Olympics in Thailand?

Olympics in Thailand?

If Thailand held the Olympics, what would their mascots look like and represent? We asked students that question, and here’s what they created:

Thai flag + long neck Karen hill tribe mascot

Olympic rings around an elephant nose with Thai colors

Elephant, flags, torch, water representing the Gulf of Thailand, flowers, and rings

The colors, flag, and water guns on the feet for Songkran

At Panyaden School we celebrated the Olympics and started with our own opening ceremony.

The torch relay

Olympic flame

Mascot interpretive dance showing the events – here is swimming

We had 5 different countries competing representing one of each region of the 5 rings: Nepal, Luxembourg, Kenya, Argentina, and Papua New Guinea. Why these countries? We wanted to make sure not to have any of the students’ many home countries in the mix.

Here is Kenya

Of course we had a few events.

A fun day was had by all.

Wai Kru Day พิธีไหว้ครู

Wai Kru พิธีไหว้ครู

The idea of honoring teachers is all but lost in the West, but here in Thailand it is alive and well, especially on Wai Kru day.

Wai kru flowers from students.

The wai kru ceremony พิธีไหว้ครู is a Thai holiday in which students pay respects to their teachers to show their gratitude. It is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday about a month after school begins (our school year started in mid May). Students give their teachers flowers on platform called a phan. Obviously, giving flowers is a nice gesture, but each flower has a meaning.

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about the offerings:

The traditional offerings for wai khru represent a symbolism of student qualities, namely:

  • Ixora (khem, เข็ม) flowers, which while closed form pointed buds, symbolizing sharp wit.
  • Cynodon dactylon (ya phraek, หญ้าแพรก or Bermuda grass), the rapid growth and resilience of which symbolize perseverance and the ability to learn.

    Bermuda grass

  • Popped rice (khao tok, ข้าวตอก), which symbolizes discipline.

    Khao tok – popped rice

  • Eggplant flowers, which bow low when nearing fruiting, symbolizing respect and humility.

    Eggplant flower

Wow! That really puts the despicable bermuda grass in a whole new light – perseverance, hmm, that’s true enough, I like that new perspective. I love the symbolism.

Here’s what we made at Panyaden:

Teachers sculpting the phan

Students making the flower phan

Kru Goy with the bags of rose petals you can buy at the local market for 20 baht

Learning to sew banana leaves

I was taught how to make this lovely flower offering

I love these flowers. I found out they are called dok rak, meaning love flower. They’re so cool looking!

Here was my final product

These were the offerings from our class

Aren’t they beautiful? It makes me feel fortunate to live in a place where teachers are honored…and in such a lovely way.

Happy where I work. Happy in Thailand.

Students offering teachers the flowers on Wai Kru Day.

Mediation v. Meditation

Mediation v. Meditation

Every time I see the word mediation I think it says meditation. Seeing the word mediation often gives me a little smile at an inappropriate moment, because the reason for mediation is usually grave.

Lately, that word has been thrown around in regards to a teacher strike at my old school district in Gresham, Oregon. I’ve heard some crazy stories about not only pay freezes, but having to pay back money already given, many class sizes above 30, a librarian teaching 37 classes a week in addition to running the library, staff cuts, days cut from the school year, and this just in: 50% of the staff will be moved to another school the next year. What is going on?

What is going on with public school education in the US in general? ‘Pink Slime’ refused by McDonalds, but is OK for school lunches? High levels of obesity and cuts to PE? No Child Left Behind testing kids on how well they take a test and basing school/teacher success on that? Cutting funding everywhere in US education, especially the arts at a time when creativity and innovation are key to success?

What I really don’t understand is why when there has been so much research into what the best practices are in teaching, the policymakers in US education take that information and throw it out the window. They know what’s good for students, yet do everything possible to prevent it from happening. It just doesn’t make any sense. Why are there continual cuts for US education yet more funding for war and oil companies? Why?!

OK, enough soap box, but believe me that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I really just don’t get it though. The one thing I did get is that I was too small to fight it and I got tired of trying. I do not know how to solve problems that big. I wish the best for the teachers who are still fighting the fight. You are all brave and worthy souls and I thank you for your valiant efforts every day. Your students are lucky to have you.

