There are times I love this country. The smiles on my students faces. The beautiful greenery to the rice fields and mountains. Teaching three hours this week…wait, what?
This is a rant: I realize this isn’t the American school system, which most of the time I’m really happy that it’s not, but there’s something wrong when my students are only getting taught one day this week. Monday went somewhat normally, kids didn’t really get the vocab, but I reworked the schedule so that the next day we could review. Ok, everything’s cool. But wait, the education supervisor was going to come and evaluate the school in the morning and my coteacher has to prepare the snacks for them. Ok, maybe we’ll miss a period or two of class, they’re supposed to arrive at 9am. Hours go by, there is nothing for me to help with, none of the teachers are teaching, kids are sweeping and cleaning, finally he shows up, at 11:15, I’ve missed all of my classes.
But hey, there’s always English club in the afternoon in a few hours. What? You don’t remember about English club? Oh you silly foreigner, don’t you know how Thai schools work? We’re going to teach three grades at once because the principal wants the younger kids to listen to the farang talk. Because you know, having the kids listen to me talk in English, it’ll immediately rub off on them and they’ll be fluent in English! Hooray!
Ok, time to get organized. Make a plan to teach half of the school, about 60 kids, for an hour without any previous experience with the language. Alright, should be able to entertain them for a while with the alphabet, that’s the most important thing for them to learn, go go gadget brain go. The time comes to teach and I walk into the room. I wish I had this videotaped. It was like watching what I imagine a Grateful Dead/Beatles on Mushrooms concert commune to be. You know, if there were such a thing. The scene in the room, all the girls doing some odd hippie dance complete with flailing arms and swaying back and forth to a cow singing row-row-row your boat in a neon colored, paper made background while the boys are taking turns hitting each other.
My coteacher was sitting on her computer and looks up and smiles at me when I enter the room. Serving the education people was too tiring, they’re just going to watch a video. Well that’s ok, I can help you teach. ‘No, no,’ my coteacher says, ‘I have to leave early anyway, I have school duties.’ Ok, so there was absolutely no reason for me to come to school today outside of sitting in the office, looking pretty to entertain the visitors, much like a dancing pet monkey.
Not a big deal, this is only one day in the school year, we’ll have lots more. Tomorrow, new day and my other school, I have experience with the lesson, it’ll work out just fine. Eating breakfast with my family, I hand my host dad his ringing phone. It’s my other coteacher, she’s sick and won’t be coming into school today. So another day off, at least I didn’t bike 8 km to school. Under normal circumstances, this would be cool, a random day off. I was disappointed though that my students would be sitting there for hours without anything to do because there is no such thing as substitute teachers in Thailand. But wait, there’s a meeting again tomorrow too, for all the teachers in my school group and I get to introduce myself to everyone in Thai. One week, three hours of teaching, awesome.
Surprisingly, I’m mostly taking this in stride. Disappointed yes, but all part of life here. Go with the flow, let it be, all I need is love. Yeah I listened to the Beatles a lot to learn to have patience. I think I’m going to start to keep track of all the random days that for some reason or another, end up being non-teaching days. In other news: outside of this week, teaching is going really well. Kids are totally into the student centered approach and coming over to my house on the weekend to learn more. Well, most are I should say. I had one girl who came up to me after the education people left and asked if I was going to teach English this afternoon. I told her that I wouldn’t be with her class and she gave the classic, ‘yessssssssss.’ When I asked her why she didn’t like learning English, she answered me, quite pitifully, because it’s hard. (What, because you actually have to think when I teach? You don’t get to just copy what’s on the board and have people tell you what to think? Because your teacher is actually engaged enough in your progress that they realize when you’re not getting it and not just passing you along to the next grade?) Don’t worry kid, teaching you, living in your country, learning your language, adapting to your culture… it isn’t all that easy either.