I’ve been sick for the past three days. It all started with a painful coughing fit Monday night, rendering my throat extremely raw. It was scratchy when I taught my three classes on Tuesday, painful even to talk. I completely lost my voice by the end of the school day and walked home feeling miserable. I couldn’t tell if I was sweating profusely from the afternoon heat or the onset of a fever. By late evening I knew it was a fever and the addition of severe pain in my legs and lower back initially cause me to think of dengue fever. But I’ve had that twice already — the pain is much more intense (and made me feel so bad I’d ended up going to the hospital both times; it’s rare I’ll even venture into a pharmacy, much less visit a doctor). This morning it was rather painful to try and roll out of bed (I thought I’d die when I tried to bend over to pick up some trash that had missed the bin) but at least Wednesdays are still my day off. I just lay in bed all day sweating and feeling miserable but by late afternoon I felt well enough to sit at the computer reading for a couple of hours. Hopefully, I’ll have my voice back ready to teach starting at 11:00 tomorrow morning.
With the onset of this sickness I was fairly lucky during my Tuesday lessons — the kids were mostly well-behaved and attentive except in the last lesson of the day. The P3 level is definitely the worst-behaved of the entire school (with P4 being close behind and one or two classes in P5 being almost as bad). I knew it was going to be a grueling lesson when two boys began punching each other during the student/teacher greeting at the start (“Good afternoon, teacher!” – “Good afternoon, how are you?” – “I am fine, and you?”) during which the kids are all standing at their desks with their hands clasped together in a wai. All the kids are standing facing me, I’m facing them, and then I notice two boys at the back just wailing on each other. I hustled over to them and pulled them apart and had the other kids sit down. Throughout the class there were other fights — boys punching girls, girls punching boys, boys punching other boys, but never girls punching other girls.
I knew from past experience that Thai kids love to fight, and that they are naturally loud. But I’ve never seen anything like it before this school. My contact at the school — the “head” of the English Department (I am the English Department) — is often in the classroom when the fights break up and her response is to either stand by laughing or she’ll grab a kid and wallop him. With the recent publicity over a long-time teacher who was fired for constantly hitting her students (the film was all over YouTube a couple of weeks ago), I’d figured she would be more careful. But, no, she’s just as bad as the kids.
There’s A LOT of violence in Thai society — the Thai press reports it all in lurid detail, with gruesome photos — and I hear constant fights between my neighbors (my next-door neighbor in my building tore his front door off the hinges during an argument the other night and flung it down the stairs at his hastily-retreating wife). This violence starts in childhood and I really feel that something need to be in place to stop it — if an administrator just stands by and laughs or joins in all it does is send a message to the kids condoning the fighting. As I try to break up the fights and get the participants to make a truce, I’m often ignored — either because of the language barrier or due to the kids just not caring. I can’t set up a system of rewards and consequences as the students (and other teachers) don’t understand this at all… It can make trying to teach through this very difficult. I did end that lesson without a voice at all — constantly trying to get the kids to sit down and finish the task (the lesson was about types of vehicles in Thailand).
I certainly hope that I have my voice back tomorrow as the last two classes on Thursdays are almost as rowdy as P3/1!