When I think I see the word meditation at Panyaden School, it is meditation. We actually meditate at school. Taking time to calm the mind, now that does make sense to me. We take time to thank the teachers who came before us, that also makes sense. Teachers in the US, please know I think of you and send metta loving kindness to you all on a daily basis.

When it comes to education, I’ll say no to mediation and stick with meditation for now.

The Genius of Kung Fu Chef

The Genius of Kung Fu Chef

What does kung fu, wise thinking, and soup have in common? Kung Fu Chef and his weekly presentation of the 12 wise habits.

The 12 Wise Habits

For the past 12 weeks, the students have shouted for “Kung Fu Chef!” each Monday morning to teach them a new wise habit coupled with a kung fu move. The students eagerly participated in trying out the new move while learning the meaning of the wise habit in a kid friendly way. It is amazing to see what a little creativity and kinesthetic learning can do: 4 year olds were saying words like Mattannuta and were able to explain that it meant knowing the right amount.

Throughout each week the children and teachers were on the lookout for these wise habits in themselves and others so they could leave notes in Kung Fu Chef’s box.

The following week the notes were read and the children were recognized for how they used a particular wise habit. They were then called on stage to put a scrumptious new ingredient in the soup pot.

Ku Fu Chef mixing his ingredients in the pot, while making children laugh.

After all 12 weeks of the wise habits being learned and practiced, a delicious soup was made from all the ingredients added to the pot. Children roared with laughter as Kung Fu Chef was unveiled as Kru Ota. This creative presentation made it digestible (pardon the pun) for students to understand some Buddhist principles that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Kung Fu Chef aka Kru Ota

A big thank you to those creative geniuses who came up with this idea: Kru Yuzu, Kru Noy, and of  course Kru Ota. The students not only learned some good ways to live, they also thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the process.

Sports Day

Sports Day

When it comes to sports days, I regress to about age 10. Not being an athletic nor competitive child, I never liked PE in elementary school. Field day was a different story because the events were fun! Sack races, 3-legged races, and my all time favorite – tug-o-war. I have been teaching elementary school for 7 years now, and I still get just as excited for sports day as I did when I was a kid.

There were games… 






… this team won…

…cuteness…and a lot of fun! 

Whoo, another active day. I’m tired now.

Cotton from Plant to Cloth

Cotton from Plant to Cloth

At Panyaden School students learn some remarkable ways to connect with the natural world around them. Today with some local craftspeople they learned the whole process of cotton from plant to cloth.

There is cotton growing in the schoolyard garden. Northern Thailand has several cotton growing regions.

Cotton growing at Panyaden

Cotton plants at school

harvested cotton

The first step was to fluff the cotton

Next, remove the seeds from the cotton

cotton de-seeded

Then the cotton gets rolled. After that it is spun and pulled into thread. This is a lot more difficult than it looks, it takes technique.

Then it is made into skeins. This student said it looked like noodles.

The craftswomen showed us how to make natural dyes from plants.

turmeric dye

This plant based dye made a pinkish color

natural colored dyeing

indigo dye

hanging the dyed cotton thread to dry

dyed cotton thread and Buddha

Then it was weaving time

My students came to the conclusion that food, clothing, air, and shelter all come from plants. It’s so important in this digital age to reconnect and realize where our things actually come from.

I found the whole process fascinating. If the best way to learn is by doing, I’d say the students learned a ton and thoroughly enjoyed the process. I would love to go stay in a local crafts village and learn more and hopefully I will. First I’ll need to learn some more Thai.

This is Where I Work

This is Where I Work

I knew Panyaden School was outside Chiang Mai, but I wasn’t sure how far. My friend Yaya had heard of the school, and was interested in seeing it after seeing pictures.  I could literally feel my blood pressure rise looking at the traffic on the way there and decided right then that there was no way that I would drive a motorbike. Yaya was driving her car. I knew that even though the steering wheel and the driving are on the other side, that I’d feel much safer with driving a car. Then I started to relax a bit…until I found out how expensive used cars are here.

