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Teacher Karen Honored in Wai Khru Ceremony

I was asked if I would like to attend a Wai Khru ceremony to honor and respect the teachers. Of course I jumped at the chance to take part in a local, traditional celebration.

Participating in the Wai Khru ceremony was a humbling experience. I’ve volunteered as a part-time English teacher in Kuraburi and at the Burmese Learning Center since September 2008. To be a part of this ceremony was a true honor.

The main sports hall was filled with students from Kuraburi Chai Pattana Pittiya Kom. All the teachers sat at one side of the hall.

Buddhist Monks led chanting and prayers for the first hour. Once the monks had been presented with food and gifts, the chairs were moved to the main stage. I was invited to take a seat on the main stage. “Are you sure? I only teach one day per week.” I said.

“Yes, we are honored and lucky to have you – you are part of our teachers!” a staff member replied. The director and assistants sat on comfortable leather seats at the front of the stage. Elaborate flower decorations were presented to them. The children walked to the stage, but once on the stage, they made their way to the director by walking on their knees to display the utmost respect.

The children gave a “wai” to the director and assistants. They bow three times. The first bow is toward the floor. They then offer the flower arrangement to the directors and assistant on the second bow. The director touches the head of the student and offers words of encouragement. It is all moving, especially knowing how sacred the head is in Thai culture. The tenderness in how the ceremony is carried out is touching.

The rest of the children made their way to the stage and started to present the remaining teachers with flowers in various shapes and sizes. One of the main flowers was the Champa, a heavily scented flower that signifies the passing of knowledge.

Again, the children shuffled on their knees in front of each teacher, presented the flowers, and bowed to the floor on their knees showing respect. I felt inadequate in giving out words of wisdom. Would they be disappointed at being placed before the farang teacher? Well, if they were, no one showed it.

I felt comfortable after the first group of students had left the stage. Once relaxed, I took the respect in stride. The ceremony lasted all morning. It included dancing, singing and judging of the beautifully-carved, carefully thought-out flower arrangements.

I felt tremendous joy and emotion at being included in such an event. The willingness for Thai people to include others in events, their strong ties to traditions that show respect and honor to peers, is something that astounds me. This sincere respect for teachers is something that we in the west seem to have lost, and such a pity we have.

To learn more about Karen, read her bio on the AD staff page.

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