Teacha! Teacha! Teacha!

Well, it’s been exactly 5, no make that 6, full days of teaching and it feels like a lifetime. I feel like I am already burnt out and ready to retire. Or kill a 9/10 year old. One could lead to the other.

Anyway, lets recap some highs, lows, trials and tribulations of my first week as Teacha Alicia.

Classroom Management

I think I am at a 6-7 out of 10. Somedays the kids sit there, silently (they just learned that word today) do book work, participate when asked, speak when spoken to, say please and thank you, and are little Thai angels. Those days I think, hell, this isn’t too bad. Then other days (today, the period before lunch) they are like little wild banshees. Every word is shouted, no hands are raised, and all I hear is “TEACHA TEACHA TEACHA TEACHA TEACHA.” Because they think they are all very, very important.  And they need to know how to spell steak and spaghetti IMMEDIATELY. I will literally be helping a kid out at their desk and another kid will walk over with his notebook and shove it in my face shouting “TEACHA I finished”. Uhhh, Hello! Can’t you see I am doing something over here? Do kids in America pull that crap? I am sure they do, but either way, it’s insanity. They all want instant gratification and confirmation alllll the time. I want to say “Teacha only has 2 eyes, 2 hands and ZERO patience so back off buddy.” Then I remember they are in 4th grade, probably won’t understand me and Thai’s do not respect you if you embarrass people or lose face. So that’s when I shout and yell and scream and slam my hand on a desk. Sometimes that works. For about 5 seconds. They’re like Jekyll and Hyde though. It’s incredible. Little 9 and 10 year old Jekyll and Hydes. Maybe I’ll make them read the play for our next Reading and Writing class.

Lesson Planning

Is hard. Props to my teacher friends and family. It’s a huge pain in the ass and I don’t think I will ever get ahead on them, ever. Especially once I start traveling. I have to follow this book “Best Friends” which is really more like my worst enemy. It’s helpful in the sense that I have somewhat of a curriculum to follow, so I’m not making stuff up. But the activities and exercises don’t teach the basics, they kind of just expect kids to do a bunch of activities in the book and all the sudden be able to give directions to a stranger. My first few lessons revolved around addresses and directions. At the end of the second day I realized it didn’t cover how to write an address in English- we had just practiced how to read and say them aloud. And on a homework assignment in their book one of the questions was “What is your address?”. Most of them had no idea how to write it in English. That was totally my fault for not looking into it deeper, but you think the book would have told me to focus on that too, especially if there was a question about it. And it’s really hard teaching addresses when all the streets are in Thai and you can’t pronounce them. So that was fun.

Besides teaching Grammar I have to teach Reading and Writing once a week and Conversation once a week. For these I don’t really have to follow the book. For Reading and Writing I will be eventually doing a Pen Pal program with my Mom’s school (Thanks, Terr!) so I should be covered with lessons for the rest of the year with that. And it ties nicely into addresses. So that works.

Conversation is a little trickier. That is where the kids are the weakest. I am pretty sure they understand me (operative words: pretty sure) and they listen to directions, understand, read and write fairly well, but speaking is a struggle. They aren’t confident and are always struggling to think of the Thai word that works in English. And their pronunciation is almost always off. Thai’s tend to mix up “r’s” and “l’s” and swap them back and forth. And they don’t like to use the last letter in a word, hence “teacha”.  The other day I was reviewing something using Powerpoint and a kid in the front was like “Teacha, Teacha, light? Light?”. I had no idea what he was talking about, we went back and forth for five minutes until I realized he was trying to say “write”, like “Should I write this down?”. That happens a lot.

For Conversation this week I decided to teach them about the Presidential Election. Nothing crazy, just a few slides on the President, the White House and letting them know we vote for our President in America and that we were voting this week. Then I asked them to each write a couple of sentences “What would you do if you were President?” and they had to read it in front of the class, using a microphone. They actually had a lot of fun with it, most of them. And it really separated the men from the boys. I had responses from:

“If I were President I would help the peoples”

To…

“If I were President I would tell all the mothers and fathers to keep their daughters and sons because their daughters and sons want to grow up to see the world and have fun and make it a better place”

And

“If I were President I would give money to the poor, clean the city, make parks, put away bad people, cut off the tongues of liars and take care of the people”

Some kids you do NOT want to mess with. Both the pro-life answer and justice for the people answer were girls. Tough broads.

In conclusion

I do not know if I will run home and become a teacher just yet. It is a tough gig even though teachers are really well paid and the profession is extremely respected here. It really puts things in perspective. Like everyone in my town knows we are teachers at the school and goes out of their way to help us, feed us, say hi to us, they love us. And we make bank compared to other Thai people. The average Thai person lives on like 300 baht a day or a little less than 10,000 a month. Teachers at my school make 30,000 baht a month. If I can’t hack it here then there’s no way I could make it in America. It has given me a completely different outlook on teaching and how little credit we give our teachers. So awesome job to all my friends and family teachers, you are amazing.

Another example on how teachers are revered. We have to do gate duty twice a month. We have to stand at the entrance of the school and welcome the kids. As each kid enters they have to (are supposed to) to put down their bag and say Good Morning or Sawatdeeka to each teacher on gate duty (3 of us) and do a little bow. Before they go to their class room. It’s highly entertaining/endearing. The older kids, 4-6 graders, are so over it and barely mumble and look at you. But still do a little bow. Then you have the Pre-K and Kindergarten kids who run up to you, basically run into your legs, look up at you and either shout “Good morning!” or look at you dumbfounded like they just forgot their line, which they have. So cute.

That’s pretty much it! I need to review directions tomorrow by having the kids dance around to the Cupid Shuffle. The Thai teachers in the room will think I am nuts. Over it. And I need to finish my bulletin board on the King. Which my Thai teacher has subtly taken over. Because she is super scary and I can tell she likes things her way or no way. Once upon a time that was me. But I appreciate the assistance since I had no idea what to do, and she terrifies me.

This weekend we will go to Ko Samet, an island about 2 hours away which I am super excited about. Anyone who comes to visit, I am pretty sure I will make you go there. More on that next week!

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