When we got to Panyaden, it was still the October break, so no one was there but the security guards. They let us look at a few buildings, but no tour of the school. When I got out of the car, even though I’d seen pictures and videos, I couldn’t believe how beautiful the school was. There was also a serene energy there. I honestly got tears in my eyes thinking that I would be lucky enough to work at this amazing place.

Panyaden School

Parent Sala

Yaya in the Parent Sala

The Buddha



That night, Yaya and her friends, my friend Matthew and I met up and went out to Thai karaoke. Matthew was a great sport and sang before me. He and I both feel like we might have been Thai in a past life. He is also American, and he loves it here like I do. Certain outdated English language songs are very popular in the Thai karaoke circuit: ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’, and ‘Country Roads’ top the chart. Eventually, I trilled out “On Top of the World” by The Carpenters, which is a song that always reminds me of being on the swing with my sister Dory when we were children. We would swing so high we felt we were on top of the world, so we’d sing that song.

The next day I went to look at houses with a cute lady named Jim. I hope I end up renting a house she shows me, because she is so nice. I spent the majority of that weekend looking for places to live more permanently. One of the last places I saw was a cute place called Grace Boutique Guesthouse, right in the center of the old city, with a swimming pool for 300 baht (less than $9) a night. Sold…at least temporarily.

Jim, my Thai realtor

I had a hilarious, and lengthy tuk tuk ride on my first day to school. It should take about 1/2 hour, but it took an hour and 40 minutes.  I was incredibly embarrassed to be an hour late on my first day at school, but people get that it’s Thailand and sometimes things are hard to find.

I have worked at many schools and been to an infinite number of staff meetings. I have never worked at a school with a Buddhist approach, but I think I’ll be glad I do.

Here are the Panyaden principles that we talked about on day one will continue to discuss throughout the year:

I. Buddhist Apporach

II.Green School – environmentally mindful

III. Academically Competitive – Bilingual School and International Primary Curriculum

Buddhist Approach:

5 Silas (moral thing to do – practical)

  1. I will not kill or cause harm
  2. I will not take what is not mine to take
  3. I will be responsible and loving in my relationships
  4. I will speak truthfully and avoid and hurtful speech
  5. I will only consume items that bring peace and good health to my body and mind

Panyaden 12 Wise Habits
1. Using the senses wisely (Indriyasamvara) การสำรวมระวังอินทรีย์ (อินทรีย์สังวร ระวังรักษา ตา หู จมูล ลิ้น กาย ใจ)

2. Knowing the right amount (“Mattannuta”) การเป็นผู้รู้จักประมาณ (มัตตัญญุตา)

3.Not  harming ( Avihimsa)
การไม่เบียดเบียน (อวิหิงสา)

4.Being patient and tolerant (“Khanti”)
ความยินดีในกิจที่ทำ (ฉันทะ)

5. Desiring truth, knowledge and goodness (“Chanda”) ความยินดีในกิจที่ทำ (ฉันทะ)

6.Being truthful (“Sacca” )
ความซื่อสัตย์ (สัจจะ)

7. Persevering (“Viriya Chakriyanuyok”)
ความเพียร (วิริยะ)

8.Being generous (Caga) การเสียสละ (จาคะ)

9.Being kind and compassionate (“Brahmavihara”)
ความเมตตากรุณา (พรหมวิหาร)

10.Being mindful and alert (“Sati”) การมีสติ

11. Being calm and focused (“Samadhi”)
การมีจิตแน่วแน่ (สมาธิ)

12. Applying the mind skilfully (“Yonisomanasikara”) การคิดเป็น (โยนิโสมนสิการ)

I can’t think of better things to teach kids.

Here’s the school website: http://www.panyaden.ac.th/


The Canteen

We are given free breakfast and lunch everyday, and if it’s anything like the delicious food we had today, I’ll be thrilled. Good manners, health, and nutrition, no shoes in the buildings, all very logical.

Based on what the school values, and the staff members, I think it’s safe to say that I know I will love it here. And this is even before I’ve met my students. By the way, as of now should have 4 students. Yes, 4.