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By Al Stilley
Senior staff writer
When cold winter days hit the Southside, Beech Grove Middle School teacher Meghan Doyle will have warm thoughts of having taught eager young students in Kalasin, Thailand.
Doyle was overseas for several months earlier this year teaching mathematics to K-6 pupils through the Overseas Education Group. She opted for Kalasin in northeast Thailand instead of Bangkok so she would see a more complete picture of the people and the country.
Doyle supervises the special education program at BGMS and had traveled to 11 countries before departing for Thailand last spring.
In Thailand she taught at an Excellent Science Math school where students are admitted only after being tested. They get a double dose of lessons, learning in Thai and in English. She had more than 40 children in her classes and had a Thai assistant to help with the language.
“The culture is so different; here I know the kids and what to expect,” the fifth-year middle school teacher said.
The Hoosier-born educator noticed several major differences between young Thai and American students.
“They (Thai) want to learn – everything,” Doyle said. “After school they don’t go home to play games, they go to a learning center and are tutored in English or math. They have competitions for fun; they don’t have sports teams, just competitive educational teams – and they like doing that.
“The kids are math wizards. Any math problem, they get out scrap paper and go to work. I am talking problems in the millions and billions, multiplying, dividing, anything. They want to solve the problems.”
There were similarities: respect as a teacher is earned; fidget spinners are common; kids are kids, running, jumping and yelling at times; students enjoy incentives, including stickers, smiley faces and colored pens.
“I loved it there,” said Doyle. “Culture shock? I believe I feel it more in America than I did over there. I like the way they live – everyone is happy over there all the time. They say, ‘saving face.’ Even if you are not happy, you are happy, regardless how mad you may be.”
The Purdue University graduate explained that their society, based upon Buddhism, is that everyone is to do the right thing: no stealing, fighting or violence. She adopted the motto: Do the right thing and be a good person.
The Portage native also experienced Buddhism firsthand by visiting temples and monks and even getting a tattoo from a monk. Monks do not have money or food but are respected as religious leaders by accepting offerings.
Her tattoo was applied by using a bamboo poke for small dots to make the design. With the monk’s assistance, she selected a tattoo of five yants (magical spells): preventing unjust punishment; cleansing unwanted spirits; protecting against black magic; energizing good luck; and gaining charisma.
“I was really intrigued by the culture and religion of Buddhism,” Doyle said. “Monks have 227 rules that they must abide by forever … everyone believes; it’s amazing to think how they can work together as a society without violence. They are thankful for everything – every day is so precious.”
Doyle, who has utilized videos of her experiences to inspire and teach her students, visited many Buddhist sites, including the temple at Ayutthaya (the first capital of Siam), the ‘mummy temple” in Kalasin, and the Prat That Choeng Chum temple. A monk presented her with a blessing bracelet and diamond broach. She also went to an elephant jungle sanctuary in Chiang Mai, visited Petchuban, Khon Kaen, Koh Phan Gan island, and Sakon Nakhon near Laos.
Doyle enjoys traveling, but nowhere else had she experienced life-changing moments like in Thailand.
“This trip has been the most amazing, eye-opening, self-growth, life-gaining experience. The vibes of Thailand are amazing; everything is so welcoming and kind.”