Questions facing a PCV

What do you do when your job literally drives you to tears?

What do you do when the people you’re supposed to be helping learn better teaching, ‘student-centered’ methods, don’t actually want to teach?

What do you do when your coteacher hates their job and openly tells you that’s the reason they’re getting their master’s degree, so they don’t have to teach anymore?

What do you do when four boys in your sixth grade class have been smoking for two years already and mimic you when you try to talk to them?

What do you do when you have to watch your entire school line up to get smacked on the wrist because their fingernails weren’t ‘clean’ enough?

What do you do after watching them get rapped across the knuckles, they wai the teacher in respect for hurting them?

What do you do when neither of your coteachers ever make a lesson plan and you’ve got a ‘two year’ plan due in less than a week?

What do you do when your host sister transfers from the local private school to one of your schools, so she can be with you those extra two days a week?

What do you do when you find out multiple kids in your town have transferred to your school, you know, just so you can teach them?

What do you do when 95% of your fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students don’t even know the ABCs?

What do you do when your coteacher tells you that you can’t teach your students everyday because, ‘they’re different from American students?’

What do you do when seven teachers from one of your schools sit you down for an intervention so that you don’t ride your bike to school citing reasons like: it’s too far (8 km), you’re too beautiful, you wear shorts, it’s very ‘dangerous,’ and my personal favorite, it might rain.

What do you do when you could easily escape to paradise and live a carefree and easily life, but you’ve got two long years ahead of you in good ole Central Thailand?

What do you do when you quite literally cannot do your job that Peace Corps took two and a half months to train you to do?

What do you do when this all culminates and you lash out on your closest confidant in Thailand and they say they ‘don’t have to deal with this’ ie, you?

Needless to say, it’s been a rough week. I started off really excited to actually get into the classroom, watch my teachers interact with our students, and gauge the level of English that my students know already. Even though it wasn’t pretty, my spirits stayed pretty high. That is until one of my coteachers laid the bombshell on me that after two more years, when she graduates from getting her Master’s degree, she’s going to work in the ESAO (education office). It was downhill from there and I feel like I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain and believe me, the headache from staring straight up are quite real. Not sure if it’s from the heat or exhaustion, but I’ve been getting paralyzing headaches lately. It’s been a bit of a ‘down’ week for me. Feeling all kinds of lonely, missing farang food, and not getting straight up stared down. Reality with a huge capital R is really setting in as I realize over and over again how alone I am here as I battle with my coteachers to sit down and do the things they promised they would do before I got here.

Two things are getting me through this, one being my students. For how annoying it can be getting stared at all the time, I owe it to them to show them how fun it can be to learn another language, how empowering an education is. I hope to channel their enthusiasm to get me through this current rough patch. The other is my Thai peeps. For better or worse, they manage to keep me smiling.  Today was a terrible day and as I was letting myself drift away into a ipod binge, my homegirl Pi-Chaai rang me up for a bpai tiao. I like trips with her, I don’t have to talk unless I want to and she’s really patient with me/my terrible Thai explanations. She feels like my Mom in that way, lapsing into comfortable silences. They took me out for my birthday, a blog and pictures I’ll save for an occasion when I’m not quite as morose.

I’ll leave you with lyrics from an Eminem song that’s been playing through my head lately (as in the past few hours). Eminem is my go to artist when things seem bleak. Something about an angry white man rhyming words together is oddly cathartic (and for that I highly suggest his latest album, Recovery). The subject of the song goes off on a typical Eminem tangent, but these words are resonating as I learn to deal with life here.

Nobody knows me I’m cold
Walk down this road all alone
It’s no one’s fault but my own
It’s the path I’ve chosen to go

The answer to all of those questions at the top? Smile. Smile awkwardly until it’s not quite so awkward.

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6 thoughts on “Questions facing a PCV

  1. Erin, thanks for posting this real blog! This is a crazy journey we’ve chosen. I can’t help but think we will be better people at the other end – in what I way “better”, I have no idea. But, we can chat and laugh about that in 22 months when we’re hanging out on a Thai beach for a few months. Soo Soo!

  2. Read your blog at 3:30am this morning as I was wide awake stressing about my experience just trying to talk with a couple of classes at the local school. I read your blog thinking this is exactly my week except for the knuckle wrapping part and the part that I’m not actually a TCCO but apparently I’m trying to be turned into one. Thanks for puttin down in words all the things I’ve been feeling!

  3. And thanks from one more colleague in PC Thailand, yeah and yeah. On my second day at one school the teacher told me to go teach the 6th grade English class as she had something to do in the office. I said no, I’m here to coteach and as she sees me scrupulously following various other rules she bought it, so she came to class. But it was DAY TWO. And later in the week the co-teacher from the other school didn’t come to school, but there was a teacher to be with me all day so I went ahead an taught “with” the other teacher, figuring I’m here to do teacher education and at least this way the teacher who hung with me for the day got to see some teaching methods she doesn’t know, but of course she had to cancel her classes all day to be with me. But what was she doing with that ruler? I had already decided that I’d stonewall the first corporal punishment I witnessed, and tell the teacher afterwards that “next time I’m leaving the room.” I just didn’t always see whether she was just THREATENING the students — which is okay with me??– or she was hitting them. I didn’t think about stealth corporal punishment. I thought since it’s illegal in this country it would be a rarity, but no, there’s also the opening ceremony which is oddly like a cattle round up for all the use of the stick to “communicate” with students that their rows aren’t straight enough and … Oh. Wait, I just set out to say hang in there, Erin. I know what you’ve got to give and it’s plenty. We’re in culture shock. People recover from that, right?

  4. Hello Gorgeous One – Things sounds pretty tough for you right now. Hang in there. Do what you know is the right thing. We Clouse’s are tough and its a good thing! I’ve had many a sleepless night wondering how to handle difficulties in teaching and have shed many tears from the stress. But, things always turned out well – better than I could have ever expected – because I was true to myself.

    I know its not easy – I remember the hot, crazy humid weather in Guam trying to teach about 30 sophomores whose average age was 19. They were shocked when I told them they couldn’t smoke in class. I can look back now and laugh and know that the experienced helped me grow as a person and a teacher.

    You are great and wonderful and you know it – so give ’em hell!

    Love you muchly,

    Your crazy aunt

  5. Just noticed that I put an apostrophe in “Clouse’s” when I shouldn’t have – I know how much grammatical errors bug you – sorry :{

    We mathematicians are hard to train!

  6. Pingback: Friday Five « Erin Flew the Coop

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