We are actually nearing the end of Term 1 for the 2015-16 school year but this past week saw me putting in a full schedule once again at a government-run school, something I will continue until the term break seven weeks from now. This is due to yet another teacher skipping out on his contract – lately, I seem to specialize in these finish-the-term substitutions. Luckily, this time I only had to give up two of my in-house lessons (meaning those I do during the day at the language school) in order to fill in at the high school. I still have my Saturday morning bank staff lessons and Sunday English camps so it will be quite some time until I have another day off!
In fact, the week started off with the first in a series of English camps at Wat Thep Nimit, a temple school in the southern part of Muang Phuket. This was a rare sunny day spent teaching around 150 12-year-olds about the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. After determining the “best” student – which was simply a matter of choosing who copied the material put on the board with the best artist ability and color usage (image over substance is the “Thai way”) – and a mediocre lunch (I chose the wrong box and got tiny petrified fish-like objects), we spent the afternoon playing games which were greatly enjoyed by all. The only real detractor was getting caught up in the massive traffic jam which followed the day’s Guinness record-breaking Bike for MOM event on the way home!
Unfortunately, I don’t have too many positive things to say about my new day gig teaching high school in the massive Plukpanya Municipal School. At least not yet. I’m still a bit overwhelmed. Conditions are far worse than were described by my agency. Desperation should never breed falsehoods.
At any rate, the majority of the students are decent and respectful. I love being smiled at when I approach – something that rarely occurred at my last (fill-in) school, the infamous Koh Sirey. The (free) lunches are absolutely awesome – I’ve gone back for seconds every time I’ve eaten in the canteen. I have a (shared) desk in the astoundingly hot teachers’ room; there is an air-conditioner but it is broken and I’ve already been asked to contribute to its repair (the two ceiling fans barely move the stagnant air).
I have 15 classes in the Mathyom 1, 2 and 3 levels (13- to 15-year-old students); every class has at least 45 students, several have more than 50! The mid-term student evaluations are less than halfway finished and not a single mid-term exam score has been recorded – both items I’d been told had already been completed (and should have been done last month). In fact, there is no sign that mid-term exams were even given to the students. As the term-finishing teacher, I will be responsible for those grades as well as the final evaluations and exams. Weekly lesson plans need to be submitted for each class every Friday – something I was told on, you guessed it, Friday afternoon just after my last lesson.
There’s also a lot of walking involved. My classes are scattered throughout two adjacent buildings. The bridge between the buildings is never on the level in which I have classes so I am often descending two or three levels on narrow stairs on one building (after having to walk down a long hallway to reach the bridge) and then ascending two or three levels to reach my next class. Usually, these lessons are back-to-back so I’m usually a bit late to the second class. Not to mention very sweaty from the journey (well, I’m already soaked from the previous lesson anyway so what’s a bit more sweat?).
Then there are the cancellations. I was told that the teacher who substituted in these lessons the week before I started had only taught three out of the fifteen classes as the students just weren’t there. I suppose I should feel lucky as I only had three MIA lessons this week. But on Wednesday, my first lesson finished at 8:50 and the next wasn’t until 14:50 – although there were three scheduled in between. I had to go to each classroom, wait the requisite 15 minutes and then hike back to the teachers’ room to await the next lesson start-time. My opinion is that somebody schedules the activities presumably in advance enough that the kids know not to go to class; that person should also inform the teacher scheduled to teach that lesson. Makes perfect sense to me.
All of this leaves me pretty beat-up by the end of the day. I’ve been walking home – it takes me about 15 minutes – as I don’t usually see any available motorbike taxis after school; I typically take one to school in the morning for 40 baht. The walk is fairly pleasant and I’ve noticed a few new eateries along the way I’d like to try someday. But by the time I get home (usually with a stop at the mini-mart for a couple of bottles of ice-cold pineapple juice which I down almost immediately), I am completely knackered. I’ve been doing a quick load of laundry each day, followed by a nap, a bit of reading, and then a much longer nap until morning. I’m just too tired by the end of the day to go anywhere or do anything strenuous.
Just six weeks – 90 lessons – remain until I can have a holiday!