Well, I have just completed my first two days of teaching 4th grade. Was it a success? I wouldn’t jump straight to success. Did I bomb? I wouldn’t go that far either. Am I exhausted? Absolutely.
As I recall, I thoroughly enjoyed 4th grade. I couldn’t really tell you what I learned, all I know is I liked it. This may change things. The kids are cute, but they are also at that inbetween stage. They’re not little anymore but they aren’t yet 5th or 6th graders. They have a pretty good grasp of the language, but not great. They can understand me, but I can’t really understand them. The girls are growing but the boys aren’t yet. I feel like they are in limbo. Just like my knowledge of the English language. Especially grammar. It’s all floating around somewhere. So this should make for an interesting combination.
Let’s talk about the day to day of the actual school. First, they start morning assembly at 8AM, so they all arrive between 7:30 and 8. Around 7:50 we (my Thai teacher and I) begin to line them up outside, shortest to tallest, boys on one side, girls on the other, to march down to the courtyard for morning assembly. Morning assembly kicks off with the King’s Royal Anthem, which the kids all sing. I would like to learn the words to this song, it’s got a nice tune. Then they say a bunch of other things in Thai, the kids Wai (reminder: bow) at parts, announcements are made and we all go back to class. I snapped this photo of the 4th grade at morning assembly this morning.
School kicks off officially at 8:30AM with the first period and runs until 4PM, it’s a long day. Periods are 50 minutes each and they get one break in the morning for 10 minutes and one break in the afternoon for milk and obviously for lunch. Everyone gets milk, it’s a government thing. All the kids at the school wear a uniform and the girls wear bows in their hair. I have to wear a semi uniform as well. Everyday, except Friday, we wear knee length skirts and clothes toed shoes. Mondays we wear yellow shirts, Tuesdays pink, Wednesday we wear a Hawaiian shirt we had to buy from the school that looks like a Jimmy Buffet concert gone bad, Thursday purple and Friday, we get to wear these lovely pink “sports day” shirts we had to buy from school and track pants. We took a picture at the end of the day to show you how beautiful they are. I look like a lunch lady.
The only good thing about Fridays is we get to wear sneakers. And I only have two classes. I teach 20 hours a week total, every other day I have 4-5 classes -I don’t know how I will do it.
The first two days my lessons revolved around introducing myself to the kids and trying to learn their names. I had a powerpoint full of pictures of family and things I like that,I asked them what they liked, had them make name tags and write me a letter introducing themselves. I took all of their pictures with them holding their name tags because I don’t see how I will possibly remember all of them. Thankfully, they all have American nicknames that we can use instead of their Thai names. Because I would absolutely never ever be able to remember their Thai names. How do they come up with American nicknames you ask? Basically when they are born, their parents pick an arbitrary English word they like and assign it to their child.
It’s very interesting how varied some of their abilities are. Like with anything, there are some kids in the class that just get it. Take this letter I got from one student today, Poom, who was finished first:
Dear Teacher Alicia,
Hello! My birthday is 5th Feb 2003. I live with my family. In my family have 4 people. My mother’s nickname is Jiab. My father nickname is Lek. My brother nickname is Peem. I have a pet. It is a fish. It’s name is blue. My favorite book is reborn and my favorite color is blue. My favorite food is eggs and rice. My free time I go swimming at the pool. I am happy when I am learning with Teacher Alicia and Teacher Alicia have an activity and I am fun.
This kid is obviously getting an A.
Then I have ones like the below and kids who couldn’t get it done in time.
Dear Teacher Alicia,
Hello! I number is 10. My birthday is 10 January. My family has mother, father, brother. I have pet is doy. My pet is kind. My dog name is Bob. I favorite book is cartoon. I favorite color is red. I favorite food is fried rice.
So I have to work on a few things. It’s really tricky coming in a the middle of the year because I don’t really know what the last teacher covered. It’s also really tricky trying to remember grammar rules. A lot of them mix up is/are and don’t make anything plural. So I tried to tell them today what was correct and incorrect but I couldn’t explain why. That’s a problem. I have to brush up on that.
Anyway, next week is a full blown week with 6 lesson plans: 4 grammar, 1 reading and writing, 1 conversation. This weekend my friends and I aren’t going anywhere because we have to get cracking. And do bulletin boards for our school. The two other foreign Filipino teachers who teach 4th grade told me they will do the Christmas board and the science board and I can do the board about the King. Awesome. King’s Day is December 5th, his birthday. I’ve been here two weeks and I’ll do a board about the most important figure in every Thai person’s life. Sweeeet, thanks guys! So the girls and I will probably just hang out here and go to Bang Saen, a beach town about 30 minutes away. While I google interesting facts about the King and try not to get my head chopped off.
On another note, my thoughts and prayers go out to my friends and family in New York and New Jersey! I asked my kids if they knew about Hurricane Sandy and they did! I told them about the damage and that my friends and family were okay, but they are all very concerned. Hope everyone is hanging in there!