there are four different options.  Bucket hats only for girls, but boys can have the burgundy felt beret, a very flimsy cowboy hat, or a beanie with piping. Tassle socks and bandanas mandatory.  I love it.

hat and twig sword. These are the actual ones the kids use. Cost me $1.75
hat and twig sword. These are the actual ones the kids use. Cost me $1.75

Every Wednesday I pretend I’ve never noticed this attire before and they’re happy to tell me what it’s for and how much they hate it as if we don’t have this conversation every week.  If I can keep them on the subject long enough they may go get a large, red painted stick or sword like twig with a plastic handle.  The tools of the trade are not pursued with the same intricacy the uniforms are.  I’ve seen zero evidence to support the notion that these items “prepare” them for anything.  When do we get to play with fire.

#3. traveling bamboo broom salesmen

Every town in Thailand has dozens of them, scurrying around tooting their bicycle horns (the clown kind, not the bells) and dodging traffic on freeways frogger style without losing a hair of bamboo.  I desperately want a ride along with one of these guys.  What’s their best seller?  Do they have regulars? What about rival broom hawkers.  Do I smell sabotage?  Never do I want to be fluent in Thai as much as when I see one of these guys stop to talk with a ladder or bolster pillow salesman.  I want in.

“Please not worry” the Tourism Authority of Thailand would like to clarify that Phuket still has the best beaches and (second) biggest buddha but these are the little things that make my day and serve as a little reminder that…oh yeah…I live in Thailand, and stuffs a little weird here.

Love from Munchkinland,

Teacha Katie

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