Yesterday, I returned to a “real” job for the first time since Christmas Eve. Today I taught my first classroom lessons in six months and I was very happy as I walked to work. The guesthouse I’m staying in is twenty minutes away on foot and I enjoyed the stroll as it was fairly cool in the morning.
My first lesson was due to start at 10:15 in P3/2, housed in the older of the school’s two main buildings. I arrived thirty minutes early which seemed to confuse the Thai teachers. It was confusing enough as today was the first of a new, shorter time schedule — the lessons are 45 minutes long through the month of July so the children can practice sports in the afternoons. Indeed, I think the only person prepared for this new schedule was the single farang teacher (me!). Wherever I walked in the school, inside the classrooms as well as outside, groups of kids came up to me saying “Hello!” and wanting to shake my hand. I don’t believe any of the younger kids wai’ed me today; still, I felt like a rock star especially when I ventured into the canteen at lunchtime as I was completely mobbed by children offering their hands.
The P3/2 kids are supposed to be of medium intelligence with P3/1 the less able kids and P3/3 the smartest (or, I might have that switched). Honestly, I couldn’t tell any difference in abilities other than the kids in P3/1 seemed to have better handwriting overall. The first class didn’t go that well as I could never get the kids that quiet and tried to give them a bit too much to do. The head of the English Department (whose English ability is quite low) kept trying to tell me how to write on the blackboard which fowled me up a bit. I think she wanted me to just draw pictures rather than the words the course outline said I should cover. I’m a lousy artist so I knew that approach wouldn’t work for me. The lesson was about what kinds of food you eat during the different meals of the day and the course outline (which is usually set in stone in government schools such as this) said to include hamburgers and pizza in addition to rice, etc. The boss lady kept telling me to put rice on everything! Anyway, that first lesson (and the others) were useful in that I identified several boys who I’d have to keep a good eye on.
At 11:00 we broke for lunch and I followed the kids into the canteen. I saw the window where the free food was being handed out of but I couldn’t figure out where to get the utensils. It seemed like most of the kids brought their own from home. I made my way to the exit, not wanting to look stupid for not having my own spoon, all the while shaking an endless sea of hands. I ran into a sports teacher outside and she asked if I was a new teacher and then directed me to the teachers’ dining area. That was nice — a separate room to eat in away from the students. The food was really, really good (perhaps I was just super-hungry) and I had three glasses of water. Oh, and there were plenty of utensils to use.
My back-to-back afternoon classes went much smoother. I adapted my lesson plan (not trying to fit in the outline’s “snacks” discussion) and my classroom management skills began kicking in. That last class was extremely quiet until I was marking the books at the very end. I have to allow time during the classes to mark the work we did that day so I just line up the kids on the floor in front of the desk and look at each book in turn. With an average of 40 or so in each classroom I have to work fast and even fifteen minutes is not quite enough time.
Overall, the P3’s are a great bunch of kids with perhaps two or three boys I’ll have to watch in each class. There’s at least one kid in each classroom whom the English Department head described to me as being “autistic”. I think a lot of students in Thailand get saddled with this label who aren’t really autistic and it’s usually a signal that the kids just doesn’t learn at the same speed as their classmates. But these are the kids I devote extra attention to as I know other teachers tend to just ignore them which causes them to sometimes act out. The only other “problem” is just the sheer heat — I was soaked before I even began my first lesson. I don’t mind sweating as long as I remember to bring extra deoderant so I can remain smelling halfway fresh and I also need to drink a lot more water to stay hydrated.
It was very nice finishing up at 13:15. I asked the bosslady if there was anything else I needed to do but she said I was done and she’d see me on Thursday (I don’t have any classes on Wednesdays). I just realized I forgot to write the lessons’ topics in the classroom record book — this is the only required paperwork and only needs one word and a signature. I must remember to do this on Thursday!
I returned to my guesthouse room hot and sweaty so took a cold shower and I’ll take a nap in a little while. Perhaps I’ll wander around a bit in the neighborhood this evening. I’m currently staying in the heart of Phuket’s Old Town with plenty of Chinese-Thai street life all around. It’s probably my favorite area in all of Phuket.
I may be dirt-poor but I’m happy…